Heading Home II

We finally made our way to Ed and Pam’s house in Englewood.  We had left the skeeters behind and in fact weren’t bothered again once we got to Corkscrew.  Ed has a boat and we were going to go out the next day on it but it was really windy so we went to a nice little rookery in Venice.

Next to the rookery was a small pond with about 50 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and another 20 Glossy Ibis along with a few other wading birds.

1 black bellied

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After the rookery we went to the beach and walked along looking for shark’s teeth.  We found some to save and send to the grandkids along with some pretty shells.

The next day we did go out on the boat before we left.

It was still a bit windy and we had trouble getting the boat back on the trailer but it was an otherwise beautiful day and enjoyable trip.

We then made our way up to Homosassa to camp for two nights at a park on the Homosassa River.

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Our friends Pliney and Judy, who used to live in Northfield but now live in Littleton, NH,, spend their winters in Ocala which is about an hour and a half away from where we were. Since we got there a bit late we made plans to meet the next day.

We had originally thought we’d do a ‘swim with Manatees’ thing but that didn’t work out so we all decided to spend the day at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.  This is a 210 acre park home to native Florida wildlife where you can always see Manatees.  We saw about 30 in the river which is in a protected area.

The park used to be privately owned by people who collected all sorts of exotic animals and when the State took it over they only wanted to have native animals so they sent the exotics to zoos but had a Hippopotamus that they couldn’t find a home for right away.  The Floridians really liked Lu the Hippo and petitioned the State to keep him there.  Eventually the State declared Lu a Florida native and he stayed.  He is now 57 years old.

There were lots of other native animals, reptiles and birds, many of which were there because they had been injured and couldn’t be put back in the wild.

Black Vulture, Otter, Bobcat and Florida Panther eating a bird

There are also birds that just happen to be on the river or come in to avail themselves of the food.

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Wood Duck

The large birds of prey looked particularly wounded, some with no wing or a blind eye.

Red tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle

The water comes from a deep spring and there is an underwater viewing area where you can see schools of about 10 different kinds of fish and even a Blue Stone Crab.

There were also nesting birds up in the trees.

And lots of other birds and animals.

Squirrel, Green Heron

White and Brown Pelicans

Black crowned Night Heron, adults and juvenile

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Wood Stork

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American Flamingo

We finished our day with Judy and Pliney at a great seafood restaurant. The next day we headed north and got past Savannah where we spent the night.  Then we went to Rudy and  Audrey’s again just south of Charlotte, NC.  We spent two nights there so the next day we had time to visit another friend nearby – Dot.  Dot worked with me back in the late 80’s in Brattleboro, VT.  She and her late husband became friends and in fact we had visited them after they moved down to Deland, Fl.  They even took us to the same rookery that Ed did and we walked along the same Shark Beach!  Now Dot is in assisted living in a lovely continuing care place in Rock Hill.  She had recently fractured her back so we were expecting her to be in terrible pain.  She was looking much better than we thought and said the pain was now down to an ache and she was walking around quite well.  We had a very nice visit then headed back to Rudy and Audrey’s for lunch and a long walk on the Greenway.  This was a beautiful area with trails through horse and sheep farms along a creek with a suspension bridge.  There were a couple of historic cabins dating back to the Civil War.  The temperature was perfect and the sun was shining.  We ended the day with some South Carolina BBQ.

That was the last of our beautiful weather.  The next two days we just made our way home through colder and colder temps and lots of wind.  The temps at home were in the single digits and tomorrow we are expecting a nor’easter.  Still — “There’s No Place Like Home”.

 

 

Heading home

We went a lot of places on our way home and Denny took a ton of pictures so in order to not have too long of a blog I’m dividing it into two parts.

We spent two nights in Collier Seminole SP, home of a multitude of mosquitos.  I believe the description of the mosquito level was “donor”.  It’s really a nice park and they have a loyal crew of friends who have all kinds of activities set up.  Guess it was the wrong time of the season though.  We didn’t want to just sit in our camper so we covered ourselves in DEET and off we went.  Our first stop was Ten Thousand Islands Wildlife Refuge.  At the beginning of the path there were lots of Warblers flying around but the light was bad for pictures so we walked the trail to a tower and spied the following:

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Great Blue Heron

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Another Friendly Gator

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Tri-colored Heron

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Baby Gator

There were lots of ducks (mostly Blue-winged Teal) on the lakes and some pretty butterflies.

