March 31, 2012

Flap Those Wings!

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Good news! The eaglets are growing up quite nicely.   Already they're testing their wings and learning to hop/fly near the nest. You should have seen the precarious way Junior landed on his perch (lower right hand corner), wobbling this way and that with his over-sized wings. Once he settled in, he looked up at his sibling still in the nest as if to say, 'Come on! You can do it. It's not so bad out here.' A short time later, mom or dad arrived with dinner (sushi) and everyone obediently tucked so deep inside the nest you'd never know anything was living there.

March 30, 2012

2012 Sony Ericsson Open

I made my annual trek down to Key Biscayne in Miami recently for the Sony Ericsson Open. There are so many things I like about this tennis tournament...
... like, the sheer anticipation as you make your way to the welcoming tournament entrance. Usually, at this time I'm chattering excitedly about the draw and strategizing on what matches to see.
Of course, being in South Florida it's hot. (Read: HOT!) It's always entertaining to see the creative methods people concoct to block the Miami sun after awhile.
Seeing a match with Swiss champion Roger Federer is always a must. I nearly swoon at the sight of his backhand (or maybe it's the Miami heat).
I love the passion of the players. This is Serbian Janko Tipsarevic on the grandstand court. He's one of my favorite players to photograph. He leaves it all on the court.
And, there are decisive moments when you know one point could end up determining the match. There were a few of those moments during this match with Ukranian player Alexandre Dolgopolov.
When strolling the tournament grounds or having a snack, I'm usually on high alert. The players come and go...and if I'm on my game I'm able to get a few shots. That's Nadia Petrova walking across the grounds. (Oddly enough, I also saw her at a restaurant later that night.)
And, I'm always on the look out for the this shot of Venus Williams leaving the stadium court with her father who carried her racquet bag (something which I've never seen before with any player). Venus, a grand slam champion several times over, was recently diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune condition which causes, amongst other things, fatigue. This was her first tournament playing since announcing her health issue. The match I saw, she rallied from being down match point to win a grueling 3 hour, 3 set match. What a fighter! Although smiling, she looked physically depleted as she left the court and it was touching to her dad there to help her. The men's and women's finals are this weekend. But, that's a wrap for me for this year's whirlwind Miami tennis tour. Can't wait to see what 2013 brings!

March 28, 2012

One Year Later: Still Going Up

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The SDP staff is back from a whirlwind excursion down to Key Biscayne, which you will hear/see more about in the coming days.  Today's post is marking an anniversary.  One year ago, I started posting a photo each month to document gas prices.  It's been a roller coaster ride, with prices jumping another 24 cents since last month.  Last year at this time, a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was 38 cents cheaper.  To review each of the 12-months, click the 'gas prices' label below.  As an aside, gas on Key Biscayne was $4.15.  (I didn't fill up there.)

March 23, 2012

Amish and Mennonite Living

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Nestled within Sarasota is an Amish and Mennonite community of about 3,000 people or so. They live and work primarily in an area called Pinecraft, which is a compact residential and commercial area with a 5-lane road running through it.  Those of us who live here year around are accustomed to seeing the Amish and Mennonites traveling via bicycle (the women riding in dresses), running errands or just enjoying a ride.  I was a bit surprised to see this gentleman on his 3-wheeler negotiating traffic at this busy intersection only because he was so far away from home and riding alone. He must have been 7-10 miles away.   In the Pinecraft community, you'll see women in their no-frills dresses and men in their plain work shirts, trousers and suspenders.  Many people who visit the Sarasota area are familiar with a couple of well known Amish restaurants, including Yoder’s. (Oh, the delicious pies they create!)  I don’t know a lot about their cultures, but, apparently, many Amish and Mennonite families discovered Sarasota during spring break, and like so many of us, fell in love with the area and moved here. The young Amish ladies I met last year at the water skiing demonstration were on spring break from Pennsylvania.   Editor's Note: As a reward for working extra hours to document two bird families recently, the SDP management has kindly agreed to allow staff to fly the coop for awhile.  See you next week!

