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

6 n & ed

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.

11 camp n water

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.

18 wood duck

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

24 wood stork

Wood Stork

21 flamingo

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:

1 gbh

Great Blue Heron

2 ten thou

Another Friendly Gator

3 tri-colored

Tri-colored Heron

4 baby gator

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.

12 corkscrew rsha

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.

27 anhinga

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

27a yc nite

Yellow crowned Night Heron

30 lotsa birds

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.

31 painted

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.

32 wild turkey

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.


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.



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.