March 29, 2013

Please Standby

I would like to report that SDP's absence from the blogosphere is solely due to a busy spring schedule; however, that's not the case.  After returning from a glorious whirlwind trip to Key Biscayne (mandated by the SDP Editor-in-Chief) for the Sony Open, I downloaded 600+ photos of the tournament:  Serena Williams, Richard Gasquet, John Isner, and more. Good stuff. Then, my photo storage crashed.  (Read:  CRASHED)  Of course, having 24K+ photos, I have a good backup system.   After days of work, though, my Mac repair guy and I have been unable to restore my photo library.  While cautiously optimistic, SDP is now reluctantly preparing for catastrophic crisis mode.   Please keep us in your thoughts.

March 22, 2013

Play Ball!

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Welcome to JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, the winter home of the Boston Red Sox. The ballpark opened last year and this was the first chance I had to attend a game here. We sat on the outfield berm for a chilly night game but, I must say, compared to other stadiums in the Grapefruit League, this place seems to lack ambiance.  (Gosh, Red Sox fans...please don't think less of SDP for this review.)  It was quiet, with few vendors...overall, it just didn't seem to have much character. Perhaps you have to be a diehard Sox fan to fully appreciate it.  Nevertheless, we had a great time. Well, the good thing about being so busy recently is that I have lots of photos from the past few weeks stockpiled:  owls, eagles, beaches...oh my!  I prefer to post pics shortly after I take them (it's the old news hound in me constantly considering timeliness), but, with the SDP Editor-in-Chief's blessing, some of them will be rolled out over the next several weeks.  TGIF...and I'm linking to Skywatch Friday.

March 21, 2013

Lunch on the Go

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Talk about lunch on the go! I think, though, this actually is a thief in flight. Just before I took this shot, this egret was standing on the fishing pier on Sanibel which was quite busy with anglers catching lots of fish.  Next thing I knew, the bird suddenly had a large fish flailing in its beak --- then it took off.  (Looking rather guilty.)  That's when I got this shot.

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I was pleasantly surprised when the thief...er, bird...landed relatively close.  Heck, that fish was so large, the egret probably couldn't carry it very far.  Anyway, it didn't stay here too long, which was okay because watching a seabird swallow a fish whole isn't for the faint of heart. **gulp**

March 20, 2013

J is for Jogging

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With a view like this, who wouldn't want to go jogging? Usually, I prefer shots of people coming toward the camera but I didn't really care for any that I took. Instead, I liked this one. Perhaps it has something to do with looking at where the joggers are going, rather than where they came from.  Anyway, this beautiful beach is on Sanibel island located on the Gulf of Mexico a couple of hours south of Sarasota.  It would be an understatement to say it's gorgeous and relaxing here. This year the entire SDP staff stayed on Sanibel during our annual whirlwind spring training baseball adventure (with a Michigan tourist who was thrilled to see the sun).  We ventured into nearby Ft. Myers for an evening Red Sox game as well as a daytime Twins game, since both teams are based there in the spring. And, we're getting word that the SDP Editor-in-Chief will be ordering another mandatory respite -- this one for the Sony Open on Key Biscayne.  Management!  I hope everyone has been doing well and I'll see you sporadically over the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, I'm linking to ABC Wednesday.

March 14, 2013

Spring Break

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It's spring break here in the Sunshine State. College and high school students as well as families have all descended upon us to enjoy the sun and sand. I always ended up working in college through spring break (and summer break and winter break). But, when I was in my early 30's I finally went on spring break -- to Florida! Naturally, I hit the beaches, stared at the sun, toured Disney and did all the things tourists do.  The morning I was preparing to return to Michigan (in a rather depressed state knowing I would be facing more of Old Man Winter) it suddenly dawned on me that I could move here. It was quite do'able. The search was on...I landed a great job...and moved to Florida four months later.  And, I've never looked back.  (And, who would with beautiful waterways like this to enjoy while others are enduring snow?)  This is Stumps Pass Beach State Park on Manasota Key. It was the first time I went there and it was a terrific getway -- a slice of Old Florida.  More on that later. Hope everyone has a terrific Thursday!

