Driving down a fairly deserted gravel road deep in swamp country near the Everglades, I spotted this brown blob in the middle of the road, which hadn't been there 15 minutes earlier. My first thought was...BABY GATOR! But, as I got closer, it didn't move. So, then, I thought it was a small pile of palm fronds. No...and...no! It was a barred OWL -- just sitting there. Naturally, the Junior Editor and I suspected it was hurt and immediately started contemplating how we could rescue it, once we pulled off the road. Moments after turning off the car engine, this happened....
(Click play. The video will play. There just isn't a thumbnail preview.)
The owl flew a short distance to a tree...apparently not injured at all! So, I scrambled to get out the 'ol Canon.
I successfully snapped this one quick shot before -- of all things -- a dump truck rumbled by and scared it away. (Odd seeing the owl sitting in the road...and odd for a dump truck to be there in the middle of nowhere -- although the crew was making some needed repairs to the gravel road.) Fascinating encounter! Wish we could've had more time with the owl, but happy the SDP team was able to document this activity. Hope everyone is doing well in the Blogosphere!
Putting the 'skim' in black skimmer! Spotted this guy at Ken Thompson Park streaking over Sarasota Bay at dinner time scooping up little fish near the surface. First time I've seen black skimmers here, usually they hang out a few miles south on Lido Beach.
This guy is right on time! He arrives about 30 minutes before sunset with just enough sunlight for me to snap a few pics. So considerate! When I downloaded this pic, I noticed the incredible camouflage with the eagle's feathers and the tree bark. Almost indistinguishable -- amazing!
Last week, while taking an evening stroll in the neighborhood, a bald eagle buzzed right by me! Seriously. It was probably 25-30 yards away and just 25 feet in the air. No mistaking it. A short while later, I spotted it sitting in a tall pine tree, which I strongly suspected was its nest. So, this past Monday, I ventured out on my evening walk toting my camera, long lens and tripod. I didn't have to wait long at the nest before I heard a familiar swoosh/thwump -- and voila! -- the eagle has landed! So exciting! Once the summer rains start, the leaves probably will fill in enough to hide the nest, so I have to enjoy this awesome slice of nature while I can. And, as far as I can tell, no one else has found it...which explains why, as Editor in Chief, I've issued an order for the entire SDP staff to keep mum. Ssshh!
Spotted this black-crowned night-heron roosting at the Tony Saprito Fishing Pier in downtown Sarasota patiently -- and hopefully -- awaiting a handout. I suspect he knows he's handsome -- bloodshot eye and all. What do you think?
I'm back in the saddle after my amazing adventure in the Pacific Northwest! I've been enjoying some nice sunsets here (along with the pleasant spring weather we've been having). I caught this sunset on Sarasota Bay last week after work. (Love working just blocks from the water!) This is the Ringling Bridge in downtown Sarasota which connects to the barrier islands, including Lido Key and Longboat Key. Just before I moved to Sarasota, there was a big controversy whether to replace an old drawbridge with this one. Hard to imagine...because now, this bridge is iconic -- featured in most scenic photos of downtown -- and very popular with runners and walkers. Can't imagine downtown Sarasota without it.
Well, this is what happens when Sarasota Daily Photo (left) meets Sequim Daily Photo in Sequim, Washington. Would you expect anything less?! The entire SDP team was given a very warm welcome by Kay and her DH. What a pleasure to meet both in person! They were hospitable and gracious, welcoming us (chilled) Floridians with tasty homemade soup before we ventured out for a tour of the area (cameras in hand, of course). Although it was overcast and drizzling on and off while we toured, the sheer natural beauty of the area was evident. Almost immediately, we spotted bald eagles -- much to our delight.
This is an adult bald eagle with two juveniles. (To me, the two juvies looked like vultures, so it was very helpful to have Kay and DH's discerning eyes.) Then, a short distance away...
