Cattle Egret, Bulbucus ibis

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sunny Thursday

Since I retired I seldom go anywhere in a straight line. My route winds around, past good roost trees, little ponds, small creeks and briar patches. I set out for SAHS at 3:00 PM today, with an ETA of 4:30 PM, allowing time to look around and do some sitting. I'd put in a lap around Maria Sanchez Lake, found a few pics there, and was headed north, along the bayfront, checking out boats and other cool stuff. My cellphone rang, after school activities cancelled again, grandson already caught the bus home. Since I can't head west without first going east, I rolled into the county boat ramp, found some immature White Ibis, and Pelicans. No sense in wasting a trip.
Never follow me, if you're in a hurry!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Winter Storm

I'd started hearing about power outages downstate fairly early yesterday. Just after lunchtime I could hear thunder coming, it sounded like it was near Palatka. Not long after that the wind started screaming, and it felt like we'd been hit by the shockwave from a big explosion. The power shut off, instantly.
Yesterday was one of my days to pick number one grandson up at SAHS, at 4:30. I left here at about 3:00, got a hundred yards down the road, FPL trucks and fire trucks all over it. One of the power poles had snapped like a toothpick, hot wires on the road, I wasn't going anywhere fast.
FPL had the road opened in no time, I took off for the high school, but here came the grandson walking down the road. The after school activities were cancelled and he managed to catch the bus.
The power was on by about 9:00 PM, I woke up about 4:AM, I had power and a phone, but no internet connection, my modem was cooked.
The FPL linemen had a long day yesterday, but darned if they don't do some fine work.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Alligator Farm Report

Word from the gator farm is that the Great Egrets are getting down to business building nests. The other birds will be right behind them. This Saturday the season photo pass will begin to allow early admittance to the park. If you plan on several visits this is a great way to save some money.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Steps, Again

Cloudy and damp today, warm, it's 75 now, at almost 6PM. I figured that about time I got out from under the trees on the motor scooter a toad strangler would come along, and I'd end up with a bunch of wet photo equipment.
If I sit on my old wooden front steps long enough, something will come along. I've got some lawn chairs, but the steps work better.
A couple of years ago I bought a gadget called Xtend a View. It clamps to the tripod mount, and puts a hood over the screen on the camera, with an adjustable magnifying lens. It really gives a much better view of what the camera actually sees, you can judge focus and exposure more accurately. I'd never used it much, finally gave the camera it fit away, and it was just sitting. Last night I pulled it out and modified it to fit the Panasonic FZ30. Wow! I don't know how I was getting along without it.
My eyes aren't the best, they're old like the rest of me, the Xtend a View sure is a help. It eliminates glare 100%.
The shots of Boss Cardinal on the ground are recent but not from today. Today, he posed in the Oak tree, singing to his lady.



RETENTION PONDS

The concept behind retention ponds is a good one, but doesn't go far enough. Retention ponds tend to be holes in the ground, surrounded by sodded banks. All natural border vegetation is discouraged, no reeds, rushes or weeds allowed. As a result, there are no frogs, no dragonflies, little resemblance to a natural pond. There is a small pond nearby that had a fringe of small trees and brush, lots of Pickerel Weed and Cat tails. Last year, birds nested around it, frogs thrived along the edges, small mammals lived nearby, and hunted around it. Someone mowed the banks last week, and it's value as habitat is now much less.
I am sure that no one set out to do any damage, likely they just wanted things to be "neat", but the damage is real.
This area is experiencing an influx of folks from large urban areas, accustomed, I suppose, to neatness, they love order, no weeds allowed. This isn't natural, and it is, over the long run, destructive.
If you ask these folks, most of them will tell you how much the environment means to them, but how do you convince them to change their habits?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Experiment

I have pics squirreled away all over the place, I learned a lesson with a hard drive crash. Let's see if this Photobucket slideshow works here. My dialup is slow, so I may have trouble seeing it myself. Please let me know if it works for you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

They're in the Mood

The Mallards are doing it, the Grebes are doing it, and the Double Crested Cormorants are doing it, Spring is gonna come again! Time to watch for baby critters.!