March 22, 2012

Early Bird Special

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I'm absolutely fascinated with the Eddies and their behavior. Last Saturday afternoon, after perching on the cell tower for awhile, Eddie hopped into the nest for a couple of minutes, then suddenly took off. He soared around the perimeter of the nest, and over my head, then returned home. He never went to the bay or a nearby lake.  He was in sight the entire time.  And, yet, somehow this fish was in his talons! (At the time, I couldn't see it with the naked eye. It was only after I downloaded the files that I noticed it.) Very impressive! Could this be how the Eddies teach the little ones to fly with a meal? (Either that, or Eddie was just airing out dinner.) And, check this out...
Here's Eddie flying up to the nest, wings outstretched, delivering sushi takeout for the wife and kids.  So cool!  A few blogger friends have asked what length lens we use at SDP.  That's a good question!  I have a 75-300mm film lens, but when it's used on a digital body, the film-to-digital conversion adds length. So, in reality, it's probably about 125-400mm or slightly longer, which is how I'm able to get so close and yet stay a comfortable distance from the wildlife.  As a side note, I purchased that long lens for a trip to Alaska so I could get some nice close ups of moose and eagles.  Interestingly, the best shots I've ever gotten of bald eagles is right here in Sarasota, Florida.

March 21, 2012

St. Patty's at the Ballpark

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Since St. Patrick's Day arrives during spring training, most of the ball clubs have started having fun with it and showing their Irish side.  During the Red Sox-Orioles game here in Sarasota, the Red Sox still sported red socks, but their jerseys and caps were a dazzling Irish green.  (I think that's outfielder Darnell McDonald strolling around centerfield in his best Christmas colors.)  The Orioles, on the other hand, were a bit more subtle.  The traditional orange oriole on their cap was replaced with a green one. And there was one other quirk at the game that day....
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This is the scoreboard after the game concluded. Notice anything unusual? (I bet my blog friend Jim at Terrell Daily Photo has already spotted it.) The game ended in a tie after 10 innings.  Major League Baseball games are supposed to continue until one team wins!  That's a first for me.  Gotta love spring training!

March 20, 2012

H & H Update

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I managed to check on Henry and Henrietta yesterday. Henrietta was holding down the nest, so to speak. You can see her one eye peering out, observing what's going on in the neighborhood. Isn't she cute?! Even with my binoculars, I couldn't see any baby hawks moving around; however, I noticed a modification to the hawk home decor: fluffy white fuzz plastered on the outside.  See it?  That very well could be baby red shouldered hawk fuzz!  While Henrietta was in the nest...
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...Henry was in a nearby tree (with direct line of sight to the nest) enjoying a mystery snack and showing off his razor sharp claws.  I'm keeping my distance and being patient. Soon we'll see the little ones!

March 19, 2012

Meet the Eddies

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Eddie has a mate, Edwina, and two eaglets -- collectively known to the SDP staff as Eddie and the Juniors. Bald eagles mate for life and both are responsible for taking care of the nest and the little ones. Apparently, the only way to discern the female from the male is that the female is slightly larger with a longer beak. Since I have no intention on getting close enough to tell them apart, they're interchangeably called Eddie. A few blog friends have commented on the substantial size of the Eddies' nest. I've learned that an eagle's nest can stretch 5 to 9 feet in diameter and weigh as much as 2 tons -- wow! Also, baby eagles are born black and their head and tail feathers turn white as they mature into adults. In this photo, only one eaglet is sitting up and is flanked by his parents roosting on their cell tower. I've noticed that when mom and dad leave, the kids behave like typical juveniles. They test their boundaries by craning their heads high out of the nest, look for trouble and stretch their wings. It's rather amusing to watch.

March 18, 2012


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Eddie the bald eagle landed atop this utility pole with his dinner right in the city limits.   I think he was there for exactly 3.2 seconds -- just long enough for me to focus and squeeze off this shot -- when he suddenly noticed me. He seemed as surprised to see me as I was to see him. What a thrill!  Immediately, he picked up his meal (which the SDP staff has now determined to be some kind of rack of ribs) and flew down to the next pole about 40-50 yards away, where he dined in peace for awhile. Next up: Eddie's family!  

March 17, 2012

In-Flight Surprise

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As I snapped photos of Eddie lugging his mysterious catch, I figured he would head up to his nearby nest where his mate, who I've nicknamed Edwina, was roosting. Nope. Instead, he did the opposite. He lowered his altitude and banked to the left -- toward me. I knew this was going to be an urban wildlife encounter like no other. He was approximately 10 yards away when I took this shot of him maneuvering his way over a utility line with the mangled mess still in his talons. I've had some remarkable wildlife encounters, but this was the most amazing one ever above water. Actually, I'm surprised any photos turned out, I was so excited. The species, proximity, urban atmosphere and the sheer unexpectedness of it all combined to make it so awesome. I'm still not 100 percent sure what Eddie was carrying, but the best I can determine is that it was a very large gnawed up fish.  Editor's Update: SDP's visiting Assistant to the Junior Editor speculates the mystery item is carrion.  Additional Update:  The Junior Editor concurs and believes it's "a rack of ribs".  More tomorrow on where he took his meal.