After a long walk in some pretty hot weather we got some lunch and went to Big Cypress Bend.  This had a small boardwalk then a trail though some shade we were grateful to see.  The trail ended at a small waterhole with some more nice birds.

Wood Stork and Juvenile White Ibis

There were also some nice air plants and Strangler Fig;

The next day we drove up to see another old paddling buddy, Ed, and his wife, Pam. We thought the drive was short so we stopped on the way at Corkscrew Swamp.  Since we spent about 4 hours there we arrived later than we thought but got there in time for dinner.

Corkscrew Swamp is an Audubon site of about 11,000 acres.  It has a 2 and a half mile boardwalk through a 500 year old Bald Cypress swamp which we walked.  Our first sighting was a Red shouldered Hawk sitting on a branch in the woods eating a very large snake.  He was taking his time eating and it looked like it he had enough to take him through the week.  You can see the snake hanging down a ways.  It’s black with red striped across its belly.  We never got a good ID on it.

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We walked on through fields with Iris in bloom and through swamps with lots of Cypress knees.

Then we came to a very wet area with water lettuce and lots of birds.

 

There were a lot of the same birds we had been seeing  but we found our first Limpkin of the trip along with a very striking Anhinga in mating plumage.

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There was a shortcut at this point so we decided to take it and get some lunch and come back the other way.  We came back to the other end of the water area with lots more birds.

Juvenile and Adult Black crowned Night Heron

Great Blue Heron and Gator

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Yellow crowned Night Heron

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The Gathering

We spoke with one of the volunteers about where to find the Painted Buntings and he said they come to the feeders and pointed us in the right direction.

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We found 4 males and 1 female.  Her picture didn’t come out but she’s kind of plain and just yellow.

On our way out we also saw a flock of Wild Turkeys.

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Fun with Sam

Two days before we picked up Sam we did a little birding. We started off at a place reported to have a Buff-bellied Hummingbird, a Rufous Hummingbird and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. We went there and found all three! We met a couple of people there, one who told us where to find a bunch of different new birds and the other who decided to join us. The directions were confusing and we never really found what we expected but at one spot we did find Mitred Parakeets which were lifers for us. We tried the right part of Matheson Park again where the last time, we found out, we were in the wrong place. There are supposed to be lots of parrots there and we didn’t find a single one. We did find some other things though.

 

There was a place of reputed great birding in Ft. Lauderdale where we had to go to the airport to pick up Sam at 5:20 pm so we thought we’d go there that morning but the next day it rained all day and it was raining the morning we picked him up so we didn’t go. We just got him and took him to dinner on the way back to the campground. He was tired out from the flight anyway.

The next day we took him to the Everglades. We started out at the Anhinga trail where the young Anhingas had gotten a lot bigger since the last time we saw them. We also saw some new chicks

and lots gators, (45 in one spot),

and a few Purple Gallinules.

There were other birds,fish, epiphytes and turtles, too.

Then we went down to Flamingo and got good looks of the Crocodiles. One swam right next to the dock we were on and Sam got his picture. Saw a few more things like gulls, lizards and Florida Bay.

Sam had asked to fish so we borrowed some equipment from another camper and went to Biscayne Bay NP. We had hoped to take the boat ride to Boca Chica Key but they were full so we reserved a spot for Sunday instead. Sam fished for a while not catching anything but it was a nice day and when we walked to the end of the jetty our friend the Great White Heron was there. Couldn’t resist lots of pictures of him.

On Saturday we went to John Pennekamp SP on the Keys where Sam could fish some more.

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It was quite hot and being a Saturday was very crowded. There was a swimming beach with lots of people near where Sam was fishing and as we got there a Manatee poked his head up right near the swimmers. He came up several times right near people which surprised us.

Some people got very excited and others didn’t seem to care. That struck us as weird but maybe they see them all the time. We thought it was pretty cool.

On Sunday we went back to Biscayne Bay for our 3 hour boat ride to Boca Chica Key. As we came into the Key we got good looks at a very large Green Sea Turtle. Once again a beautiful day and lots of people and boats. We had an hour on the key and could walk a nature trail and go up into the lighthouse and have a picnic lunch. Nice day.

