November 23, 2014

No Nest

Unfortunately, there are no signs of nesting in the cell tower. When I saw the bald eagles four days ago, they appeared to be frantically trying to build a brand new nest.  As I left the cell tower that evening, though, I noticed them behave out of character by flying away together (unusual) in a direction they usually don't go.   Seeing that, I had a sinking feeling they wouldn't be back.  It was just too much work to build another nest so close to egg laying time.  I've been there every day since at various times and haven't seen them.  (If you look closely between the trees, you can see the stadium lights which are adjacent to where the eagle nest was located.  The tower and lights are about the same height.)

So, over the past week, since Sarasota County legally destroyed the bald eagle nest, bright orange netting has been installed around all the stadium lights.  Theoretically, according to state wildlife officials, the netting is supposed to prevent the eagles from landing in the lights and trying to nest again.    They also have said that a protective net of some sort surrounded the left field lights this year -- but, the eagles somehow managed to finagle their way through it and build their nest.  (My photos from earlier this month do not show a net…black, or orange, or any color.  In fact, I watched the eagles fly in and out of their nest without any impediments from two different directions.)

So, this is what's around the lights now.  Meanwhile, the Eddies are long gone.  

November 19, 2014


SDP 11-19-14 

Good news: the bald eagles (the Eddies) have returned to the area; however, it's unclear whether they are attempting to nest or if they will have time to do so before they lay eggs.  Let me bring you up to speed.

Yesterday, just four days after the eagles' nest at the Baltimore Orioles' spring training stadium was legally destroyed by Sarasota County, I spotted one of the birds in a nearby cell tower.  This tower is where they've nested since the County destroyed their nest in the stadium in 2010.  So, it's been hoped they would return here.

I've been observing these eagles for four years and I've become accustomed to their behavioral patterns. When they're roosting high up on the cell tower, usually they gaze into the distance and their movement is minimal. Not yesterday. This eagle was swiveling its head almost continually and seemed agitated.

  SDP 11-19-14

While I was at the base of the tower, the other Eddie materialized, soaring through the dreary sky.  What I couldn't see at the time (even with my long lens), was a trail of plant material streaming behind its tail feathers.  Nesting material!  Yes!

  SDP 11-19-14

Fast forward 4.5 hours.  I arrived at the tower under blue skies as one of the Eddies landed and greeted the other.  Lots of activity!  And, now…there's a lengthy branch up there!  To me, that's a fairly positive sign of nesting.  But, it also seems like a frantic response to unexpectedly losing their home.  Now, by instinct, they're racing against the biological clock, hunting and gathering, trying to build a new nest stick by stick.  This seems like such an unnecessary physical and emotional toll on our national bird.

  SDP 11-19-14

The Eddies were very intent, gazing down at the ground -- perhaps searching for just the right branch or clump of Spanish moss to carry up into the tower.  Recently, I've heard officials with the Florida Wildlife Commission (one of the agencies which said the destruction of the nest was in the birds' best interest) say that eagles can have more than one nest in an area.  So, there's a possibility that in addition to the stadium nest, they built another one.  For the Eddies' sake, I hope that's true.  I'll also hope they keep building in the cell tower.

November 15, 2014


The national bird is not welcome at the Baltimore Orioles' Birdland.  This, believe it or not, is what's left of the bald eagle nest after it was pulled from the left field lights at Ed Smith Stadium early yesterday morning and unceremoniously dropped in the dumpster.

Before I go further:  yes, the required state and federal permits were obtained to legally destroy the nest.    But, for those of us who have followed these eagles for years, the rationale for issuing the permit is fuzzy at best.

(1) Sarasota County (which owns the property) states it just learned about the nest a few days ago.  The Orioles, who have work crews there every day, must have dropped the ball notifying the County, because I've been observing that nest for the past week and a half, maybe two weeks.  Why would they allow the eagles to continue to build their nest, as egg laying season draws closer, only to destroy it?

(2) State wildlife officials say destroying the nest was for the birds' safety and in their best interest.  But, how is it in their best interest to oust them from their home and place undue stress on them right before egg laying season?  (Note:  a drone with a camera was sent up to the nest and no eggs were seen.  So, that was good news.)  But, will the eagles have enough time in their newly distressed state to build a nest before they lay eggs?

