Road trip to central Florida

Bok Tower Gardens was bursting with color this summer.

I struggled to get a decent shot of the hummingbird. The light was bad but I managed to get the above. It was hot and muggy so it makes it harder to wait to get the hummer in those fleeting seconds of feeding.

It’s hard to ignore the cute cottontail bunnies

The bell tower

After leaving the gardens, I headed to a nearby fish camp to see if I could find any birds. It was quiet the morning I was there but I’m sure on the weekends it’s busy.

I did find two sandhill cranes feeding along the drive in.

Looking out over the lake, it was such a beautiful calm scene.  It’s these small hidden places that make Florida special.

Inspire Me Monday

Young birds are everywhere

I was heading home from Bot Tower Gardens in Lake Wales and stopped for a quick walk around a nearby lake. I’ve seen sandhill cranes here before and was hoping to find a family on my walk. Last year I found 2 families on this lake. Half way around I saw the parents feeding a older baby.  They were pretty far out in the marsh so these are extremely cropped up. Both parents stayed close to the baby and were feeding him.

On my way back to my car I noticed a bunch of loggerhead shrikes sitting on a trash can. After a few minutes I realized they must be almost grown babies because they were still begging to be fed. I think that’s the parent in the back on the right.

I stood behind a tree and watched them for a few minutes. They were bouncing around on the ground and then flying to a nearby small tree. That tiny bit of yellow at the end of the beak identifies them as juveniles. Adults would be all black. They were still screaming to be fed when I was walking away but it looks like they are starting to feed themselves.

Also linking to Tuesdays With A Twist 

Cruising by the cows

I bought a bike in early April, mostly to cruise around the neighborhood but since I can fold it and put it in the back I decided to take it out on a bike path. There’s a parking area about 15 minutes north of me that picks up the northeastern end of the Pinellas Trail. The path goes through cow pastures and a golf course and I didn’t think I would see too much else so I only had my phone with me the first ride. Above are taken with my phone. I was not surprised to see sandhill cranes along this path since I had heard there were a lot of them up here.

A week later I came back up here with my camera and longer lens in my backpack. Far across the cow pasture I could see a juvenile eagle sitting high up on a utility tower. I saw several eagles when I was riding the week before. Next fall I’ll have to look for a nest although it’s probably in a utility tower like the one by my house.

I love seeing the cattle egret hanging out with the cows. They are hoping the cows churn up some bugs as they chew the grass.

I found several meadowlarks along the fence.

I’m assuming the sandhill crane couple I found was the same one I saw the week before. They were in a cow pasture farther down the trail. This is a fun trail to ride and there’s not much traffic during the week so I’ll be coming here quite a bit.

SkyWatch Friday

Bugs for breakfast

It’s always fun to see sandhill crane babies. And, I always take a ton of pictures even though I already have a ton. This family was no exception. The two babies were so cute. I found them at Circle B Bar Reserve at the end of March.

They both stayed close to the parents who were finding bugs for them.

The babies would wander around being curious but then run back to Mom to get a bug. This went on for a while as they made their way down the trail.

Fighting over who gets the next bug.

I could have stood there all day watching them but it was time to head back to the car since I was getting hungry.

Flying across the trail

I walked out on the trail at Circle B Bar Reserve in mid-March and saw this. Lots of wading birds out in a small pond that had developed from the recent rain.

So many birds feeding in this one spot. Great egrets, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, great blue herons, wood storks, spoonbills and one large sandhill crane.

All of a sudden the sandhill crane took off across the marsh.

Glossy ibis were flying across the trail.

Spoonbills were flying in and out of the pond all morning. At one point one flew so close I couldn’t fit him all in and he was carrying a stick. He must have been heading for a nest.

Typical sight along the trail. A great blue heron in a dead snag.

Far out in the lake, a great egret sits alone.

My Corner of the World

Out and about in late February

The big kapok tree in Safety Harbor was blooming in late February. Much earlier than last year. I was driving by and saw the moon going down behind it so I had to pull over and snap a few.

After leaving the kapok tree I decided to swing by the fishing pier for a quick walk. There were a few manatees coming up for air.

A female lesser scaup cruising by.

I saw this osprey fishing for breakfast far out in the bay. He pulled up a big one and as he was flying away he dropped it. I was hoping he would try for another fish but he just flew over my head and far out of sight. Maybe he was embarrassed.

One day I was coming home and saw two red faces pop up from a pond in my neighborhood. They were hanging out along the golf course. I have since seen them several times but not since late February. I’m thinking maybe they are nesting but I couldn’t find them anywhere.

There’s a fenced in section of woods at the end of my street and when I’m out walking I always look down this open spot, thinking I’ll never see anything in here but it’s a pretty spot. One morning I could just make out 2 deer in between the trees.

Stops along the beach.

I was meeting a friend for lunch on the beach in January and threw my camera in the car to make a few stops on the way home. Since I was close by, my first stop was at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary. It’s now run by a group of volunteers and they rescue and rehabilitate injured birds.

The sanctuary is shaded by overgrown mangrove trees and wild birds nest high up in them this time of year. Great egrets were working on fixing up their nests.

I could just barely make out baby great blue herons through all of the sticks and leaves. This nest had 2 babies and they were already growing up.

One of the first baby night herons of the season. They usually nest a little later but these guys were already almost as big as their parents.

A pretty pelican face.

This sandhill crane is one of the residents. You can see he’s missing his bottom beak. He’s well fed here.

Much farther north on the water, I stopped back by Weaver Park again. I always see parakeets here. They aren’t hard to miss, screaming so loud all of the time. Looks like they’ll be nesting soon.

The pier was pretty quiet.  Mostly terns and gulls. I was hoping to catch the opsrey diving for fish but there wasn’t any here this afternoon.

The moon was still up

It was a beautiful morning in late January. The sun hadn’t come up over the trees yet and you could still see the moon across the marsh. It was so quiet and only a few other people farther up on the trail. The black bellied whistling ducks were flying back and forth across the trail, heading far off down the marsh. I took a few deep breaths and was so glad I had set my alarm to get here earlier than I usually do.

As I walked down the trail, birds and ducks were constantly flying overhead.

You could still see the cobwebs along the edge of the trail.

Heading down Marsh Rabbit Run, I heard them calling as they started flying towards me and was able to catch the sandhill cranes flying by.

The marsh was all brown from the cold but the sky was bright blue.

image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup
image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup
Our World Tuesday Graphic

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?

My Corner of the World

Little Fraiser crane

There was only one. I don’t know if there were more than that but at this point the couple only had one baby. He was getting big and was almost as big as his parents. I found the family at the far end of Heron Hideaway Trail near Eagle’s Roost Trail. They were just hanging out and the baby was taking a break. The reserve had just recently opened back up so this guy probably spent his earliest time without anyone around. Now there was a constant parade of people down the trail but “Fraiser” didn’t seem fazed.

After a few minutes on the side of the trail, the family started heading out.

I started walking down the trail ahead of them and they were following me. They were walking fast so I kept turning around and snapping. I had to move pretty quickly to keep them all in the picture. It was funny to watch them so casually cruising down the trail.

Later I saw another couple across the marsh but I didn’t see any babies with them.