Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Myakka River State Park and a Great Family Visit

Last Sunday, March 18, we started a 5-day reservation in another Florida state park - Myakka River, near Sarasota.  Each park has some familiar trees, plants, and birds, that we have seen in other Florida parks, while also offering unique natural sights for campers and day-users.  At Myakka River, there is a wonderful birding program with very knowledgeable volunteers staffing the birding platform with scopes and guidebooks and much information to share.  During our first visit to the bird platform, we met a couple of birding experts who happened to be from Blue Hill, Maine and are mutual friends with our book editor and his wife.  What a wonderful small world!  Here are some of the birds from Myakka River...

Roseate Spoonbills - always a favorite

Another special treat - A  flock of White Pelicans

Some on the wing -
eventually they will return to breeding grounds
in North Dakota
Flotilla of Pelicans possibly "herding" fish

We wanted to capture this photo that shows the work of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  It was explained to us that the holes that the bird drilled will eventually fill with sap and insects. The Sapsucker then comes back for the feast.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Black Vultures with a big "friend"

As you know, we love to hike and walk and see the natural world.  In this park, we took a walk along streams, climbed up 75 feet and looked over the tree tops from the Canopy Walk, and hiked on the Myakka Nature Trail and saw the recovery of the Sawgrass Palmetto after one of the controlled burns.

Trail goes all along the stream on left

Canopy Walkway from Top

Canopy Walkway from Bottom

Trail through the Live Oaks

All the duff that might add to a forest fire is gone.

Positive results of controlled burn - Palmettos growing

After our camping time in Myakka River State Park, we went to visit
Latona's oldest stepdaughter and her family in North Port and had our annual family reconnection with Debbie, Linden, Bub, Janet, Ozzie and Haley. On Sunday, Ozzie and family took us on their boat and snapped this shot capturing the spirit of the whole visit.  We love them and enjoy our time together.  In fact, although we left them a few days ago, we are still missing them.  Love to each one!

Today, it is back to my mother's for a visit, and by next week, we will be heading north.  Right now the plan is to head to the Atlantic Coast and use Route 17 to travel from Florida to the Chesapeake Bay along the coastline.  We have had a wonderful trip so far, and now we are "looking" due north as we anticipate being home and seeing all those we left behind.  Love and hugs, L&L

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Along the Great Florida Birding Trail...

To start off...

Cloe sent me this picture of all four of us on the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades.  Just a note to let you know that she is the author of a great resource book for hikers called "Fifty Hikes in Northern Maine". We are very proud of our friend!

Another resource that we have been using is the guide to the Florida Great Birding Trail, provided free at the Visitor Center at the state borders.  So, this past week we were camping in the Collier-Seminole State Park, south of Naples on the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida (west coast), and using the birding guide to plan our daily adventures.  One place we visited was the Rookery Bay Estuary Research Center.  In the courtyard of the Visitor Center, we found some alligator statues and Latona couldn't resist acting out.

                  In addition to visiting the amazing Educational Center, we hiked the local trails.

Walking through the Slash Pines on the Snail Trail, we could see results of Planned Burns - used in Florida to control devastating results from the very common lightning strikes.

We also saw Resurrection Fern on bark of tree before rain.

and Resurrection Fern after the rain!  This fern actually can be so dry it looks dead.

Bloom of the Coral Bean.

We also took a second visit to the Corkscrew Swamp and another hike on the wonderful boardwalk through the Bald Cypress.  We learned from the information posted along the boardwalk that Cypress trees are the oldest living things on earth, and that the largest stand of virgin trees in North America was right here in the Sanctuary.

                                                          Some of the smaller trees and the Cypress knees.

Throughout the Sanctuary, we saw dew on the Alligator Flag.

and the Leather Fern...

Pink Lichen on the Cypress...

and a "baby" Cottonmouth taking a nap.

A final stop I want to share with you is Tigertail Beach, Marco Island.  This is a very popular beach both for humans and birds.    The beach is popular for shelling as well as nesting.  Many spots on the beach are closed off as "Critical Nesting Areas" for Plovers and other shore birds.

When we approached the area, we saw a lagoon and a "path" across the water to get to the beach on the Gulf.

