March 17, 2017

On The Road: Galveston, Texas

Scarlet Ibis

Recently, while in Houston, the SDP Junior Editor and I took a road trip to Galveston, where we visited the Moody Gardens rainforest. We were there during shoulder tourist season, so when we arrived, the place was pretty quiet...and, I really didn't know what to expect. Imagine my surprise when we walked in and immediately saw this stunning creature! A scarlet ibis.

Scarlet Ibis

The birds -- and many of the animals, like sloths -- have full reign of the rainforest. So, when you're strolling through the area, which is a sizable pyramid-shaped structure with lush foliage, you'll encounter animals wandering around -- very cool! (The snakes and bats etc., naturally, are in more confined areas.) It was a great experience -- would highly recommend it, if you're ever in Galveston. 

Between work and travel, it's been a busy start to 2017! Hope everyone in the SDP world is doing well. Look forward to catching up soon!

January 15, 2017

Through the Clouds

Myakka Sunset

It was overcast and I wasn't sure what kind of sunset there would be through the clouds...but I figured I'd go to Myakka River State Park last night and at least see the sandhill cranes flying in at the boardwalk. Well, the cranes really didn't show up...but this sunset did!  The clouds and sky were amazing.  So glad I had my wide angle lens with me!

January 14, 2017

Crane Convention

Sandhill Cranes At dusk, they materialize...seemingly out of no where.

Sandhill Cranes Sandhill cranes arriving 2-3 at a time.


Sandhill Cranes Sometimes in larger groups...as many as a 40-50.


Sandhill Cranes It can be quite a sight with their wings extended at 5-6 feet...and their landing gear dangling.

Sandhill Cranes
No matter which direction they come from, almost every crane makes the same approach when landing here at Myakka River State Park. Fascinating! This is the largest number of sandhill cranes I've ever seen here. Hundreds are coming in at dusk every night! A park ranger told me at least 500 were here one evening last week -- a sea of gray.  Size aside, what's most interesting about the sandhill crane is their call. It's a distinct honking sound...and it's loud!  Usually they call whenever new birds arrive.  So, with hundreds arriving over the period of an hour or so, it's quite entertaining!

January 7, 2017

Cabbage Key

Cabbage Key
To mark the end of 2016, the entire SDP editorial staff took a day trip to Cabbage Key, a small island in the Gulf of Mexico.  Easiest way for us non-boat owners to get there is via charter boat from Pineland, just north of Ft. Myers.

Cabbage Key The Key is straight out and to the left.  We couldn't have asked for better conditions!  Calm seas and  light sweater weather.

Cabbage Key It's a short ride...only about 10 minutes. 

Cabbage Key

Enough time, though, to take in the sights...and, start to relax.


 (The SDP Editor in Chief looks quite relaxed, don't you think?)

Cabbage Key Lovely view looking back from the island! (The rooftops to the right are located on a different key.)  

Cabbage Key
Cabbage Key is teeny tiny.   No paved roads....and cars are not allowed.  About a dozen cottages are here, a short nature trail to hike, and a water tower to walk up (for a beautiful panoramic view).  The main attraction, though, is this: the Cabbage Key restaurant! Good food...cold beverages...served outside in paradise. Can't beat it! Not a bad way to usher out 2016.

January 5, 2017

Takeoff

Takeoff Look at that form...and concentration during takeoff!  Clearly, he's rapidly calculating how best to maneuver around several palm trees just feet in front of him.  (And, of course, those horses we saw yesterday. ) I think this may be the male, M15.  He was getting a drink from a pond near the nest when he spotted me 40 yards away...gave me the side eye....and whoosh!....took off.  Who knew there was so much activity in a horse paddock?

January 4, 2017

Flyby

Eagle Flyby
When horses share their pasture with a bald eagle who thinks he's Maverick.  ZOOM!

January 3, 2017

Eagle Watch

Bald Eagle
This is one proud mama or papa bald eagle!  (I still cannot tell them apart.)  This is the first time I've visited the world famous eagle nest in Ft. Myers for quite awhile.  Over the past year and a half, there was lots of drama with the eagles.  Long story short, Ozzie passed away (tragically) and Harriet was courted by a new suitor, M15. (Excellent recap story in the Washington Post here.) The couple produced two eggs this year.  With the world watching via the live Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, one fuzzy little eaglet hatched on New Year's Eve. Everyone is anxiously waiting, watching and hoping the second one enters the world soon. 

Bald Eagle
One of the adult eagles is always at the nest, tending to the new eaglet and unhatched egg. When I arrived at the nest last yesterday afternoon, I was just in time for the changing of the guard.  This one flew to a tree within close proximity and direct sight of the nest.

Bald Eagle
Moments later -- without a sound -- its mate materialized...soaring by, racing to the nest.

Bald Eagle
The eagle landed safely....taking over duties watching the family.  As I'm writing, 37,000 people are watching the live video stream.  Pretty cool I can see them in person!  For a closeup look at all the nest activity check out the live web cam.  (A word of warning:  Watching the eagle cam can be very addictive!)  Fingers crossed for a healthy season for the eagles!