May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

Sarasota National Cemeteray

((Insert 1,000 words here))

Sarasota National Cemeteray

I stopped by Sarasota National Cemetery yesterday and, as you can imagine, I was struck by this remarkable and poignant sight. Today is Memorial Day in the U.S.  Previously known as Remembrance Day, it's a day set aside to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation.  While honoring these heroes' courage and sacrifice, let's also thank those military personnel who currently are on active duty or once served our country.  Always remember:  freedom isn't free.  God bless them all.

May 28, 2016

Changing Light

Myakka Sunset
With the mercury starting to rise, the sunsets are starting to change.  Gone are the eye popping, orange, red and lavender sunsets streaking across the sky.  Now, sunsets tends to be more of a yellowish hue and the light somehow isn't as soft.  (A bit blinding, I'd dare say, for that great blue heron on the hunt for dinner.)

Myakka Sunset

Even with the changing light, this ended up being a lovely (albeit quick) golden sunset last night at Myakka River State Park.   While the sunlight is changing, the behavioral patterns of nearby wildlife is too.  Driving to the park last night, I spotted something very unusual:  a large alligator walked out of the brush next to a busy country road -- and lumbered into a ditch filled with a few inches of water. The gator was so big and so out of place, I circled back to get another look (safe from my car) --- and saw the gator return (quickly) into the scrub.  I never, ever would expect to see an alligator in a dry area like that.  Later, I asked a park ranger about the gator's behavior and the ranger speculated it was a female protecting a nest of eggs.  She also said gators are on the move right now walking from lake to lake.   ((gulp)) Seeing that firsthand definitely will make me pause and think twice (or three or four times) before I wander into the palmetto scrub!  Hope everyone in the blogosphere is having a nice weekend!

May 23, 2016

Pink Party Crasher

SDP 5-23-16

Overheard: "So typical of the roseate spoonbill  -- arrives late to the party wearing a stunning shade of pink.  And, I'm stuck in this pedestrian tuxedo!" 

May 22, 2016


Kiteboarding When you're approaching the Sunshine Skyway from either direction on a nice day with a bit of a breeze, you're bound to see kiteboarders having fun on Tampa Bay. The colorful kites always grab my attention.  And, it's so easy to pull off the road, it's almost like it's meant to be for me to shoot them. So, yesterday, when I saw the kites I stopped for a few minutes.


It was late in the afternoon and the sun couldn't have been in a worse position. After taking a few shots that ended up being silhouettes, I thought maybe I could use the sun to my advantage and do something funky with the sun bursting over the kiteboarder and water.  I like how the symmetry in this shot worked out.


And, this is Anthony, the soaring kiteboarder from the previous photo. He told me he took up this water sport 7 years ago -- and insisted it isn't difficult. (We didn't get into upper body strength etc.) With his ability to do some cool aerobatics, he was fun to shoot. Looking forward to shooting some more out there -- with my long lens and better light.

May 18, 2016

The One That Got Away….Almost


As I strolled to the end of the bird walk at Myakka River State Park last Friday night, I caught a glimpse of a great blue heron with a sizable catfish in its beak.  I set up my camera and for ten minutes, I watched this bird play with its pending dinner. It picked up the fish, dunked it in the water, proudly displayed it in its bill, then dropped it back in the muddy water. This happened over and over again. One would think the fish was long dead after enduring so much. Well, not so fast!  

Roll the video….!

You can also watch the video on YouTube.

Too bad it was so windy….making it difficult to hear my commentary.  After regaining control of the situation, 20 minutes passed…. and that heron still hadn't eaten the fish!  Not sure what it was waiting for…but, unfortunately, I lost all daylight.  So, I don't actually know if the bird ever enjoyed its sushi dinner.  I can only hope so (and hope that fish was put out of its misery).

May 16, 2016

I Spy

Everglades National Park

This is the final installment of our Everglades National Park tour.  This is Pa-hay-okee Overlook just before sunset. Swamp and wilderness stretch for miles on end. It's simultaneously, beautiful and peaceful -- and a bit creepy knowing all the reptiles and other creatures that call this area home. We left the overlook with a hint of a daylight left -- and, it's a good thing we did!

As we drove away, I spotted something alongside the road!  The SDP Junior Editor gets an 'A' for creativity.  Rather than risk scaring away the wildlife by opening/closing a car door, she popped her head through the sunroof to get a better look.

She had a great vantage point! 

Everglades National Park

Dusk was rapidly setting in.  But, there was no question what was perched in that tree so close to the road.

Everglades National Park

A barred owl!  And, it seemed very curious about the activity on the road. Somehow I was able to quickly and quietly set up my tripod.  And, maxing out the ISO, I was able to squeeze out this shot.   What fun!  Believe it or not, this is how our brief excursion to the Everglades ended -- very memorable. Looking forward to returning!  

