Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas To All!!

I just liked this picture of the snowy egret sitting on the pool fence with the flowers in front and the palm trees in back!

Well, it is the day after Christmas but what the heck! This will probably be the last of my vacation postings as we leave on Saturday early so will probably spend most of Friday getting packed up. It usually takes less time to leave vacation than to leave home.

We had a very quiet Christmas although were quite surprised when our lovely Innkeepers Sylvia and Ken left us two Christmas treats outside our door -- a 1 lb box of Belgian chocolate truffles and a can of English shortbread cookies all beautifully wrapped! We always feel like guests here instead of renters as this couple does everything to make you feel at home. What a find this place has been!

I did finally get to see at least one dolphin swimming in the canal just feet away from me. I have continued my four mile walks in the morning but there are so many more people out there now, it isn't anywhere near as nice. The beach down the way was literally packed today but the weather is of course perfect for the beach and even the Gulf is still in the low 70's so swimming is great! I continue to be amazed by the changing beach. Last week the detritus was piled a foot deep in places -- shells, sea urchins, sand dollars and all sorts of yucky stuff. It is literally all gone now!! No more big shells but again I am finding the small shells which had disappeared for awhile.

This is a not so great picture taken from across the canal of several ibis (only two are in this cropped version). They were very dark -- much darker than the brown and white ones I saw at Sanibel. I don't know whether they are very young new ibis or what as ibis are either pure white or scarlet and these were obviously neither although they were definitely ibis. Well, thanks to Google and Wikipedia, I now know they are glossy ibis!! Very exciting as I hadn't seen these before although I guess they are common on the east coast of Florida. The brown and white ones I saw at Sanibel were immature white ibis as I suspected.

This was also taken from quite a distance and is a kingfisher also fishing for dinner I suppose. He has been there several times on that railing.

On Christmas the birds finally had a pool party and these were two of the four bathers -- a snowy egret and a great egret. There were also another great egret and a small blue heron all taking turns going down the steps and taking a drink and a bath.

This was the little blue heron at the pool.

This is a picture up pretty close of the snowy egret which is the smaller of the egrets.

This is another nine patch and snowball quilt that is finished except for borders. It will be a "comfort quilt" to be given to VA probably by quilt club. It was a challenge as the snowballs were 6 inches and the nine patches were 6 1/2 inches -- an oops in my original cutting. I didn't know I had made the mistake until I had sewn all the snowball blocks and I refused to take them apart!! Hopefully the quilting will take care of any remaining problems. There are a lot of seams that don't meet up in this one!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Easily Amused -- My Day with the Pelicans

This is one of the females coming up from the water getting ready to dive again for the fish. You can always see the pictures larger by double clicking on them and then going back to the blog.

Well, my friend Sue always says that she is easily amused but I think I am even more easily amused. There was quite a flock of pelicans (somehow flock doesn't sound right) in the canal this morning. They were of several different colorations and I don't know the total meaning of that as I know they are all brown pelicans. Anyway, I have taken a LOT of pelican pictures so this morning I just played with taking pictures of pelicans taking off from the water!! Quite the trick to click at just the right time. Anyway, for your elucidation I have posted several of them! We have had a lot of males over the past couple of weeks but now the females are here with a vengence -- I think they are well into mating and feeding as they were literally diving all day -- hour after hour -- for the mullet in the canal.

I won't bore you with the fact that it was another gorgeous day and that I don't want to come home to cold and bad driving. I do like looking out the window at the snow, I must admit though.

We frequently see gulls sitting on the backs of pelicans and I did want to get a picture of this so I was in luck when this pelican had just caught a fish and was swallowing it. The gull perched on her head as they like to get anything the pelican might lose.l

This was my favorite of the lady pelican pictures. I have only posted the "boys" before.

This was my favorite of the diving pelican pictures.

This is about a 10 in by 15 inch box that I filled to a depth of about three inches with shells from the other morning. There are so many and so many that are fairly freshly dead that I am having trouble finding a place to let them dry out after soaking in water (that is why the color isn't too good -- they are covered with water to get the sand out).

I was amazed yesterday afternoon. I took my walk in the afternoon because the low tide is getting so much later now. I didn't expect to find anything as there are so many people out then. I only had a 16 oz coffee cup and a little plastic cup. I had them both filled to overflowing when some nice woman offered me a nice plastic bag so I could find more!!! I have found several unusual finds in the last couple of days -- fairly large horse conks (bright, bright orange), lace murex and angel wings. I have also seen a couple of live shells that aren't in my little cheat sheets of common Fla shells. I have one of almost everything except for the rarest finds on the beaches.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Just Another Day in Paradise!

