At Home with Gators – Loop Road

•June 9, 2019 • 16 Comments

 

I’m also fascinated by the difference between terror and fear. Fear says, “Do not actually put your hand in the alligator,” while terror says, “Avoid Florida entirely because alligators exist.

Mira Grant

She gazed toward the marsh that grew thicker, deeper, greener with approaching summer. Mosquitoes whined in there, breeding in the dark water. Alligators slid through it, silent death. It was a place where snakes could slither and bogs could suck the shoe right off your foot. And it was a place, she thought, that went bright and beautiful with the twinkling of fireflies, where wildflowers thrived in the shade and the stingy light. Where an eagle could soar like a king. There was no beauty without risk. No life without it.

Nora Roberts

I thought I’d start out today’s post with quotes I liked about alligators. To the first, you can see that alligators do exist here in Florida (be brave) , and to the second I agree that nature’s beauty comes with risk (again be brave). When we visit the wilderness, we are visitors in their world and it is good to be very observant. This is not a scientific post about the American Alligator,  Alligator mississippiensis, but I thought I’d show the big lizard in the colors of its natural environment. All of these images were taken on the same day, 3/20/19, along the 25 mile stretch of Loop Road, that loops off of Tamiami Trail in the Big Cypress Preserve area.  It is one of my favourite places and always with great photo subjects, if no alligators show themselves, there are birds, or if no bird hangs out, then there are reflections, cypress trees and cypress knees, filtered light, evocative shapes and shadows. It is always,always a delight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a way to spend a warm tropical Sunday lolling around in the sun with your tail in the water.

Hmm, yeah good!! 🙂

Judy

 

 

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Memorial Day – The Eagles of Merritt Island Veterans’ Center

•May 26, 2019 • 9 Comments

Today’s birds are beautiful works of art , eagle statues from the Merritt Island Veteran’s Center Memorial and Museum exterior courtyard area. The paved square outside is flanked with memorials of various wars and is a work in process. One of the most recent is the memorial for the Military Chaplains who served. This of course is important to my family as my paternal grandfather was a Colonel and Chaplain and served in WWI and WWII. I also have a nephew who serves today in the marines/navy as a Chaplain.  These images focus mainly on the eagles although I did have an image of their Korean Memorial to include. The Korean War was my father’s first war time duty as a young Lieutenant fresh out of West Point. As the story goes my mother had just hung her last curtain at their quarters in Fort Benning when Dad received orders to leave immediately for California to board a ship, The Sultan I believe, bound for Korea.  Mom had to pack up and Dad’s 17 year old brother came and drove my mother back to Fort Hamilton, NY to be with her parents while Dad was in Korea. There was to have been 6 months of training first but we sent over many young soldiers with little preparation as Dad found once he arrived and began his tasks. They’d been together just long enough to be expecting yours truly. Dad’s tour was rather extended in Korea and he arrived back home just in time for my first birthday. I have many wartime letters exchanged between my parents about sweet things like choosing my name and longing to be home and together again .

My father was one of the founding fathers of the Merritt Island Veterans’ Center and Museum where these birds grace the places of remembrance for the soldiers of many wars. I refer to it in my eulogy post for my father which I shared HERE. This place was very dear to his heart.

 

So many times when Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day comes around many poignant war poems just spring to mind. This poem was written by Alan Seeger who was born in New York on June 22, 1888 and died in WWI in 1916 on July the 4th. This one always seems to break my heart and is just as poignant over 100 years later as the day he put his thoughts on paper.

I Have a Rendezvous with Death

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes round with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air.
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath;
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With grateful thanks to all who have served and stood in harms way so that we might remain safe and free.

 

Judy

 

Links to the Merritt Island Veteran’s Center and Titusville Veteran’s Cemetery:

Merritt Island Veteran’s Center:       http://veteransmemorialcenter.org/

Titusville Veteran’s Cemetery:         https://www.friendsofthecemetery.com/

Both sites offer information about the organization and a Donate link if the cause touches your heart.

 

 

 

Wood Stork Colony on the Brink of Spring

•March 4, 2019 • 28 Comments

Wood Stork alights on a limb beside wetland waters.

 

 

 

 

Visiting the rookery at Wakodahatchee a week ago, you’d never guess that Wood storks were so recently considered an endangered species in Florida. No they’ve definitely been down listed in that regard and have truly taken over my favourite rookery. While this selection of visuals of the day is specifically of wood storks, they share the nesting sites with Great blue herons, anhingas, Cattle egrets and others. They do seem a bit crowded out by Old Flinthead presently though.

