A field of sunflowers

It all starts here. Not quite yet blooming at Sweetfield Farms.

It’s somehow theraputic to walk around a sunflower field. They were in full bloom in mid-May. Most were blooming way over my head.

It was a perfect sunny day to take pictures of the yellow flowers (even though ti was a little warm)

Every one looks just a little different. Many had bees on them.

Someone had made a face out of this older flower. You could see the sunflowers seeds underneath. In the past you would just buy the flowers already picked at the barn on the way out but this time you could pick your own. They give you clippers and let you walk around and pick out the ones you want. One thing they said was to cut the flatter faces if possible. Those were fresher since the seeds hadn’t started to grow. As the flower gets older the seeds grow and the face bowls out. By the time it bowls out the yellow petals will fall off soon. Another thing is that they are heavy. I cut 5 big ones and was trying to carry by camera stuff and the zinnias I had cut before this. It was a long trip back to the car. This is where having Brett with me would have come in handy (although then I would have spent a small fortune). He was busy playing golf so I was on my own.

My stash when I got home.

I guess my love of sunflowers started early. We grew them in our backyard when I was growing up. They were always much smaller than the ones on the farm. This was me in the early 70’s.

SkyWatch Friday

Things have changed.

The non-profit Clearwater Marine Aquarium opened on Clearwater Beach in 1972 in a former water treatment plant. They opened as a research and learning center and by 1980 they started rehabilitating dolphins. I don’t remember going there as a child when we use to come down to Clearwater to visit my grandparents but I do remember visiting a few times with my parents when they retired down here in the early 90’s. When Brett and I moved down here 19 years ago I got an annual pass and took my Mom there to see the dolphins a lot. She was in a retirement home and was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She lived close by and it made for a fun morning out for her. She loved just sitting and watching the dolphins and turtles swimming around. Back then you could park at the front door and walk right in. No parking decks or lines to get in, You could also get pretty close up to the dolphins.

The aquarium is home to Winter (the movie star from A Dolphin’s Tale). Winter lost his tail years ago and the aquarium was able to get a prosthetic tail to help him swim better. It’s been several years since I had been and they recently had a big addition built on (they added a 1.5 million gallon tank) so I decided to head over to the beach to see Winter on a rare Monday off. I had to pay to park in a deck, stand in a line (small one though) to get in on a Monday. I’m glad they are doing so well though. They do a lot with injured sea life here. Not just rehabilitating them here but they send teams out to rescue as well.

You walk in on the upper level and can see into the pool. I didn’t take many pictures up here since it was dark inside and the dolphins were swimming lower down in the water. This is not a dolphin show like in the old days. These are injured dolphins that are being rehabilitated that you get to see up close. Although if you hit it right at feeding time, the dolphins do perform specific behaviors as part of feeding but no jumping out of the water and flipping over.

Here’s were you want to be. There are windows all around the tank so you can walk around and see different dolphins. Winter and his girlfriend Hope are in the main tank.

Winter did not have on his prostetic tail while I was there. You can see he is missing his flipper. He came pretty close to the window.

On the other side there were several other dolphins swimming close to the window. The glare from the window did not make it easy to get pictures. The dolphins in the main tank live here full time now. They all have some type of injury including vision loss, hearing loss and other illnesses where they would not survive being released back into the wild. The main goal is to release the dolphins back out and most of them do get set free after they recover.

There are also many other types of animals here including lots of turtles. All were injured at some time. You can see in that (blurry) picture on the bottom that the turtle is missing his front feet.

The new building from the upper parking deck.

Pano across the intercoastal waterway looking towards Clearwater.

Looking toward the beach from the aquarium. I should have gone over for a quick swim but the beach was packed in April, even on a Monday. Parking on the beach is also tough and expensive so there’s that. And, I was starving so it was time to head home for lunch.

Yes, masks were still required in April here. Even though a lot of it is outside, people crowd in front of the windows. Hoping my next trip is maskless.