Well, a little quicker on the internet as I couldn’t pay my bills yesterday as the website was down!

We have had a little cooler weather down here which has been very refreshing. My walks in the morning are much more pleasant when the weather is a little cooler. Once the sun comes totally up, it gets pretty warm no matter what the temp actually is.

Each day brings some new surprise though which is why I enjoy the beach so much. Today’s surprise was the dolphins (really porpoises I believe). We have seen them all the time the last couple of days. They are very very close to shore in very shallow water which I found surprising – about the closest I have ever seen the dolphins anywhere. We could watch them chasing down the fish. Talking to our “innkeeper”, I found out that sometimes the dolphins actually beach themselves chasing the fish to eat!! Now I will have spend more time sitting on the beach as I really want to see that!!

I still haven’t seen the manatees either. Evidently they aren’t in the canal this time of year but are common in the summer and late spring. Well, it is something to look forward to!

I also managed to finish another top which has to have more work . I am not crazy about it but it is done. It has convinced me not to waste any more time on the other stack and whacks that I have so they will be given away unfinished!! I am now just doing nine patches and snowballs and trying to get a couple of comfort quilt tops done. I also have some pieces cut out to put together the really simple block that I used for the two baby quilts that I have made.

Of course I am reading my fair share of books and caught up on Patricia Cornwell (the non Kay Scarpetta series which is more black humor like one of my favorites Carl Hiassen). I have also caught up on a couple of other authors that I had saved for the vacation! Still have the latest Harry Potter to read.

This is just another shot but quite close up of one of our resident pelicans. The gold on his head indicates that he is a male and heading into the breeding season. It will become even more striking next month. I do love pelicans for some unknown reason that I think dates to my childhood vacation in Florida one summer. It was such an extreme treat for our family who didn't have much money. It was of course the first time I had seen pelicans.

This was a snowy egret that was posing for me. I think he is the one that chases off all the other snowy egrets each morning. Sometimes there will be three or four and when he comes, he literally chases them all away.

This is one of the stack and whacks I brought along to finish this trip. It is quite small and I am not particularly happy with it but it was impossible to do without a design wall.

I included this picture as it shows what I think is either a very immature male or a female along with "blondie" who is showing his colors. They are constantly diving to catch their breakfast in the canal behind us.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Our Cold Wave

Well, I have turned into a Floridian as I now believe that 70 degrees is cold!! I am sitting here in my fleece so that I can stay warm! Now in all fairness, it was in the 50s when I went for my beach walk this morning!!

The beach walk was totally awesome this morning. We had quite a wind storm when the weather went through yesterday and part of the preceding day. The tide was excessively high yesterday morning and it was so windy I only took about half my usual four miles. I made up for it this morning as I was gone three hours walking my usual four miles but picking up tons and tons of shells. The bag was actually heavy by the time I got back to the apartment! Warren was impatiently waiting as he wanted to get to the library to do internet.

There were all sorts of things on the beach this morning besides the shells -- sea urchins, squid (alive and dead), starfish and all sorts of interesting sea weeds. I loved it. People were talking to each other asking what each other had seen. The nice thing about Ft.Myers Beach is that people don't realize what a good shelling beach it is so there are very few people out in the early morning -- the only time I can go for long walks -- before I take my blood pressure medicine!!

I found several shells that were either the largest I have found of that particular species or were the only ones I have found down there. Will try to take some pictures after I get them cleaned up. I did find one whole sea urchin shell as well which is unusual. There were a lot of the live animals as well -- very cool.

Anyway, I did get some pictures from Sanibel and Lovers Key on the computer which I will include here.

These are called Black Skimmers and they are my favorite "shore" bird. I love the bright red. We see these as we walk over to the beach but not all the time. Mostly we see dunwits, royal terns and laughing gulls with a few sanderlings thrown in for good luck.

This is the one and only American Crocodile at "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. There was a large crowd and a naturalist there talking about it. They have tried to move here where there are more but she keeps coming back.

These are some of the White Pelicans we saw on Sanibel. They migrate from Washington state each year and are huge. You can see any of the pictures larger by double clicking on them.

