March 25, 2015

Gulf Aglow

Ft. DeSoto Sunset 
I visited Ft. DeSoto, just to the north of Sarasota, this past weekend with a friend visiting from Michigan.  It's always nice to see the area through the eyes of a tourist!  With so many clouds filling the sky, we weren't sure if there would be a decent sunset.  Then … Mother Nature did not disappoint.

March 16, 2015

Urban Living


Meet Al.  He's a 2-month-old bald eagle living high up in a slash pine tree in Bradenton, the city immediately to the north of Sarasota.  Apparently, his parents have been nesting here for at least the past three years. 

Eagle Nest

This is home sweet home for the eagles.  (The nest is in the tree third from the left.)  Just 25 yards away is an 8-lane divided highway with all kinds of retail stores, offices and restaurants.  Very urban surroundings.  And, then, there's the dilapidated, vacant structure they live over.  Not exactly where you would expect to find an eagle nest, is it?  I learned about the nest (thanks to a friendly tip) because it was in the local news as a property rights vs. wildlife story.  Here's the skinny:  the City of Bradenton code enforcement division wants the property owner, who purchased the building in this condition, to clean up the eyesore.  The owner wants to comply and, actually, would like to raze the structure.  But….

Mama & Baby Eagle

…with our national bird having a young family in such close proximity there's a snag.  Florida wildlife officials say the building is too close to the baby eagle to be razed.  There needs to be at a least a 660 foot buffer between the nest and heavy construction machinery.  Code enforcement was prepared to start fining the property owner $150 a day for noncompliance, but they all had a meeting of the minds due to the eaglet situation.  From what I understand, they're going to wait for Al to grow up and leave the nest, then tear down the building.  So, all's well!

Bald Eagle

By the way, the eagles knew what they were doing when they scouted this location for a home.  While it's in a busy urban area, the Braden River is only about a mile or so away.  It's quite scenic.  But, more importantly, there's quality fishing for a bald eagle feeding a growing family.  This photo, I believe, shows the female, who, I was told is rather skittish.  Sure enough, she popped in at the nest just long enough to check on junior before taking off again (the photo I posted yesterday). She rested on a nearby branch -- and blended in amazingly well.   I love it when a birding tip turns out this well!

March 15, 2015

Majestic Take Off

Bald Eagle
Majestic.  Fierce.  Beautiful.
  The American bald eagle.  100% awesome.
(The backstory on this pic coming tomorrow.)

March 14, 2015

Sanibel Lunch

Sanibel Seagulls

The seagull in the foreground looks as though it's ignoring the camera and contemplatively gazing into the distance.  But, actually, this bird is playing the role of a sentry guarding its lunch. What's on the menu?   You can see it!

Sanibel is world renowned for its sea shelling.   Beautiful shells (too numerous to numerate) wash up on the beach every day.  (I snapped this pic with my iPhone while strolling the beach at sunset.  The shells just washed up like that.  Incredible, isn't it?)  One of my favorite shell species is on the right and left -- the Florida fighting conch. 

Sanibel Shell

The shell is actually a house for a mollusk.  So, when they wash ashore many times they try to leave their shell…to go where, I'm not sure.  But, when you see hundreds of these shells scattered on the beach and know that there's a living creature inside…well…you want to help.  Last summer, thinking the mollusks would bake alive beneath the searing Sanibel sun, I diligently started to scoop up as many as I could and toss them back into the Gulf of Mexico.  With so many Florida fighting conch shells on the beach that I almost couldn't walk without stepping on them, I quickly realized the task was not just overwhelming but impossible.  It was a bit sad.  

Sanibel Seagull

Fast forward to last month.  I watched a flock of seagulls hovering over a variety of shells, picking at them --- and pulling out the mollusk inside.  Lunch!  Watching this unfold firsthand made me feel much better.  If the shells don't naturally make it back into the water with the tide, they'll serve as a healthy meal for a bird. (Yes, the thing dangling from the seagull's beak is the mollusk it pulled from the shell behind him.)  And so goes the cycle of life in the wild.  Nature is pretty amazing.  Happy Saturday!