March 16, 2012 the...World...??

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As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I had a remarkable wildlife encounter -- right in the city limits. What made it especially awesome is that it was so unexpected. I had just walked up and was standing under a cell tower observing what I thought was the only bald eagle in the area, when an oversized dark blob moving low in the sky caught my eye. 'What in the world..?" I thought, peering through my long lens. Another bald eagle! And this one was clutching a prize so large it appeared to be somewhat exerting itself to remain aloft. There's more to unfold with this amazing story. But, I shall leave it here for now. Gosh, I love the bald eagles!

March 15, 2012


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Truth be told, I've been holding out. I had an amazing wildlife encounter late last week, but I haven't posted the photos because I haven't had time to go through them and figure out what to post and what to write.  You may recall, back in January, I was keeping an eye on a bald eagle which lives near me.  At the time,  I posted these pictures.  Since then, many days on the way to work, I've seen him sunbathing in the vicinity all alone.  I figured he was a bachelor enjoying a trendy urban lifestyle.  Last Friday night, from two blocks away, I spotted him sitting high up on his cell tower perch, so I decided to swing by for a closer look.  And I'm glad I did.   Eddie is no bachelor.  I'm pleased to report he has a mate -- and a family! It's all very exciting.  (By the way, I haven't forgotten about Henry and Henrietta. I just haven't had the time to check on them. Soon, though!) In this shot, Eddie is taking off for an evening flight over Sarasota after delivering dinner. Isn't he beautiful? The SDP staff had no intention of launching another bird series so soon, but as Editor-in-Chief, I figure it would be dereliction of duty if we didn't.  Let the eagles soar!

March 14, 2012


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There's something to be said about the enthusiasm of a child. 4-and-a-half-year-old Zara (remember when you insisted on including the half-year?) was absolutely thrilled by the wet sand she discovered on Lido Beach in Sarasota. She ran to the water, scooped up a handful and ran back several times, each time just as excited as the last, proudly displaying her slimy find with a smile and a laugh.  Love that zest for the simple things in life!   Zara and her mom were my house guests over the weekend -- great fun!  I'm now preparing for Sarasota Spring Break House Guests Part II, which unfolds later this week.  There's nothing like living in the Sunshine State in March!   Rest always takes a back seat until April.

March 12, 2012

Rolling In

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It's a bit unusual to have this kind of weather in the Sunshine State this time of year, but once in awhile it happens.  A late afternoon cold front was pushing in when I snapped this photo at Bunche Beach in Ft. Myers recently.   I like the moodiness of the scene with the sea fog rolling in, the birds flying and the helicopter zooming toward the squall. Occasionally, it's nice to have a day like this to shoot.  It's something different plus the beaches are empty.  By the way, that tall bridge goes to Sanibel.

March 10, 2012

Farewell Meters

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And, that's a wrap with the parking meters!  After being operational for almost ten months (including a 3-month suspension), the program was cancelled this week.  Free parking is back in downtown Sarasota.

March 8, 2012

What's for Dinner?

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After work one evening, I headed out to the park to check on the hawk family. Henry was standing on their dining table (as I like to call it) chomping on....I don't know what! At the time, I was shooting so far away, I figured I would be able to discern the meal once the images were downloaded onto my computer. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.  I thought possibly it was a snake -- a somewhat odd shaped snake which had been chewed on by a hawk -- but, nevertheless a snake.  So, I summoned the SDP Junior Editor for consultation.  She too was equally perplexed, until she saw this next photo...
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...and declared, 'That's a skink!  Look at that skinny tail and wide body. Yep, it's a skink!'  I'm a native northerner and I thought a skink was a fictitious creature. (And, the name of a delightful fictitious Florida governor created by author Carl Hiaasen, one of my favorite writers.) I figured the Junior Editor, a native Floridian, was pulling my leg.  Turns out, though, skinks do exist!  They're a cross between a lizard and a snake (creepy).  And, the photos I reviewed during my research seem to corroborate the skink theory.  The things I learn as SDP Editor-in-Chief!  If anyone has reason to believe Henry's dinner was something other than a skink, please let me know.  By the way, someone asked how I can discern Henry and Henrietta.  Henry is smaller and tends to be more skittish.  And with that, the H & H series now is on hiatus.  Thanks for all your kind comments about the series.  Stay tuned!

