Monday, December 31, 2012

After Christmas Visits

After a quiet Christmas Day at home, Bill and I got back into our new red car and headed north to South Carolina and a super wonderful (but short) visit with son John, much-more-than-a-girlfriend Megan, daughter Pamela, hubby extraordinaire Orlando and three of my very special (and active!) grandsons. They gave us a four-leaf clover to hang in our car - to keep us safe - and a newfangled Keurig coffee maker. While there, the boys visited yet another Aviation Museum while baby Leandro and Megan napped (she is a nurse and works nights) and Pamela & I visited. Short, but very, very sweet.

We left early on Friday and headed to our next adventure - a visit with my sister Beth (, her husband Warren, and four cats. They winter on Kure Beach, just south of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Port Fisher is on the south end of the island and we did a little birding in the area. Beth claims she saw Oystercatchers and a Marbled Godwit earlier in the week, but we saw no evidence of either on our chilly walk. The Southport to Fort Fisher Ferry chugged by.

This Mockingbird was the only evidence of bird life.

Carolina Beach Lake was another story! We saw Bufflehead Ducks...

this gorgeous female Lesser Scaup...

a silly-looking White Crested Duck (a domestic variety)...

lots of Mallards...

and this FABULOUS Long-tailed Duck!! (Don't tell Beth, but seeing this duck was our real reason for the visit.) Our first new Life Bird of the trip.

He entertained us by flapping his wings.

I think I like him ALMOST as much as my Wood Ducks!

The next day we again tried the southern-most part of the island, but instead of birds, we found a flock of wind-surfers with their colorful wings flying over the chilly water.

Since Beth had failed to showed me the promised flock of Oystercatchers and the lone Marbled Godwit, she decided to share her "Secret Beach." The access was washed away by Sandy, but we walked to the end of the wooden path where we met another birder, Bruce Smithson. He was a wealth of information and pointed out species we would have never otherwise noticed.

The first was a lone Red-throated Loon way in the distance, my second Life Bird of the trip.

Another view of the Red-throated Loon.

We also saw this larger, less elegant Common Loon swimming near-by.

I know, terrible pictures but I have lots of excuses - they were far away and kept diving for fish and since it was late in the day, the light was terrible. I just hope I have them properly identified!

Bruce also pointed out the Northern Gannets flying above the surf - my third new Life Bird!

Beautiful birds!!

I wish they had been closer, but am pleased they came in as close as they did.

While I was watching the Northern Gannets, a flock of Brown Pelicans flew by. They were beautifully highlighted by the fading sunlight.

A small flock of Bufflehead Ducks (mostly all male - one female) played in the surf - riding high on the swells and diving under the breaking waves.

My fourth new Life Bird of the trip was this large seabird - a Razorbill. Lillian Stokes (Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America) has been reporting a rare invasion of Razorbills off the coast of Florida and has some amazing pictures on her blog (

The sun was setting on Kure Beach as we chatted with our new best friend, Bruce Smithson. He was a fabulous find and a great teacher. Thanks Bruce!

And very special thanks to Beth and Warren for being such great hosts. We really did come to see both of you - but the FOUR NEW LIFE BIRDS in TWO DAYS was extra-special. As Arnold is famous for saying - "I'll be back!"

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Visit

Our holidays began the week before Christmas when Bill's two daughters and their families arrived in Florida. We met them on Cocoa Beach after they spent a day enjoying Universal. Terri's family had never seen the ocean so it was fun for all as they played in the waves.

Laura jumped right in with the kids.

Since the kids rented a van, Bill and I left in our brand new car for a leisurely drive to Fort Myers - down 95 and across the state near Lake Okeechobee. I was on the lookout for a Crested Caracara!

and was rewarded when this beautiful, majestic bird posed for me. I was thrilled!

The family joined us for a walk through Six Mile Cypress Slough. This is a Pied-billed Grebe that played in one of the ponds.

an Eastern Phoebe

The water was high, but we saw quite a few wading birds including a large group of White Ibis.

I know it's only a Boat-tailed Grackle but he was sitting in the sun and his colors were gorgeous.

The Ibis were very close and didn't seen to mind me taking their picture.

An American Alligator was on the "must see" list. This guy wasn't very big but we didn't care.

 We heard a terrible ruckus in the bushes just before this Black-crowned Night-Heron appeared. We think a hawk that we saw earlier startled him.

The next day I nursed the 24-hour flu while the kids headed to Lovers Key to collect shells. I'm sorry I missed it - but they had a wonderful time.

After 3 days in Fort Myers, we headed to Ocala and took the kids to Rainbow River State Park. This Anhinga caught a fish and was beating it on the branch before eating it. Anhingas are excellent swimmers with their large webbed feet.

