Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lowry Park Zoo with the OTOW Shutterbugs

The OTOW Shutterbugs Photography Club took a field trip to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. At the next meeting we will share some of our favorite images from the trip. I did not stay with the group when they toured the park as I wanted to get different pictures - plus, I wanted to spend quality time in the aviary with the birds.

The Lorikeets are housed in a large, screened-in area where visitors can actually go inside to view the birds up close and personal. They are wonderful little critters and while I watched, one perched on the zoo volunteer's shoulder and pecked her ear.

This is not your run-of-the-mill city pigeon - but a Nicobar Pigeon found in Southeast Asia, New Guinea and the Philippines. He's wearing my colors!!

The Lowry Zoo was rated #1 by Parents Magazine and watching the children was as wonderful as watching the zoo inhabitants.

Tell me this isn't the neatest set-up! Of course, the zoo sells food that you can feed to the giraffes.

I don't know who was having the most fun - the children, the parents or the giraffe!

Don't you love to see fathers with their children?

This is Momma Orangutan.

And this is her greedy baby, begging one of the zoo keepers for a hand-out. How could you resist that face?

Just as the day was really heating up, we all gathered and went to PF Chang's for lunch. It was a fun day - thanks for driving Gary!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Quilt Shoppe Road Trip

Yesterday, I deserted Bill and headed to Trenton, Florida with two new friends. Our destination was the Suwanne Valley Quilt Shoppe. We arrived shortly after it opened at 10:00 a.m.

The complex is a restored 1925 Coca Cola building and you enter the quilt shop through the cafe where we had lunch.

The shop has over 5000 bolts of fabric in several rooms. This is the Asian room.

All of the fabric is 100% cotton.

Every color and print imaginable!

There is an entire room of books...

... and a long hall with notions.

After we finished our shopping, we investigated one of the other buildings - full of quilt and sewing-related antiques.

Beth, this is the small red Singer I told you about.

These are some of the beautiful fabrics I came home with.

Can you tell I like color? Now all I need is a sewing machine!

Information about this neat shop can be found here:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Road Trip

Yesterday, Bill and I drove over to the quaint island of Cedar Key on the Nature Coast to see if they still had the best grouper and raw oysters in Florida. They did.

On the way we stopped for a short hike at one of the parks along Route 24. This may look like a birdhouse, but I think it is actually either a bat house or a butterfly house - but don't tell this Great-crested Flycatcher. I like the muted colors in this shot.

My sister has been taking beautiful pictures of butterflies lately - so I was inspired to try my hand.

I chased this one for quite a while - as he flitted from flower to flower.

He was prettier than my picture shows. Guess I'm going to have to find a butterfly guide so I can identify them. Maybe I'll just ask my sister.

Over at Cedar Key, the Forster's Terns are already in their winter plumage. The one in the middle must be running for Governor. I will be so-o glad when Election Day is over!

In the summer, the black across the eye covers the top of the head and the bill turns bright orange with black on just the tip. While we sat on the back deck of the restaurant eating our dinner, we were entertained watching them dive headfirst into the water over and over to catch small fish.

The Laughing Gulls also look quite different this time of year. Since this one still has brown on his wings, he may be a second year juvenile. They get their breeding plumage with an all-black head in the third year.

The common Royal Terns were everywhere - and quite vocal. They look semi-bald in the winter but come spring he will grow a beautiful head of jet-black hair.

Naturally, we also saw lots of Brown Pelicans doing what Pelicans do - just stand around and groom their feathers.

I've joined the Shutterbugs Photography Club here in OTOW and one of our current challenges is to take pictures of trees in Shalom Park for an exhibit in March. I was at the park when the gates opened at 8:00 AM hoping to get some decent shots with the early morning light.

I would like this one better if it had a cute raccoon or two sticking their heads out of the hole. I do like the colors behind the tree.

This is probably my favorite shot of the day - but I'm really not thrilled with any of them. Trees just stand there. I've asked Bill (he's the one with the artistic eye) to go over with me and give me some pointers.

How could I resist this cute squirrel? He looks like he's wearing a clown nose for Halloween.

