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)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Downy Woodpecker Video

Early Saturday morning at Hoe and Shovel the cloudy grey sky was threatening rain. Now in Florida it is common to receive threats of this sort without any action. The overcast sky actually provides a reprieve from the sunshine and on occasion makes gardening very pleasant .

And so it was this Saturday. My most important aim of the day was to remove some grass which was trampled and worn and replace it by laying some pieces of sod I had taken up from another part of the garden the day before. It's hard work and might I say a bit of a back-breaker so I was starting early with my very best energy.

About 3 hours later the threat turned into a wonderful downfall of the real thing. I did finish my chore of laying the grass... working in the refreshing light rain for a little bit but gladly the rain came harder accompanied by thunder and I didn't want to risk lightning. No disappointment in the change of plans for my day since we need every drop of rain so very badly.

The Downy Woodpecker is not shy in my experience and does not seem to mind my presence. Only I have a difficult time capturing a photo due to the height in which they find their acceptable pecking branches. I had been tracking this one ( I assume it is the same one) for a few days and finally had some (semi) success on Saturday.

In these photos it is high in the branches of an East Palatka Holly (Ilex x attenuata). This one (pictured above) is approximately 40' tall and is situated just beyond our house and open patio leading out to the backyard. The East Palatka Holly is a cross between American and Dahoon Hollies, discovered in 1927 near East Palatka , Florida . The leaves may have a few spines, but this handsome tree sets fruit easily. Only the female trees produce berries. This one is full of red berries throughout the winter making plenty of food for the birds.

Because the Downy is fun to watch in action I couldn't resist filming and sharing this 10 second video. You can also listen to the cardinal in the background singing her melodious tunes at the same time. I think all the birds could sense the rain was coming.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Distracted by the Red Head

These last couple of weeks have been spent doing as much gardening as possible with every bit of free time available. The weather has been outstanding. I have to say it... "I am having so much fun." I will post later about some of the progress I am making but for today-- have a look at some of the wildlife and critters I've captured while doing spring clean-up/projects.

If you read my blog regularly you might be thinking "how many times is she going to show us the hawks?" Well, if you are asking that question - the answer is -I don't know. They DO grab my attention frequently. I don't think I can stop taking photos of them. It's easy to notice them for they are large and beautiful and their piercing cries are all around me while I work. Even when I don't look up to watch them their flying shadows are cast over me. Today there were 6 and 7 of them at a time, for long periods of time, making all kinds of noise swooping and flying and mating. Yes, mating-- right there on this tree limb in my yard. Gardening includes science lessons galore.

I get just as excited when I see ladybugs as I did when I was a child. This one on an American Beauty Berry plant. I'm thinking it was saving the plant from a big bad aphid or two.

Carolina Wrens are most interesting. There are so many of them around hoe and shovel. What I love most about them is their remarkable ability to sing like what you would imagine would be a much larger bird. They have a wide range of melodies to soften the air and help me get my work done.

Oh how I adore the distinct and cheery chirp-chirp of the Pileated Woodpecker. After missing my opportunity to snap a Downy Woodpecker due to bad lighting early this morning, I was very happy to notice this fellow fly in and land on my neighbor's tree stump. Happily I was able to get close enough to photograph. So many times in the past getting close enough has kept me from a good photo-op with these guys... they do like those really tall trees. Fortunately for me they are frequent and regular visitors.

Same one... it flew from the stump to the tree and got right to business. Not only do they make very distinguishable melodious chirping but what beautiful features they have.

It is a double blessing to garden and to benefit from the wonders of nature at the same time.
blogger's note: I tried to publish this post last night and due to technical difficulties couldn't use my internet... I haven't gone back in to edit my references to "today " so this is actually yesterday's account. Now I am back outside for more early morning gardening- I have 3 yards of dirt being delivered this morning... woo-hoo!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Mystique and Beauty of Florida Sandhill Cranes

Florida Sandhill Cranes are long-legged, long-necked, gray, heron-like birds with a patch of bald, red skin on top of their heads.

Cranes feeding on my neighbor's lawn.

Even though we see them year round in central Florida the Sandhill Crane population is noticeably increased of late. It is true some Sandhill Cranes live here all year long but there are also those that migrate here during the winter.
It's fascinating to watch them stroll about foraging both on land and in shallow wetlands. I caught sight of this pair (only one is shown in the photo) when at my mailbox. They are poking their heads into the ground of my neighbor's yard looking for food. Some of their favorite meal items include seeds, plant tubers, grains, berries, insects, earthworms, mice, snakes, lizards, frogs and crayfish. Unlike other wading birds, such as herons, Sandhill Cranes do not "fish."

They typically skulk about in pairs. Pairs mate for several years and even sometimes for life. A couple of years ago we had an almost daily visiting pair to our neighborhood and then one day there were four. Only the additional two were much shorter and had fuzzy little bodies. They were adorable. Now I wish I had been into photographing everything that moves back then... oh well. Young Sandhills stay with their parents until they are about 10 months old.

I thrill at seeing the cranes fly overhead with necks outstretched in a most powerful, rhythmical form. And the voice of the sandhill crane is one of the most distinctive bird sounds in Florida. I can't help myself but to stop and watch whenever I hear them coming.

On my way to an appointment not too far from my house a couple of weeks ago I took this photo next to a suburban pond. This morning passing by the same pond there were 6 Sandhills then there were 4 more around the bend. Of course I didn't have my camera (shame on me) but this guy and its mate were probably among the group.

Sandhill Cranes are primarily birds of open freshwater wetlands, shallow marshes, wet meadows, and adjacent uplands. They utilize a broad range of habitat types, from bogs, sedge meadows, and fens to open grasslands, stubble fields, and savannahs. I guess that explains why I have been seeing them everywhere I go these days.

Does anyone else like them as much as I do? Or is it just me?