Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finally a Wild Whooping Crane!

This is a Whooping Crane, one of the 500 left in existence, 400 of which are in the wild. You can see the labels on her legs if you double click on the picture. She is 16-10, a young female who first was taught the migration route last year by following an ultralite aircraft from Wisconsin. Her one leg has a red, green and white band and her other leg and black and white band. She now vacations with the Sandhill Cranes in Florida. My sister's sighting was the first since she left Wisconsin and the Operation Migration people were very happy. We have gone by the area where we saw her before but she was much too far away. On Saturday, she cooperated by flying over to a closer area while we were there (although still quite a distance away on the far side of a pond). She was in the company of several Sandhill Cranes as well as one very fat Greylag Goose!

This is looking at the back of the head with her red marking very much like the Sandhill Crane. It is difficult to see that it is red with the lighting.

I just thought this was a pretty decent picture of her.

Here she is with one of the Sandhill Cranes. The Whooping Cranes besides their obvious white as opposed to grey feathers are quite a bit larger in adulthood than the Sandhill Cranes.
Just another picture from the side.  

Here were the three of them all lined up, the Greylag Goose, the Whooping Crane and one of the Sandhill Cranes.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What is the Difference Between a Common Gallinule, a Purple Gallinule and an American Coot?

Finally, I have seen a Purple Gallinule.  After the morning ride to Paynes Prairie, we took an afternoon drive to Leesburg Florida's Venetian Gardens City Park to see the Purple Gallinules.  Bill said we would have a 99% chance of seeing them and we did!  There were also a number of Common Gallinules (also known as the Common Moorhen) and American Coots.  So I thought I would put a collage together of the three of them who are obviously closely related.  The big one is the Purple Gallinule.  The ones in the upper right are the American Coots (this picture was from NC) and on the bottom is the Common Gallinule who is dark like the Purple Gallinule but doesn't have his striking coloration which even in low light was a brilliant blue/purple.

Here you can see the bright blue and aqua plumage as well as the coloration on the beak of the Purple Gallinule.
Here was another Purple Gallinule under the bridge.  If you look closely, you will see that he has one injured leg.  They have big feet like the Moorhens and the Coots.

 Here you can see the big feet!

A couple of the Gallinules were eating a dead fish on the side of the creek.

This is one of the Common Gallinules which has much duller colors for sure!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sand Hill Cranes, Alligators and Kestrels

Thursday morning bright and early, we headed off with Gail and Bill's small bird group to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park so that I could finally get to see Sand Hill Cranes  which sometimes frequent the park in the thousands (but not that day).  There has been a rather severe drought in this area and much of the preserve didn't have its usual water levels including a dried creek bed.  However, there were several of the cranes very close to the path at one point so I took quite a number of pictures!!  They are a magnificent very large bird!  We had hoped that there would be a random Whooping Crane in the bunch but that was not to be.

This is a closeup where you can see the head with his bright red top!

Just hanging out!
Walking away.
A large flock or Sand  Hills flew over and this encouraged the ones in the field to rise up and fly off as well making all sorts of noise as they did it.  Here there is some synchronized flying!

This is a Northern Harrier hawk which we saw quite a bit of.  There was so much light that even though he was really distant, I could get a relatively decent shot!

There were an incredible number of large alligators in what little water there was.  This is the grandpa of the alligators out to sun himself.
It looked like you could walk over the water just on the backs of the alligators.
The Ibis don't seem be be bothered by their fearsome presence nearby!

This is a bird which is quite common down here but not one I had seen before -- an American Kestrel.  Bill pointed him out to me.

This Preserve is famous also for its herds of buffalo, wild cattle and wild horses.  Alas, all we found was the skat (some quite fresh) that they had left on the path (although I am not sure I want to meet a wild buffalo face to face when walking).  The trail was 1 1/2 miles totally in length so it was a good 3 mile walk for the day.  The weather has been gorgeous for doing things outdoors -- not too hot and not too cold!!

On the way back home (after a great lunch at the 43st Deli), Gail and Bill stopped by a place in their community which is frequented by Red Headed Woodpeckers.  This one is just outside its hole.  He posed for quite a few pictures.