March 13, 2013

I is for Ichthyology

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The brain functions in odd and mysterious ways. The first time I read the word 'ichthyology' (probably in Prof. Peeble's nat sci class at Michigan State University), for whatever reason, it stuck with me. I've always remembered ichthyology is the study of fish. In my previous life, when I was working on a news story, I was chatting with a guy who had sharks delivered to his house so he could dissect and study them. I nonchalantly said, 'Ah...so, you're an ichthyologist.'  His eyes widened and his jaw popped open as he exclaimed, 'Yes! Yes...I'm an ichthyologist!'  And, that, more or less, is the extent of my nat sci knowledge.

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I encountered John Miller at Hart's Landing in downtown Sarasota as he cleaned a haul of fish that he and his wife, Lydia, caught. They ventured 26 miles into the Gulf of Mexico in somewhat choppy waters and caught 40 perch. John was skillfully using an electric knife to fillet his catch, which I thought was rather clever and quite effective. 

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As you can see, I wasn't the only one interested in what he was doing.  The egrets and pelicans were close at hand studying the fish, and John didn't mind if they quickly darted in to snatch a small piece for dinner, like this egret.  Gosh...they're quick!   And, when John tossed a carcass into the bay -- look out!  It created an instantaneous pelican feeding frenzy. The Millers split their time between Sarasota and Indiana. (The fishing is much better here right now, isn't it?) Nice meeting you and thanks for the photo opps.  I'm linking to ABC Wednesday.

March 12, 2013

R.I.P. Ringlings

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Behind this gate, rest John and Mable Ringling.  (So does John's sister, Ida, although we don't hear too much about her.)  John is in the middle and Mable is on the right.  The plots are tucked away on the grounds of the Ringling Muesum of Art in a beautiful flower and statue garden known as Mable's Secret Garden.  It's a short distance from Sarasota Bay and the Ringlings' winter home, the Ca d'Zan.  (Although they also owned homes in New York City and New Jersey, the Ringlings wanted to be buried in Sarasota.)   John died in 1936 from pneumonia when he was 70.   He's the person who is credited with envisioning Sarasota as a place that would be developed and become a fashionable place to live and visit.  Mable passed away in 1929 at the age of 54.  Although she died two years before their art musuem opened (and John subsequently married and divorced) Mable was listed as a director and vice president.  I'm linking to Taphophile Tragics.  Check it out here.

March 11, 2013

Going Vertical: Rooftop

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We're still on the roof of the Palm Ave. Parking Garage in downtown, but we've moved around the corner from last week.  This is another one of my favorite murals simply because of its creativity.  As you may recall, this is the theatre floor.   This mural shows a stagehand at work and incorporates an air vent into the artwork -- how clever.  Plus, there's a 3-D effect with the rope strung through the faux window.  It looks like the rope really is dangling there, doesn't it?  I also really like the patches of red brick which are reminiscent of an old theatre building.  Local artistist Skip Dyrda was the man behind turning this otherwise drab wall into something fun and memorable.  Check out more of his work here and check out more interesting murals from around the world at Monday Mural.

March 10, 2013

Atlas

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We all feel like this occasionally, don't we?  Here's to a relaxing, weight-of-the-world free day.  (I snapped this yesterday afternoon on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota while thinking about what I need to get done before taking some time off.)

March 9, 2013

Wingercise

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Hope and Honor, the eaglets in North Ft.. Myers turned two months old last weekend when I was there.  It's hard to believe they're that young, yet so big.  I had to laugh because they did what human youngsters do when the parents are away: play, test their boundaries and be rambunctious.  This is Honor valiantly exercising her wings.  She's the older of the two by just two days and when she spreads her wings like this and flaps them, she smacks her sibling in the head. (The nest just isn't big enough for all those wings.)  So, Hope was bouncing up and down and flapping and flapping and wouldn't you know it...she actually got airborne a few inches.  Right after that happened, Harriet appeared quite literally out of the clear blue sky, silently swooped by the nest and left.  That was one heck of a flyby communication because both Honor and Hope sat down in the nest immediately!  Yesterday, I heard that Honor hopped onto a branch for the first time. You can check out the video from the webcam here .  It's pretty cool, especially if you've been following them closely. It's hard to believe they're going to be flying within a few weeks.  We've had quite a few bird pics this week, so I'll see if I can scare up something different for you tomorrow.  (No promises, though.)