The kids rented canoes and paddled down the crystal clear river. We had a memorable visit and were sorry to see them leave on Christmas morning. Our little house was bursting at the seams with 7 extra people - but it was wonderful!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Drive

We have lots of American Goldfinches in our backyard. They aren't very colorful this time of year.

We took a ride out to Cedar Key for some of Tony's famous clam chowder. It was beyond delicious! Afterwards, we drove around the island where I spotted this Belted Kingfisher sitting by the Gulf. I've been trying to get a decent picture of this bird for several years - but they never sit still long enough. This one did. It's funny because my sister ( just took some fabulous pictures of the same bird.

This one must be a male as I don't see a brown stripe.

This pier has seen better days but the many birds didn't care. I just think it's a neat picture.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Beginning a New Quilt

I finished the first two 12-inch squares and am pretty happy with the results. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Design Wall

This is my new design wall! We got two pieces of 4' x 8' insulation at our local Lowe's store, taped them together and covered them with 3 yards of cheap (but wide) cotton batting from Jo-Anne's. Bill glued the batting onto the panels with his airplane glue and used two small pieces of Velcro to keep it secure to the wall. Our guests will have ever-changing art to enjoy during their visits. I'm thrilled! Thank you Bill!!

I just started a new project - another Stack and Whack. I think it's going to be pretty. There is a lot of gold in the main fabric so I choose an off-white with gold specks for the main background fabric. The dark green fabric also has gold flecks and it will be the accent.

A close up of the fabrics.

We are still dealing with insurance from our auto accident - but the aches and pains have finally diminished and we are moving on with life. We're still driving a rental car but are actively looking for another Toyota Camry Hybrid to buy. We wanted to buy a new one, but have decided a slightly used one (if we can find a nice one) will be in our best interests and not put us in debt.

We've joined a Bocce  league and play at least once a week. I've learned to play Mah Jongg and games seem to crop up somewhere in the complex all the time. Bill continues to build, fly, crash and rebuild his planes and the out-of-state guests start arriving mid-December. Life is good!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Memorable Trip to Fort Myers

 We had to return to our condo in Fort Myers to finalize some repairs. On the way we stopped at Babcock-Webb to do a little birding. The usual herons, egrets and ibises were there - but not yet in the numbers spring will bring.

I never tire of seeing and photographing the Great Blue Herons!

An Eastern Phoebe posing in the trees.

 Overhead, the White Ibis are heading south.

This little guy looked different to us - but we couldn't quite put our finger on why. It looked like a smaller version of our Northern Flicker. I believe it's a subspecies - a smaller variant of the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker. Our Colorado Flickers are easily 12 inches long - this one was about 8 inches long.

After leaving Babcock-Webb, we headed to the condo. About 5 miles from home a truck pulled out right in front of us. There was no possible way to avoid a collision but Bill did his very best to lessen the impact. We credit his RC flying for the ability to react so quickly.

Yes, that's me still sitting in the car. My door was pinned shut by the truck. I had to climb over the center console and out the driver's side door. Fortunately, Bill and I along with the driver of the truck are all fine. Our seat belts and airbags saved us from serious injury. The car - not so much. The other driver immediately accepted responsibility for the accident so her insurance will pay the bills.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


 We often see American Kestrels around Ocala, but this is their slightly larger and less often seen falcon cousin, Merlin. I've only photographed a couple - so he was a treat, even if he was far away and on top of a phone pole.

Last week we went down to Fort Myers to open our condo and get it ready for season. We were very busy hiring a new cleaning crew and rental company, re-stocking the shelves, upgrading the electronics and fixing some minor water damage but I still managed to get to a couple of my favorite birding spots and see who was in town. A quick trip through Ding Darling and we only stopped once - to see the White Pelicans.

Six-Mile Cypress Slough was a bee-hive of activity. Lots and lots of little birds in the trees and bushes. The Black-and-white Warbler is always one of my favorites.

I've never seen so many Blue-gray Gnatcatchers! Every time I see one, I think about my daughter-in-law Cheryl. She is a birder and was the first one to point out the small gray bird to us.

We saw three Yellow-crowned Night Herons on our walk around the slough. All were hiding in the trees on the far side of one of the ponds.

But our biggest thrill was the three Bald Eagles that we spotted! This is the mature adult.

The immature all brown Bald Eagle is on the left and the adult with the white head and tail is on the right.

This is the third Eagle. You can still see some brown on his head.

 On our way back to Ocala on busy Route 75, we had a blow-out and spent the next two hours sitting on the side of the road waiting for AAA. Several other cars had the same fate at the same place. The police surmised that we ran over parts of a blown truck tire - (lots of steel belts) and that caused the problem. Four new tires later and we're back in business!