Welcome to my "Florida" blog

Being a third generation Florida native, I'm completely enamored with the diverse beauty of this gorgeous peninsula. For most of the year the weather is divine which makes exploring its unlimited nooks and crannies fun and easy.

Wherever I go I appreciate nature and the world around me. Come along with me as I share the places I visit and perhaps a few other amusements I find interesting along the way.

(FYI: Every post prior to January 1, 2009 was previously published and imported from my garden blog)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Captiva Florida Weekend Getaway Bird Photos Pt 3

"Come back in the morning when the tide is low-- just about daybreak( 7:00 a.m.) and you will get to see a great number of birds feeding in and around the estuaries."
This from the friendly park volunteer to hubby and I as we pop in to the J. N. "Ding" Darling Refuge Visitor's Center on our way home from golf. We just wanted to pick up info even though our plan was to tour the 4 mile stretch of wilderness road the next day.

Like good tourist on a quest for wildlife photo ops, we did exactly as instructed the next morning. Disappointment set in as we drove down the two-lane road out of our cottage bordered by beach residents on one side and the beach on the other. We knew the beach lay less than 100 yards away but we couldn't see it.

It was extremely foggy and hazy that morning until about 10:00 when the sun shone through and burned off all the grey density. Of course we were quite finished gawking by then --not to mention the birds which were quite finished with their morning foraging.

Talk about frustrating! I've never seen so many birds in the span of 1.5 hours and yet obtaining a clear photo was impossible. I took oodles of photos but all of them filmy (as above) or worse.

On our first day on the islands -while at the conservation center purchasing plants from the native plant nursery- I kept hearing a Red-bellied woodpecker and this Pileated woodpecker just beyond borders of the nursery. Fortunately I had my camera around my neck so I excused myself from the fellow helping me and slipped away to snap a few shots of both. He kind of laughed and mentioned his fellow worker was kind of that way too when she heard birds so he understood.

Back to the beach after the foggy morning when all was clear and bright there was no lack of shorebirds to snap. Here the Ring-billed Gull is looking for a hand-out so getting a close-up was not much of a challenge.

Black-bellied Plovers fascinate me and though I'm new at this photography thing- I find myself very happy to capture as many photos of them as I can.

Not sure about the ID on this one. My guess is a Ruddy Turnstone but I can't be certain. It has orange-ish legs. Any help from my birding friends is more than welcome.

While lounging on the beach that afternoon thinking how blessed we were to have the beauty of the horizon and the shore lapping in the rythm that soothes my soul I noticed this GB Heron sauntering- and they do saunter right in front of me. I had also noticed a family doing some fishing just a little way away. Instantly I knew it was the fisherman the Heron had its eye on.

Patience and time proved to be advantageous for this magnificent creature. The fisherman tossed a fish in the shallow water and in the blink of an eye the Heron deftly harpooned it with its beak.

Making certain he moved far enough away from the flock of nearby begging Gulls that they weren't going to have the chance to taste even one morsel. Then with the same skill he snagged the fish from the water he quickly flipped the fish upright turning it head first into its mouth.
In about two gulps the fish was sliding into never never land as a partial meal for the Heron.

The Heron did some preening and what seemed like a little satisfactory gloating and then returned to its position waiting for more. Hmmm... you'd think an entire fish would be plenty but they will continue this process.

We had to go back. I couldn't stand it --having felt like the day before left me wanting. On our way out of town on Sunday hubby took me back through the Refuge only this time it was a little later in the morning. The tide was in and not much activity.
Even though I've lived here all my life getting to observe these enormous White Pelicans is a treat. They migrate here for the winter.
It was very cold (well for Florida it was cold) and quite blustery the morning we left for home. All the birds were puffed up trying to stay warm I suppose.
This was my first Tri-colored and my first Juvy Yellow-crowned.
The "Ding" Darling Refuge is 6000 acres of natural beauty. With so many wonderful birds left alone to nest, forage, and freely come and go. As a matter of fact the islands of Sanibel-Captiva are unique in that they have conserved a large amount of the islands to be forever kept natural.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Captiva Florida Weekend Getaway Part 2

Total physical and mental inertia are highly agreeable, much more so than we allow ourselves to imagine. A beach not only permits such inertia but enforces it, thus neatly eliminating all problems of guilt. It is now the only place in our overly active world that does. John Kenneth Galbraith

I find myself at the extremity of a long beach. How gladly does the spirit leap forth, and suddenly enlarge its sense of being to the full extent of the broad, blue, sunny deep! A greeting and a homage to the Sea! I descend over its margin, and dip my hand into the wave that meets me, and bathe my brow. That far-resounding roar is the Ocean's voice of welcome. His salt breath brings a blessing along with it. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Foot-prints on the Sea-shore"

A winter vacation on the beach even for this native Floridian is a treat. With blue skies, crystal clear green waters, sandy sea shell laden shores, cool breezes and ample salty air the beach is quite possibly my favorite place on earth.

