The same things from a different park

I headed down to Fort Desoto early one Saturday morning only to find it was closed for a marathon. So I decided to head to a park I had not been before. Maximo Park sits on the water right next to the interstate and was only minutes away from Fort Desoto. I had not been here before but had not heard much about it. It’s a small park near a marina and the people were lined up at the boat ramp to get their boats in for the day. Across the bay you can see the new bridge near Fort Desoto going up. You can buy bait fish right out of the water (for the lazy people who don’t want to pull their own bait fish up with a net).

It was a quiet day for birds but above are a few that I found including the vulture sunning himself.

Was it starting to look like fall? Looks like poison ivy with those red leaves of 3.

I stopped by Sawgrass Lake Park on the way home for a quick walk and saw this soft shell turtle crossing the parking lot. A man came over and picked him and moved him on his way. It’s rare to see these guys out of the water up close. They are usually pretty skittish.

This is one spoiled duck.

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A quick walk after work.

At the end of October, before the time changed, I could get out for a quick walk after work before dark. I headed over Safety Harbor hoping to get some lightning shots. I could see the storms south of the causeway but they were heading towards Tampa.

Since it was low tide, there were a few birds walking around in the muck right off the fishing pier, probably eating crabs.

The mangrove crabs are very skittish but I manage to catch a few of them scurrying away.

The big beautiful oak tree in front of the library. There’s usually a lot of people in the tiny park here but I think the threat of storms kept everyone at home.

Walking around by the yacht basin, I saw an eagle sitting on one of the poles. I was able to snap the above before he took off. I know they nest near Philippe Park north of here but this is the first time I’ve ever seen one in the fishing pier area.

Even though lights were showing the way to the boardwalk, it was starting to drizzle so I headed home.

Road trip to Nature’s Coast

Early morning at Pine Island beach, north of Tarpon Springs and south of Cedar Key. I had not spent any time in this area and it’s a beautiful quiet area. At least it was in October.

I was hoping to find some new shorebirds here but it was the same old ones that I can find in my usual spots near home.

Fiddler crabs along the shoreline.

Just me and my shadow on the boardwalk, looking out on the gulf.

This is a small beach compared to beaches in the Tampa bay area. It’s a little off the beaten path so it might not get the crowds in the summer that we see on Clearwater beach or St. Pete beach. It was a beautiful morning and I was glad to be out of the house and out on the road.

The drive into the beach is a long 2 lane road with marsh on both sides. The first two shots were looking right and the bottom two were looking left as you drive in. This is why they call this area the “Nature coast”.

SkyWatch Friday

“Snow birds” at Fort Desoto.

I could see the tiny white dots far out in the water when I first walked on to the beach at Fort Desoto. I knew it would take me a good 15 minutes to walk up Outback Key to get even remotely close to them (the above is taken with my 300mm and cropped up). I was hoping someone didn’t come along and spook them before I got out there or that they didn’t take off for the other side of the park.

I finally made it out to the farther area and the white pelicans were busy preening along the shallow end. I snapped a few pictures and then they started taking off.

Luckily they just flew around in a circle and landed in the water close by. They eventually made their way back to the shallow end of the spit. It was a beautiful sight, seeing them all flying around over head. Although, they were a little awkward trying to land. The white pelicans are not year round residents here. They come in the winter for a short time and the last few years they have stayed mostly hidden, hanging out in spits much farther away. There were several other photographers there this morning and I think people have coming to see the pelicans pretty regularly since they arrived.

Something about them makes them such a treat to see so close up. I guess I always think back to the comical pelican “Rufus” in the movie Dolphin Tale. I I think he stole the movie.

She doesn’t look as close as this picture makes it look but she was brave getting out there in waist deep water. I stayed on land or at least ankle deep water. I was afraid one big wave or hole would knock me over and I’d be diving for my camera (even with a tripod). The water was a little choppy this morning.

My Corner of the World

Road trip north of Tampa

I had a few days off in October and decided to road trip around the area. I wanted to visit some areas that I hadn’t been to before so I headed north with a start destination of Pine Island Beach. It’s a small beach about an hour north of Tampa and a little out of the way (more on that later). On the way back I took back roads and stopped in a small town called Aripeka. There’s an old historic post office and a really cool convenience store and that’s about it.

Aripeka sits on the water and it looks like there is a robust crab and fishing business.

Just past Aripeka is Anclote Key Park and the energy plant sits right next to the park. I stopped for a few minutes and walked around the park.