On Sam’s last day we went to Shark Valley which is another area of the Everglades with a 15 mile loop road.

At about the half way point there is a big tower overlooking a bird roosting area and an alligator area. The last time we went there when you climbed up to the top of the tower you looked down on about 50 gators lying together. All along the trail there are birds and gators and turtles. There is a tram tour every hour and a bike rental if you’d like to do that instead. We arrived about 5 minutes after the tram tour started so we opted for the bikes. A big mistake! It was about 86 degrees, quite humid, and not much in the way of shade on the trail. We also were pedaling against the wind the whole way to the tower and the bikes were horrible! Denny and I’ve never been so uncomfortable on a bike. And, when we got to the tower there wasn’t really much to look at—a few birds and a few alligators. By the time we got back we were all exhausted and dripping sweat.

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We feel bad that we put Sam through that on his last day here. Hope he remembers the good parts of the trip more.

March 1st we wheeled out of the Boardwalk RV Resort west to Collier Seminole SP for a couple of nights. We are slowly working out way back home. We drove along the Tamiami Trail which is always interesting with its slough next to the road with lots of birds and gators in it. There are several stops along the way at Big Cypress Swamp with boardwalks to view the wildlife. The park is right next to Naples, FL where had dinner with old friends Jerry and Barbara who we hadn’t seen in about 45 years. Nice catching up on all our lives.

We probably won’t have time for another blog until we get home.  Lots more pictures then.

Another week, two murals

While we were waiting for the maintenance guys to prepare the walls to paint we had a few days to play.  We checked the So. Florida rare bird alert and saw there was a Western Spindalis at a park in Key Biscayne so we headed up to see if we could find it.  We got there and  walked around the area described and found almost nothing but iguanas until

we came upon a couple from Ottawa who were also looking for the bird.  He was quite a talker and seems to fly all over when he hears of a new bird. He said he’d tried to find this bird 4 times, so far unsuccessfully.   There were lots of warblers in the tree that he said was the one it had been seen in before but alas no Spindalis.  We did walk over to a beach and found lots of shore birds, many of which didn’t seem to mind people and let us get fairly close.

 

We went to another area that had some exotic birds that had obviously been introduced.

And of course we had plenty of our old Vulture friends, both Turkey and Black and the Florida chicken (as some refer to the White Ibis).

After hours of looking we gave up and went to another park that this guy said had parrots. We found a wedding and lots of very loud (salsa) music—but no parrots.  The neighborhoods we drove through were quite amazing with huge beautiful houses on acres of landscaped land.  Nixon had a house there when he was president.

The next day we decided to go all the way to Flamingo in the Everglades. From the visitors center area we could see Crocodiles and Alligators.  This is one of the few places that both Crocodiles and Alligators live together.  There were also Manatees in the water in the marina. We tried to go for a bird walk at Eco Pond but the mosquitoes were too fierce there and along the Snake Bight trail.  We walked around Eco Pond managing to take these pictures very quickly and only made it a short way on Snake Bight.

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Snake Bight Trail

Eco Pond

We did manage to see about 35 birds in areas that were more tolerable.

One more day off and we went to the Keys.  Did a little birding looking for another Spindalis reported but no luck there either. We did find a great little cafe for lunch with fresh fish, conch and shrimp.  We’ll definitely go back there.

The next day I started painting.  There is apparently quite a controversy going on with the management and some of the regular residents here about the fitness center.  The residents don’t want to lose their indoor air-conditioned place to work out and here I am painting walls in it for it to be a food and clothing pantry.  They even posted a sign on the door asking for comments if you don’t want to lose the fitness center.  According to what management tells me they are going to build a new gym and won’t have the pantry until that’s done but people are not convinced so they are asking for a  meeting. Anyway, here I am painting these walls and it feels pretty weird when people come in who are obviously opposed to losing their workout space.

clothesline

This is for the clothing area.

This is for the food area

Anyway, I worked for 4 days and finished the murals yesterday.  I did quit early on Valentine’s Day to go out to a lovely dinner with my valentine. We even found this funky ice cream place in the Mexican part of town for dessert.