(3) There is a designated process for issuing a nest disruption permit.  That process, from what I understand, includes a time period for public input.  I'm hearing that process was skirted because the state wildlife agency deemed this to be an "extreme" case, and the "eagles had nested there previously". 

(4) Wildlife officials are now blaming the arrival of the eagles at the stadium on the fact that their nest in a nearby cell tower "disappeared".  They say the nest vanished in September and there's an active investigation into what happened.  That's interesting.  Over the summer, I witnessed 2-3 men in the cell tower working near the nest.  The next day, the nest was gone.  Do you think the state has contacted the cell tower company about their investigation?

State wildlife officials hope the eagles will return to their old perch across the street in the cell tower -- and build a new nest, stick by stick, branch by branch.  The last time the County and the Orioles evicted the eagles, the birds did not return to the area immediately.  It took at least one year.  I'll keep my eye to the sky.

The top two photos I pulled from a local TV reporter's Twitter feed.  There was lots of activity about the nest destruction on social media as well as traditional news media.

November 13, 2014

Waiting & Watching

SDP 11-13-14

I've been wondering where the Eddies, the urban eagles in Sarasota, were nesting this season.  Then, I spotted them high in the left field lights at Ed Smith Stadium where the Baltimore Orioles play spring training baseball.  (The Orioles call the stadium 'Birdland'.  So, you could say our national bird prefers Birdland…the eagles are roosting at Birdland etc.  How perfect, right?)  

I captured this shot as the sun was rising over the stadium two days ago, and one of the Eddies, apparently, decided to set out for breakfast.  Since discovering the nest a couple of weeks ago, I've been keeping a close eye on it.  That's because the last time the Eddies nested in the stadium lights (four years ago), state wildlife officials allowed the Orioles to have the eagle eggs removed and shipped to Tennessee for incubation.  Then, the nest was destroyed in hopes the eagles would not return.  At the time, wildlife experts said they permitted the egg removal and nest destruction because they were concerned about the safety of the eagles since the stadium was under renovation.  The local newspaper wrote this article about the eagles' eviction.  I also blogged about it here.

So, fast forward to present day…and, I'm hearing that the nest will be destroyed.  I hope that's not true.  The Eddies have constructed a nice nest, and should be very close to laying eggs.  (Ozzie and Harriet in Ft. Myers layed eggs a year ago this week.)  So, if the Eddies' nest is destroyed, where would they go at this late date to lay eggs?  I understand that urban eagles can be destructive.  And, there could be potential problems with turning the stadium lights on with a large nest up there.  But, an accommodation needs to be made for this season for our national bird.  I'll remain hopeful for the Eddies.  And continue to wait and watch.

November 12, 2014

Patriot Plaza

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Although Sarasota National Cemetery has been open for several years, Patriot Plaza with a 2,800 seat amphitheater and art installations within the cemetery, was just finished and dedicated this summer.  This is the first time a private foundation has partnered with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The Patterson Foundation, based in Sarasota, funded the entire project.  (I've read the construction cost was $12 million, plus there's an endowment for maintenance.)  James Patterson, whose father started the New York Daily News (and James eventually went on to manage it) was a photographer in World War II.  So, it was decided early on that the artwork would focus on photos.  I must admit that when I originally heard that, I wasn't sure how they could pull it off, particularly with the pieces exposed to the elements 24-7.  

Well, I stopped by the plaza yesterday and was really impressed with the final products.  A total of 28 white marble tablets and plinths line the entrance to the amphitheater. 16 of the tablets are engraved with glass printed photos, including this one, which is completely backlit by the setting sun.  The featured photos span from the Civil War to present day and each one is eye catching and memorable.  But, I kept going back to this one.  I was even in my car ready to leave and saw the golden light of the setting sun streaming through it -- and ended up getting out and taking a few more pics.  I definitely will have to make a return trip when I have more time.

November 7, 2014

Ho Ho Ho

SDP 11-7-14
The day after Halloween, Christmas commercials started running on TV. So, I'm not overly surprised to see lights going up in the trees the week before Veterans Day…and three weeks before Thanksgiving.   This might be the earliest holiday season yet.  But, these decorative lights are so pretty, I wouldn't mind if they were up year round.