March 8, 2013

Where Ya Goin'?

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This was another 'I can't believe it' moment with Ozzie and Harriet, the bald eagles in North Ft. Myers. I visited the nest last weekend and it went from being absolutely quiet with nary a winged soul to be found to suddenly bustling with activity. In this shot, Ozzie had arrived a few minutes prior. Harriet was minding her own business up on a higher branch with her back to me and the two eaglets were tucked below in the nest.  With most birds, you can sense when they're getting ready to take flight. They twitch their feet, wobble a bit, ruffle their feathers...give some kind of indication they're about to do something.  But, not the American bald eagle.  Almost always, they catch me off guard because they take off without warning.  Well, this time I was staring through my viewfinder hoping to take a family portrait when Ozzie took off unexpectedly, prompting Harriet to look that way along with one of the eaglets.   I held my breath and pressed the shutter.  **click**  **click**  **click**   What are the odds the eagle family was just as interested in what Ozzie was doing as I was?  (Look closely at the bottom of the pic and you can see one of the eaglets watching Dad take off.)  The little ones were quite active before their parents got home.  More on that this weekend.  In the meantime, I'm linking to Skywatch Friday and I hope everyone has a terrific day!

March 7, 2013

Twice the Fun

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We're returning to Punta Gorda for some more owl action.  Earlier this week we saw the two adult great horned owls.  Now it's the wee ones' turn.   Yep, two babies.  Aren't they adorable?!  Gosh, I'm so happy I actually captured a shot of them looking at the camera.  Before this, they had fun playing games with me.  Whichever way I pointed the camera, they would face the opposite direction. So, I walked (in high heeled boots, no less...don't ask, it's just how it worked out) all the way around the cordoned nest area to the other side.  By the time I arrived (it's a long walk -- maybe 75-100 yards) they swiveled the other way.  This occurred one too many times.  Finally, I caught up with the SDP Junior Editor who regaled me with one story after another about the fabulously entertaining show the two little ones had put on.  They bobbed...they danced....they wobbled...they flapped their wings...and overall were extraordinarily cute.  And, I had missed it all trundling back and forth.  I decided to give them just two more minutes to cooperate for the camera --- and **presto!** --- they suddenly popped up from the bottom of the nest facing toward me and bounced their little fuzzy heads up and down and back and forth like fuzzy bobblehead dolls.  So cute!  One is flying a little bit -- up to a branch and back. I suspect these two won't be in the nest much longer.  I'm thrilled I got to see them when I did.  I'll probably try to visit them again....but, who knows if they'll still be there?

On yesterday's post several people inquired if I'm going to 'Les Miserables'.  Unfortunately, it's not in my plans.  I heard, though, opening night was terrific and the cast has incredible voices.  

March 6, 2013

H is for Huge Production

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Welcome to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, affectionately known by some as the 'Purple Cow' and located right on Sarasota Bay. (That's the Ringling Bridge in the background.) I've never show the Van Wezel before on SDP, and we're starting with the rear of the building, where there's been a lot of activity -- much more than usual.  'Les Miserables' opened last night and will be here for eight nights.  The touring company rolled into town with nine semi tractor trailers full of props and equipment to make the shows comes alive. Usually, one or two semis will arrive for a show and they're here for just one, two or three productions.  Awhile ago, six semis unloaded for the production of 'Mama Mia' and that was considered a lot.  But, nine?  That's a huge production -- the biggest in at least six years.  

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So, now all the trailers are lined up near the Van Wezel waiting for the production to finish so everything can be loaded up and the touring company can head to its next destination.  By the way, between the production crew, cast and management, the touring company consists of 60+ people.  As I said, it's a huge production.  I hear sales at the Van Wezel are going quite well.  If you're in Sarasota and are interested, check out www.VanWezel.org for more info.  And, don't forget to visit ABC Wednesday for other interpretations on the letter H.