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“Here comes the sun”

It wasn’t dark but the sun had not come up when I arrived at the beach at Fort Desoto in late March. The time had just recently changed and it was still dark after 7am so it wasn’t that early. Still, I was all alone on the beach with the exception of a great blue heron.

After a few minutes the sun was slowly starting come up over the bridge and the birds started to fly around.

Then minutes later it rose quickly and the pelicans were diving in the water for fish.

I turned around to head out to the other side of the park to look for birds and noticed the flag at half staff over the palm trees.

Good thing I had my shoes on. The beach had a lot of these spiky sea urchins as the tide was coming back in.

SkyWatch Friday

 

A sad story on a beautiful afternoon

It was a beautiful afternoon in late January and I was able to get outside for a little while on a late Friday before sunset. I jumped in the car and headed over to Dunedin, thinking I would stop by the fishing pier and then go over for a quick walk at the causeway. I was snapping the shot of the water when I turned around and noticed the two osprey that had built a nest on top of the building next to the pier.  I was pretty excited to see the camera up on the top but when I got home and searched it, you could only see over the building so the camera wasn’t look down on the nest. Would have been fun to watch that nest up close.

I found this cute little boat in the marina that I hadn’t seen before.

I headed over to the beach area on the causeway and saw the sailboat that has washed up back in November during Hurricane ETA. I had seen many pictures of it posted on the internet, people climbing and playing on it. They had it roped off which didn’t make for a pretty picture. I have since heard that it was hauled away a few weeks after I took this. The state of these old damaged sailboats are sad. At some point years ago, someone paid a lot of money for this boat. Probably used it at first. Then it sits out there for a long time and becomes a hazard. The owner, if they had insurance, probably just collected and moved on. Many people with these old boats let their insurance lapse and the city pays for the haul. Not sure if they can sell them for scrap.

On a sad note, at the end of the causeway, a dead dolphin had washed up on shore hours before I arrived. Everyone was standing around watching the marine life rescue team (with Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where Winter the flipperless dolphin resides) get him ready to be taken away. They will do a necropsy on him to find out the cause of death. Was he old? Sick?  Eaten something bad? Hit with a boat? Swallowed too many fish hooks from stealing fish from the fishermen at the pier? So many questions.  Everyone was watching from a respectful distance. It was sad to watch these volunteers do their work.

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Our World Tuesday Graphic

A peaceful place

Back in early November when the weather was too nice to be indoors and I wasn’t ready to go home yet after my walk at Chesnut Park, I stopped by Sylvian Abby cemetery. It’s not just any random cemetery (although I have been know to stop at those too. Sometimes cemeteries have good birds). My grandparents are buried here. It was quiet and peaceful with only a few people there.

They are buried in front of these statues. I decided to walk around a bit and realized there are a lot of statues here.

I’m not sure who these statues are but they were big. I didn’t see a sign or plaque.

There are beautiful stained glass windows in the outdoor chapel and mausoleum.

I found this turtle carved out of an old oak tree.

Plants were growing everywhere.

Plaques at the back entrance.

SkyWatch Friday

Always a perfect sunset

Nothing says Florida like a walk around a marina especially right before sunset. If you want to get a good sunset spot here, you have to get here early.

This was actually back in late October when I headed out for a long walk before sunset at the Dunedin marina. Even thought it sits on the intercoastal waterway and Clearwater beach is across the water, the sunsets here draw a large crowd. There was still plenty of room around the pier and marina the night I was there. It’s totally worth getting up off the couch on a late Sunday afternoon and driving 30 minutes away.

Since parking is hard to find around the marina, a lot of people who live close by have golf carts. It’s easier to get a spot for dinner at the nearby restaurants. The one above was decorated and they were very friendly, talking to everyone. I had to take a picture.

It was time to start hiking back to my car but I turned around and took one more shot.