  SDP 11-7-14b
I must admit I was a bit excited to actually see the lights being strung. Usually, it seems like they magically appear overnight. So, when I encountered this scene on my way home last night, and I happened to have my camera with me, I had to stop. These guys sure were making it look easy climbing through the trees and wrapping the lights.  By the way, they had music playing.  Thankfully, though, it wasn't Christmas music yet.  (That definitely should not start until after Thanksgiving.)

November 6, 2014

Scratch That Itch

SDP 11-6-14 
I mentioned yesterday that in addition to the regal eagle statues, something else is new at Ozzie and Harriet's domain.  It's… ((drum roll))…that small wooden fence next to the horse.  It surrounds what appears to be an electrical box, which I believe runs cables, power, internet connectivity etc. to the web camera mounted above Ozzie and Harriet's nest.  So, why would this need to be penned in?  Keep in mind, this is a horse pasture where dozens of large animals roam.  And, what's a horse to do if it has an itch that it just can't reach?  Well, last spring, I witnessed firsthand what happens.  Enjoy!

November 5, 2014


SDP 11-5-14b
Two new statues are now placed at the entrance to Dick Pritchett Real Estate in North Ft. Myers, signifying you're entering the domain of Ozzie and Harriet, the bald eagles who have nested here for the past 8 years. This is a nice addition to the property and a rather fitting tribute, don't you think?  There's no question this is where you'll find Ozzie and Harriet!

  SDP 11-5-14
Like clockwork, the two return here each fall. I've been observing them for a few years and it's a rare treat to see them soaring together.  I think this is the first time I actually captured them flying together . They're so majestic.  

Although the nest is located within a horse paddock on private property, the public is welcome to visit and watch Ozzie and Harriet. The Pritchett family also continues to provide a 2-camera live web feed of the nest, so you can get…well…a bird's eye view of what's going on up there, like this:

To watch the live feed just click here.  (I usually check in to see if anyone's home before setting out with my camera.)  This is the third season the cameras have been up and running.  The first year, a whopping 16 million viewers around the world tuned in to watch Ozzie and Harriet .  Wow!

Besides the new eagle statues there's another addition on the property this year which the casual observer might not pick up on.  That's coming up!

November 2, 2014

Horsing Around

SDP 11-2-14 
The tree where Ozzie and Harriet, the bald eagles, call home is actually located within a horse paddock in North Ft. Myers.  At any given time, you can see 2 to 24 horses standing around grazing.  Usually, they don't exhibit too much energy and just meander from one spot to another.  Well, last night was a different story. With the mercury dipping below 60, the chilly air must have made the horses frisky, because they were running around.  Half a dozen were galloping around the paddock chasing each other.  Dirt was flying!  Then they headed straight for me.  I was tucked safely on the other side of the fence, but -- wow -- to see these large, speedy animals racing right at you is something else.  They turned at the last second, hugged the fence line, and continued roaring around the pasture. While I was still in awe of that unexpected show, Ozzie suddenly soared onto the scene and tucked into the nest.  What a fun evening!  I'll catch you up on Ozzie and Harriet and the live camera feed soon.  

October 22, 2014

Lil' Pumpkin

This adorable little 2-year-old is Cecilia.  She was having a great time at the pumpkin patch at United Method Church in downtown Ft. Myers along with her mom and big brother, Gabriel.  Flitting from one pumpkin to the next…then the next...Cecilia was like a little butterfly landing just long enough to inspect a pumpkin before taking off again.  Some of the pumpkins were small enough for her to hold --- and dash off to the next potential perfect pumpkin for comparison, consideration and contemplation.  What a bundle of energy!  I'm not sure which pumpkin Cecilia ended up taking home.  But, she and her family looked like they were having a fun time.  Ah…to be so carefree and only concerned about selecting the perfect pumpkin!  Happy Halloween!  

