Spoonies and a Frog

After our wonderful trip to Seattle, we arrived back home in Florida to hot and muggy weather. I saw 12 roseate spoonbills in our local pond one day after our arrival and I was in a hurry and asked Regis if he would get some pictures. He was willing. Yeah! I have not seen this many spoonies in the local ponds in the 2 1/2 years that we have been here. They did not stay long. Most of the birds were adults but there was at least one juvenile. There were no banded birds.

Roseate spoonbills.

I loved this picture of a great egret in the middle of the spoonies.

Great egret.

Regis also got a nice picture of a wood stork. They have been arriving in increasing numbers lately.

Wood stork.

The little frogs have been showing up more often and I tried to get a picture of one of the tree frogs on our lanai this morning. The little guy was very patient while I worked through camera settings with the flash and the frog finally said “I’ve had enough” and started to walk away. I took one last picture of the frog’s departure and left it alone.

Tree frog.
Tree frog.

While I was in Seattle recently, I walked long distances on non-flat terrain and had no issues. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store to get a flu shot and pick up some stuff and when I got out to the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, the battery was dead. I knew Regis was in the Tesla at that time and texted and called and he did not respond. I needed a jump start and had no cables and the local Racetrak had only food. We use our phones to activate the Tesla, so I did not understand why Regis was not responding. I grabbed my groceries and headed home on the 4 mile walk in the excruciating heat and humidity. After being in Washington state, it was a cruel mess.

Eventually, Regis drove by and wondered what the heck I was doing walking home. He had already packed the car to take his mom back to Pittsburgh and she was in the car with him. There was no room for me. I told Regis the Jeep was dead and waited for him to go home and drop his mom off and come back. The total walk I did in the heat and humidity on flat elevation was only 2 miles, but I would trade it any day for 4 miles in Seattle with varying elevation. It turns out that Regis still had his phone in airplane mode because of our recent trip.

I got a new battery for the Jeep today and I hope all will be well moving forward.

Being a Seattle Tourist

Seattle Aquarium

Today I took advantage of staying in Seattle and did local tourist stuff. I got a ticket to the Seattle Aquarium for when they opened and I was the first in line. They now have timed tickets. The last time I was at the aquarium it was so crowded I had a hard time seeing the exhibits. Today I got to see everything. I spent time with the giant octopus. He stayed splayed against the side of the tank, so I did not get to see him in motion. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to see how flat he could make himself against the side of the tank. With the reflections on the tanks, most of the pictures did not come out well. I include a few below from some of the other exhibits that I took with a cell phone.

After visiting the museum, I walked to the Seattle Center which includes the space needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass among other options. I visited the glass exhibits in the Chihuly Garden and Glass and was mesmerized by the beauty of the glass pieces. I worked it to get some decent photos and a few favorites are below.

I then went up in the space needle. The views were beautiful and I include one from the elevator ride up.

I was hoping to take the monorail back to the Westlake light rail station to head back to where we are staying in Columbia City. The light rail was under repair, so I had to walk. By the time I got back home, I had walked over 16,500 steps.

I have been watching the squirrels gathering nuts where we are staying and tried to get some pictures yesterday. If I am in the yard, they are wary and stay hidden in the trees. To get a picture of them in their regular routine, I had to photograph from the window.

Port Townsend

Deer in downtown Port Townsend.

Last Monday, Regis and I had a 6:40 a.m. flight out of Jacksonville to Denver and then on to Seattle. The flight was delayed until 2:34 p.m. The airline gave us $20 in food vouchers and we took advantage of it to get a late breakfast. Southwest Airlines ultimately gave us $600 in travel vouchers for future flights, so it lessened the pain of the delay. They were delightful and efficient in handling the situation. I got pretty good at Sudoku by the end of the day.

We stayed overnight with our son, his partner, and their 14 year old Bedlington Terrier in Seattle and then headed to Port Townsend for a couple nights. The weather was beautiful for a ferry crossing on Puget Sound.

Seattle from the ferry.

We stayed at the Waterstreet Hotel which is old and has no air conditioning or elevator. Lugging the camera gear and our suitcase to our third floor room was exhausting. The air was cool at night, so we had no trouble sleeping with the windows open. The seagulls began their raucous calls every morning before sunrise which woke us up in time to head out for sunrise pictures.

On the first morning, we got lovely views of of the colorful clouds over the Olympic Mountains.

Sunrise at Port Townsend with the Olympic Mountains in the background.

A family of river otters delighted me by briefly hanging out at the nearby pier and making eye contact with me. They were successfully catching small fish for breakfast.

Curious river otter.

We spent the rest of the day on the Glacier Spirit from Puget Sound Express searching for wildlife on the way to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and back. We saw resident orcas on the way to Friday Harbor and transient orcas on the return trip. The captain of the boat said it was the first time she saw transients and residents in the same day in two years. We had the best view in town while lunching at Downriggers. The weather, view, and food could not have been more perfect. September in Washington state can not be beat.