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A little Tampa history

Oaklawn Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Tampa. It’s located downtown although north of the current main buildings that is downtown today. There is something peaceful about walking around in an old historic cemetery. I like to walk through and look at the dates. Some of the headstones are so old that you can barely read the names. Some were almost completely worn down. Some have pictures and some tell short stories.  The cemetery was started in 1850 and many of the early grave markers were made of wood. There are a lot of graves without markers due to the wood ones burning or getting damaged in storms.  The cemetery includes many prominent families, pirates, slaves and confederate soldiers.

Thomas Pugh Kennedy arrived in Tampa in 1840 and started the first trading post with the Indians here. Many of his descendants still live here. Kennedy Boulevard that runs through a lot of Tampa was not named after Thomas. It started out as Lafayette Street and the name was changed in 1964 to Kennedy Boulevard after John F Kennedy visited Tampa in November of 1963 right before he was assassinated.

The headstones back then were very ornate.

Vincent Ybor and his family is buried here.  Ybor started the cigar making business here in the area which became Ybor City.

This grave had a lot going on. Looks like it needs some love and attention.

Driving out heading into downtown.  Brett and I went out for a drive on a cool morning in late November. We saw the cemetery and decided to stop in and walk around.

My Corner of the World

Late day walk at the pier.

Another “get out of the house” moment. I headed down to the St. Pete Pier late in the day in early December. I knew it would be crowded but went early enough before the dinner crowd. Standing out on the pier, I could see Tampa across the bay in the bottom shot.

The new cool sculpture on the pier. The first commercial airline started right here back in 1914 with a commercial flight from St. Pete to Tampa with paying customers.

Heading towards the end of the pier.

Looking up at the back of the building on the pier, it looks a little like a space ship.

Looking towards St. Pete, the sun was just starting to go down.

Walking around past the park, I could see a dolphin swimming around by the pier.

Looking out on the bay, the sun had gone down behind me.

As it gets dark, the netting over the grounds before the pier turns pink.  The crowds were starting to come in so I headed home for dinner.

SkyWatch Friday

Do you believe in fairy tales?

Why are these fairytale characters sitting on the grounds of a cool contemporary restaurant in Tampa? I had to find out. I vaguely remember hearing stories about going to Fairyland when we were visiting the grandparents in the Tampa bay area back in the 60’s. My dad had taken a few pictures of us when we were there. I was a toddler so I don’t remember being there. The original Fairyland Park was at Lowry Park which sat next to the zoo. It closed in the early 90’s and was torn down but some of the characters were stored in a warehouse in Tampa and forgotten. The owner of the restaurant (who also owns the famous Columbia Restaurant) grew up going to the park and when he found out there were characters that had been saved and stored, he was able to buy them and have them restored. It’s a little piece of Tampa history that was saved from oblivion.  Story of the characters being restored here.

A picture above of the original park taken from the Tampapix website. 

Above are some of the statues from the restaurant. The bust is of Princess Ulele, who the restaurant is named after. She lived in the Tampa Bay area in the 1500’s.

We wanted to get out on Thanksgiving morning for a walk before stuffing ourselves so we headed to downtown Tampa to walk along the water.

My Corner of the World

Sandcastles

This was one of those “got to get out of the house” moments. I had read there was a sandcastle exhibit taking place in late November and of course it was a beautiful day so I headed out to the beach late in the afternoon. The area that had the food and booze tents were packed with people so I stayed away and wandered over to the sandcastles. While they looked really cool, I have to wonder if they are permanent sculptures made out of sand and put on the sand for the event. They looked different from the ones I’ve seen before at the judged events. Almost as if they had been made somewhere else and plopped down here.

The sun was starting to come down late in the day.

There were lots of kites on the beach.

On the way home, I stopped by the famous “chicken’ church. I had recently heard about it and it’s located a block away from the main street on the beach. The way the windows are placed on the tower does remind you of a chicken. It’s a cute little church.

Driving back over to the mainland, there’s a small park along the water and I got out for a few minutes to walk around before heading home. There were several damaged boats that are still stranded from Hurricane Eta that came through in early November including one that was half under water.

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