October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Lot

Pumpkin Patch
I don't see many good old fashioned pumpkin patches in the Sunshine State. Instead, this time of year, pumpkins are usually for sale in a parking lot or yard.  That was the case with this brilliant bunch that I encountered over the weekend at First United Methodist Church in downtown Ft. Myers. The pumpkin patch volunteers did a great job of transforming the church yard, complete with straw scattered on the ground and bales of hay stacked around the area.  A tip of the hat goes to my blogger friend Kay at Sequim Daily Photo who inspired me a few days ago with a similar pumpkin post.  So nice to photograph some fall color!

October 19, 2014

Air Traffic Control

Ozzie and Harriet, the bald eagles, have returned to their nest in North Ft. Myers, which is good news. It's nice to see them again. I couldn't help but think yesterday as I watched one of them land on this tree, that the sky was so active with birds, an air traffic controller could have been helpful. (Although, they appeared to have everything under control in their own way.)   I believe the two birds behind the eagle are ibises.  Two other birds (lower right) were preparing to fly by the tree, and half a dozen crows and songbirds were roosting on the branches, ready to take off at a moment's notice.  How do they know where everyone is flying...and when?  

October 18, 2014

Tangerine Eve

Myakka Sunset 
A beautiful shock of color bursting through the clouds at Myakka River State Park.  Great way to end a work day.  Or any day.

October 16, 2014

Hello, Stranger

Upon my recent return to Myakka River State Park after being absent during the summer months, I received a few stares which I couldn't help but interpret as, 'Well…where have you been?!'

October 11, 2014


Limpkin Once or twice a year when I'm visiting Myakka River State Park, it seems especially alive. Usually, it's in the early evening following a heavy rain.  The trees echo with water dripping, and seeds falling; curious and hungry animals venture out into the open for a meal.  There's a lot going on.  That's what it was like the other night when I stopped by for the first time in months -- very alive!

We've experienced tremendous rainfall recently, to the point where the park was flooded and the main road impassable. The park ranger advised me the road still wasn't open completely, but I could go about a half mile into the park to a bridge where anglers fish and tourists stop to watch the numerous alligators.  I had the place all to myself and when I stopped to watch this limpkin (after encountering half a dozen deer, a raccoon, several rabbits and three turkeys on my way there), I noticed the area was brimming with vitality.  The scene was so tranquil with the melodious sounds of nature, it reminded me why I keep coming back here.

October 9, 2014

Autumnal Return

Urban Eagle He's back.  I'm back. 
 All's well in the world. 
Hope you've been doing well in the blogosphere.

August 24, 2014


Lover's Key State Park

Nothing like a peaceful burst of sun along the Gulf of Mexico late in the day.  It's been a sultry summer in Florida. But, it was tolerable when I headed out to Lover's Key State Park near Ft. Myers late yesterday afternoon.  Even with a pleasant sea breeze keeping the air somewhat pleasant, I didn't encounter any wildlife and very few people -- just a few fisherman, including the one in this shot who was packing up his equipment.  I guess everyone is staying tucked in as much as possible.  

This was the first time I've been out and about shooting since I last left you (rather abruptly) three months ago.  Gosh, it felt good to be back at it!  I've been swamped producing a couple of personal video projects.  One video is done and the other is nearing completion.  When those are in the rearview mirror, hopefully, I'll be able to round up the entire SDP staff once again and spend more time with the blog.  **fingers crossed**  

In my last post back in May, I showed a photo of a beautiful field of wildflowers and promised more information. (Note:  I didn't say how long it would took for the SDP staff to provide the info.) The  field was located at Myakka State Park in Sarasota and the flowers were coreopsises, which happen to the State of Florida flower.  Hope everyone in the blogosphere is doing well!

May 22, 2014

Golden Path

SDP 5-22-14

Afternoon serenity at Myakka River State Park.  
(More about this in my next post.  For now, let's just enjoy the wildflowers.)

