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.


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.


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


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.


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).


Dinner time for baby Anhingas

There are also shorebirds


Double-crested Cormorant

and turtles


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 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.


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.


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


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


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.



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.


Tri-colored Heron


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.


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





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.


View of prairie from the tower


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.


Little Blue Heron


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


Sandhill Cranes


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.

Nancy & Denny