Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ugly Duckling NOT

Pelicans were in abundance as we canoed the fingers of water between various mangrove marshes during our recent trip to Florida.  For some reason they do not seem as exotic or interesting when found in my back yard!  It is hard to believe that pelicans were almost wiped out by pesticides a few decades ago.  But you cannot sigh with relief as Florida is slowly becoming one mass of suburban gated communities outlined by golf courses and fringed by shopping malls which put increasing pressure on the birds' habitat.  This brown pelican was sitting peacefully on the top of the mangrove tree as we coasted past just below him. The weather rarely got above 60 C and there was usually a cold wind on the water so it felt like 55 C or colder. We never removed our jackets or our jeans in our pursuit of the tropical feeling.  Last month's cold weather which reached south Florida had resulted in a major fish kill which had cut the food supply for these birds and other water birds.  Wind seems to have impacted water levels as well; we were told that the rare storks may not even nest this year due to this crazy weather! 

We, like so many others, fled from the snow. (I do not think I met anyone actually from Florida during this trip, except for some friends we visited. )  Many other pelicans including the white pelicans below could be seen from the walkways in the preserves and sanctuaries.   They nest in pairs of over one hundred on the islands.  They catch their prey in the shallow waters rather than the dramatic diving seen with the brown pelican.

 This canoe trail below was a few miles long in the Corkscrew Swamp area of southern Florida and we saw only one group of kayakers, one other canoe, and a small electric bass boat with two die-hard fishermen.  Fighting the cooler wind gusts on the non-lee sides of the islands was challenging.  If the wind was behind us, I could sometimes lift my paddle and it would act as a tiny sail scooting us fairly rapidly across the water and even faster if the tidal current was in our favor.  When the canoe trail took us between a path in the mangroves, the wind was blocked and the sun would take charge and warm our bones.  Even though the tops of the highest mangroves had brown die-back from the harsh winter, we could pretend it was spring.  

The above photo is not very good as we were moving past fairly fast in the canoe to avoid startling the birds, but it does show the brown die-back in the tops of the mangroves from this cold winter that reached even South Florida.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


When I was a little girl I used to see magic in all the small things at my feet.  Small bugs, little plants, even rocks all formed some magical fairy world that only I saw.  All the big people (parents/adults) were too busy rushing here and there.  I would be told to wait in the car, and I can remember looking out the side window over the sill of my dad's old truck, and as time passed, I would see all kinds of fascinating activity on the ground below.   There would be villages and meadows and battles all taking place while people rushed around above.  There would be fairy castles and tiny kitchens and elven farms, only requiring my mind's eye to see.  This moss that I saw on a recent hike before the heavy snow storms made me think of that magic land that I have abandoned so long ago.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ribbons and Bows

Winter was aging and getting tired of having to keep everything cold and blowing moisture filled clouds across the sun.  Winter was tired of making sure that every nook and cranny was filled with cold air and so you can imagine how irritating having to deal with an errant daughter can be.

Winter's daughter was bored, as young energetic daughters moving through that passionate time of life can be.  She was flaunting and moaning and she was whining and complaining.  She was tired of wearing white and gray and she wanted something to dress up her shiny brown hair.  She wanted to look like she was ready to pirouette with the frozen rain drops.  Winter shewed her outside.  Then, by chance, down near the river, Winter's daughter found these red ribbons with bows which she carefully wove through each curly hair strand before running to dance over the wet grasses in the Winter's waning sun.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Disclaimer: Last Photo May Offend

This mockingbird was a surprise visitor to the deck the other day.  They seemed to be noisier and friendlier at my old house in the suburbs.  These woods do not seem to have many.  I don't think that I hear them much...but since they are 'mockingbirds' how do I know?  I had scattered some seeds for the little wrens that live under the deck and this fellow showed up to see what all the excitement was about.

The photos are better than I expected since I was taking them through a double paned glass door.  I guess cleaning the inside of the window paid off.

Clearly he did not feel there was anything of interest to keep him as he mooned me for a few seconds before flying off.  (It seems that everyone is a comedian!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

We made it out of the driveway but only because we had this Old Town canoe in which to load all our stuff!  It made a nice sled to haul heavy luggage and beach stuff to the car and helped as we had to go around fallen trees.  We loaded the canoe on the rack on the car with a thought for some canoeing in the marshes of the south.

Being the pessimists (I would actually write realists) that we are, we packed two snow shovels to take with us.