March 7, 2012

Bird of Prey vs. Prey

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Can you believe this sight?! Check out that daring little squirrel headed in the wrong direction -- right toward a red shouldered hawk.  I'm 90% sure that's Henry squawking.  I really expected him to pounce on the squirrel and remind it about their respective roles in nature (bird of prey vs. prey). Instead, Henry screeched several times...the squirrel stood its ground...and Henry flew away.  Wow.  Gotta love the wild kingdom!  By the way, no news from the nest.  I have one or two more pics I'd like to post from Henry and Henrietta's daily activities, then the SDP staff will place this series on hiatus until the little ones are spotted.

March 6, 2012

Outta the Nest

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So, why did Henrietta call her loyal mate back to the nest? This is why. She wanted to get out of the nest and enjoy some alone time.  She hopped onto this delightfully sunny perch adjacent to the nest, where she could have a good view over the household, yet feel as though she was having a bit of a getaway.   Shortly after checking in, Henry left, probably figuring the Mrs. could handle home security from her nearby vantage point.   Looking at her talons, I would concur.  

March 5, 2012

Henry's Arrival

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The babies aren't here yet and already Henry has perfected arriving home without making a sound. He soared through the thick cluster of branches on this oak tree -- silently.  Once in the nest, he gave Henrietta an inquisitive look which I interpreted as, "Yes, dear. You called?"

March 4, 2012

Time with Henry

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Henry spends a lot of time high up in a pine tree near the nest. Perhaps he's contemplating the looming changes to his lifestyle when the hatchlings arrive...or maybe he's just enjoying the clear cobalt blue winter sky here in Sarasota. But, as soon as he hears Henrietta call...
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...he flaps his wings, and stealthily he's off to the nest to check in with the Mrs. He seems to understand the importance of keeping Mama Hawk happy.

March 3, 2012

Henrietta's Dinner

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I'll think twice before using the phrase "eating like a bird", after watching Henrietta devour a rat for dinner. ((ick))  Having presented the meal, Henry flew back to the nest, allowing Henrietta to feast alone  for about 20-30 minutes.  What a sight!  At least she seems concerned about her appearance.  With rat remnants clinging to her beak, she rubbed her face repeatedly against the tree apparently trying to clean it before returning to the nest.  Absolutely fascinating to watch!  The wild kingdom is indeed wild.

March 2, 2012

Happy Couple

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Unfortunately this photo is washed out because I was shooting almost directly into the sun.  (These birds  are really testing my photography skills!)  I decided to post it anyway since I'm documenting the behavior of these red shouldered hawks nesting at Urfer Family Park in Sarasota.  After observing Henrietta, perched high in her nest protecting her eggs, for quite awhile late Sunday afternoon, I started to wonder about her absent mate.  Where was he?  What was he doing?  Did he tell her he was picking up some carry out for dinner with the intention of never returning to his responsibilities?  As these thoughts swirled around my head, I heard a distinct hawk call.  It must be Henry!  Henrietta heard it too.   She snapped her head up and became so alert, it was incredible to witness.  Henry landed about 40-yards away in this dead tree and a moment later, Henrietta joined him.  (Henrietta is on the left; Henry on the right)  Henry, as it turns out, appears to be a rather good provider.  He returned with dinner.  What do nesting red shouldered hawks eat?  I'll show you tomorrow. (Nothing too graphic...but, you may not want to read about it over breakfast.)

March 1, 2012

Theme Day: Electricity

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This month's theme day in the City Daily Photo community is electricity. Of course, there wasn't a lightning storm to be found when I needed one, so I meandered down to the Palm Avenue Garage which opened about a year ago in downtown Sarasota. Four electric vehicle charging stations are located on the first floor.  Just pull up and plug in!  I was really hoping a car would be plugged in when I arrived to take this photo, but alas, no such luck.  As an aside, Stephen King, the bestselling author who lives nearby and whose wife drives an electric car, was here awhile ago to help promote electric car usage and the convenience of charging stations. Click here to view thumbnails for all City Daily Photo theme day participants.