Yesterday afternoon we took a picnic lunch to Biscayne Bay NP and walked the boardwalk to the jetty.  Lots of folks out fishing off the boardwalk.

Then we drove out to the airport where we had heard there are Burrowing Owls and found three!  Unfortunately they were too far away to photograph and we needed a scope to see them well. Did see some nice Eastern Meadowlarks though.

e-meadowlark

Our grandson, Sam, arrives next Wednesday for our last week in Homestead. We hope to show him lots of fun things in the area.

Peace,

N & D

First week in Homestead

We’ve been here a week and we thought we’d fill you in on where we are and what we’re doing. Our first few days here we were getting organized and got our camper set up with our screen tent acting as our kitchen area. Our little 2 burner stove attaches to the outside of the camper and we put our table out there and even got ourselves a small fridge to use instead of the cooler. It’s not the most luxurious setup but it’ll work for the month we are here.

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The RV resort itself is an interesting mix. There is a large section known as the French quarter that has campers who are French Canadians from small towns in Quebec. Most do not speak much English. We’ve been told that they are blue collar workers in the lumber business who come here in the winter when they can’t work. They seem to be very fun-loving and athletic folks who are seen either playing volleyball, bocci, shuffleboard or swimming. Our site is next to their area. There is also a large contingent of Hispanics, some families and a bunch of blue collar workers who share the park models as a way to escape the high rentals in the Miami area. There are also the just plain Americans from all over trying to escape the cold winter. It almost feels like we are in a foreign country.

The deal is that we get a free hook-up in exchange for some mural painting by me. Crystal, who is the manager, has decided that they need to have a food and clothing pantry where they had a rather crummy fitness center and that is where I’m painting. The first thing I did was paint a new sign.

sign.JPG

I am also going to paint 2 small murals inside but am waiting until next week because they are re-painting the walls first.

In the meantime we have managed to do a few things in the area. Our first excursion was to the Royal Palm Visitors Center to walk the Anhinga Trail and Gumbo Limbo trail. The Anhinga trail is really like walking through a zoo with no cages. You walk along a slough with Anhingas nesting in the trees or fishing in the water where there are all kinds of fish (including a bunch of species that people introduced from their aquariums at home -not good).

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Dinner time for baby Anhingas

There are also shorebirds

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Double-crested Cormorant

and turtles

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and lots of alligators.

Last Sunday we were wondering where we could watch the Superbowl since the Clubhouse didn’t have a TV. We discovered that the French Canadiens were setting up a large screen on the volleyball/bocci area and we were welcome to bring our chairs and watch. Only thing was it was in French! We managed to figure out what was happening without a problem. (The Canadian announcers signaled a score by shouting TOUCHE!)  It was an amazing game as we’re sure most of you know ending in a Patriots win in sudden death overtime. Both teams played well and it was very tense especially in the second half when they came from a 28 to 3 deficit to tie it up and go into overtime – unbelievable! It was a warm night so we were quite comfortable with just a light shirt.

About the weather, it has been quite warm and humid here. Days have been in the 80’s and nights not going below mid to upper 60’s. It looks like we are getting a bit of cooler weather coming up with lows down to 59 and highs only in the 70’s. The humidity is such that the mornings sound like it’s raining with heavy dew and the water dripping off the trees. We’ve learned to put a tarp over our picnic table at night so we have a dry place to sit for breakfast.

Last night we went out to dinner with a couple from New Jersey who knew of a wonderful seafood restaurant in Key Largo (about 20 miles away). We sat outside enjoying the water and the birds with our very fresh seafood dinners and watched the sunset—lovely!

Today we decided to check out Biscayne Bay NP which is about 8 miles from us. It is the largest marine park in America and encompasses the bay just south of Miami all the way to Key Largo.

miami

Miami as seen across the bay from the jetty

We walked out the jetty trail where there were lots of people fishing and you can see schools of hundreds of fish all along the way and a few crabs.

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At the end of the jetty is a closed area as seabirds congregate there. There was a beautiful white morph Great Blue Heron

along with a lot of Terns, Gulls, Cormorants and Pelicans.

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Walking back there was another Great Blue Heron, this one the usual color.

