Saturday, November 13, 2010

Playing Catch-up

As I write, Laura, Tim and the kids should be half way back to Colorado after their Florida vacation - but I'm still working on all the pictures I took on our various adventures while they were visiting both here in Ocala and at our condo in Ft. Myers.

Lovers Key State Park is a must visit. I love walking the beach, collecting shells and watching the shore birds. The water is great for wading - but not for swimming as it drops off too quickly. Some days there are so many beautiful shells - you can't collect them fast enough and other days the beach is clear. We arrived just as the tide was beginning to recede - the wrong time to collect - but that didn't stop the kids from finding some neat shells and several sand dollars. We walked out to the point on the far south end of the beach where I watched these little Sanderlings play at the water's edge.

It's no wonder I have trouble keeping all the birds straight - this is an immature Little Blue Heron. According to Wikipedia, white Little Blue Herons often mingle with Snowy Egrets. The Snowy Egret tolerates the white birds more than Little Blues in adult plumage. The young birds actually catch more fish when in the presence of the Snowy Egret and also gain a measure of protection from predators when they mix into flocks of white herons. It is plausible that because of these advantages, they remain white for their entire first year.

Sure enough, a Snowy Egret was close by!

After we returned to Ocala, we took the family to Cedar Key. We arrived at an extreme low tide, so could not take the boat ride out to the barrier islands (Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge) that we had planned. They have a small beach and a picnic area where we enjoyed our lunch and watched this Semipalmated Plover look at his reflection in the puddles.

Since I joined the camera club, I'm working on picture composition, instead of (or more correctly - in addition to) just getting a good picture of a particular bird. This is a common Laughing Gull with his twin behind him. One of the locals told me that when you see a group of gulls or terns - they all face the same direction - into the wind. Interesting!

On the way home from Cedar Key we stopped for a short hike in Dunnellon. The Piliated Woodpeckers were everywhere! Across the road, we saw a sign advertising kayaks for rent - $15 for the entire day.

We got all the information and the next day we kayaked down the Rainbow River. I did not take my camera so I don't have any pictures to share - but it was wonderful!! Rainbow Springs is a first-magnitude artesian spring, the fourth-largest in Florida, producing between 400 and 800 million gallons of crystal clear water a day. Rainbow Springs forms the headwaters of the Rainbow River, which empties into the Withlacoochee River. As we paddled and floated the five miles from the headwaters down to Route 484, we watched schools of fish, turtles and other underwater life. The birds were everywhere. At one time, glass-bottom boats took tourists down the river, but now it's a State Park. There were several snorkelers, fisher-people and even swimmers. I will definitely return - maybe with a water-proof camera.

The next morning as we relaxed in the Florida room I spotted this lone coyote walking behind the house. He headed over to the golf course and disappeared over the hill.

Bill spotted this cute little bunny trying to nap under the bushes in our front yard. Look how sleepy his eyes look.

The Mourning Doves are plentiful in the back yard - under the bird feeders. I thought this one had especially nice shades of blue on his wings.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Swamp Images

Our first full day in Fort Myers was cool and a little drizzly - but it didn't stop the kids from enjoying the ocean and the beach. Bill and I dropped them off then headed to Sam's and Publix to stock up for the rest of the week. Feeding 4 adults and 4 teenagers was a challenge!

We couldn't wait to share some of our favorite places, so after the beach, we took the family to Six Mile Cypress Slough to walk the boardwalk. There weren't many birds out, so about half-way around, I handed Bill the camera and headed back to the restroom. On the way, I spotted 8 to 10 wild pigs routing in the weeds. They were right beside the boardwalk - I could have taken some great shots - but my camera was a half mile back and by now I had to hurry ahead. Bummer.

The next day was sunny - but still on the cool side, so we went south to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. This is a Zebra Longwing Butterfly.

Our most exciting sighting of the day was this Black Racer snake. The wildlife must have not liked the weather because they certainly were not out-and-about!

As we were leaving Corkscrew, we spotted two Sandhill Cranes in a fenced-in pasture on the side of the road..

As I was walking up to the fence to get some pictures, one of them started jumping around.

Next thing I new - he threw a snake in the air and jumped on it! It was quite a show.

By now, Hannah had had just about all the swamps she could handle in one lifetime so instead of going further south to the Everglades, we grabbed a quick lunch at McDonalds and headed for the seashell beach at Lovers Key State Park where we walked from one end to the other collecting shells.

A Visit to Remember

It's been quite a week! Bill's daughter Laura, hubby Tim and their four teenagers arrived from wintry Colorado last Wednesday and we headed to Fort Myers to spend a few days. Three of the kids had never seen the ocean so the beach was our first stop.

We arrived at Fort Myers Beach shortly before sunset. A cold front with fabulous billowing cloud formations was rolling in over the pier. The couple in the foreground was embracing - perhaps sharing their first kiss. It was beautiful. Click on the image for a larger view - it really is a pretty shot.

The family: Kyle, Quinton, Hannah, Tim, Laura and Nate.

Quinton is a senior at Hanover High School.

Nathan, also a senior at Hanover, turned 18 during their visit.

While in Fort Myers, we visited Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Lover's Key, Six Mile Cypress Slough; ate raw oysters at SOB's and mediocre Mexican at Times Square. The kids enjoyed their evenings at the pool, the hot tub and fishing the Parker Lake ponds. On Saturday, we drove to Ocala and treated the family to a catfish dinner at Stumpknockers on the Withlacoochee River. We visited Cedar Key and spent a day fishing and kayaking down the crystal clear Rainbow River in Dunnellon before they departed for Daytona Beach, Shades of Green in Orlando, Cocoa Beach and Universal Studios. It was a wonderful visit and I will post more pictures later.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Florida Fox Squirrel

We have some interesting squirrels here in Florida. Along with the common Eastern Gray Squirrels, we have endangered Fox Squirrels. There are a couple of varieties of Fox Squirrel and I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out if this one that was in our backyard was a Sherman's or a Big Cypress Fox Squirrel - but read that the only way to tell the difference is genetic testing.

They are about twice the size of Gray Squirrels - and look at the length of his tail! This shot isn't too bad considering I took it through the screens.

Bill went outside with the camera to try and get a better picture, but our little friend is shy and scampered off into the woods. We spread sunflower seeds on the ground hoping he'll return.

This picture was left-over from the zoo pictures I posted the other day. It's a Red-legged Seriema. I haven't taken many new pics as I have a cold - and don't want to share my germs. I need to get over it before Wednesday because Bill's oldest daughter Laura, hubby Tim, and their four teenagers are coming to visit.