In contrast to the above picture, one of the first birds we saw at Paynes Prairie was a Red Bellied Woodpecker which also has a red head like the one above but which whose plumage otherwise is much different!  It took me forever to see this bird as it helps if you are looking at the right pole! There are a lot of this bird at Gail and Bill's bird feeder each morning.  I can remember them at our feeder in NY as well.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Avocets, Monkey Squirrels, Marbled Godwits and the Three Bears Pillow Closet

No postings for a week as I have been on a whirlwind of activity here in central Florida visiting my sister and her dear  husband.  They live in one of those retirement communities for active seniors and boy are they active!!!  I fall into bed at night and go instantly to sleep!!

This is one of the frequent visitors to their bird feeders.  Bill refers to it as a deluxe sport model rat as it eats all the sunflower seeds in the feeders if given the chance.  But it is really a Sherman's Fox Squirrel.  It is a variation of the more common Fox Squirrel which is larger than your garden variety grey squirrel.  Their faces are black but I think they are a very different shape as well.  They are nicknamed Monkey Squirrels which I think is a very apt description as they really do look like monkeys when they are in action  using their front paws a great deal.  I just love watching them!

Here she is in the front yard eating from another feeder.  They have super long tails.

We headed off to Cedar Key on the northern Gulf Coast  on Wednesday to take a boat ride and see some more of our beloved shorebirds.  Before we went on the ride, we took a walk around the Shell Mound area and spotted these birds way way off in the distance.  They were so far away that we had to wait until we got home to positively identify them.  They were American Avocets -- tall with a distinctive white stripe across they black part of their wings.  You will have to double click on the image to really see them!   There were also Marbled Godwits but the pictures are only good enough to identify them from their coloring and distinctive two toned bills!

The Black Skimmers were the most common of the birds on the little sandbar that held the Avocets and the Godwits.  A boat came by and they all flew up in the air.  Skimmers are one of my favorites!

We just made the boat ride (they actually brought it back in so we could board it) and went on a tour of all the little islands.  We saw dolphins and lots of birds.  This was a Horned Grebe which was my second sighting of this bird -- again it was pretty far away.  Gail (whose blog is on my bloglist on the left hand side) got a great picture of a dolphin which hopefully she will post!

This Great Blue Heron was just taking off from the beach.  He was surrounded by the legions of Cormorants that we saw that day!

I love pelicans and particularly got a kick out of these pelicans who were clearly disturbed by the hundreds of cormorants that had just taken off because of the approaching boat!  This was the closest I have gotten to these magnificent large birds!!

My sister very seriously announced to me my first night here that if I didn't like any of the FOUR pillows on the queen sized bed, she had a further selection to chose from -- then she opened up half the closet in the bedroom where there were eight more different sized pillows (thus my Three Bears characterization)!! I just started laughing as I couldn't imagine assigning space in a closet to all those pillows plus the seriousness with which she offered my choices to me.  I still giggle when I think about it!  You would never find space enough in my closets to have these nice neat stacks!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Final Serendipity Quilt

Finally getting to the end of the fabric I brought down to the beach house to work on Serendipity quilts.  This is the last piece and the repeat is about 27 inches so there will be a larger quilt and certainly  a more subdued one as you can see from this palette.  I am currently thinking of greens (do have those) and some very muted tans, browns and rusty red.  There may be a flash of muted purple in there as well.

Tomorrow I head off on a long drive to Florida to visit my sister.  She has a full week planned of quilt shops and birds and just hanging out with her and her lovely husband!  She did make the mistake of asking me to bring stuff for show and tell....  We will also be hitting a quilt shop that is going out of business -- I tend to find my best fabrics for these radial symmetry kind of quilts in places like that  -- sometimes the ugly big prints just work the best!  

As soon as I return, guests will be arriving from home so all quilting on my part will be off the table for awhile!  Most of today was spent trying to pick up a bit and packing for the trip!

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Had a Great Name for this Quilt but I Forgot It!