FEBRUARY 20, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February 19, 2008

I made the regular rounds, checked the roost trees, filled the feeder, rode down Cabbage Hammock and Pellicier Road, ended up back at the ag center pond. Way out in the middle of the east bank I could see a dark spot, you've heard that line before, put the TC lens on the camera, and it was the neighborhood Anhinga. Sometimes she is in the ponds around the Outlet Mall, sometimes I don't know where she goes, so far she has always come back. The shot with the spread wings is from today, the other from earlier, when I could get closer.
The area where she was today has all been planted with wildflower seeds, it will be a pretty place this spring, if people quit walking through it, LOL. I've seen several folks stomp through there.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rolling Tripod

I've been retired about 5 years now, and early on it became obvious that maintaining my old Jeep, and keeping it insured, was going to eat up much of my retirement income. I love to just go out and roam around, until I find a good spot for some camera exercise, but an afternoon of roaming could eat up $15.00 worth of gas, to say nothing of other expenses.
I bought my first motorscooter in 1958, a war surplus 47 Cushman, and have ridden motorcycles off and on since then. I bought a little 50CC scooter about 30 months ago, but soon found that it was just too small, and too slow, for more than very short trips.
In January of last year I bought a 125CC Motofino. It's made in China, what isn't, but in almost 6000 miles it's proved to be a decent vehicle. Whatever you think about this, it is something I can afford, and not go around hungry and barefoot. I can even buy a new camera, every so often. If I need to carry something bulky, or the weather isn't good, I can call a cab, or put some gas in my daughters car, and still come out ahead. Some folks don't know what to think of an old guy on a scooter, but I'm not an old guy stuck in front of a stupid TV set, because I have no other choice. The scooter keeps me, and my camera, on the move, I love it!

SCOOTER

How to Cook a Pig

There will be room for much discussion on this, lot's of opinions.
My choice is a little sow that has been feeding on White Oak acorns, just rubbed with some crushed garlic, bay leaves, well I've tried everything on the shelf, really, it all seems to work, just don't overdo things. I take my limb loppers and go around the yard, always plenty of little Red Maple suckers needing trimmed, cut a bunch, chop them in short chunks, and soak them in water. I build my fire at one end of the smoker grill, the pig on the grill at the other end, and, in the middle, a big can of water. Keep adding Red Maple chunks to the coals as they burn away.That water steams away, carries that Red Maple sweetness right into the meat. Don't get things too hot, don't try to hurry, use a thermometer, look for about 170 degrees in the meat, near the center. You won't need much sauce, and that's another thing to argue about, heck some folks even use ketchup, but not around here!

Almost Like Summer

Yesterday was almost like summer, blue skies, even some butterflies. I plonked myself down under my favorite tree, and just sat. Not much was moving, for a while, but then, over in the pond, I could see a dark spot on a floating mat of dollarweed, so I moved. Little Blue Heron was hunting crawdads again. I never can get as close as I'd like, had to dig out the extra lens, it works ,but closer would work better.
I got home just in time for the afternoon air show, when the Cardinals show up for dinner. they are as fat and sassy as ever.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

BLUEBIRDS AND FLOWERS

Warm, sunny day, just right! The Bluebirds are finding plenty of mole crickets around the pond. The Master Gardeners have been planting for spring, time to sit back and watch it grow. There is almost always something blooming. This is Florida!

BLUEBIRD


ARBORETUM

Friday, February 15, 2008

STOPPITDAMMITGOAT!

My neighbors pasture is right near my north window. He has 3 horses, and a Billy goat. Every once in a while old Billy decides to chase horses. It sounds like an old Lone Ranger movie, the thunder of hooves, the neighing of horses, everything but the William Tell Overture. The horses usually end up in the pond, old Billy just takes a break. I guess my neighbor has figured out that they won't hurt each other, haven't heard him yell at old Billy lately.
I was talking with one of the Master Gardener Ladies at the County Arboretum, and she pointed out the Black Racer, soaking up the Sun. Really, a cool Lady, she doesn't get hysterical about snakes.
The Cardinal is one of my yard critters, teaching a Chipping Sparrow how to act.The Anhinga was sunning on a piling in the Agriculture Center Pond.