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They have a boat tour 4 days a week and also rent kayaks on the weekends. We are thinking of doing both.

We hear that the northeast is getting socked with big snowstorms and hope all are okay back home. We’re just fine down here where it’s warm.

Till next time.
N & D

Winter in Florida 2017

We left Greenfield on January 21st heading for Florida. As we don’t like to drive for long stints every day we took the opportunity to stop along the way and visit friends and family. Our first stop was outside of Philadelphia, in Bryn Mawr, to see friends we’ve had since we lived in Buffalo 43 years ago—Doreen and David. Although it was a bit chilly we still managed to take some lovely walks through the Bryn Mawr Campus and Haverford. Both of these universities have beautiful architecture with their old stone castle-like buildings. Nice relaxing visit with old friends.

We then moved on to Roanoke, VA thru some rather nasty snow and rain where we had dinner with our friend, Scott and his wife. We know Scott from paddling with the AMC. We went to a railroad themed restaurant that Scott picked out especially for Denny who is a train aficionado — fun.

The weather looked up a bit the next day as we arrived at Rudy and Audrey’s new house in South Carolina, just below Charlotte, NC. R & A are also old paddling friends who moved down to this area a number of years ago due to a change in jobs. We had stopped at their place a few years ago before they built their house so were treated to seeing their new construction which is very nice. We spent 2 nights there and visited Andrew Jackson State Park

andrew-jackson-sp

Audrey with us at the Park

and the Museum of Transportation which is quite extensive. It’s mostly outdoors walking from one train to another, some of which you could go through and learn interesting things about. There was a mail car that had a story to it. It seems they always tried to find the addressee and once got a letter written to “Mr. Hot Dog”. They thought about that one for a long time then finally realized it was to go to Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter! There were other cars where you could be the engineer and operate all the different levers as a video played  where you were. It was a lot of fun and was enhanced by the fact that it was 70 degrees and sunny.

Next day we headed to the coast, stopping just south of Savannah after visiting the Savannah NWR.

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Refuge and our first Anhinga

We stopped also at Altamaha WMA which is an area of former rice paddies that are good places to find birds.

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Tri-colored Heron

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White Ibis feeding

The weather was once again cooler and overcast so we moved down to Jekyll Island which was great. At the beginning there was a tower overlooking a marsh where we could see some shorebirds but the best birding was at Amphitheater Pond where we saw Roseate Spoonbills, Yellow and Black-crowned Night Herons, Wood Storks, Anhinga and the usual White and Glossy Ibis and Great and Snowy Egrets and Great and Little Blue Herons. There were some ducks and Grebes as well. The last thing we did on the island was visit the Sea Turtle Rescue Exhibit. We got to see them feed and talk about 23 saved turtles that were in their hospital area awaiting recovery enough to be released back into the ocean. They also were raising very young turtles until they were old enough to manage on their own and be released. I think she said they keep them for about 3 years.

Spent the night in Kingsland, GA not far from the Okefenokee Swamp where we spent the next day and night. Our friend Janice from out bird club had a connection with a woman, Sheila, there who knew the area and gave us all kinds of information about where to find birds. We were looking in particular for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker which is endangered and a lifer for us. Unfortunately it was another cold and overcast day so we didn’t find much in the way of birds. Had a nice tour of an old Homestead that a family had spent about 100 years living in and doing subsistence farming, mainly making turpentine but also having livestock and fruit trees and vegetables. It certainly was a hard life. We met Sheila for dinner and exchanged birding stories. She encouraged us to try again for the Red-cockaded by starting at dawn which we did.

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Red-cockaded Woodpecker

At first we couldn’t see much as it was still kind of dark but once the light got better we found some—anywhere from 4 to 7 as they were hopping around we weren’t sure whether we were recounting the same ones. It was sunnier that day so we decided to drive the Swamp drive

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Cypress knees, Spanish Moss, Mushrooms and Pitcher Plant along drive

and walk the boardwalk once more. It was a good decision as it was a lot birdier than the day before.

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View of prairie from the tower

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Pileated Woodpecker

Then we moved on to just below Jacksonville where we visited Amelia Island and Big Talbot SP. Big Talbot had lots of birds and a great boardwalk where one could see hundreds of little shore birds mermerating across the mud flats. Of course as soon as we went to get the camera they all flew away. We did get a few big ones that didn’t fly.