This is the first block of this next quilt.  There has been a lot of experimenting to get colors I wanted.  It is a variation of one of the blocks in the Sara Nephew Doubledipity book.
The second block is done and beginnings of the third block.  I ended up with five variations on the block by the end and then the challenge of combining them into something that didn't look random.
This is block  number 2 which just has different colors than one or two.
This is the third block which is a further variation on the variation!  It is up to 90 pieces for the block which is about 16 inches across.
This is the fourth block.  Do you see something amiss?  Luckily I saw that I had sewed one of the diamonds upside down before I put the whole thing together.  It wasn't until I was looking through the pictures that I noticed it!

Moving right along and trying to decide on final placement before finishing the coloring of the fourth and fifth blocks.  The orange and blue ones are rather bright so I tried to tone those down a bit!!
Here I tried out black in the background and had the bright red background hexagon blocks in the four corners.  I had really thought I would have black in this quilt but it wasn't to be -- too stark.  I had also tried a very wide variety of colors in the background triangles before deciding on the leftovers from some other triangles I had cut for the center blocks.  They had the reverse coloration of the ones in the block.

This is the final configuration of the quilt. As I have mentioned, I don't have a good way to photo anything big here as my design walls are 4 ft x 4 ft.  There are dark blue strips to be done down the sides and then a great border fabric I had in my stash down here.  I haven't sewn the strips together yet.  Before adding the final borders it is about 55 x 85 inches.

I have the beginnings of a fourth quilt top -- it has a totally different palette and I really don't have any of the fabrics it needs so it may only get started down here.  I have tons of the fabrics that would go with it at home and I don't want to buy more....  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Secret Beach Pictures

Hard to believe, but yesterday was one of the first days where the tide was low and there were birds to be found down on my secret beach, so named because it has a public entrance but is effectively hidden so you kind have to know about it!  It butts up to the Ft. Fisher beaches and for some reason is covered with sandstone and seaweed at low tide.  It is now almost unwalkable at high tide because Hurricane Irene this year washed away a lot of beach.  

These are one of my favorite beach birds -- the Ruddy Turnstones with their bright orange legs.  There were a lot of them on the beach.

There were a lot of the common Willest as well.  I keep hoping for a more interesting sandpiper!

All the Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones and Willets were in a feeding frenzy today.  
Of course all my Buffleheads were offshore in two rather large groupings.  I had hoped to get a better picture of the Black Scoters but they weren't there.  Instead there was one Surf Scoter but I couldn't get a good enough picture to post, only good enough to identify.  I think I have seen all the different varieties of Scoter now although I haven't seen the White Winged one down here, only in Rochester.  I think the Surf Scoter was the unidentified brown bird from the day before as well.
I am determined to get borders done on existing tops before I launch into a full scale attempt to design and finish the next Serendipity quilt.  This was my first attempt at borders for the first quilt.  The outside fabric was just too busy and didn't work although the color was good.  It was just too medium a value.

I finally decided on using the dark green that is in the quilt.  Luckily I think I have enough of it.  It is just a solid but helps to frame it.  I have just enough of the other two (the red and the pink) to make the skinny inside borders -- the red being a little wider.  Not only will I be using fabric I brought down, but I literally won't have any scraps left after doing these quilts.  The quilt police will probably get me for adding seams in my borders though.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ducks and Quilts

Hard to show the whole quilt because of the lack of decent design walls but have added some borders to the last Serendipity quilt.  I added medium blue strips to either side and then a thin strip of the darker blue and then a slightly wider strip of a navy blue and then a four inch strip of the fabric I made last year.  I think it calms it down a bit and frames it.  I will use the navy blue for the binding as well and probably in the corners.

These are the background hexagons for the next Serendipity quilt.  I have decided to use a version of the block I used for the last quilt as it is the most complex of the blocks in the two books and therefore has the most design possibility.

They are hard to see but in among the Buffleheads, there are Black Scoters (with a bright orange lump on their bills).  There were both males and females.  There is also a mysery brown duck with is to the right kind of in the middle.  These ducks were way out this afternoon!
It wasn't until I got home that I could identify the Scoters.  If you click on this, you can probably spot them in the middle back.

You can see a little bit more of the Black Scoter males and females here.  The males have that orange lump while the females just have a whitish head and a brown body.  The ducks with the striking white are of course Buffleheads.