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.