HOpefully this is one of the better pictures of the Roseate Spoonbills we saw at Lover's Key. I will post all my better pictures when I get home and can go through them more easily. I LOVE the roseate spoonbills. They are such an unlikely bird. Hopefully you can see their bright shocking pink color and their very interesting bills in this picture!

Just for a change of pace, this is the completed Lady of the Lake top for those of you who have seen me drag it to sew on whenever I am filling time. It is awfully busy but I thought the sashing was interesting. I reversed the colors on everything which is the LOL pattern.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lovers Key State Park and Sanibel

Well, my pictures are definitely out of sync with the blog these days. The pictures I have here are from my 4 mile walk down the beach on Monday morning. I took my camera as I wanted to get pictures of the cormorant that are waiting for me each morning.

These I believe are two cormorants standing next to each other on the old pilings that are on my walk.
This is a nine legged starfish which was about 16 inches in diameter. I had seen a live one the day before and this day I saw several dead ones as well as a couple of live ones. Again, I had never seen them down here before.

This is a picture taken from the beginning of my walk. We are on the northern part of Ft. Myers Beach and you pass under this big pier to go down south which is where I usually walk in the mornings. Further to the north there is a wonderful park where gopher turtles and lots of raccoons live.

This is just one of the cormorants.

Two days ago we went to Lovers Key State Park which I love. We took a nature walk in the morning and heard again about all the different kinds of mangroves and habitats. I picked a day when I knew the tide would be high to take the walk. I picked up a lot of shells and spent quite a bit of time in the water as it was chrystal clear blue and very warm and inviting. Warren actually found a dead sea horse which seemed to be the find of the day for the naturalist!! I swear the water is much warmer than usual. They have had so little rain, they are in near drought conditions down here but that has returned the estuaries to their proper salinity after the awful hurricanes three years ago. I think that is why the shrimp is cheaper and WONDERFUL this year. We have been eating a lot of it just as shrimp cocktail, it is so yummy and doesn't bother my allergies like the other stuff does.

Today, we headed off to Sanibel again at low tide to visit the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Like Lovers Key, there were a lot of birds but most especially the wonderful Roseate Spoonbills which are large and shocking pink with these big flat bills. I hadn't seen those except in Texas before so it was nice to see so many at Lovers Key and again today. We saw lots of the white pelicans too which migrate here from Washington state and Oregon. Warren really enjoyed it as well. We then headed to the beach on Sanibel and I walked again picking up lots of shells along the way -- although not as unusual as on Lovers Key. There were a couple I hadn't seen before. I have quite a stash which will join the stash I have at home. I will get them into a proper display. I have the "best" of each on a display in my bedroom. Each visit I get to upgrade a bit. Can you tell my parents were both shell collectors? My father was an internationally known malacologist (Dr. H. Burrington Baker) in his time and trained me early where to look for shells.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Beginning of a New Week

This is one of the many ibis we have seen in the yard this year

Well, the weather continues to be beautiful and looks like it will stay that way through next weekend at least! I am glad not to be in Rochester for sure!

I am continuing my 4 mile walks each morning along the beach as the sun rises. I have collected a few interesting shells but more interesting is the starfish that I have seen the last two mornings. I will try to post a picture next time I am online. They are called "thin starfish" and are 9 legged starfish that are about 16-18 inches across. I have seen many, many of the usual starfish this time and today saw several alive and dead ones of this new (to me) variety. Also the anhingas have been posing for me each morning so I finally took my camera with me this morning so will post pictures of them later as well. Yesterday,one stood about 5 feet from me on the shore. They are surprisingly pretty close up. They are very much like cormorants except they have a bright yellow/orange beach and spots. They hang out like the cormorants do though. I see them in the canal but they are generally too far away to get good pictures. Hopefully, I got some good ones this morning to post later.

I have intensely enjoyed the wonderful Gulf shrimp as well. Almost any other kind of shrimp gives me a mild allergic reaction and I will not feel well after eating them. Not with the gulf shrimp. It is cheaper this year than previous years so we will be indulging A LOT!! Of course as usual, we haven't been out to eat except for the first night we were here! Oh well. Warren has been sharing the cooking and the cleaning so it is okay.

This is the yellow crowned night heron that sits across the canal at low tide most days.

This is a snowy egret trying to start a pool party. The Great Egrets have not been as present IN the pool as they were two years ago.

