Saturday, January 28, 2012

Birds of a Feather...You know the rest!

This week has been one of the busiest since we have been here at Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge Campground. In addition to our regular schedule, we had a feast with friends sharing fresh fish (Grunts and Amberjack), taken sailing by another camper friend from Pennsylvania, and enjoyed several programs here at the Rec Center.  I'm including a few bird pictures that are always part of the story.

Great White Heron

Key West Fowl

You can find information about these birds on Wikipedia, and read about the great debate about what to do with these feral fowl.  Apparently, they arrived from Cuba along time ago with refugees and currently are the center of a local debate about what to do about their increasing numbers.  They are a beautiful bird.

Two Brown Pelican visited above the fish cleaning shack near our site.

Jim and Sweet Pea

After the sail

Our friend Jim, and wife Jo, took us sailing on a beautiful day here in the Keys.  His boat, named the Sweet Pea,  moved so easily through the water giving us a peaceful experience.  It was my first time sailing and I was amazed at the feel of the boat in the ocean and the quiet way she navigated.  Captain Jim made us feel welcome and confident.

A TRIP TO AFRICA: The Rec Center is the site of most community-wide activities.  This week we had a presentation of slides by our friends Stan and Alida who spent three months in southern Africa this past year.  As one person said it was like watching a National Geographic Special.

THE BIG 'O' PARTY: We also enjoyed another program this week titled the Big "O" party.  This was the first time we joined in, and I am so glad I didn't miss this celebration.  Joan, the owner of the BPKFL wrote a skit that included roles for all the people who will go from one decade to another this year.  There are thirty people here that fit the category including one who turns 40, many 60, and 70, and impressively, four that turn 80 and two that turn 90.  The program also included music and a presentation of cards and a bottle of champagne to each celebrant.  It was a unique and wonderful time as people were celebrated as they progressed through the stages of aging,  many of whom have shared these decades together.  

Finally, a glimpse of Latona and I at Senior Exercises.  We have enjoyed having a certified senior trainer here for four weeks and we try never to miss this occasion.  Our leader's name is Leon and he always calls us his "athletes".  As you can see it is fun as well as a good work out.

We are grateful to be in this wonderful community of people who try to celebrate the good things in the world around them, as well as each other.  We celebrate with them, with gratitude for all that we have been given.
Love, hugs and happy trails...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Grandparents At Play!

We could see the start of this Monday morning sunrise from the van. It was so spectacular that it meant Latona was out of bed before coffee.  

The Conch Republic flag flies over the beach at the campground and we wonder where they harvest all the Conch for the famous fritters of the area.  We have tried one and found it much like our clam fritter in Maine.

     Common questions we have been asked are "what do you do there?  do you just sit under the screen house and read all day?"  As a matter of fact, Latona said yesterday that she feels busier here than when she worked.  A typical day includes water aerobics at 9:30, and Senior Exercises at 1:00, and a walk on the Nature Trail.   Monday we also have Watercolor Playgroup (learn to paint), and Friday add Bird Watching to the schedule.  Days without planned activities are usually weekend days for laundry, emails, and sometimes a trip to Key West.

     This week's birding was especially exciting! Apparently, because the water level in the Mangrove Wetland in our campground is decreasing, the supply of minnows and small crustaceans has been concentrating in smaller areas and the birds have had a feast.  Indeed, so have the bird watchers, especially when the Roseate Spoonbill showed up.  Word spread throughout the campground and many came to see the spectacular sighting of birds.

Tri-colored Heron

A Roseate Spoonbill joined the crowd.

Another adventure of the week was our first trip to Key West for this season.  We love the sights and sounds and always visit Zachary Taylor State Park and Mallory Square.  My sister and brother-in-law gave us an important heads up about these spots when we came here for the first time.  Of course there are always other unique sights, like the model of Marilyn Monroe...

And souvenir versions of the famous buoy marking the southernmost tip of the continental USA

Always unique buildings and lovely flowers...

And wonderful reminders of our home in Maine that is not very far from the northern end of US 1.  It also reminds us of our friends and family there and in many other places.  We hope our love and care is reaching you through this blog.

