Monday, December 20, 2010

Florida Vacation Coming to an End

Well, our rather chilly Florida vacation is nearing and end! Gail and Bill left on Saturday to go back to their home further north in Florida. Our kitties took a particular liking to Gail as can be seen by by this picture of her and George who is merrily purring in her lap. I think her comment when she picked him up was "he's a BIG boy"! It's hard to have enough lap for George! Chainers couldn't have cared less when she came up to pet him and usually he runs at the first sign of someone other than Warren and I. We figure she must smell like family to a cat!
My last walk on the beach yesterday and I saw the sea gulls with this Spiny Lobster who still was a little bit alive. He was about 9 inches long.

This is a Black Bellied Plover with his winter plummage which isn't as striking as his summer feathers but still a nice looking bird!! I had seen these last year when I was here.

He found dinner!
Well at least our weather here though cold was nowhere near as bad as further north or even California these last few days. We had sunshine most days and it was great for taking long walks in the wildlife refuges -- not so good if you wanted to swim at the beach as the water was down in the 50s -- probably a good 20 degrees cooler than usual.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Visit to Little Estero

Little Estero is a small pond area (tidal) down at the south end of Ft. Myers Beach. Gail and I headed down bright and early on a beautiful Friday morning as we usually see all the different plovers here. Imagine our surprise when we came upon three Roseate Spoonbills who let us get fairly close. They were juveniles and didn't have their bright yellow heads yet but they certainly were pretty in pink!

Here is a feisty Snowy Egret behind a
nice Tri-Colored Heron. We also saw a lone wood stork. We have never seen the wood storks or spoonbills here. There were lots of the usual egrets as well.

This is the Tri-Color strolling through the pond.

These fighting conchs were all over the beach -- mostly alive. I am no longer tempted to pick up the empty ones as I have far too many!

This was a particularly attractive pair of pelicans sitting on some dead branches overlooking the beach.

This was a real nice sighting for me -- a juvenile American Oystercatcher, a bird I had not seen before. He lingered about four feet from us for a very long time and a 100 pictures later....

This was also another bird I had not seen before -- a Piping Plover with his little snub bill.
Later in the day and with no camera, we headed to Sanibel for dinner and amazingly saw two Crested Caracaras very close to the bridge!! They looked like black and white vultures to me. We went to eat in a restaurant called Doc Ford's which is owned by author Randy Wayne White. I have read all the books as they are mysteries which feature southwest Florida. Who should be sitting in the table behind us but Randy Wayne White who graciously posed with us and thanked us for reading all his books!! All I have is rotten cell pictures though! It was the end of a fantastic two weeks enjoyed with my sister and her wonderful husband (who also fed us almost every night as he loves to cook).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Feathered Friends

The other day was spent quietly finishing up South of Broad by Pat Conroy by the pool. I was quickly joined by three snowy egrets and a great egret who wondered back in forth literally inches away from me for about an hour. I had to snap some pictures!

This is a closeup of a snowy egret.

This particularly snowy is a little feisty and periodically would chase the other two snowy egrets away showing his puffed out feathers.

Here he is again, being feisty with the Great Egret languishing in the shallow end of the pool. Both the great and the snowy egrets later sat like ducks in the pool, a behavior I hadn't seen before.
Here is a closeup of the Great Egret!

Of course a trip to Bowditch resulted in another Ruddy Turnstone sighting. I see so many of these at my secret beach in North Carolina.

I thought this was a nice closeup of one of the Ibis.

A little excitement at Bowditch the other night that both Warren and I slept through was the complete distruction of two boats which people lived in a fire during the bad storm we had the other day. This is what is left of one of the boats.

A Visit to a Fellow Art Quilter

On Thursday, my sister and I trekked to Port Charlotte to meet with the sister-in-law of my best friend from high school who just happens to be an art quilter! Best of all, she specializes in doing pictorals like myself and of course living here in beautiful Florida, she does a lot of local flora and fauna!

This was my favorite. If you click on the picture, you can see the extensive beading in the middle. Each one was hand sewn on although my non-quilting friend asked if they had been glued!
Joan retired from a demanding corporate job about the same time I did and took up quilting with a passion, much like myself. She has done some traditional quilts but definitely prefers doing art quilts for her walls!