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Little Blue Heron

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Snowy Egret

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Red-shouldered Hawk at the picnic area

We spent the night at Ormond Beach next to Daytona.

Our final stop on our way to our destination of Homestead,FL was in Orlando where our cousins Tab and Gail had just moved from Chicago. We decided it was warm enough finally to camp so we found this county park just south of the city call Moss Park. This was a large park with lakes and ponds all around and large wooded sites.

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Cardinal who kept pecking at our mirror thinking it was another Cardinal

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Sandhill Cranes

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Great Egret

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Pine Warbler under our picnic table

We have our pop-up camper which fortunately has a furnace as it got rather cold at night. Gail had made us a lovely supper that first evening and we had a nice visit. They seem to love living in the heart of Orlando and Tab was filled with info about its history. The next morning we walked around the campground until after lunch then went to the Henry P. Leu Botanical Gardens. That was really beautiful with acres of gardens ranging from tropical to rose gardens to color gardens, etc.

Green Heron and Turtles at the Lake area

They had a special dinosaur exhibit with different dinosaur sculptures amongst the plantings.

 

After that we all went to a wonderful Spanish restaurant for dinner.

On Feb.1st we arrived at the Boardwalk RV Resort in Homestead where we will be for the month.
Enough for now.

Peace,
Nancy & Denny

Happy New Year

If you can forget the politics it was a great year with lots of travel to Arizona, Cape May, Maine with Tessa and Leila, and South Africa.  We finished it up with six days in NYC with our 16 year old granddaughter Tessa.  Since she lives in Olympia, WA she hadn’t had a chance to go there before, so we gave her the grand tour.  We visited museums,

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Tessa and Denny at the Museum of Natural History

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Sculpture room at the Metropolitan

walked through Central Park, through Strawberry Fields,

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saw the Dakota,

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Tessa and Alice

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Fountain in the park

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Hansom cab

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libraries,

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(ceiling of the main reading room)

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lots of fun windows with their holiday decorations,

went to see some of the big hotels, saw Times Square,

 

the Empire State Building,

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Rockefeller Center, (big light show across the street on Saks),

Wall Street,

Ground Zero,

the United Nations,

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saw a great play, Shear Madness, which was really funny,  and rode the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty.

view from the ferry

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Phew!  Not bad for 4 days (2 of our days were for travel).  We took subways to start the day but mostly walked and by late afternoon we were ready to head back to the apartment we were staying at.   It was a wonderful way to finish 2016.

Wishing all of you a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Oct. 25 & 26

We were up before sunrise to get to the Karoo for sunrise and our last full day of birding.  Karoo is low desert scrub.

succulents

karoo

aardvark-hole

Aardvark hole

We were looking mostly for LBJs and endemics.  We found 10 new species in the 1st 3 hours.  Pao describes these birds as “special, not beautiful”.  He only likes to take pictures of the beautiful ones, but that didn’t stop him from taking his camera out and setting it up on the tripod at all our frequent stops.

We had a pitstop at a very funky store/restaurant in the middle of nowhere.  They had lots of skulls and horns and other strange decor.  A Familiar Chat had a nest in a dead tractor.

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funky-store

It was very dry out with no sign of Bustards or Coursers which we were also looking for.  We did get some beautiful distant views of a few Pale Chanting Goshawks.  We finally found 3 Karoo Korhaans but we came back through a pass where we looked high and low for Protea Canary and didn’t find it.

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I think these are called ice plants.

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Coming through the pass

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View through the pass

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Our wonderful guide Greg

lake

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This is looking down at the greater Ceres area.  There are many apple and pear and other fruit orchards here.  In fact the apple juice box we had at breakfast was from here.

Oct.26

We left Ceres this morning at 10:00 am (4:00 am at home) and headed toward the Cape Town airport but we had to make one more stop.  This time we found that Protea Canary. He’s kind of drab but that was one more bird for our list.  I think the group got something like 460 species of birds.  We didn’t see all of these but probably only missed 10 or less.  We haven’t done our totals yet.  We also saw 45 mammals and 15 reptiles.  I’d say we did very well.  It was a fabulous trip even if it was exhausting.  We arrived home the next day at about 3:00 pm safe and sound.

