Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rainbow Springs State Park

One of the last adventures Bill and I took with sister Beth before she left was to Rainbow Springs State Park to show Beth the headwaters of the crystal clear Rainbow River. The river is formed by a first magnitude spring, ranked fourth in the state for volume of discharge - 600 million gallons of water every day. The Rainbow River flows for 6 beautiful miles before merging with the Withlacoochee River.

This picture does not do justice to the beauty of the river.

One of the cute creatures that calls the park home.

Sister Beth. Before she headed north, back to her winter home in NC, she helped me with my quilting - showing me how to paper piece, sew curves and properly baste a quilt to machine quilt.

Beth is a long time quilter and brought several of her projects to share with me and my local quilting friends.

I was blown away with her art quilts - especially her Serengeti Lions. I stole this picture from her blog at This 60" x 45" quilt began as a picture that her daughter, Lisa took while in Africa. Amazing!

We had a great visit and I hope she'll come back again soon.

Totally Random Leftovers

Sitting here this morning editing my disk, I found several pictures that I wanted to share.

Just pretty flowers. I took this picture on one of our trips to Rainbow Springs State Park. Finding this picture reminded me that we wanted to take Beth there during her visit. Since today is her last day here, maybe we'll head over to the park this afternoon.

This was also taken at Rainbow Springs. I was playing with my camera settings to make the water look silky.

This is one of my pictures from Cedar Key. I was looking for a better picture of the American Avocets - and discovered this one with an identifiable Marbled Godwit.

The other day we took Beth to Leesburg so she could see a Purple Gallinule - and that's where I took this picture of an Anhinga.

Both Beth and I took lots of pictures of the Purple Gallinules. They are one of my favorite Florida birds and a Life Bird for Beth.

There were even a couple of Canada Geese at the park. Beth got great shots of Coots, Moorhens and Purple Gallinules and will compare them on her blog at

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cedar Keys

Another of our adventures with my visiting sister Beth was to Cedar Keys on the Nature Coast of Florida. It is about an hours drive west from Ocala. Our first stop was to Shell Mound just before crossing the bridge onto the main Island and the small fishing village of Cedar Key.

The Black Skimmers were plentiful - lined up on one of the small sand mounds out in the water.

Air boats are a real problem. Yes, they look like a lot of fun - but they are a menace to plants, fish, birds and other aquatic life, especially in the rivers. We watched as this boat scared away all the birds. In the rivers, they run over the plants and destroy habitats.

As the Black Skimmers returned, we noticed other black and white birds - American Avocets! This is the first time we've seen Avocet at Cedar Key - and it was a Life Bird for Beth. Beth was able to get a decent picture of a Marbled Godwit - but I did not, so you'll have to check her blog.

On the Island, we headed to the docks just as this Seaplane was coming in for a landing. ...and just as Tidewater Tours was heading out for a trip to the islands. A quick pee stop and we were on board the pontoon boat.

Don't you love this pair of twin Double-crested Cormorants?

We saw thousands of Cormorants - in the air, on the shore, sitting on signs and lining all the islands. They are NOT endangered!

This shot was purely accidental. I was trying to get a picture of a dolphin when this Common Loon popped up right in front of the boat where my camera was aimed.

After lots and lots of pictures of splashes, I actually got a couple of pretty good pictures of dolphins!

I think they were following the boat.

I'm sure this one was smiling.

This is probably my best shot.

This is the top of the lighthouse on Seahorse Key. The island is open to visitors only a couple of days a year - and this was not one of the days.

Close to shore, we saw a couple of Horned Grebe. This one looks like he is playing with a small snake.

His partner wants to play too.

Too late - the snake is gone.

One of the islands is home to a large group of White Pelicans - and an even larger group of Cormorants. We were able to get quite close - and both Beth and I took dozens of pictures!

Back on land, we were excited to spot this Great Horned Owl. We pulled the car over and jumped out for a picture. Oh well, maybe next time. But even a plastic owl couldn't dampen our spirits. After a delicious meal at Tony's (yes, of course I had their award-winning clam chowder!) we headed back to Ocala. I think Beth enjoyed her day - I know I did!

Sherman Fox Squirrel

Isn't this the cutest squirrel you ever saw? She is a Sherman Fox Squirrel - a species of "special concern" here in Florida. My sister had never seen a Fox Squirrel - and immediately fell in love with this one - as did my son when he was here over the holidays.

Sister Beth posted pictures on her blog ( ) of our "sport model rat" (Bill's name for our little critter) and my son has abandoned his mother's blog for his aunt's blog because she posted cute pictures first.

These pictures are my attempt to lure my son back.

OTOW Unique Birders at Paynes Prairie

My sister, Beth is here for a week and we're having a wonderful time. I have lots of pictures from our various adventures that I will get posted soon - I promise.

On Thursday, Bill and I took her with us birding with the OTOW Unique Birders to Paynes Prairie. It was a beautiful warm and sunny day. We met the rest of the group at the big tree in the Health & Recreation Center parking lot at o'dark-thirty to arrange car pools. Anne joined us and the delightful ride was a preview for the rest of the day.