May 20, 2014

Moorhen Surprise

SDP  5-20-14
How many times have you been out and about, sans camera, and unexpectedly spotted a photo worthy subject?  This time I was lucky because, although I did not have my camera in hand, I was preparing to go to the park and had my camera packed in my car nearby when I spotted a moorhen in a neighborhood retention pond (my trusty Birds of Florida refers to the species as a 'common' moorhen…but, really, what's common about a little duck with an orange face and bright yellow beak?).  So, I dashed back to my car and put on my long lens to get some shots of the aforementioned moorhen having a bath.  And, that's when I realized she wasn't alone.  She had a brood of three tucked in close to her while she splashed around.  She must have sensed me nearby because she swam to the other side of the pond, and dispatched her little ones into the tall grass. Can you see them? Look directly above the mama moorhen's head…then to the right. 1…2…3!  I love the orange splotches on their heads.  

May 18, 2014

Dove Bike

SDP 5-17-14
And, here's the other decorated bicycle that is on public display and is randomly moved from one location to another in downtown. The backstory with this one is interesting. The artist, who refers to himself as Dr. Nik Gapeto, said he begrudgingly was shopping at Walmart and saw a display of fake doves.  He realized they were intended for shooting target practice.  Being vehemently opposed to guns, he bought all 60 or so doves (calling them 'killing mechanisms') … and eventually came up with the idea for the peace Dove Bike. Surprisingly, I've never seen Dr. Nik in person -- just his creative bicycles. This shot was taken at Bayfront Park where it was locked up and on display.  One of these days, when I spot him, I'll do my best to get a portrait. In the meantime, here's a video interview he did recently with one of our many local media outlets:

May 17, 2014

Flamingo Bike

SDP 5-17-14
When I posted this portrait recently, I mentioned that I was photographing a flamingo bicycle and promised to share it.  Tah dah!  It's difficult not to notice something this bright, creative and unusual.  (Although, from a photography standpoint it was a challenge to capture.)  A local artist, who goes by the name Dr. Nik Gapeto and works at the Florida Studio Theatre in downtown, is the man behind it.  (Oh, how I would love a photo of him riding this bicycle!  Perhaps a directive needs to go out to the entire SDP staff to keep their eyes peeled and cameras ready.)  I've heard Dr. Nik likes the idea of the Flamingo Bicycle getting people's creative juices flowing.  It certainly is an unexpected sight. You never know where it will pop up in downtown.  The first time I spotted it, it was chained outside Whole Foods.  This time, it was two blocks away at Five Points.  And, this isn't Dr. Nik's only art bike.  We have another one on tap for tomorrow.  Hope you have a terrific Saturday!

May 16, 2014

Dolphin Fountain

SDP  5-16-14
When I downloaded this photo, I wondered why I shot the dolphins from this angle, jumping away from me.  Then, I remembered!  I liked the clouds, the Ringling Bridge in the background (lower left hand corner) as well as the buildings on Golden Gate Point.  It sure was a beautiful day at Bayfront Park last Saturday.  The last time I photographed this fountain, I shot it from a different direction and submitted it for the CDP Theme Day --- back in February 2011.  I can't believe it was three years ago!  Check it out here.  Which do you prefer?  

May 14, 2014

University Town Center

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I mentioned recently that we're seeing an uptick in construction projects in the area. And, this is the granddaddy of 'em all: a $315 million upscale mall, called University Town Center, which is getting a lot of attention. (Construction was supposed to start during the recession, but was postponed for years…then, the plans were modified to accommodate different anchor stores.)  Last week, I noticed the Macy's sign was installed and lit up -- and the mall isn't scheduled to open for another five months (on my birthday, to be exact!). Today, Crate & Barrel announced it will be a tenant.  Another big name -- Apple -- also is moving in, which will be nice for me because my drive time to an Apple store will be cut by one hour.  Many people are concerned about the increased traffic the mall will generate.  I live nearby and I'm not overly concerned.  Yet.  (You can't tell from this photo, but the mall is going to be quite large.)  Others fear the new mall might prompt shoppers to abandon the retail stores in downtown Sarasota and St. Armands Circle.  But, isn't a mall experience much different than being out and about in a bustling downtown?  By the way, for those keeping track, this reportedly will be the only new mall to open in the U.S. in 2014.