March 5, 2013

Hoot

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As promised, we're back to the great horned owls in Punta Gorda.  After seeing the little fuzzy baby, I discovered not one but two adults roosting in the same tree next to the nest.  Do you see the second one?  I'll give you a chance to look closely. In the meantime, based on sheer size, I believe this one (standing out so prominently) is the female.  After I quickly snapped this shot, she swiveled her head away from me and never turned back for the remaining 30 minutes or so I was there.  Well, that's when I spotted the second owl.  See him yet?  Okay...look all the way down to the very bottom of the limb the big owl is sitting on...then look up a smidge through the pine needles.  He's camouflaged really well, isn't he?  I was so excited that I captured both in one shot -- without even realizing it at the time.  What a hoot!  These guys, with their huge eyes and cute ear tufts, are quickly becoming a favorite with me. 

March 4, 2013

Going Vertical: 6th Floor

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For today's mural we've moved up to the roof of the Palm Ave. Parking Garage, which is known as the theatre floor.  This little mural is tucked in between two elevators and cleverly incorporates the panel with the down button (and emergency fire instructions) by having the attendant peek her head around the panel.  Those theatre tickets are on fire!  To see other murals from around the world visit Monday Mural.

March 3, 2013

Peek-a-Boo

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It's another first! Yesterday I showed you my first kestrel sighting and today I'm sharing my first great horned owl. This is an adorable baby peeking over the edge of his nest in Punta Gorda, located between Sarasota and Ft. Myers.  See his cute little ear tufts?  The last time I was visiting the bald eagle nest in North Ft. Myers, a freelance photographer tipped me off to this nest. The owls took it over in December when a bald eagle couple, which built the nest years ago, failed to return.  That's the modus operandi for the great horned owl -- they occupy unclaimed eagle nests, which is rather smart, I think.  Who wants to build a nest from scratch if you don't have to?  I knew exactly where this nest was located because I visited it three years ago and took these photos of the bald eagle family.  Back to the owls.  This little guy was such a treat to see.  He was just a big poof of fluffy feathers -- just adorable.  Unfortunately, I don't have much time to write, so I'll leave you with the promise of more owl pics to come.  That reminds me.  We're wading into March which is the busiest month of the year for me. So, if the SDP appearance becomes sporadic just know we'll eventually get back to posting as usual.  Happy Sunday!

March 2, 2013

Kestrel

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While I'm waiting for Ozzie and Harriet, the bald eagles in North Ft. Myers, to fly in or out of the nest there's quite a bit of down time just standing around.  So, I end up looking for other possible photo opps.  The last time I was at the nest I got really lucky and saw this kestrel.  Isn't she beautiful?  The elements were working against me that day.  It was windy and shadowy, plus the kestrel was a good 40 yards away in a tree.  Yet, I'm still pleased to have captured my first ever sighting of a kestrel.  They're quite small -- only 10-12 inches. (They seem really tiny when you compare them to an eagle.)  Because of their size they're also known as the sparrow hawk.  Locating and identifying this kestrel was a team effort. The SDP Junior Editor spotted it with her incredible vision and a freelance photog waiting around killing time was happy to identify it (which I confirmed in my trusty 'Birds of Florida Field Guide'.)   I hope to see another one soon at a closer distance.  As for Ozzie and Harriet, my fingers are crossed to catch up  with them this weekend.

March 1, 2013

Theme Day: Cafe Chairs

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What better cafe chairs to show than those outside our popular French restaurant, C'est la Vie, located in downtown.  Ce restaurant est magnifique.  La nourriture est délicieuse et ils vendent la bière que je préfère:  1664.  Aussi, j'aime parler un petit peu du français aux employés. 

When C'est la Vie is open, it's always crowded.  Always.  This time of year, when the weather is especially beautiful, people fill these chairs along Main Street enjoying freshly made pain au chocolate (and other tasty pastries), coffee, crepes, baguette sandwiches, salads....mmmm.  Alas, the chairs are empty due to the combined forces of a rainshower followed by the regular closing time of the restaurant.  C'est la vie, non?  To see other takes on this month's theme day in the City Daily Photo world click here.