Hubby and I spent a mini-vacation of sorts on Captiva Island- one of the many islands off the west coast of Florida. There is so much to do on Sanibel-Captiva... two islands joined by a short bridge. People come here from all over the country to view and photograph the wildlife- especially the birds. Sanibel-Captiva has done a marvelous job of conserving most of the island in its orginal habitat.

The foliage and plant-life is rich, dense and every nook and cranny oh so lusciously tropical. There are so many great places to eat it is taxing to decide which one to enjoy. Restaurants with live music and open air, on the beach seating offering outstanding menus.

The sounds of waves lapping the shore being the first thing we heard each morning and the melody lulling us to sleep each night. Our cottage was on the gulf side of this narrow end of the island while only a few steps away the intracoastal waterway easily accesible. We chose to walk almost everywhere for the scenic value and to get the most from the "island feel".

One of the beautiful sights of south Florida is the remarkable Banyan Tree. This one just outside our little cottage.

Some of the blooms surrounding our beach get-away included these magenta infused Giant Spider Lilies.

... and the ever brilliant fuschia Bougainvillea vines growing everywhere.

Beach daisies growing wildly along with the sea oats and morning beach glory.

We visited the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation which happened to house a Native Plant Nursery. How convenient for me! Recently I've been adding to my garden more native plants. I picked up a few from my wish list while here... The American Beauty Berry and Blue Porterweed are currently waiting to be put in the ground at hoe and shovel. It just wouldn't have seemed right for me to come home without a weekend garden project to look forward to.

Four days never seems long enough to be in such a heavenly place. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the glorious time of relaxation and rejuvenation.

To top it all off on our way home, God painted the sky with a lingering, vibrantly breathtaking sunset. Hubby pulled off to the side of the road for me to capture it on camera.

As I finished snapping the intense hues of orange and yellow to the west I turned to my right and captured the Sunshine Skyway Bridge with the eastern sky of pinks and lavenders as its backdrop.

Stay tuned for my post of the bird life on Sanibel-Captiva.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Captiva Florida Weekend Getaway

Hubby and I returned home late this evening from a long weekend out of town south of our home. We stayed on the Gulf of Mexico in Captiva. It is one of our favorite small island towns on this coast.
I'm posting a couple of videos/photos to give you a preview of our time there until I can get around to completing a post.

Willet shorebird foraging on Captiva.

White Pelicans (here for the winter) at J. N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Preserve, Sanibel Island on an extremely foggy early morning.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Boys, Butterflies, and Breakfast

Papa and Mimi were giving our little guy (daughter's son-almost 2) all our attention this morning in the backyard. He loves to gather all Papa's practice golf balls and then does a (very)decent job swinging his own miniature sized clubs at them.

As adorable and cute as he is Mimi got a little distracted as the 'boys' were doing there thing.

The butterflies were out in numbers as the sunshine gave them flight. Once in a while we have a White Peacock or two drift through and it always makes me happy to capture one.

Landing on my freeze-damaged potato vine this Monarch put on an opening and closing "wing show" for us.

The hawks in our neighborhood do fascinate me with their soaring flight and pleasant shrill calls they sound. While chasing down a butterfly the wings of this hawk landing in the open grass of my next door neighbor's yard caught my eye. Hawks don't seem to be too threatened by humans so I slowly moved as close as I thought I could to take some snaps.
If you tend to be squeamish you might not want to read or view the rest of my story.

After standing there for several seconds looking around as if to stake out its territory it used its beak and talons to dig around in the grass. Poking his head a little further into the ground I couldn't see his eyes anymore.

Walla! He came up with the prize. It would be interesting to know if this was his target or if this snake was disturbed by his landing???

mmmmm... yummy... breakfast of champions! The way he snagged this snake right out of the grass made me wonder how many times I have walked over one of these slithering garden creatures without the least knowledge of it. Oh well, best not to think about that too long.

It was a matter of seconds and no apparent effort...

a couple more gulps... and ... all done. One fast food stop and he is on the go again. His next stop--- on a branch about 30 feet above. I wonder how long that meal will last him? Maybe it was just a snack. Does anyone out there know?