May 11, 2014

Sandhill Crane Mama

Sandhill Cranes
I checked in on the sandhill crane family recently, and Baby had grown quite a bit within just two weeks.  (You can see my first post here.)  While I was there, Baby was testing its ginormous feet, walking around the nest and swimming to shore then back to the nest.  Both parents were there, including this one who was taking housekeeping to a whole new level.  I couldn't help but think this was the female, as I watched her diligently move branches, grass and piles of mud onto their island nest.  She was very intent on maintaining that soggy home as best she could.  It seems a mother's work is never done, whatever the species.  The apparent father was standing guard nearby, most likely watching for predators.  Check out the short video I shot to see what I mean.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

May 7, 2014

4 Years Old

Downtown Sarasota

At my day job, we recognize employees when they hit a five year employment milestone.  So, whilst attending one of these celebrations recently, I started thinking that longevity is really becoming less common -- for many things.  I read that the average existence of a blog is two years.  Thus, I'm proud to announce the SDP longevity is twice that!  We're  4 years old today.

As I was standing in downtown contemplating what I would post for the big four year anniversary, I realized I was surrounded by quite a bit of change.  The building featured has changed hands three times since SDP started…and now it's about to reopen as a running store.  This intersection was one of the oddest and most dysfunctional crossroads (for motorists and pedestrians alike) that I had ever encountered, with five streets intersecting with one little traffic signal dangling overhead.  A few years ago, the traffic light was removed and this roundabout was put in its place -- a roundabout that many people said wouldn't work…that drivers would be too confused.  Just the opposite happened.  Residents love this roundabout and, believe it or not, a dozen (yes, 12) roundabouts are planned around the city over the next several years.  Throughout these changes, SDP has plodded along.  Despite the Computer Crash of 2012 (and the subsequent painstaking resurrection of an our complete photo library), the entire SDP staff is doing well.  (Occasionally, though, threats of a walkout arise due to creative differences and/or the lack of purchasing approvals, but fortunately, as Editor-in-Chief somehow I'm always able to employ my diplomatic skills and smooth the ruffled feathers.)  While I'm not able to spend as much time blogging as I'd like right now, I find myself missing my friends in the CDP blogosphere and returning when I can.  The past four years with SDP has been great and I look forward to many more anniversaries.  

May 6, 2014


SDP 5-5-14

I met James in downtown Sarasota Sunday afternoon when I was taking photos and he excitedly asked me if I had gotten a shot of talk show host Jerry Springer who had just driven off in a Bentley.  Nope.  I was focused on a pink flamingo bicycle.  (Photo forthcoming on SDP)  But, I mentioned that Jerry lives in Sarasota and I've bumped into him in that area of downtown at a business he frequents.  James said he really wanted to see what Jerry Springer was like in person -- so, he knocked on Jerry's car window as he was starting to drive away.  (That would be the Bentley car window.)  You know what Jerry did?  According to James, he rolled down the window, said hi and shook his hand.  That made James' day!  Which is nice because he ended up telling me he's going through some challenging times with housing and work.  He moved up here a couple of weeks ago from Naples expecting more opportunities, but after coming up empty on job leads, he plans to head back south.  When I asked him which of our many charitable organizations and programs in town he'd contacted (he had no way of knowing he was talking to SRQ), he mentioned many that I would have put him in contact with --- but, he said he's ready to return to Naples, where, he says, jobs are more plentiful.  It was a nice, unexpected Sunday afternoon encounter with someone who was engaging and seemed quite sincere.  I wish James all the best!

April 28, 2014

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

This cute little songbird is a palm warbler.  Lots of warblers exist out there in the bird world, and from what the SDP research assistant has learned, a telltale sign that one is a palm warbler is the chestnut patch on its crown.  These birds like to move around a lot, so I was rather pleased when I was able to snap this shot while one paused briefly on a branch at the birdwalk at Myakka River State Park.  Warblers are especially prevalent here in the spring.  But, with the mercury starting to rise, I suspect these guys will be migrating north soon (along with many of our two legged visitors -- the snowbirds).  By the way, while reviewing materials for this post, the SDP researcher stumbled across a niceAudubon Society webpage with terrific audio of the palm warbler's song.  Check it out here.