....we encountered this guy hanging out in a tree along the road. He didn't mind us walking up quite close. He appeared to be having a good stare over the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
This is the general area the eagle was watching over. As one who adores lighthouses, this part of Sequim fascinated me. This is the New Dungeness lighthouse. You can get there by hiking five (5) miles across, what I believe Kay and DH said, is the longest natural spit in the U.S. Wow! Had time permitted, the SDP team would've happily taken on that challenge!
We visited several places that Kay has blogged about, like the Dungeness Recreation Area and Port Williams (shown here). The bluffs, driftwood, flat stones (good for skipping!) and grey skies here reminded me a lot of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.
During our outing, Kay and DH gave us the inside skinny on what's going on in the community such as a proposal to possibly privatize John Wayne marina. Sure hope it remains publicly owned at the very least. It seems like a wonderful community asset.
I kept saying, 'Oh, yeah...I saw this posted on your blog!' Case in point: this lovely bucolic scene.
Our time was limited, but we made the most of it, visiting many areas in Sequim and enjoying good conversation. Before departing, the entire SDP team even was treated to a behind the scenes peek at the other SDP global headquarters. Nice! Thanks again for the hospitality -- very enjoyable!
The SDP team has been on the move and is fresh back from an incredible visit to the Pacific Northwest, which included a wonderful meet-up with a fellow City Daily Photo blogger. More on that tomorrow!
But, first, let's check in and confirm that all's well in Sarasota. With Easter in the rearview mirror, it seems many of our seasonal residents have returned up north (probably much to their chagrin based on the snowy conditions I'm seeing on the news) and the roads and beaches here are a bit easier to navigate.
I stopped by Lido Beach after work last Friday night and seeing the above scene, my curiosity was piqued (again): What is it with boys and seabirds? It seems they can't resist chasing a flock of birds resting on the beach. In this case, though, these were black skimmers which are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Florida threatened species list. So, after watching this large flock of skimmers being startled into flight, swooping around, and landing only for the cycle to repeat itself several more times, I began contemplating whether I should explain to the boys that their playful exuberance was probably quite stressful for our feathered friends. Fortunately, another beach goer interceded.
The boys reacted good naturally, taking it all in stride, and leaving the birds to roost contentedly in the sand. Hope everyone in the Blogosphere has been doing well.
Gosh...this handsome little fellow was tough to shoot! Flitting from limb to limb, it barely sat still for two seconds. I could have spent hours chasing it! Not 100 percent sure, but I believe it's a prairie warbler. Spotted at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary -- with all kinds of other songbirds zipping through the trees. Hope everyone is having a good week so far!
Back at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary! This photo has a very interesting backstory. The sanctuary was hit hard by Hurricane Irma and was closed for 3 months while crews cleared out downed trees. One of the downed trees was this cypress. When it was sawed for removal, it was revealed that a strangler fig was growing inside! Amazing! Typically, you'll see a strangler fig growing like a thick vine around a tree. But, I've never heard -- or seen -- one growing inside a tree. A sanctuary volunteer theorized that a bird probably ate a strangler fig seed and left it behind in some scat, which made its way into a hole within the cypress trunk....and then, voila! Nature truly is amazing. More pics from the swamp to come!
Believe it or not, this is what the cypress trees look like now at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Normally, this time of year, the trees are bare. But, look at those fall colors -- amazing! Apparently, Mother Nature is a bit mixed up since Hurricane Irma ripped through here in September, stripping away all the leaves. They grew back -- like this -- and have stayed on the branches well past the time when they should have fallen. New buds are supposed to start growing this month, so who knows what's going to happen! More on the affects of Irma here at Corkscrew...coming soon!
As a volunteer at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary led me toward the coiled up, well camouflaged cottonmouth, this big guy swooped in and landed a few yards away from me. He certainly seemed to be on the hunt and some visitors were concerned the red shouldered hawk was going to try to grab the nearby (venomous) snake. The raptor scanned and scanned the area, and even flew from one branch to another in the vicinity, but showed no interest in the snake. Makes you wonder if it recognized the cottonmouth as a potential threat. I'll will post more pics from our Corkscrew adventure soon. In the meantime, the SDP staff is enjoying a long weekend. Happy Friday!