Traveling south I stopped at Fred Howard Park. It was quiet with the exception of a lot of cormorants and terns sleeping on the beach. It was nice to just be outside and going to some new places. I had not been to Fred Howard Park before. It’s a small beach in Tarpon Springs. I can image it quickly get crowded in the summer.

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Backyard visitors in October

Some of the birds visiting my feeder in the backyard. I usually only get house sparrows and blue jays but the woodpecker was fun to see.

The common ground dove was waiting his turn for the feeder. I’ve since redone that hanging plant with mums.

Once in a while I get a cardinal as well.

Other bigger birds cruising by were a little blue heron, a white ibis on my neighbor’s broken dock and a great blue heron. All of the above were taken through the bedroom window.

When I saw the osprey on my neighbor’s sailboat mast, I ran out and took the picture from the backyard. For years there was an osprey that slept on the mast every night but she hadn’t been doing do that for about 2 years. Just recently one has been stopping by for a while during the day. I wonder if it’s the same bird.

Things growing in the yard including the pink muhly grass in front of our screened porch.

Sunset in the back yard.

Roadside attraction or something more?

Old historic markers along the lake in front of the St. Anne’s shrine near Lake Wales.

Back in the 1920’s a group of French Catholics from Canada came down to Florida to escape the winters (sound familiar?). They spent some time on a small lake just outside of Lake Wales. One of the men had a son who was terminally ill and ended up getting better while they were at the lake so they built a church and grotto after St. Anne. After World War 2 the Canadians eventually stopped coming and the church was eventually torn down. The original grotto and some of the statues are still there. I had heard about this little spot and stopped by on a recent trip to Bok Tower Gardens. It’s only 10 minutes from the gardens. The shrine sits back in some woods right off the lake and is surrounded by houses now. Growing up Catholic, we use to go visit the Ave Maria Grotto in north Alabama so I was curious about it.

This grave sits near the alter.

I’ve heard that people still hold unofficial services here. It was very quiet while I was there during the week. There might be more people on the weekends or near Easter.

Some of the old original walls of the church.

I noticed this pop of color growing deep in the woods around the grotto. Assuming someone planted them there years ago.

Of course, there was a sandhill crane couple sitting in the tall grass along the lake right in front of my car. I changed out my short lens for a longer one and snapped a few pictures.

It would be interesting to know what the neighbors along the small lake think about the people who stop by to see the shrine. I would hope people visiting would be quiet and respectful of the area. Did the people who moved to the houses next to the shrine do so because of the shrine or did the area just happen to be close to work or maybe they liked the lake?

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Rush hour traffic on the bay

Things were quiet in the area in late October. Fall migration was pretty slow but I still wanted to get out for a walk so I headed to North Shore park that sits on the bay near downtown St. Pete.

It looked like rush hour traffic far out in the bay with all of the sailboats. People were also kayaking and wind surfing. It was still warm out so the water was the place to be.

I had a nice walk along the water before heading home for lunch.

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A two park morning

I found these leaves at McGough Nature Park in Largo back in October. They look like lacy leaves. They were spread out all along the trail. I would normally think bugs did this but it almost looks natural and I’ve seen it at several other parks. Does anyone know if this is natural?

I stopped by the turtle pond to say hi to all of the turtles swimming around.

A bunny was sitting right on the trail.

Some of the resident tortoises at the nature center.

It’s not often you get to see a Mississippi kite up close. They are pretty rare to see in the Tampa bay area and this one was rehabbing here at the center.

After leaving McGough Park, I stopped by the Largo Nature Preserve for a quick walk before heading home for lunch. It was a quiet morning so I didn’t stay long.

Still hot in October.

Busy little birds at Bok Tower Gardens. A black and white warbler, a titmouse (with a nut), a red eyed vireo and a female redstart were the only migrating birds I could find in mid-October. I realized as I was running around in the woods at Bok Tower why fall migration is much harder than spring migration. The birds are more scarce in the fall and it’s just too hot to be running around looking for tiny birds high up in the trees. Here in central Florida in the spring, if you are lucky to be out on a day when there are a lot of birds around, at least the weather is usually cooler. On this morning in October it was 85 degrees by 9:30 and the humidity was brutal. It takes a lot of patience to wait for these little birds to come down from the tops of the trees and it’s hard to be dripping in sweat. With that said, it was still a fun morning out even if I only saw a few birds.

Beauty in the pond.

A grasshopper high up in the tree. He caught my eye while I was watching a hummingbird on the other side of the tree.

I was taking a break on a bench when this little squirrel came up to me. He looks like he had a bot fly problem this summer. He should be okay though.

Reflections on the pond.

Looking down on the pond, the fish were waiting for a handout.

My Corner of the World