The colony is very active now with paired and mating birds and some pairs already tending to their tiny young. Because I lost my hearing, in recent years I could not hear the chorus of hungry chicks I loved so much. A fellow birder told me that the juvenile wood works bills hitting each other sounds like baseball bats. My cochlear implant has changed everything. So I did hear those tiny little wood stork chicks making quite a ruckus when they were ready for food. And, they are ready for food quite often. I love the clamor of the Great blue heron chicks too…always was a favourite sound. So, I will return to watch them grow and listen.

I’ve written of this marvelous species in past seasons and I invite you to return to this OLDER POST for more about them.  Or type in Wood Stork in the search bar; you can tell they’ve been a favourite.  Images here tell last week’s story. I look forward to my next visit when the little ones will be easier to watch.

 

 

Three wood stork nests layered within pond apple
branches. The central pair stood patiently on their
platform of twigs the entire time I was there.
Above them you see wood stork incubating eggs and 
another feeding its tiny barely visible chicks.

 

Wood storks have built their nests atop the pond
apple trees in the lush wetland environment.

 

 

Wood stork mating pair stands patiently at 
the nest. No chicks yet.

 

Wood Storks doing the wild thing. I am sure there 
will be an egg in the morning. 🙂

 

This nesting pair has a close by cattle egret
neighbor. Very close! Hmm hmm! There will be some
territorial scuffling in the near future.

 

A view of a wood stork nest with three teensie chicks.
As with all babies, they have tiny bodies but
big voices. Not easy to see until they stretch to ask
 mom for some nice fish juice!!

The cycle of life once again unfolds. And always to the amazement of us humans so battered by the noise and hype of our lives, the sight of this rambunctious display calms the spirit.

 

Judy

 

 

Flamingo Portrait

•December 30, 2018 • 31 Comments

American Flamingo Portrait

 

I am always fascinated by the expressions of birds I photograph and the desire to turn them into avian portraits is always a temptation. So before leaving the images of my trip to Flamingo Gardens a few weeks ago, I was drawn to do something with this rather stern Flamingo Face. For this I utilized the Photoshop Oil Paint filter and some detail with lighting adjustments. I did nothing to change the background as it was already out of focus and looked somewhat like a cloudy darkening sky….other than the texture of the paint filter present in the image. That background is the edge of the pool of water with the lighter area above just being the shadows on the sand with a little vignetting.  Amazing how camera focus and depth of field can create a background that could be many things. I endeavored to have the dark bill stand out via its highlights from the dark background as I like dark on dark, but does it really get lost in the viewing? Flamingos are marvelously enchanting birds.

I wanted a lovely and serious poem or quote to accompany the portrait above. Instead I offer two quotes that made me laugh.  The first may allude to the character of the Flamingo as they are rather feisty and flamboyant. And, the second is so totally my life right now (new roof finished, new seawall needed post Irma grrr) !

Judy

 

The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo.

Lewis Carroll

I feel these days like a very large flamingo. No matter what way I turn, there is always a very large bill.

Joseph O’Connor

 

A Tropical Christmas

•December 24, 2018 • 25 Comments

Reef Reef Beach Seascape

I think this time of year can leave those of us who live in tropical climes feeling somewhat disconnected from the season. Iconic scenes of Santa and his reindeer making their Christmas Eve rounds above snow covered roof tops or Christmas Greeting Cards featuring quaint cottages surrounded by new fallen snow and glimpses of fir trees decked out in pretty lights through snow fringed windows, does nothing to lessen the sense that Christmas feels more right when there’s snow. A few Christmases ago I made an Everglades Christmas Card with the poem Christmas Everywhere by Phillips Brooks and featured a scene with an egret in The Everglades of Florida which touched on this point of our romantic perceptions of the celebration and that it happens in winter. And being a tropical girl who has also lived in snowy places, its been in my thoughts many times.

This year I’ve been going through old papers and photographs, some things from my family’s time in the Philippines. I thought I’d share the poem My South Sea Christmas  this year which expresses the sentiment so sweetly. The time was 1968 to 1970 and the war was raging in Vietnam. The poem was written by a dear friend who was an airman stationed at Clark Field Airbase where we were also stationed at the time. Even in the worst of times, it seems our minds still turn to sweeter thoughts and memories, or maybe even because of them.

My South Sea Christmas

by Thomas Clark “TC” Good

The sounds of Christmas, a South Sea Christmas,

flows on soft sweet air:

The glee of children Christmas morn,

like children everywhere.

The sounds of palms, like rushing wings,

as the radiant sun shines down,

The sounds of waves along the sands,

of a little South Sea town.

Sometimes I dream about the days

not very long ago,

the feel of frost as it kissd my lips,

my feet crunched in the snow.

Oh,there was a time when I really thought,

that no Christmas could ever be,

the kind of Christmas I’d once enjoyed,

beneath a snow blushed tree.

But, I have grown with passing years,

and now I can understand,

it’s not the place but Christmas love,

shared with my South Sea Land.