LANDSCAPES


SNAKES


CARDINAL


ANHINGA

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sharks teeth

I got outside with a camera this afternoon, had a pair of Mourning Dove, several Chipping Sparrows, Tufted Titmice and Cardinals around. With so much of the foliage thinned out by winter the yard is a mix of dark shaded spots and blazing sun drenched strips. The birds are in and out, and it drives you nuts keeping up with exposure settings. In summer it is more evenly shaded. Anyway, no bird shots today.
I'd mentioned fossil sharks teeth in an earlier post so I dug some out of the junk drawer and took a picture. St. Augustine's beach is divided by St. Augustine Inlet, Vilano Beach to the North, St. Augustine Beach South of the inlet. Vilano Beach has deep deposits of little Donax clam shells, and sometimes you can find a lot of fossil sharks teeth mixed in. Sometimes you can't, I don't know where they go, the ocean currents do strange things. Sharks constantly shed and renew their teeth, but these teeth are old, maybe thousands of years old. I've been told that the blacker they are the older. Sometimes a larger tooth shows up, but most are about like those pictured.
Click on the pic to see a larger version

MACRO

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

NEST MATERIAL

I knew this shot was lurking somewhere in this computer. This Great Egret found a reed, was looking for a balance point before flying away with it.
Click the pic for larger view

NEST BUILDING

Monday, February 11, 2008

NESTING SEASON

Amanda Whitaker, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, has reported the first nest building, a pair of Great Egrets. Activity will build up quickly now.
If you've never seen a rookery in full swing, and you are a nature lover, it's time to plan a visit.
In years gone by, the roads in Florida were spotted with Alligator exhibits, fake indian villages, bears chained to trees, you name it, if it would attract a tourist and 50 cents, it was there. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm stands far above that, it is a first rate zoological park. You won't find any elephants or giraffes, the Alligator Farm is about Florida, for the most part, just a few side exhibits of non native critters.
No, I don't work for them, but I wish I could just pitch a tent in the middle, and live there!
http://www.alligatorfarm.us/
ROOKERY

Labels: birds, nesting, spring

Drowning Worms

While I was on one side of the pond, sitting in the sunshine, these folks had their spot, too. I couldn't see if they were catching much, but I don't think it mattered. It was just a great day, to be sitting in the sunshine.

LANDSCAPES

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hawks and Flowers

I rolled back to my favorite sitting spot, the St. John's County Arboretum. A life time of hunting taught me to sit still, for hours if need be, and if you're observant, it isn't boring. All sorts of little details catch your eye, tiny birds moving leaves, Anoles moving on a tree trunk, or a Squirrels ear twitching. You can notice all these, and still keep your mind active, there is always something to contemplate, if you have the habit.
I don't hunt these days, I tried to pass it on, but, today's kids have music stuck in their heads, the wrong music. They twitch, they shake, they pop their fingers, and every critter for a quarter mile knows they are there. There are exceptions, of course, I just never found one personally. My daughter grew up as a hunter, my grandson has little interest.
I had my little old Olympus C2100 with me, got a few shots of a bee in a flower, watched birds fly by too far away, and soaked up the Sunshine.
Way down the road I saw a little speck coming in, and it seemed to land. It was getting near time to come home, so I headed out, the speck turned into a Red Shouldered Hawk, most likely a male, on the power line. I can get pretty close to those guys, they all know I'm harmless by now. He let me get several shots. The males are angular, gnarly, and sinewy little guys, the females run to the plump side. Not a thing wrong with that, LOL. A couple more generations of hawks, and they won't know how to land, unless there is a wire somewhere close. A bird on a branch makes a much nicer picture than a bird on a wire, but the wires are just too convenient.
ARBORETUM


RED SHOULDERED HAWK

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Another Pretty Day

I rode to the Agriculture Center again, about noon. It was warmer and just a little cloudier than yesterday. This wasn't the best time of day to be there, everything seems to take a midday nap, but there were several Palm Warblers moving around. Instead of choosing a nice photogenic perch they insisted on walking around on the road. Oh Well! They even build their nests on the ground, they sure were avoiding trees today!
One of the Kestrels was next to the road when I was coming out, couldn't see the wing color. I got one pic, was going to slip in closer, or try, and some lowlife idiot came roaring by, boombox blasting, and started blowing their horn. Idiot might not be strong enough language! I actually said a lot more, hope they heard me! We are up to our armpits in barbarians, and more being born every minute.


WARBLERS


RAPTORS

Light

The light, yesterday afternoon, was awesome, clear, pure, perfect, no smog, no haze, just plain old basic Sunshine. I wasn't ready for it, but I noticed.