March 9, 2015

Skimmin' the Gulf

Sanibel Skimmers
I thought I'd share a few more photos from my recent stay-cation on Sanibel.  There was lots of sun, surf, sand, and (of course) birds for me to shoot!  I was excited to encounter this flock of black skimmers on the Gulf of Mexico one morning.  They're easy to spot with their black tipped orange beak and jet black and white body.  The skimmer is the only bird with an upper bill that's shorter than it's lower one, which is why it's nicknamed the "scissorbill".  I don't see them very often in Sarasota, and this was the largest number I've ever spotted together. 

SkimmerThey fly quite fast and skim the water, dipping their lower bill in the water, scooping up shrimp and small fish near the surface.  Skimmers like to feed together and when they do, they swoop down one immediately after the other in a line.  So, if one doesn't snag something to eat, the next skimmers in line probably will.  Very interesting to watch.  Hope everyone had a good weekend -- and for those in the States, I hope you're acclimating to Daylight Saving Time!  

March 4, 2015

The Makings of a Sunset

Selby Home 
So, what does a house have to do with the makings of a sunset?  This was the starting point for my post-work walk last night, DSLR in hand.  Located directly on Sarasota Bay, the Selby mansion is now part of the beautiful Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. When I spotted this light glowing at the gate before sunset, for some reason, I thought this was going to be a good walk.

  Sarasota Sunset
Rounding the corner on the bayfront near the mooring field, I noticed that while it was partly cloudy, the cloud formation had the potential for a perfect sunset.   The sun just needed to dip slightly below the clouds, then there would be clear sky with dark clouds above.  Very picturesque.  But…in order to get into position for a good sunset shot I had to hoof (read: hoof!) about 1.5 miles to that bridge way in the distance, maneuvering around runners, bikers and other walkers.  Time was of the essence!  I was up for the challenge. 

Sarasota Sunset 
When I hit the base of the Ringling Bridge, everything was in motion.  Contrary to what it looks like in this shot, the bridge was very busy with people enjoying the gorgeous evening.  Runners (some who looked like they were training for a marathon) were even pausing to pull out their cell phones to snap a quick pic of this sunset.

Sarasota Sunset 
I was a quarter of the way up the bridge, overlooking the Tony Saprito Fishing Pier, when I realized this probably was going to be the most vibrant sunset I've ever seen from downtown Sarasota.  I just needed Mother Nature to let the orange really pop.  

Sarasota Sunset
Within minutes, Mother Nature delivered this scene. This is SOOC (straight out of the camera) -- no post production tweaks.  Breathtaking!  I was shooting pictures not only with my DSLR but also my cell phone, and I guess I was so busy I didn't notice the ripples on the water at the time.  Looking at them now,  in relation to the sun and horizon, with the swath of light cutting across the bay, I like the symmetry.  When the last bit of orange disappeared, a faint burst of salmon spattered across the sky for a brief moment... and that was it.  The sky was dark…show over.   And, that's the makings of a Sarasota sunset.  So glad I hoofed it!

March 1, 2015

Theme Day: Aging

Sanibel Lighthouse
When I discovered yesterday that today's Theme Day was 'aging', I rooted through my recent photos on Sanibel island to see what could be applicable.  And, voila -- the Sanibel lighthouse!   

Opened in 1884 on the eastern tip of the island, it was manned by ten different lighthouse keepers until 1949 when a big storm hit and concerns about erosion led to the light becoming automated.  In the  early 1980s, the City of Sanibel began managing the surrounding property, but the U.S. Coast Guard continued to own and operate the light.  In 2000, it was transferred to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and, then, the City of Sanibel applied for custody of it.  After years and years of waiting, the request was granted in 2010.  Using a Florida state historic preservation grant and monies accrued from the island's beach parking fund, a preservation initiative was launched just two years ago in 2013.  Apparently, the rehab was really needed.  The exterior steel was deteriorating to the point that sections had to be replaced.  The lighthouse also was sanded and painted.  Now it's looking pretty good for a 131 year old structure, don't you think?  I'm partial to lighthouses and I'm glad this one has been preserved and seems to be aging pretty well.

To see other interpretations of Theme Day click here.