The La Chua Trail into the prairie and the observation deck is about 1 1/2 miles one way. It begins in a lovely wooded area with huge Live Oak trees draped with Spanish Moss where we parked our cars. Just past the pay station ($2 per person) and the porta-pottie, we observed this Osprey sitting on a mess of a nest high atop the high power tower. On each side were Great-tail Grackles. One was terrorizing a Red-belliedWoodpecker that we could see only with binoculars.

In the trees were several Cardinals, both male and female - and boy are they getting red! Looks like Spring will come early this year.

Past the Alachua Sink and the hundreds of alligators in the pond and along the bank, the trail follows the river bed. Since it has been so dry, we saw just a splash of water compared to what has been there in past visits. The usual birds were present: Belted Kingfisher, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant, White Ibis, Snowy Egret, a Little Blue Heron and this Great Heron. We also saw what looked like a grey hawk in the bushes. I took lots of pictures - none of which were good enough to publish, but good enough to ID the bird as a Black-crested Night Heron.

This American Kestrel must be a resident as I think I see him in the same spot every visit - overlooking the water and the boardwalk.

Along the trail, a juvenile Northern Harrier flew overhead, behind trees, into the bushes and low over the scrub keeping us company.

It was a special treat to see a group of Sandhill Cranes close to the trail. We were able to get as close as I've ever gotten - and I took hundreds of pictures. They are large, magnificent birds with incredible coloring. I just couldn't get enough.

The bright red on their heads is amazing! ...and look at that orange eye and long black beak!

Elegant. I see why their feathers were so valued for ladies' hats in the 1920's.

Back at the observation platform, we saw lots of Red-winged Blackbirds - but no wild horses, feral hogs, bison or Whooping Cranes as in years past. We rested for a short time before beginning the walk back.

Overhead, more and more Sandhill Cranes were flying in. The cranes on the ground called to them and we enjoyed the loud chorus.

I told you I took a lot of pictures. They were just so beautiful - I couldn't stop!

Back on the boardwalk, lots of Palm Warblers flitted in the bushes.

I was surprised to be able to get a couple of fairly good pictures as they usually aren't still for very long!

After our walk, we drove to the 43rd Street Deli (or was it the 42nd Street Diner?) for a delicious lunch, more great company and our bird count. It was a delightful day with my sister and the Unique Birders!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Whooping Crane #16-10

We've been back a couple of times to check on our Whooping Crane - #16-10. She is still at the same location and will probably spend the winter there with her friends, a group of Sandhill Cranes.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Whooping Crane

We went back to the place where we spotted the Whooping Crane yesterday to see if she was still there. She was and here she is! (**I have since learned this is female #16-10 - part of last year's Operation Migration program.)

This crane must be a graduate from the Operation Migration program to re-introduce cranes born in captivity to the wild. In the 1940's, the cranes numbered around a dozen. Today there are over 500. Operation Migration teaches the cranes to migrate by leading them from Wisconsin to Florida with an ultralight aircraft. (See blog entry of Jan 14, 2011).

There were quite a few Sandhill Cranes in the area and 3 more flew in while we watched.

I wanted to make sure I had some decent shots of his leg bands and radio transmitter. Our sighting has been reported to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Another beautiful bird, a Bald Eagle, flew over while we were there.

There was even a Graylag Goose!

Third Time's the Charm - I Hope!

I refuse to let this pattern get the best of me! I've done two quilt tops using this Whack-N-Stack star and I dislike them both. The first one (see "another Opportunity for Creativity" Nov. 17 entry) had fabric and color choice issues - so I made a second top using beautiful shades of green (frogs!) and blue - with orange accent - that went together beautifully. Then I tried to machine quilt it myself. What a disaster! I apparently had issues with the sandwiching part as I have puckers on both the back and the front. The stars just didn't want to lay flat for me. In my eyes, it's ruined, but I'll finish it anyway as it's nice and warm.

Refusing to be defeated, I'm trying it again. This time, I have a proper template for the diamonds and I've changed the foot on my machine for the piecing. I was using a 1/4 inch walking foot instead of the regular 1/4 inch foot. Both of these changes seem to be working as my blocks are coming together MUCH better.

In these two images, I'm "auditioning" fabric for the triangles. I've stolen the term "auditioning" from my older and much wiser sister who is currently working on a much more complex version of this pattern - and doing it beautifully. (see I will never be in her league - but that's okay. I'm having fun and learning lots.

Both of these fabrics had issues when I put them together with the diamonds as they were too similar and did not highlight the stars enough. I found a beautiful teal batik that looked great - but I only had a yard - so off I went in search of more. The original yard was purchased in Denver and I didn't expect to find more - but at the third shop, I did!

This is as far as I've gotten. I don't know yet whether or not I'll include the blue and/or purple blocks - they are being "auditioned" on my design wall. I'm making this one like a One Block Wonder and leaving off the outer circle. If this turns out - maybe I'll move on to one of the more advanced blocks.

My dear, sweet, wonderful, husband drove me to the three shops yesterday as I've been under the weather and we heard on the news that you shouldn't drive when you have a cold. On the way back, we spotted a group of Sandhill Cranes. Then I saw a larger white bird with the Sandhills. I couldn't believe my eyes - it was a Whooping Crane! Naturally, I didn't have my camera - but we are heading back to where we saw them later today and maybe, just maybe, they will still be there.