I do not need the snowfall,

for white sand’s beneath my feet,

And the musical sounds of rustling palms

can replace my thoughts discreet.

And I share my South Sea Christmas

with ones I really love,

And give of myself with all my heart,

the gift of love, sweet love.

No matter where we celebrate, our thoughts travel back to the little babe born in a manger in Bethlehem, the reason we celebrate anywhere.

Merry Christmas,

Judy

Flamingos of Flamingo Gardens, Florida

•November 12, 2018 • 24 Comments

 

American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)

For as long as I have been photographing native birds here in South Florida, I have yet to see a Flamingo in the wild. As the pink long-legged wading bird is such an iconic representation on things as even Lottery Tickets, I was sure it was a common Florida bird. The only avian pink I encountered belonged to the Roseate Spoonbill, no Flamingos.

Curious, I looked it up and read at one point that Flamingos are not really Florida birds. But, that is not completely true as South Florida was once in the northernmost range of the reddish to salmon pink bird known as the American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber).  It is also known as the Caribbean Flamingo and its distribution includes Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Yucatan, Colombia, Venezuela and the Galapagos. Although the Galapagos species does differ enough genetically being somewhat smaller and with body shape differences etc. which earn it sub-specie status ( Phoenicopterus ruber glyphorhynchus).  After the arrival of Europeans in the Americas the population of Flamingos declined and the species was considered locally extinct in Florida. If Wikipedia is correct then perhaps they may be making a come back as there are some year round residents in Florida Bay along with the visitors which fly in now and then. Florida Bay near the town of Flamingo has been for me a good place to see Great blue herons and Wurdemann’s herons, but I’ve not to date encountered any kind of Flamingo there. Though it stands to reason that the location name was chosen because Flamingos were once seen in that vicinity. It gives reason to get out there though and explore more as it would be a kick to see them in the wild.

Audubon himself was anxious to see the American Flamingo and his exuberance is easy to see as he began his biography of the species which became Plate 431 in this manner:

“On the 7th of May, 1832, while sailing from Indian Key, one of the numerous islets that skirt the south-eastern coast of the Peninsula of Florida, I for the first time saw a flock of Flamingoes. It was on the afternoon of one of those sultry days which, in that portion of the country, exhibit towards evening the most glorious effulgence that can be conceived. The sun, now far advanced toward the horizon, still shone with full splendour, the ocean around glittered in its quiet beauty, and the light fleecy clouds that here and there spotted the heavens, seemed flakes of snow margined with gold. Our bark was propelled almost as if by magic, for scarcely was a ripple raised by her bows as we moved in silence. Far away to seaward we spied a flock of Flamingoes advancing in “Indian line,” with well-spread wings, outstretched necks, and long legs directed backwards. Ah! reader, could you but know the emotions that then agitated my breast! I thought I had now reached the height of all my expectations, for my voyage to the Floridas was undertaken in a great measure for the purpose of studying these lovely birds in their own beautiful islands.”

For reason of scarcity in the wild or even at various wildlife preserves, I finally made the trek to Flamingo Gardens in Dania, Florida where I knew they had some resident Flamingos so I could finally assuage my sense of loss at never having photographed one. Those big bills of theirs are so fascinating to me.  The images below are primarily of the American Flamingo, but I wondered why one had a solid colored purple bill and a more whitish pale pink appearance of the feathers. That specimen is closely related but with an entirely different range. It is the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), the most widespread and largest of the Flamingo family and is found in Africa, India, the Middle East and southern Europe. Definitely does not sound like it was ever Florida bird.

I am happy to have gotten a personal view of these specimens even if in a rather captive site with a small concrete pond for their habitat. I expect that as it is early for the nesting season that the rings of orange I saw at the periphery of the yellow eyes of some means the eye color will become all orange/red as the season advances much like Louisiana Herons or Cattle egrets at mating time.

 

 

 Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

 

Flamingo Gardens Wild Life Sanctuary & Gardens

Wikipedia on:

Greater Flamingo

American Flamingo

 

 

Judy

..and for all this, nature is never spent..

•October 28, 2018 • 11 Comments

 

 

A Louisiana Heron rests on floating branches, its
reflected beauty lit by the descending sun in
a scene of utter tranquility.

Fitting for the dying light of a Sunday, this late day image of a Louisiana Heron inspires a sense of peace and rightness in the world. Better even than a glass of wine to take the edge off the nagging concerns of life. For some reason when preparing to post this image I was impelled to include the poem, God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins with it.  A kind friend once introduced me to the poem and ever since a copy has resided via magnets on my refrigerator. It reminds me there are things greater and grander than any toil or worry of mine and that maybe really God’s Grandeur cannot be spent but rather will keep and uphold us until our own light goes out.

 

God’s Grandeur

 
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

Judy