The storm followed us to Charleston where we spent two nights  and perused the streets pulling against strong and cold winds.  Spent most of our time in stores!  Then on to Savannah where we spent one night.  A morning spent on our favorite Pinkney Island preserve revealed no birds of significance.  They had abandoned all hope and like us flew to Florida.  We spent most of our drive through northern Florida in torrential downpours across the ENTIRE state.  Now finally the cold winds have joined us here as we settle near Ft. Myers in Southeast Florida.  Temps in the mid 50's C for highs.  Looks like we are not putting on swim suits or doing any beaching!!

On an optimistic note, maple trees are a beautiful deep red with their leaves just starting and marsh grasses are a purple green showing their hope for spring. I am eager to take photos once my fingers thaw.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Most of the prior posts were written before the three, no four, five actually six snowstorms  since we are due 15 inches more today as I write this!  I have shoveled sidewalks and driveways in the city and come back to a nightmare of snow on top of  4 inches of well packed snow on top of 6 inches of hard ice.  Exhausted!!!  Not one, or two but three trees across the long snow covered driveway to the house.

Heading to Florida this week and will contend with their brown foliage, torrential rainstorms and tornadoes.  Bring it on!  I will drag my luggage  across this 400 feet driveway of deep snow over and under fallen trees to my car at the end and not look back.  I will drag it all the way to a warm beach and not look back if I have to.

I will leave you with a few pre-written and later scheduled posts while I am trying to brown this white snow tan.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Take Your Best Shot

Unfortunately I have nothing of real interest in this post.  Just glad to see that the diving birds are back now that the river is thawing in parts. The geese keep away from them so there seems to be some peace treaty that has been arranged.   These little charmers swim fast and far from my lens.  They were chasing each other around the river earlier in the afternoon  spewing white wakes behind them as they danced across the top of the water and making me wonder if we were closer to spring than I thought.  This is the best photos I got and they were much tinkered with so click on them only if you dare. I would like to get some closer shots (in the wild not the zoo!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Hint, Hint.

(Needless to say, this post was written over a week ago.  I was planning on being out of town.)

There is a hint that spring is coming.  The weather hit 62F today!  Very unusual for a day in late January.  The daffodils are peaking lime heads above the muddy ground and the alliums are also venturing bravely forth in lime green beneath the brown and bare branches of the chaste bush.  The azaleas have clear little buds forming.  Isn't this exciting?

I got energetic two weeks ago and began my ritual of forcing the amaryllis bulbs which now sit lifting their leaves to the sun that shines through the kitchen window.  (I love the smell of potting soil in winter.)

This lettuce held over through the winter even after we took off the plastic. We had given up on any salad crops until spring since weather had been so frozen, but were surprised to see this crop still hardy on today's sunny walk around the yard.  I cannot eat all this!

This summer parsley which was planted in my herb bed seems to have made it through the winter and snows thus far. I should probably harvest this tiny crop before all is lost!  I am starting to get new flower seeds in the mail and we are buying seed starter and replacing two seed heating pads.  It looks like the busy days are upon us soon.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Response on Controversial Topics

Regarding my prior post I neither dislike nor like hunters.  Some hunting is good for keeping populations of animals in check and the Dept. of Natural Resources seems to be doing a good job of regulating that.

Regarding climate change I do believe it is happening and that mankind is one force causing our earth to heat.  We have too much increase in carbon gases from the atmosphere in the ocean for it not to be somewhat our fault.  This is changing the oceans PH and that means coral depletion, spawning issues, etc.  I also think that this might be part of a greater natural cycle that is in conjunction with our atmospheric pollution.  So we should try to moderate our influence.

I think people would be more accepting if we just called it climate change because the warming is not evident to anyone but scientists who measure it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Climate Change

The river had been frozen for weeks.  This was unusual as the last time this river froze at all, according to our neighbors,
was about 8 years ago.  It would thaw a little in the day and then refreeze with each cold night.

It was beautiful and tragic.

Why tragic you may ask?
The geese (those noisy and large numbered invaders) have to shelter in the wider parts of the river and the more open spaces in the marsh further out.  They have to shelter near the duck blinds that man has so carefully created.  They cannot make it to the safety of our little finger of the river and freely make their noises and still be safely tucked away from the damage of guns.
This is a nice time for photographers who like the sparse gray of the land and this is also a good time for hunters.