A Ft. Myers Beach sunset over the canal.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The End of Week 1

Well, the weather keeps getting better and better. It does rain occasionally at night but it is bright blue skies by morning each day. I generally get out for a two to four mile walk along the beach each day. This morning I was out early as there was a low tide and I love collecting shells along the beach. I will try to take a picture or two later of the shells I got today. I will be publishing posts when I can as we have no easily accessible email and pictures are a bit of a problem but be sure to go back to posts I have already done as I may add pictures when I can.
I added a couple of pictures to the last post.

It was four miles this morning and it was gorgeous although getting warm. The weather is wonderful as is the water which is consistently in the mid to high 70's. I think this will be a great month, all in all. Beats the snow in Rochester for sure!!

I also finished ALL the blocks for the Lady of the Lake blue quilt I have been working on forever. I am sashing four blocks together and then sashing the four block units together. Hopefully, the darn top will be done by the end of tomorrow!! Then on to finishing some other UFOs that have been languishing in bags by my sewing machine for a number of years. I am dying to get back to another Yellowstone piece when I get home.

This is the Great Egret that visits me along with a few friends each morning as I drink my coffee.

This is just a picture of the wonderful blue sky and the swimming pool at the place we stay. Often the birds have a party here when there are no swimmers. This is overlooking the canal. I haven't seen them yet but several dolfins have been coming by for a visit also. The water is so warm in the Gulf that the manatees haven't come to the inland waters yet.

We have had frequent large flocks of ibis as well which I hadn't seen before on the canal.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

First Couple of Days

First Full Day at the Beach

Well, after a tiring ride on Saturday we finally reached Ft. Myers Beach where we will be for the next four weeks. After not having been here in two years, I forget how beautiful this place is.

The weather today was pure sunshine with a high temp of about 80. The water temp is 77 and very inviting. I took almost 100 pictures just this morning sitting drinking my coffee. About three came out well, but I am learning!! Background with these wonderful water birds is everything.

The place where we stay is at the north end of the island and sits on the canal where all the water birds are each morning. About two hundred yards on the other side of the road is the beach for swimming!

We have no wifi except at the local library so I will update when I can and hopefully get some of my bird pictures up as well. I have some good brown pelican and great grey heron pictures but most of the night heron and egrets suffered from poor background and lighting. The great greys and the pelicans seem to pose for you.

I picked up my first shells as well at low tide this afternoon – pretty small but what I would expect. The birds on the beach were phenomenal though – there were hundreds of terns, gulls and brown pelicans all feeding on the fish caught in the low tidal pool between the sandbar and the shore. What a racket!! will definitely take my camera with me for my walk tomorrow. It is about ¾ of a mile down the beach to a nice park where you can watch the boats go in and out and view Sanibel across the divide. I really think the shelling is as good here in Ft. Myers Beach as it is on Sanibel and the beaches are nicer for swimming.

Well, I guess I can still get sunburned! I forgot to put suntan lotion on my legs and am paying the price!! But it’s December and Rochester is buried in snow!! The weather here is again gorgeous – blue blue skies and nice breezes – perfect weather.

Again I took more bird pictures this morning. I am indeed a camera geek now. There were quite a few ibis which I hadn’t seen in our two previous years (in the canal – I had seen them elsewhere). At one point there were four different species of water birds sitting on the boat lift across the canal – Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron and Ibis. There was also an anhinga sitting nearby! I did manage to get a couple of decent pictures of all of the above. I know where the sun and background is best now from looking at the pictures from yesterday. I barely get any reading done, I am so busy taking pictures in the morning with my coffee!!

I walked down the beach (where I got my burn) and picked up shells as usual and a really pretty starfish. There were quite a few starfish which I hadn’t seen on this beach before either. There are also a number of very colorful sponges littering the beach as well. It has been low tide during the middle part of the day which probably accounts for the hundreds of sea birds on the sand bar – I don’t think I have ever seen so many pelicans sitting on the water before.

Well a cold front is coming through tomorrow and (oh my gosh), the high will only be 74 instead of the usual 80. Of course wonderful sleeping temps at night as it cools down at sunset.

This is my favorite bird down here in Florida - the brown pelican. This one is just beginning to get his mating plummage and his head will be bright gold in another monthl.

This is the view down the canal from where I sit and drink my coffee.

This is the Great Blue Heron that visits me each morning. He practically poses for me just feet away from where I sit.