Not able to sit still.

There are some great benches here at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. Right in front of this huge milkweed bush. The bush was covered in monarch caterpillars in mid-March. I sat for a while waiting for butterflies to come by but there wasn’t many flying around this morning.

This squirrel came over and sat near me and started eating something. He was the only interesting thing there so I left and headed over to McGough Park.

I couldn’t find any birds in the area around the turtle ponds and the turtles were already snoozing so I didn’t stay too long here either. I figured at this point I was close to the beach so I decided on a quick stop at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary.

The injured pelicans were doing their morning flaps or taking a bath.

I could barely make out the baby great egrets high up in the trees over the exhibits. They had long outgrown the tiny nests they were growing up in but you could still see their pin feathers when they flapped their wings so they were not quite ready to start flying yet.

NIght herons were still sitting on nests although there was a lot of baby ones (the last one in brown and white with orange eyes) all over the sanctuary.

This night heron was showing the way to the shade garden although it’s really just a lot of overgrown mangroves.

A 3 park morning.

It was early December and I was ready for another morning out with my camera. My first stop was the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. I ended up only taking a few pictures while I was there. I was busy looking for birds of which I found none.

I left the gardens and stopped at nearby McGough Park to see if there were any birds there. No birds but a lot of other critters. The bees have taken over this owl nest box.

A few of the turtles in the turtle pond.

Some of the permanently injured animals that live here (the nature center here houses animals that cannot be released back into the wild). Both owls had injured eyes.

On the way home I stopped at the Largo Nature Preserve and did find a few birds here.  You can usually find limpkins along the boardwalk here and they are use to people walking by. This one was sitting on the railing and made no attempt to move as I walked by. This is not cropped.

Not surprised to find the usual birds here. A blue gray gnatcatcher, a black and white warbler and a yellow rumped warbler.

Another usual bird, a pine warbler, was pigging out on caterpillars. He ate several while I was snapping and I was lucky enough for him to show them to me.

All kinds of critters.

Tussock moth caterpillars are fairly common in late March but I’ve never seen this many at one place. I usually only see one or two. At the Florida Botanical Gardens the boardwalk was full of them. I tried to keep my distance as I was taking pictures of them. While they are pretty and cool looking, they can leave a nasty rash if you brush up against them. I kept checking to make sure one hadn’t fallen on my backpack.

They turn into these coccoons before turning into a moth. The leaves on the palm trees around the boardwalk were full of these as well.

White peacock butterflies are very common but I think they are pretty.

After leaving the botanical gardens I headed to nearby McGough Nature Park to look for migrating birds. I first stopped at the turtle pond and saw two turtles climbing a tree. They got about half way up before heading back down.

I also watched this raccoon climb up a tree and then head back down.

The bottle brush trees near the entrance were in full bloom. I stopped to snap this butterfly and then heard the faint sound of hummingbirds whizzing by.

There were 4 hummingbirds feeding on the two trees. They were only feeding on the back side that hangs over the lake so it was a challenge to get them feeding. They would rest high up on the front and then go back to feed.

After standing there for an hour I only got the above two shots of them feeding. It was very frustrating to watch them fly to the back of the trees and disappear.

They have several resident injured birds that live on the property, all taken care of by volunteers. This barred owl was watching his person talking to him. He seemed to understand every word she was saying. They were sitting outside in front of the turtle pond.

It was still a little early for migrating birds so I didn’t find any of them.

Where injured sea critters live

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has more than just rescued dolphins. They also take in other injured animals from all over. You are greated by these white pelicans when you first come into the aquarium. They have a lot of character but the glare on the glass is a challenge.

After walking around for a while, we realized we could see them from the other side as well. They had moved over to the inside of the exhibit and I think I bonded over this one for a second.

Up close with some crabs.

You can also see stingrays up close.

All of the turtles here have some type of injury. The top one had lost his back flippers and the bottom one lost his front flippers. There are all types of injuries, most of them here are man made. Boat strikes, getting flippers tangled in fishing line or crab trap lines. The aquarium also rehabilitates a lot of turtles when red tide (algea bloom) is bad but any of those that recover are released.

Color and turtles in October

Yellow and orange from my trip to the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo last month.

The large cactus in the front of the gardens had big blooms on them . The details inside the bloom are amazing. The cactus also had this big pink ball which I assume are the blooms before they open up. Or, maybe they are the seed pod after the bloom dies off?

Little critters. Bees had taken over that bird house.

I found another face in the tree along the boardwalk.

I stopped by and said hello to the resident wood ducks.

After leaving the botanical gardens, I stopped at McGough Park to see if there were any fall migrating birds. I didn’t see many birds but the turtle pond was full of turtles taking a sun nap.

image-in-ing: weekly photo linkupOur World Tuesday Graphic

Spring migration was a bust

McGough Park in Largo is another spring migration hot spot so I stopped there in late April but all I got was turtles. After walking around for an hour and seeing very few birds I left and headed to Largo Nature Preserve.

Not many migrating birds here either but lots of other stuff. I thought the bottom shot was just a weird looking butterfly but then realized it was two butterflies. Not sure if they were mating or feeding on something but they stayed there for a while.

I caught this osprey cruising by me with a really big stick heading to a nest. What is that saying? “Speak softely and carry a big stick”. This is more like “Fly high and carry a big stick”.

A tricolored heron creeping around in the muck.

A big family and almost grown babies in the bottom shot.

This was the first time I’ve seen black bellied whistiling ducks here, much less any where in Pinellas county so I was surprised. They were on the golf course across the canal.

This lone spoonbill was busy feeding and wandering around looking for the best spot.

As I was walking the path something blue whizzed by. Wait, what was that? Finally, a migrating bird. It was a blue grosbeak and when I cropped this shot up I realized there was an immature orchard oriole with him (the yellow one on the right). The oriole took off and I wasn’t able to find him again.

The blue grosbeak had a lady friend with him (the brown one on the top) and they stayed in the area for a few minutes before taking off across the park.

This guy sleeps under the boardwalk. I took this with my phone but I was on the boardwalk at the time.

image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup

Our World Tuesday Graphic

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 her tail years ago and the aquarium was able to get a prosthetic tail to help her 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 her best friend Hope are in the main tank.

Winter did not have on her prostetic tail while I was there. You can see she is missing her flipper. Se 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.

image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Butterflies and turtles.

You can usually find butterflies here in central Florida all year but in early March the gardens were full of them at the Florida Botanical Gardens. Lots of colors fluttering by.

It was a quiet birding morning. The highlights were a pileated woodpecker across the pond and a cute grebe not acting skittish.

This guy ignored me while he ate his breakfast.

After a walk around the gardens I stopped at the nearby McGough Park to visit the turtles. I thought the ones above were kissing but I think it’s just the angle.

Turtles were everywhere. On the grass and climbing on the rocks.

A shot of the turtle pond with my phone.

image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup

Our World Tuesday Graphic

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.

One last visit to the turtle pond.

The squirrels were getting frisky in late May at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.

Not many birds at the gardens. A pileated woodpecker and a young moorhen.

Grasshoppers are everywhere right now. They can wipe out a plant in no time. You can see them eating the leaves in both of these shots.

It was a quiet morning at the gardens but I wasn’t quite ready to go home yet so I went for a quick walk at nearby McGough Park and to visit the turtles there. Most of the trails here are very narrow so I stayed off those to keep away from having to pass people. I probably won’t make it back to this park until next spring.

The wooden owl in the parking lot.

My Corner of the World