PS. I am going crazy with formatting (still) but will close with these pictures and thoughts.  Thanks to those reading our blog and don't hesitate to add any comment, correction or addition to what we have shared.  It's all good!!  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Week One on Big Pine Key

"Settling in" means setting up our campsite, getting reacquainted with friends from past winters, and starting to review names of birds, trees and plants that we have forgotten over the past year.  We also visit special places where we like to eat like "No Name Key Pub", and find local familiar landmarks like the Blue Hole.  We added a screen house to our camping gear and find it helpful both on chilly days or when the sun is quite intense.  Latona says "hi".

Big Pine Key is the site of the National Key Deer Refuge.  The deer that are found here are a sub-species of our whitetails, and in appearance, look like miniature versions of our deer in Maine, except for the fact that they don't grow any bigger than 26-30 inches at the shoulder. This Key and the immediate area is the only place they exist in the world - according to the literature.    Although quite "tame" here in the campground, most campers resist feeding them and spoiling their natural eating habits.  They always come and check however - just in case a morsel may be found.

The Blue Hole is one of the little side trips to enjoy here on Big Pine Key.  It is the remains of an old rock quarry and is the only natural source of fresh water on the Lower Keys.  From the observation deck, we have spotted alligators, turtles, Green Heron, Pied Grebes, American Coot, and a variety of fish.

Wonderful wildlife sightings are plentiful everywhere we go.  On another visit to Bahia Honda SP,  Latona took a picture of...

a Broad-Winged Hawk

             a Magnificent Frigatebird

and the Nickerbean Bush.  (Can't find another name for this is our guide but a ranger at park identified this for us. Gotta believe those rangers!!)

And in our screen house, we had a special visitor for a whole day. We had to find our resident "butterfly/moth" expert lady to identify this one, known as a Black Witch Moth, the largest moth in the continental US.  This one is a male (they are the darker of the two sexes) and registered almost six inches across the wings.

My mother gave Latona this "fun" pair of sandals and I will use this image to close out for today.  (We will try to add a new post weekly.  Please forgive any misspelling and grammatical errors.  I am still working on learning how to format and I know I have made errors.)

As always, whether in sandals or hiking boots, we wish you "Happy Trails".

Sunday, January 8, 2012


The morning before we left the community where Mom lives, Latona went off for a walk with her camera. She caught the Anhinga's mirror image , and seemed to capture the wind as it flared the Egret's feathers.

Finally, the moment of departure arrived...

Ginger the wild cat, watched thru the window as we packed up and prepared for the time when we would say goodbye.  I don't think she was sad to see us go, but Mom was trying not to cry as she "posed" for the goodbye wave.  Our five weeks together taught me a lot, and I/we had a chance to see my mother's grit and determination about her life and health.  I am grateful for Latona and her support as we assisted Mom and Chick during the recovery. 

                   We had hardly traveled a mile when we spotted a pair of Sandhill Cranes ...

We arrived on the Keys by late afternoon and decided to stop at a motel for an easy night.  The sweet spot was called Sands of Islemorada. The Boungainvillea was in rich display,
Before departing, I walked to see the beach and the Tiki huts, and noticed an Old Town kayak  beached right in front of me.  A nice touch of home!

As I continued looking, I saw an Osprey's head peering out of a nest on top of one of the huts and the partner delivering groceries to the "incubater". 

Off we went to our final destination, Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge where we reunited with friends  and started to set up our camp site that will be our home until March 1.  More of that on next entry.  But we wanted to settle in slowly, so we did the grocery shopping and headed to one of our favorite places here, Bahia Hondo State Park.  It is just the next spit of land going north from Big Pine Key, across Seven-Mile Bridge, and has fabulous beaches and bird life.  (We had purchased a Florida State Park Pass so it was our first chance to try it out.  It is an economical way to visit the parks since it can cost $8-9 per visit, and also supports the park system.)

The water was beautiful, and along a quiet tip of the Sandspur Beach, we spotted some Brown Pelicans and a few Ruddy Turnstone. 

                            We had made it to our "winter home". Sending love and hugs to all...