May 15, 2016

The Birds

Everglades National Park

We're continuing with our tour of Everglades National Park! Portions of the park are inhabited by vultures. And, when I say vultures…I mean LOTS of intimidating, menacing looking feathered creatures.  Apparently, they're attracted to the rubber on vehicles and have been known to cause quite a bit of damage.  Enough cars have been damaged that the park actually provides complimentary tarps, so you can cover your car and, hopefully, protect it. We saw more ospreys than vultures in this portion of the park, known as Flamingo, and didn't bother using a tarp.  The car was safe and sound.  Photo bombing my own photo, I snapped a quick pic of this unusual display with my phone, never expecting to use it for SDP.

Everglades National Park

Then we entered Paurotis Pond.  Oh, my goodness -- I felt like Tippi Hedren in 'The Birds'!  Yikes!  Vultures were everywhere -- roosting in trees, flapping their wings, and swooping down low….very low.  While they didn't attack the car, there were so many birds and they seemed so aggressive, the SDP Junior Editor and I didn't feel comfortable leaving the car.

Everglades National Park

So,  I opened the sunroof -- and quickly snapped this photo!  Even then, I wondered if the vultures were watching and would plunge into the car.  We didn't stay long!  Unfortunately, we didn't have an opportunity to talk with a park ranger about our experience…but, apparently, no one really understands the vultures' behavior.  I found an interesting 2012 news article on The Weather Channel website talking about the aggressive vultures in the Everglades. You can check it out here.  I see vultures at Myakka River State Park, but nothing like this.  We'll conclude our Everglades tour tomorrow with more wildlife --- and another creative use of the sunroof (this one documented!).  Have a good Sunday!

May 8, 2016

Flamingo Visitor Center

Everglades National Park
We're continuing with our adventure through Everglades National Park! The park is vast. Spanning nearly 2,400 square miles, it's the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.  Translation:  lots to explore!  The SDP Junior Editor and I entered the park via the Ernest Coe Visitor Center near Florida City.  From there, you can drive 38 miles to the southern tip of the park --- which, of course, we did.  And, this is part of what you'll see: the Flamingo Visitor Center, an unremarkable structure located next to a marina on Florida Bay.  (At the marina, we actually saw an adult and juvenile seahorse swimming in the sea grass near the surface next to the boat docks.  Very cool experience.)

Everglades National Park

And, this is the view behind the visitor center.  Amazing! Mangroves, big sky, and beautiful blue water stretching as far as the eye can see.  It almost feels like you're at the end of the earth.  Technically, I suppose, you could say you're at the end of Florida here, before heading to the Florida Keys.  See those dark blobs on the horizon?  Those are just a few keys scattered throughout the bay.  You may have heard of the 10,000 islands in Florida?  This is part of that vast chain of mangrove islands.  While they're uninhabited, the park allows "back country" camping on several keys.  It's not for the faint of heart, though.  According to a kayak outfitter website I found, one of the closest park approved campgrounds is 12-15 miles (one way) from this spot.  Whew!  

May 2, 2016

Anhinga Trail

Everglades National Park
The most popular trail at Everglades National Park is the Anhinga Trail.  It's an easy walk along a boardwalk around an open swamp area.  The vistas are quite nice.  

Everglades National Park

Of course, you never know what you're walking near…or over. It's wise to keep your eyes open…and camera at the ready.

Everglades National Park
This is an anhinga -- the trail's namesake.  These are the birds that many times are seen with their wings spread out, drying, after plunging into the water for a meal.  Since it was late spring when the SDP team visited, I suspect most of the migratory birds, like the pretty roseate spoonbills, had already left.  So, we're already sharpening our pencils and planning a return trip in January or February.

Everglades National Park
Adjacent to the Anhinga Trail is the Gumbo Limbo Trail.   This one goes through the woods around many gumbo limbo trees and others.  We made a point to hit this trail after a particularly helpful National Parks volunteer randomly told me a barred owl nest is located there.  He even marked it on a map -- without me asking.  At the time, I thought it was bit odd.  Why would the volunteer want to direct tourists to a nest?  Well, once we saw the trail, I realized immediately it was so dense with foliage it would be nearly impossible to find an owl nest.  And then…I heard it call!  Again…and again.  Then, it went silent.  Darn!  I've seen several barred owls here in Sarasota…but, I was on a mission to find this particular rascal.  After walking around for a few minutes about ready to give up, amazingly, maybe 30 yards deep into the thick brush there he was….sitting  in a tree watching me.  He was  tucked in so far it was difficult to get a clear shot.  But, we were able to point him out to a couple visiting from Germany who we had met on the other trail -- and they were pretty excited. Success! The Everglades journey will continue...

May 1, 2016

Theme Day: Smell

SDP 5-1-16
We're back from a trip to Houston and settled into the SDP offices in time for Theme Day in the City Daily Photo community.  Today's theme is an interesting one:  Smell.  For me (who can be a bit olfactory system challenged), being at the beach can evoke many, varied scents:  from the smell of the salty sea air, to wet sand, crustaceans washed ashore and, of course, the occasional whiff of suntan lotion being applied.  Sometimes you can even smell a rainstorm rolling in. This photo was taken on beautiful Lido Beach in the Sarasota city limits.  To see more interpretations of today's Theme Day click here.  Hope everyone is well in the blogosphere!  P.S.: The entire SDP staff is looking forward to resuming our tour of Everglades National Park very soon!