After we make the journey across the lagoon, we arrive on the beach and start the search for the "peeps".

Success!  Wilson's Plover
Black-bellied Plover


Piping Plover

Willets and Dowitchers

Wilson's Plover

All in all we saw Snowy, Piping, Wilson's and the Semi-palmated Plovers.  There also were large populations of Egrets, Willets, Dowitchers, Dunlins and Herons.

In my mind, these last photos are some of the most beautiful that Latona has taken.  She did a study of the Little Blue Heron we found on Tigertail Beach.  Here are only a few of the shots.  The little crab is trying to get away but to no avail. The heron was very successful and had a great lunch while we watched.

One final treat happened as we left the beach area.  We had seen that the Burrowing Owl nests in the area.  After talking to one of the rangers, we learned where to look, and we found several nesting holes and got a good look at these adorable little owls.

Now it is time to sign-off before I lose this post (almost did that a few minutes ago)!  As we look back on the visits of the past week, we also share that it was a week of celebration for us - the anniversary of the beginning of the hike on the Appalachian Trail and all our many journeys together!  It is also the week of the birthdays of two grandchildren - both Lyla and Simon.  We wish them the happiest of celebrations and we look forward to seeing them soon.  Our planned date to return home is May 1.
Happy trails and be well!  Love and hugs, Us

Sunday, March 11, 2012

So Much To Share...

My last entry was right before Carrie, Sari and Lyla left us to return home, and the day before we left the Keys to start our travels through the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress Nature Preserve, eventually arriving on the Gulf Coast and exploring from some of the state parks.

Lyla and Sari at a water playground at the Dolphin research Center in Marathon Florida.

Another treat during this past ten days was a visit with our friend Janet and Larry.  Since we couldn't get the automatic shutter to work we have two individual shots.  Anyway, they had rented a condo on Little Gasparilla Island, north of Fort Myers and invitied us to join them for several days.  We had some wonderful food and walks on the beach while we caught up...

Jan and Latona could be clones, and surely are "spiritual" sisters.  

We camped in Lone Pine Key, on the west side of the park and had a wonderful visit with our friend Cloe and her husband David who had just completed a nine-day canoe trip trough the Everglades.  The timing was excellent for all of us yo be together after many year, but it was just like "old times".  One of the things we did together was to visit the Anhinga Trail.  We counted many nests with the big furry looking babies, and Latona also got a great picture showing the green eye of the mature bird.

Purple Gallinule walking on the Lily Pads looking for lunch.

On a driving adventure to Flamingo Campground on the Florida Bay, we saw sixteen Spoonbills in  the Mrazek Pond along the road.  The pond also had Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, a Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shovelers and a Black-necked Stilt.  We took a side venture into the Mahogany Hammock where we saw a Wood Stork nesting area.

In the Big Cypress Reserve, we saw Swamp Lilies (above), and many Great Egrets (below),

As well as the early blooms of Bromeliads.

On another walk in Big Cypress Bend, we had a first time experience - a mother gator with six-month old babies (age guessed by naturalist in area).

 Even though they are "cute" we didn't attempt any petting.

 The final spot to mention, and to show some of our special sightings is the Corkscrew Swamp Audubon Center.

Part of the boardwalk


May be Florida Banded Snake or Water Snake

Turtles everywhere!

A Strangler Fig tree with a face and a hand!!

Barred Owl

Painted Bunting (we saw three)
And a Life Bird (first time to ever see one) for me - the Blue-winged Warbler.

We want to say a special thank you to our friends who have included us in their travel plans, and to Carrie for bringing the girls to see their Grammy and Meme.  My special footnote of gratitude today is also to all the volunteers who make national and state parks, and other natural areas more accessible.  Their dedication as guides and workers makes the experience so much richer.  My hat of appreciation is off to "Mike" the volunteer at Corkscrew who also loves warblers and walked with me until we were gifted with the sighting of the Blue-winged Warbler.  We miss you and only wish we could share every blessed moment with you.

PS.  Tomorrow is a special anniversary for us...the day we started our hike on the Appalachian Trail.  Special shout-out to the class of thru-hikers, Class of 91!!