 

 

 

Oct. 24

We left the Whale View this morning and our first stop was Table Bay Nature Reserve.  There were lots of White Pelicans, Greater Flamingos, waders and ducks.  We saw our 1st African Marsh Harrier.  We are in what is called Fynbos environment which supports tough, flexible plants and many beautiful flowers including over 60 varieties of Protea.  We saw geraniums and nasturtiums growing wild.

From there we went to West Coast National Park.

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Angulated Tortoise.  We saw at least 7 of these there.

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We had lunch here next to Weavers building more nests

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Cape Weaver

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Swallow

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Pao and his camera

walk-to-hide

Walk to hide where we saw lots of shore birds, including Greater and Lesser Flamingos.

more-flowers

Some of the flowers in the Fynbos environment.

We saw quite a few Ostriches here.  Male Ostriches will mate with up to 5 females who will all lay their eggs in the same nest and look after them together.

We drove on to Ceres where we would stay for 2 nights going through wheat fields and vineyards and views of the Seeterburg Mountains.

road-to-ceres

so-black-korhaan

Southern Black Korhaan

fynbos

Fynbos

ceres-view

View of the mountains

 

 

Oct. 23

Woke up today feeling much better.  We are at the Whale View Inn overlooking False Bay in Simon’s Town.

whale-view-inn

our room

view-from-whale-view

simons-town-view

views from our balcony

After a lovely breakfast at the Inn we drove along beautiful beaches around False Bay to Stony Point.

false-bay-c

False Bay

stony-pt-view

Stony Point is all the way around to the end of the mountains.

another-view

A closer view

Some of the beaches we passed had nesting Kelp Gulls on the dunes and fishermen on the beaches.

fishermen-on-beach

Fishermen on the beach

There were million dollar mansions along the cliffs and views of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean.

Our first stop was at Betty’s Bay.

bettys-baai-sign

penguins-sign

You might see this sign and think you might get to see a penguin or two but this is what we saw.

 

bettys-bay

Betty’s Bay

our-first-look

Our first look at Penguins.

resting-penguin

Taking a rest

standing-penguin

Standing Penguin

the-boardwalk

 

The Penguins were all along the rocks.  A boardwalk ran right next the the rocks so we were very close to them.  There were 2,500 nesting pairs counted last year.  Probably similar number now.  Pretty awesome!

We found some other new birds at Stony Point–Victorine Warbler and Cape Sugarbird, both endemics and rare. (Since we don’t have the better camera anymore pictures of small birds are impossible but I’ll keep giving you links to google images so you know what I’m talking about.)  We did manage a picture of this caterpillar

caterpillar

From there we went to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens which had many of the up to 63 different species of Protea flowers.

1-of-many

another-protea

protea

hillside-of-protea

This entire hillside was covered in Protea.  It also was where we found quite a few Orange-breasted Sunbirds.   We also found some other endemics such as Cape Siskin, Rock Martin and Swee’s Waxbill.

We had lunch at the garden.  I had this beautiful salad.

hp-salad

And here is a picture of Pao drinking a milkshake.

pao-and-his-milkshake

Pao, being from Taiwan, had never had a milkshake before coming to So. Africa.  From the very beginning Greg would order one for him as he seemed to enjoy it so much.  It was like a running gag that wherever we went we’d order him one, sometimes different flavors, but he really liked chocolate the best.  One restaurant had a special double fudge hot milkshake that consisted of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and hot chocolate milk which you poured over the ice cream when you got it.  He loved that one.

Some more pictures from the gardens:

hp-flowers

harold-porter

We moved on to Rooi Els to walk along a dirt road with steep hills on the side.

our-path

img_0192

rooi-els

All these rocks are perfect habitat for the Cape Rockjumper,  the other species we were looking for.  These birds work their way up the hillside and then back down all day long.  We were lucky to find a pair working its way down to the road where we were and got some great looks at them.

We also found a few other things

r-e-flora

Flowers and Aloe

agama

Southern Rock Agama

re-chameleon

Cape Dwarf Chameleon

And this view looking down to the beach

view-looking-down

This day was a welcome improvement on the day before.