Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Down the Shore

Apparently, I sound like a Philadelphian. People will stop me mid-sentence and ask where I'm from. Bill still teases me when I say "water," and "chotskies." When we were kids, we went "down the shore" which is apparently a very localized phrase - but it sounds right to me - and that's just what we did!

I love this picture! The Ruddy Turnstone looks like it's admiring itself in a mirror.

I wish you could see the bright yellow feet on this Snowy Egret.

As always, the Sanderlings were playing at the ocean's edge - running back and forth as the waves licked the sandy beach.

I always have to look up the plovers to see which one it is. This one, I believe is a Wilson's Plover.

This Pine Warbler doesn't belong on the beach! But I liked the picture.

Monday, December 12, 2011

In Our Own Backyard

Our lanai looks out on a preserve with woods on the other side. The other day, Bill saw this young coyote walking just on the edge of the woods. I grabbed my camera and headed out to get some pictures.

He spotted me as I inched closer - but didn't run into the thick brush until after I got some good shots. I was still quite a distance away from him and close enough to the house to run back in if he looked aggressive. (He didn't) We can hear them howl and scream in the evenings, but we've only seen them during the day a couple of times.

Another sighting on the OTOW property. This guy was along the side of a dirt/sand road back by a cattle farm. He was large - 5 or 6 feet long and quite stocky. I could be wrong, but my online research has led me to identify this guy as a Florida Pine Snake - a rather rare snake - "of special concern" by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Whenever I moved, he stuck his forked tongue out at me and shook his tail. He had no rattles. Bill stayed in the car as I checked him out closer.

Further down the road we visited with some woodpeckers. This is a common Downy (or maybe it's a Hairy) Woodpecker.

And this, of course, is a beautiful Red-headed Woodpecker.

One of the more common birds here on campus is this Chipping Sparrow.

We always enjoy the hawks! This Red-tailed Hawk was flying overhead trying to get the attention of another hawk in the area. I hope they didn't see our Pine Snake!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Naples Botanical Garden

On a recent trip to Fort Myers, we took a day to head further south with friends Bob & Peggy to visit the Naples Botanical Garden.

According to their literature, In 1993, eight Naples residents founded the Garden with the dream of creating a world-class botanical garden. In 2000 they purchased a 170-acre site with seven different habitats just south of Old Naples. Today, what was acre after acre of melaleuca, Brazilian pepper and other invasive species is now beautiful gardens, lakes and restored natural areas.

Near the front entrance is this pineapple - the symbol of welcome. I had never seen a pineapple plant so I found this really neat.

This place is fabulous - one beautiful vista after another.

Look at the blooms on these pond lilies!

We weren't the only creatures that appreciated the beautiful flowers.

Look at the way the sunlight dances on the bloom creating some magnificent colors!

They have a very nice butterfly garden. Unfortunately, we only saw a couple of butterflies. This one was small but extraordinary.

This is a Eucalyptus Rainbow Tree - nicknamed the most colorful tree on Earth. The reason for the name is obvious. It was really cool!

Peggy, a Master Gardener, stopped often to read the signage.

Geckos swell their throats to intimidate visitors or attract a mate. I wonder which one he was doing?

I think all our walking wore the guys out!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Butterflies for Megan

On a recent birding exposition we saw more butterflies than birds - and I have no idea what most of them are - but I'm sure Megan does. So Megan, these are for you.

I actually took this picture in our back yard. This pretty little guy likes our Bottle Brush bush.

Butterflies are difficult to photograph as they rarely sit still.

I love the way this Long-tailed Skipper blends with the background of dried leaves.

This must be some kind of Swallowtail.

We have lots of Bluebirds here in Florida - and I loved the way this one looked with the bright red berries.

We also have our share of spiders. Bill was giving this big boy (he was HUGE) a closer look.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler - fairly common around here.

This is the first Eastern Towhee I've seen this year. He was off in the distance - but identification is easy with his distinctive markings.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Witch

For Halloween, Bill built a new RC airplane to fly - The Witch.

Here she is all ready for her maiden run. Since this picture was taken, Bill painted striped socks.

And she actually flew! All of the RCers at the OTOW field got a kick out of her. Now Bill is looking for a pattern to make Santa and his sled.

Sandsculpting Championship

Fort Myers Beach is host to the 25th Anniversary World Sand Sculpting Championship. We arrived early - before they were officially open - and watched while they got the sculptures ready for the day.

Another use for Aqua Net Hair Spray! The sand is mixed with water and glue to make the sculptures and each day they are sprayed with Aqua Net Hair Spray to keep them together.

The area around the displays are carefully raked.

This was one of my favorites - and looks even better in person.

Crazy faces! The detail is amazing. I'm glad we arrived extra early as the weather on the beach warmed up quickly and there were a lot more people than in past years.

The roads are congested and forget the stores! Everyone is saying that "season" arrived 6 weeks early this year. We are here through next week opening the condo and getting it ready to rent. I can't believe I actually have Internet - I expected to have to go to McDonalds or the local library.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On a Mission!

Yesterday, while at lunch with our fellow birders, Bill mentioned that he had never seen a Red-headed Woodpecker and he REALLY wanted to see one. He was told to go out the far gate, turn left onto a dirt road and go way back by the cattle ranch and look for the place where the cattle are loaded onto trucks.

This afternoon, we decided to go looking for our bird.

Along the way, this beautiful American Kestrel and his mate were watching us as we headed down the dirt road. Look at the colors!

We found the cattle ranch. The Hereford Bull came over to the fence to greet us.

A common Eastern Phoebe - but no Woodpeckers. Bill was discouraged.

He wandered off to take this incredible picture. I assume it is a moth (as opposed to a butterfly).

I have been corrected! It is a butterfly - a Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus). Thanks Megan!

Discouraged, we headed around the bend and out to the OTOW exit road. And there they were!

We counted at least 4 Red-headed Woodpeckers flying around the area. There were several dead snags and the woodpeckers went back and forth hunting for insects.

We watched these beautiful birds for about 15 minutes. Bill was pleased - and so was I!

Unique Birders Trip to Blue Run Park in Dunnellon

Blue Run Park borders the beautiful, crystal clear Rainbow River just down the road in Dunnellon. Melanie Vittiow lead the OTOW birding club along the trails. The day started out clear and brisk but it quickly warmed up as we made our way around the Pond Trail, the Sandhill Loop Trail and back along the Blue Run Trail.

There were several Wood Ducks on the large murky pond. They were pretty far out, but I was able to get a couple of decent pictures. After this optimistic start our sightings quickly went downhill.

I was desperate and even took a picture of a Turkey Vulture. How can a bird that is so ugly look so beautiful in the air?

We were towards the end of the Blue Run Trail when we spotted a bush with activity. Starved for a sighting, we gingerly stepped a couple of feet onto private camping property despite the warnings that "Police will Notice" signs. There were several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers that flit around so quickly, it's almost impossible to get a decent picture. This one is good enough for identification.

Another picture that's good enough for identification - and nothing else. This is a Black and White Warbler - one of my favorite little birds. He was socializing with the Gnatcatchers.

This bird was overhead as we headed back to the parking lot. I am not sure what it is but suspect it's a first-winter Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Another unidentified bird. I think it's a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Where's Norm when I need him?

The sighting of the day was a pair of magnificent Piliated Woodpeckers. We had to go into the thick brush to get a good view - and got covered with prickly tags - but it was worth it!

One of our eagle-eyed spotters pointed out this small tree frog. Cute.

After our hike we headed to Gruffs (with a "G" not a "C") for lunch. This is a great group and Bill and I really enjoyed ourselves! Next month is the annual Christmas Bird Count.