Also known as a water moccasin, this cottonmouth snake is venomous and, as you can see, blends in amazingly well with its surroundings. Yikes! I was a healthy distance away, safe and sound on the boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary when I snapped this pic. I never would've seen it, except a sanctuary volunteer led us to it. Next post...the predator that arrived nearby and some thought it was eyeing this snake for dinner. Enjoy the day!
The SDP team visited Audubon's Corkscrew Sanctuary yesterday and had a great adventure! Most of the sanctuary is open once again after it was closed for three months due to extensive damage from Hurricane Irma. (More on that in upcoming posts.) We spent almost four hours wandering along the 2-mile boardwalk looking for birds and other wildlife. A highlight of the walk was spotting an anhinga nest -- conveniently located a few yards off the boardwalk for excellent viewing opportunities. Here the female was spotted with one fuzzy little baby peeking out the nest. But, was that it?
No, it wasn't! While I was adjusting my camera settings the mom & dad switched places -- revealing two chicks! But, wait...
Yep -- there was a third chick in the nest! Incredible. That's the female sitting in the nest and the male nearby. The anhinga is also known as the 'Snake Bird' because of its long neck. When the babies stretched, they were all neck -- amazing. This was my first time seeing an anhinga nest -- great experience watching them.
Recently, the entire SDP team visited Blue Spring State Park in Florida. The St. Johns River runs through the park and during the colder, winter months the constant 73 degree water flowing from Blue Spring attracts manatees. Knowing this, we visited the park on a chilly afternoon on the hunt for manatees. We were not disappointed! The day we were there 380+ had been counted by park rangers and volunteers. Manatees as far as the eye could see! And, these manatees were quite active and playful. Not sure if it was because of the flow of the spring water, but I've never seen manatees so animated! The one pictured was underwater playing with a downed tree limb. (I especially like his little white toenails.) Manatees can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and eat 10-15% of their weight everyday in vegetation. These big, lovable sea cows don't have any natural enemies -- just boaters that might not see them, which is why manatee zones are prevalent in Florida, requiring boaters to slow down. Great visit -- the SDP team definitely will return!
The eagle has landed! I visited the eagle nest in N. Fort Myers over the weekend to see if I could catch a glimpse of the two little eaglets in the nest. They're less than a month old, and while they're growing fast, they're probably still too little to be able to peer over their nest. The past several years, a few traumatic changes have occurred at the nest: Ozzie (the male) died and Harriet was courted by a new suitor (M-15). The couple has produced several eaglets, but, unfortunately, they haven't all survived, which has been tough for some people around the world who get very attached to these creatures as they watch them via a live webcam. The Eagle Cam is still tracking every movement in the nest...from an adult landing with a fish for lunch, to feeding the little ones, to taking off for a little quiet time away from the nest. A word of warning: Watching these creatures is addicting! By the way, Jack from Naples & Hartford in Season also visited the nest a few weeks ago and captured some amazing photos.
I knew this cute little guy was a warbler. But, the question was...What kind of warbler? Turns out it's a prairie warbler, which, according to bird guide descriptions, lives in the south and east -- but, not on prairies. Go figure. I spotted him at Six Mile Cypress Preserve. He was flitting from branch to branch so quickly, it was quite a challenge to get a decent shot. This is one colorful songbird I definitely could spend more time observing.
The last two times I've visited Six Mile Cypress Slough I've spotted an alligator sunbathing on this raft in the middle of a lake. (I love how its tail is hanging over the edge in this shot.) No threat to us humans -- no one should be swimming here since this is a nature preserve. And, a glorious one it is! I thought the preserve was fairly new but it turns out voters in Lee County approved the purchase of the property back in the 1970s. What's especially interesting is how it got on the ballot. A group of high school students in an environmental class used to take field trips here. They were concerned future construction would destroy the wetlands and wildlife, so they were proactive and set out to save this slice of old Florida. They gathered enough signatures to place a referendum on the ballot in 1976 asking voters to increase taxes to fund the purchase and preservation of the property. The measure passed (thankfully). Great place...great, inspiring story!