This was a recently done piece as part of a challenge about mangroves.

Like me, Joan did a Ricky Tims Convergence piece and didn't like it much so she vastly improved it with the applique of a flower designed by a friend.

Here is a busy beaver!

This was a quilt done for her father as a memory quilt of their trip to Alaska.

This is an abstracted rock climber inspired by page 13 of a magazine -- another of the challenges Joan participated in! You have to look closely to see the blue rock climber!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Busy Bird Filled Day

Well, another very cold morning but it did not deter us from visiting both Harns Marsh (in Lehigh Acres) and the "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. My goal for the morning and Harns Marsh was to finally see a Snail Kite which is an endangered species but quite common on the marsh there. These kites feast on the Apple Snail which is a pretty good sized snail and can be up to 4 or 5 inches across. They get them in their talons like the osprey gets the fish and then sit on a branch near the water and eat the animal leaving the shells behind. Last year we didn't spot any but this year I saw three or four and can now identify them pretty easily!
This is my favorite bird (the Roseate Spoolbill) and really the only one we have seen anywhere near enough to take a picture. This one was a very bright pink with a very yellow head.

This is a Greater Yellowlegs. He looks a lot like a Willet except for the bright yellow legs. You can tell him from the Lesser Yellowlegs by the fact that his bill is 1 1/2 times the length of his head whereas the Lesser Yellowlegs has a smaller bill in comparison (Stokes Field Guide to Birds).

This is one of several Snail Kites I saw with its newly acquired snail! These birds are identified by the large white stripe across their tails and of course an Apple Snail in their talons!

This was one of several large piles of Apple Snail shells. All along the edge of the pond, these shells accumulate, discarded by the Snail Kites -- all different sizes and shades of beige, pink and brown.

These three Black Vultures greeted us as we entered the marshes. They are almost attractive but look like harbingers of evil.
This is a very poor picture of an American Bittern which I had never seen before. They literally fade into their background as do many of the birds. You can see if you look closely at the object in the middle that there are long stripes down the length of his chest.

From Harns Marsh, we made a quick stop for lunch and then headed to Sanibel for our yearly trip to "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. We have never been disappointed there! This year was no exception. Each time we see something different. The tide was really low and there were lots and lots of the common birds.
This was one of the more famous winter visitors, the White Pelicans which migrate from very far north to spend time in these mangroves and marshes. Most of the pelicans were huddled together in one large continuous mass of pelican trying to keep warm.
The best views of the day were of the endangered Wood Stork. They were sunning about 10 feet off the road and didn't seem to care about all the visitors. Here are three of them.

Here is a profile picture of the Wood Stork.

This was an immature wood stork who still had fuzzy white on his head.
Another nice view was of the Yellow Crowned Night Heron who posed for us just feet away from the car. He couldn't get enough of having his picture taken!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Corkscrew Swamp in the Afternoon

The weather was gorgeous on Saturday after some early morning fog! Gail, her friend Peggy and I headed to the quilt shop on Sanibel after a lovely breakfast out. Yes, we all supported this quilt shop! From there, we headed down to Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp preserve. We have been there many times and it is a lovely 2 1/2 mile walk through the swamp and different every time.

These are swamp lilies.

This was a red shouldered hawk. He later turned around so I could see for sure!

Saturday was a butterfly day. This is the Zebra Helliconian which is the state butterfly of Florida.

This is Gulf Fritillary which we see all the time at Kure.

This is a Cloudless Sulphur.

This is an Orange Barred Sulphur.

This is a Queen which is a Brushfoot butterfly which is the family that the Monarch is in. This one is a little darker brown but look at those white dots!

This is a Green Anole.

This is a Brown Anole.
I love all the cypress trees down here!

Lots of dead trees but pretty white in contrast to the brilliant skies down here!

Look closely to see the alligator. It was a pretty good sized one.

There are plenty of air plants all over the swamp.

I believe this is a Spotted Sandpiper which was hanging around in the back of the condo.