BLUEBIRD


LITTLE BLUE HERON

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Maria Sanchez Lake

Maria Sanchez Creek once ran a lot further North into St. Augustine, then Henry Flagler started building hotels, and the creek was filled, to where it ends today, in Maria Sanchez Lake. The lake is shallow and not large, there is a spillway at South Street to keep the lake reasonably full at low tide. South of there the creek meanders through the mudflats, to the ICW. On a tide change you can often find examples of several different water birds, Cormorants and Anhingas are often there, Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets are common. These two don't get along, they compete for the same food, there will be some distance seperating them. They both tolerate other birds, the Little Blue Herons and the Night Herons are crab hunters, for the most part, the big guys will tolerate them.
The birds are usually approachable, if you do it right, slow and easy.
Look to the South of the spillway too, the Roseate Spoonbills and White Ibis hunt there at low tide. You may also see an Osprey there.

HERONS EGRETS

Tsiya?

Tsiya is Tsalagi, Cherokee, for Otter. That's me, just as much as Bob is, and sometimes more. This is a picture of my Grammaw, Dora Launa Smith Pepper.
There are Smiths, and, there are other Smiths, from different times and places.
Redbird Smith was a leader of the Tsalagi, near as I can find my Grammaw was one of his line. Redbird was a blacksmith, back in a time when your last name had something to do, with what you did.
I don't mess with genealogy much these days, I used to, but it just gets too complicated.

FAMILY

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cloudy Day Blues

I rolled out about 9AM, weatherman said "partly cloudy". It was, the most part was cloudy. The scooter was due for an oil change, figured I'd head back home and handle that, just as soon as I started draining oil the Sun showed up, Oh Well!
Gonna fix some lunch, maybe take a nap, and hunt some more this afternoon. Old guys like me are in to the nap thing, don't need much excuse at all.
I did find the little flock of White Ibis, feeding at the county agriculture center.
As I was leaving they flew off, headed West.

IBIS

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

School Run

Today was one of my days to head for St. Augustine High, my grandson stays late a couple of times a week, too late for the bus. I leave early and find a good spot to wait with a camera. In the afternoon I have to figure where the Sun will be right, today it was the county boat ramp.

Click on a pic

GULLS


PELICAN

To Town, For Groceries

Yesterday was grocery day, I was running low on cat food and frozen burritos. The Tomcat is particular, it's either Alley Cat, or crunchy peanut butter spread on everything bagels, or sit by the computer chair and pester me.
My ex boss, always great friend, John, told me he is going to retire. good news, sort of, it will be harder to track him down, just to visit. I'm going to miss those visits. You only find a very few friends, like John, in a lifetime.
I don't ever go anywhere in a straight line, ended up down by Maria Sanchez Lake, but a little too early, tide hadn't changed yet. There is a white buoy out in the lake, don't know why, but something was sitting on it. Had to put the TC on the camera and go to full zoom to see it was a cormorant.
It usually takes me 30 minutes to get from one end of the lake to the other, don't want to miss anything. I was sitting, just watching, and along came a couple of Asian visitors, nice looking kids. They were trying for shots at a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron, and the birds were flushing way too soon. These birds just don't usually act this way, what I think is that they were spooked by the big shiny tripod the kids were toting. I sure hope they got some nice pics to take home.
I'm going to have to get going on the yard, the old frog pond is slap full of dead leaves, the new frog pond needs work too. A couple of my frog shots look like the frogs are sitting on the edge of an old bathtub, well, they are, what else can you do, with an old bathtub? Before it was a frog pond it was a water trough for the horses, but, don't have horses out here anymore, got a lot of frogs.
Yard Frogs


CORMORANT


HERONS EGRETS

Monday, February 4, 2008

New week, old pics

Grocery shopping day! I'll look for deals on a new monitor too, the one I use is almost 5 years old, and I'm not sure about how accurate the colors are. I may need to go back and correct some stuff. No matter what you do images are likely to show differently on various monitors.
None of the neighborhood raptors have been visible lately, except for the Kestrels. They all come and go when it pleases them. You've just got to keep watch. It is easy to get in the habit of just rolling down the road, focused only on the asphalt. You miss a lot that way. I'm one of those pokey drivers who everyone cusses, cuss away, I'm not going any faster. I like to know where I've been.
The Great Crested Flycatchers tried to raise chicks last year but the nest was raided and all the chicks eaten.