April 25, 2014

Sarasota Keys

Sarasota Keys

What would you think if you saw a piano placed on a sidewalk inviting you play? Would you sit down and tickle the ivories? Wait for someone else to play? A group sponsoring a community initiative known as Sarasota Keys received approval recently to place six pianos throughout downtown Sarasota with the idea that the musical instruments would encourage pedestrian engagement in an area already well known for its cultural arts.  This piano is located outside Whole Foods and, as you can see, it's been painted with colorful designs, as are the other five pianos.  I've been wanting to get a photo of someone playing one, so when I spotted this guy, Dave, poking at the keys as I was leaving the grocery store, I jumped on my chance. Fortunately, like any self respecting photo blogger, I had my camera with me and snapped a quick shot.  For those wondering, the pianos, which are spinets and are a little smaller than a traditional piano, are wheeled inside every evening.  

April 24, 2014

Hunting Mode

Barred Owl
I've been meaning to post this series of pics featuring the barred owl family since I took them a few weeks ago at Myakka River State Park. Mama owl was sitting on the ground and appeared to be in hunting mode staring and staring at the ground.

Barred Owl
 Dusk was nearing and as soon as the last of the visitors observing the barred owl family left (except for yours truly -- the entire SDP team is very dedicated), mama owl flew a short distance to the sidewalk where she pawed her wickedly sharp talons at something on the ground.

Barred Owl
She squished her cute little face against the pavement and picked up whatever it was. Perhaps a small  snake?  A gecko?  A beetle?  

Barred Owl
Mama immediately flew to a branch and fed the mystery meal to one of the little ones.  Whatever it was, it was small.  And, from the looks of it, the baby owl wasn't too satisfied with the tidbit.  As I mentioned, these pics were taken a few weeks ago.  Since then, I've returned to the nest area several times, but it appears both babies have fledged and disappeared.  (There was an unsubstantiated rumor that one of the babies was sick and died.  But, based on my observations, both little ones were healthy…and I think both left the nest.)  I'm so happy I got to see the owls when I did.  What a treat!

April 20, 2014

Stations of the Cross

Good Friday
Every Good Friday, just after sunrise, the Church of the Redeemer and the Sarasota Ministerial Association host the Stations of the Cross pilgrimage down the middle of Main Street.  It's quite a sight to see.  This year, the Church of the Redeemer's youth minister, Rev. David Bumsted, carried the cross the entire route as hundreds of Sarasotans followed and paused for prayer at 14 stations as they remembered and reflected on Jesus' journey to the cross.  When the SDP Editor-in-Chief was doling out this assignment, I actually volunteered (despite the early hour) since I've always wanted to attend.  Unfortunately, I could only make it to two stations before I had to dash off to work.  Next year, I think I'll carve out time for the whole pilgrimage.  Happy Easter!

April 19, 2014

Manatee Easter Bunny

Manatee Easter Bunny
A sure sign that Easter is near is when the manatee mailbox down the road from me is sporting a bonnet with bunny ears.  It's the Manatee Easter Bunny!  Puts a smile on my face every time I drive by.  This is similar to the Manatee Pilgrim, which can be seen at Thanksgiving, and Santa Manatee, who arrives at Christmas and was documented by SDP staff here.  Hope everyone is having a good weekend so far.

April 14, 2014

Crane! Party of…3?

Baby Sandhill Crane
This sandhill crane couple was enjoying a pleasant evening alone.  Or…were they...all alone???  Moments earlier I encountered this scene:

Baby Sandhill Crane
Junior decided it was time to snuggle up close to mama.  Really close.

Baby Sandhill Crane
No one said it was going to be easy…or pretty…or dignified.  Face plant!

Baby Sandhill Crane
Getting to this point was such a feat, Junior flopped out for a brief respite before continuing…
Baby Sandhill Crane
I can almost hear Junior huffing and puffing, and hooching and snorting, flapping his wee wings trying to maneuver inside mama's ample wing until he located just the right spot.  As soon as he settled into position, mama nonchalantly folded her wing -- without looking behind her -- and Junior was tucked away safe, sound and warm.  Incredible!
Baby Sandhill Crane
What's also incredible is how much growing this little guy has to do.  Sandhill cranes are one of the tallest birds in the world, standing 3.5 to 4 feet high.  I'd like to thank my friend Pat for tipping off the SDP staff about this nest -- great find.  Thanks for sharing!