Trees are homes for all the birds and critters that I do like to photograph - so that's probably the way I'll proceed with this challenge.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Marsh-an Sunrise

No trip to Fort Myers would be complete without an early morning visit to Harns Marsh in Lehigh Acres. We arrived at sunrise.

The colors were amazing - with the early morning light dancing on the water. Limpkins are found in abundance at Harns Marsh and usually you can hear them even before you see them.

Even thought we arrived early, another photographer was already in place. Check out his equipment - I had terrible lens envy! What you can't see is the large wagon he needed to transport everything as it was too heavy to carry.

The early morning light brought out the reds and golds in the landscape.

But the reflections off the water made some shots more challenging. I used the sports setting to capture this Osprey in flight.

This Tri-colored Heron and his shadow-mate were having great luck finding small fish to eat for breakfast.

Last year the Wood Storks did not nest because the water levels were too high and the fish were not concentrated enough for the adults to hunt successfully. Each Wood Stork chick eats 450 pounds of fish before he fledges. We saw quite a few storks heading south and I hope the conditions are more favorable for breeding this year. The species can not afford another barren breeding season.

One of my favorites: a Roseate Spoonbill. We found several on the back side of the marsh. The looped trail is about 5 miles around, but we had already hiked 3 miles before we started the loop so we certainly got our exercise for the day! There was just so much to see that we kept walking, and walking and walking. It was afternoon before we got back to the car and I had aching muscles, sore feet and 2 disks full of pictures!

I like the reflection in the water.

At first we were stumped when we saw these pink growths around the marsh - but then Bill identified them as Roseate Spoonbill feces. (To quote Bill, he knows everything - and what he doesn't know, he makes up.)

Snail Kites may be endangered, but we saw a couple of dozen on our walk. Harns Marsh is one of their last major habitats with lots and lots of the apple snails that they eat.

This Snail Kite had just plucked a juicy snail out of the grass and was having a hearty breakfast of escargot.

The Snail Kites did not let me get too close.

Just when I think I can get a really decent picture, they fly away.

Sandhill Cranes are huge birds and I'm always thrilled to see one. On this trip, we saw a total of four.

They have a loud trumpeting call and this guy could be heard all over the marsh.

We saw these on the other side of the main lake just before we got back to our car, having a late lunch with a couple of friends.

Osprey are fairly common in southern Florida, but, so far we have not seen them in Ocala. Since they eat fish, they are found by water - and the lakes are not as common in the central part of the state as they are in Fort Myers.

And there he goes - on the lookout for more fish.

We saw several Little Blue Heron - but when I checked my pictures, I realized I didn't have any Great Blue Heron. Interesting!

This beautiful Limpkin was close to the trail. He had a gimp leg - but had no trouble flying.

Killdeer are the only shore birds that are routinely found inland.

Check out this beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk! He must have been trying to scare us away with his loud call.

One of my favorite action shots - a Great Egret. It's interesting to see how the different birds fly, how they hold their necks and feet and the shape of their wings; some glide, some flap. Often birds in flight show colors you can't see when they are perched. You'd never know this guy has a really long neck as he folds his head in close when he flies. I love his white wing feathers against the blue sky.

Lots and lots of Mottled Ducks call Harns Marsh home. We also saw a few Pied-billed Grebe and later in the year, we should see Coot, Teal and Moorhen.

Florida doesn't have the traditional seasons that other parts of the US have. When we arrived it was Love Bug Season and now it's Dragon Fly Season. Soon it will be Tourist Season (or just "Season" to the locals.)

This was a real thrill - and a new life bird: an American Bittern. I would never in a million years have spotted it all the way on the other side of the pond perfectly blending in with the grass and reeds - but our photographer (the one with the humongous lens) pointed it out as we came back around the trail. We have a rule in our family - you didn't see it unless you got a picture. The picture is lousy - but it's a picture! Now I want to see (and photograph) a Least Bittern. That one is a REAL challange!

I love this picture! How many different birds do you see - and can you name them all? You can click on the image for a larger view.

An interesting thing happened when I got back home with all these images. After selecting a few for this blog, I moved them from the camera disk to a DVD - then cleared the disk so I had room for more images. When I went to access the images on the DVD, it was corrupted and all the pictures from the second part of our walk were lost. Lesson learned - check first THEN delete!