Click on the pic

HAMMOCK HAWKS


FLYCATCHER

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Blue Skies

Maybe 30% cloud cover, mid 60s, fine day. I rolled out on the motorscooter and headed for the St. John's County Arboretum. found a few robins poking around in the mulch, probably finding a few Mole crickets, all the Yaupon berries are gone. I could see something moving across the pond, it was a Little Blue Heron, so I headed that way. It was doing it's duck and weave dance in a patch of Dollar Weed, and coming up with some Crawdads. Every once in a while a good sized fish would stir up the water, the Heron kept on after Crawdads. Got some shots there. Seven or eight White Ibis showed up at the East end of the pond, not downtown Ibis, they didn't want me too close. After a while one Ibis forgot I was sitting there, and hunted on by.
Heading back to CR208 I saw one of the Kestrels land on a power pole. All I'll say about that picture is that you can tell it's a Kestrel, they are just so tiny and so spooky you've got to shoot and pray.
I rode through the Outlet Mall, four fair size Softshell turtles were sunning on the far bank, that's a long way to shoot at a turtle with a handheld camera. I'll process those shots later, they don't look as bad as I expected.
CABBAGE HAMMOCK OUTDOORS

New Day

I'm up, not bright eyed and bushy tailed, just awake. It's down to 50f here, little cooler than along the coast. It's supposed to be partly cloudy, just have to wait and see. I'd like some decent light so I can mount the TC lens on the FZ30 and give it a good run. It gives me 775 mm of reach, but needs good light for good focus, my old eyes do too. I've been chasing a pair of Kestrels around, one of these days I'll get lucky with that long lens. Even with I/S in the camera the rig needs to sit on a tripod for best results, and Kestrels don't usually give you any set up time.
The Robins had about cleaned up all the Yaupon berries several days ago, and have moved on. Lots of Chipping Sparrows around the yard, some Cardinals, not much else.
Much of the fresh water around here is man made, old borrow pits left from when I-95 was being built. They have steep sides, not much shallow area for wading birds and puddle ducks, and not much vegetation, which makes them about useless for my purposes. I don't wade the swamp these days, old legs can't be trusted. I miss that part of my life, a lot.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

STEP SITTING

Won't be long now, things will start happening at the Gator Farm Rookery. I try to get there 3 or 4 times a year, when the birds are nesting.
It is something to see, the birds nest over the gator ponds, no smart furry critter is going to risk it's hide trying to climb trees there, to steal eggs or chicks. The birds need the gators, and the gators get any chicks that fall or get shoved out of a nest. It is the birds who benefit most from the relationship. Not many calories in a heron chick. By mid April the place is a bird watchers dream, normally shy birds will nest within just a few feet of the boardwalks, and pay no attention to you.

I had planned to get out and chase some critters today, didn't get far, just sat on the steps and watched birds. The light under my oak tree isn't good this time of year, and that is where the birds wanted to be. No pictures!
Tomorrow is another day, the weather should be good, no excuses, got to go catch some pictures.

Friday, February 1, 2008

CABBAGE HAMMOCK

Some folks may get a picture of a head of cabbage in a string net hammock, but, what it really means is, a high spot in the swamp, a hamaca, or hammock, with some palm trees, cabbage palms, growing on it.
The local language in this part of Florida still shows Menorcan and Spanish influence, as well as the imprint left by Native Americans, and other early settlers. We like it like that, I do, anyway!
Problem is, some newcomers don't! Everything is getting renamed, Napier Road is now Wildwood Drive, Nine Mile Road is World Golf Village Parkway, good grief! Who do these folks think they are, just dumping 400 years of history, just like that? Cabbage Hammock? Ohmigoodness, if I tell all my friends in Boston that I've moved to Cabbage Hammock, whatever will they think? Got to change that name, folks, call it something civilized, like Kennedy Blvd!
I'm retired now, about all I can do these days is limp around, with a sack full of Ebay cameras, and try to save the memories. I'm not a diplomat, much more of a curmudgeon and hermit, and I may offend you, but, I love this place, this little chunk of old Florida, and won't ever say I'm sorry!
I'm new to this blog thing, got to mess with it a while, but I have memories, and pictures.
Don't have any friends in Boston, that I know of, anyway!

http://www.pbase.com/tsiya/root
http://photobucket.com/albums/v244/tsiya/
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FISH CROW

Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus major fem

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Wood Stork Mycteria americana

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RINGED BILL GULL

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Tricolored heron Egretta tricolor

Tricolored heron Egretta tricolor

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Brown Pelican juvenile

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