Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2/24 Birds, Birds, and More Birds

One of the things I really like about Florida and a reason I like coming here is the wide range of birds.  Florida is unique in the United States for its subtropical climate, which produces a lot of wildlife.  Check out this Wikipedia explanation: 

Mostly this winter, I have been farther north, in the "humid subtropical" area, which is  relatively high and dry, but last week I was in the "equatorial rainforest" area, and now, just a few miles west, I am in the "equatorial savannah" area.  This is on the edge of the Everglades.  In about 10 days, I will be heading into the deepest part of the Everglades. 

In Florida, you do not even have to get out of your car to be a bird watcher!  You can see wading birds such as herons, egrets, and ibis along the freeway and even in parking lots!  There are whole other populations and types you can see in a very short beach walk. 

I've been trying to learn the names of birds I see, and I am getting better at it, although I still mostly do my usual trick of taking a couple of photos, blowing them up on my laptop, and then looking them up in a bird book.  Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, I finally figured out how you can tell one big white bird from another.  Great White Herons and Great White Egrets apart--the herons have yellow legs, while the egrets have black or dark gray legs!  Yea!

Here are a couple of birds I photographed in my campground: the first is a limpkin and the second is a common moorhen:


Also, today, I went to one of my favorite places for finding birds:  Ding Darling Preserve on Sanibel Island.  Traffic on this crowded island can only be described as horrible this time of year. The preserve takes up at least half the island, so there is not much real estate left, and only one two-lane bridge into and out of the island, plus one two-lane road going in and out.  It literally took me an entire hour at 4:00 p.m. to drive the 4 miles to get from the preserve to the bridge to get off the island!

There is a very nice visitor center here and a four-mile one-way road through the preserve for cars, bikes, and walkers.

Sort of like a bear-jam out west, when you see cars stopped, you also stop to see what everyone is looking at.  I left my motorhome in the parking lot and rode my bike.  Got the ONLY remaining RV/bus parking spot, luckily. 

Here are some white pelicans on a sandbar in one of the large pond/bay areas.  They are twice the size of the brown pelicans and scoop up their fish meals without diving.

And a Great Blue Heron in breeding plumage.

This gorgeous guy is a yellow-crowned night heron!

One of the hardest things is to identify juvenile birds.  It took several of us on the trail with bird books to figure out that this was a juvenile yellow-crowned night heron.  A lot of bird books only show adult male birds.  It took looking at his body shape, beak and his yellowish legs to finally match him to a picture in a larger book that had photos of all stages and sexes of this bird species.  This baby was very patient while we did this and held still for a lot of photos.

This is a little blue heron.  He is quite dark and about half the size of the great blue heron.

On the way out of the drive through Ding Darling, I stopped at a display of information on the shell middens that was near here, accessible via a boardwalk.  Shell middens are built up over hundreds and thousands of years of people eating shell fish and tossing the shells down.  Many native tribes in this area used the slightly higher shell midden hills on which to build their homes, so this area has lot of artifacts. 

Unfortunately, nearly all the shell middens in Florida from ancient peoples were mined for road "gravel" or bull-dozed for housing developments.

And this was the base of one of the middens showing how it is made of shells. 

 I rode my bike to the nearby beach, which was not particularly spectacular, but on the way found some workers cutting down and hauling out these logs.  Could not believe how red they are in the middle.  I asked and was told these are Norwegian Pine and I was welcome to help myself.  Obviously could not do that on my bike!!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

2/22 W.P. Frankin Locks and Dam

I am back along the Caloosahatchee River, but this time farther west and closer to Ft. Myers.  This time the campground is on the north side of the canal.  The river is much wider here, hence a wider dam.  The advantage of this campground is that it is on a long island instead of on the bank of the river, so every site is on the water. 

Here is how it looks on Google Maps:

Some views from my campsite and the walkway to the dam. 

These are campsites for boaters, but apparently the docks are falling apart, so they are closed.

Telephoto view of my campsite from the fishing pier near the dam.

Some boats ready to go through the locks.

And some anhingas on the buoys keeping boats from going over the dam.

Monday, February 16, 2015

2/16 River Trip to Trapper Nelson Cabin

This is my last full day here at Jonathan Dickenson State Park, so I decided to take a river trip.  I have taken it before, but it was a pretty nice day, so worth doing it again.  It's about an hour-and-a-half long, with a half hour of that being a stop at an old homestead owned by Trapper Nelson. Here comes the boat!

I knew I would see wildlife along the way, and here are a couple of osprey parents on their nest.

And, although it is hard to see, here is a manatee! 

And a baby alligator.

And another manatee, but this one was easier to see because the sunlight was right.

Pretty river just before Trapper Nelson's cabin!

Trapper Nelson was a man born in 1908 who was out of work during the Depression, so bummed around the country looking for work.  He ended up here in Jupiter and spent two years there before deciding he did not like city life.  (Not that Jupiter was much of a city back in the 30s.)  Anyway, he bought a large piece of swamp land along the Loxahatchee River and packed out to it by boat. 

This sign explains some things about Trapper Nelson. 

He lived in this "chickee" until he got tired of the bugs and built a cabin.

 And here is his bed, or at least what is left of it.  Apparently, he was married, but his wife left him after two years of living out here.  Wonder why?

He kept a log of the hurricanes he survived on this corner of his original cabin.

Actually, the only real difference between this older cabin and his more "modern" one, is size, but he did apparently rent it out to tourists occasionally.
No pictures on the way back and no animals either, as the clouds had moved in and it was getting colder, so I just enjoyed the ride. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2/15 Jupiter Inlet County Park

It was a sunny day with a cool breeze, so a perfect day for a bike ride, especially since I had spent most of yesterday getting some work done but mostly lazing around.  I knew also that I had only two more days this campground before heading south a bit to the next one. 

So, off I went.  Probably not the best day to ride a bike because it is the height of the tourist season and a Sunday, so traffic was heavy.  One nice addition to this state park over the past two years since I have been here is a good sidewalk and bike trail all the way into Jupiter, about four miles.  Even in town, I stuck mostly to sidewalks because of the heavy Sunday afternoon traffic.  Park is about 6.5 miles away, but not a bad trip on my electric bike. 

The park was packed, but the nice thing about a bike is that there is always room!

There were a lot of people fishing, boating, surfing, and even swimming.  I took a walk on the small pier. 

The pelicans were hanging around waiting for the people fishing to give them a leftover fish.  This is an adult.

These two characters are juveniles, as you can tell by their mostly brown coloring with no white on their heads.  Since they stuck so closely together, I assume they were siblings. 

They did get a free fish, and after a small squabble, one got the prize and was able to put it in his pouch, which looks kind of stuck.  Pelicans, by the way, need to swallow their fish head first so the spines do not open on the way down and damage their throats.

Yup, almost down. 
A bit more on its way.  It still looks uncomfortable.  
Feels MUCH better. 

By this time, the second bird also had had a fish given to him and had had a much easier time swallowing it.  Actually, it is not entirely safe to give leftover fish to pelicans because of the possibility of their swallowing them the wrong way. 

And here they both are after their meal.  Note that both had been banded. 

A couple of boats on their way out.  Actually, it was a very windy day and the ocean was rough with waves 5-6' high, especially at the mouth of the inlet.  We saw several boats head out and then turn around and head back in, which is exactly what I would have done.  These two both made it out.

It was nice to stop at the grocery store on my way home and pick up a couple of needed things.  I am really stuffed with groceries right now, but always seem to be out of some small things.  Got to stop and start eating what I have!