View from our table at Downrigger’s restaurant in Friday Harbor.

A favorite sighting on the way back was a Pacific Lion’s Mane jellyfish.

Pacific Lion’s Mane jellyfish (Cyanea ferruginea).

After the seagulls woke us up on our final morning, it took me a long time to get myself out of the hotel room to catch the sunrise. I had trouble getting my contacts in and I find them to work better for me than glasses when wearing a mask and using the camera or binoculars. My glasses fog up easily, so it was worth the struggle to get the contacts in. I was bummed that we probably missed the sun coming up but we came outside to a foggy morning so we did not miss anything. After taking some pictures in the fog, we headed to a coffee place and encountered several deer along the way.

Deer in downtown Port Townsend.

Hummingbirds and Bats

I recently had an opportunity to attend a hummingbird photography workshop in Arizona with Langell Photography. It was an amazing experience where I got the opportunity to photograph hummingbirds and bats. The humidity was much lower than my residence in Florida, so I kept the windows open in my room and enjoyed the fresh air.

Following are a few pictures of the hummingbirds.

Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris).
This is a broad-billed hummingbird with pollen on its head and bill. The flowers were in bloom as a result of recent rains and the hummingbirds were taking advantage of it.
A high key image of a rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus).
A low-key image of a broad-billed hummingbird.
A Rivoli’s hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) also called a magnificent hummingbird.

And some bat pictures.

While I was there, I took the opportunity to pick up birds for my life list. The Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon had bird feeders set out which resulted in a great opportunity to easily see birds. I enjoyed the acorn woodpeckers feeding from the hummingbird feeders.

Acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus).

On the last day, I headed back to Tuscon to spend the night in a hotel next to the airport. Before heading to the hotel, I stopped at Saguaro National Park. It was very hot and I did not see much wildlife stirring, but I got a chance to use my super wide-angle lens to get some landscape pictures. In the following image you can see some cumulus clouds in the background beginning to form. The clouds got bigger and were spectacular later in the day. I missed the opportunity to get a good late evening picture.

On my flight back home, we hit some cumulous clouds as we arrived in Jacksonville. It was the worst turbulence I remember experiencing in my many flights. It was not fun and I was glad not to be the pilot. The woman in the seat in front of me prayed out loud and said “Jesus” in about every other word. I think it was the first time that I trembled on a flight. Although I was mostly sure everything would be okay, there was a small part of me that was petrified. Once we landed and got to the jetway, I got the following picture of the sky and the clouds we just flew through.

Clouds and sun over Jacksonville airport.

Roseate Spoonbills in Cedar Key

Roseate spoonbills bathing in Cedar Key, Florida.

We left for Cedar Key on Saturday afternoon for a short, two-night stay in a house on the water. Not surprising, but tropical storm depression Fred decided to arrive while we were there.

Being on the water, we were able to sit on the dock and watch the wildlife activity. It would have been heaven, if not for the no see ums which are biting midges. They were horrific. We sprayed ourselves with a natural spray which slightly helped. They are small enough to easily fit through screens, so sitting on the screened deck was not any better. They also made their way into the house, so I was smacking myself all evening.

We were particularly interested in photographing roseate spoonbills and had ample opportunity to do so. Several times, they came by the dock at the house and Regis got the following video of them feeding.

We planned to kayak Sunday morning but decided it was too windy. It was on the edge of being okay, but the last time it was on the edge of being okay, I had to be rescued. We wisely chose to check out the town instead. Later in the day at low tide, we drove around and found some roseate spoonbills preening and bathing in the water. It was a delight to watch them. When Regis spotted them and did a U-turn to get photos, the car behind us followed and the occupants jumped out and got photos also. While photographing, another car stopped to join us. Spoonies are beautiful birds with their lovely pink feathers and it was a joy to watch them flapping their wings and enjoying bathing in the water.

Roseate spoonbill bathing.

On Saturday night we dined at the Island Hotel Restaurant and loved the food so much we returned Sunday evening. While in the restaurant waiting for our food, all the customer’s phones received alerts at the same time. It was warning of a storm surge due to Fred. We had another amazing dinner and I highly recommend the crab bisque. Coming from Maryland, I know of several restaurants that serve outstanding cream of crab soup. Since coming to Florida, I have been deprived of that outstanding specialty. The crab bisque at the Island Hotel Restaurant was what I have been waiting for. If I could have purchased a bucket of it to bring home, I would have.

When we got back after dinner, I attempted to capture images of the amazing sunset on Sunday evening, but I had to keep going in the house because the no see ums were killing me. I also had to maneuver around a spider web so as not to disturb the occupant who spent so much time creating its elaborate web. I saw lots of bats that I was happy to see. I suspect no see ums are too small for them, but who knows.

Sunset at Cedar Key with tropical depression Fred in the distance.

On Monday morning, the surge was upon us. It was not too bad but we could see the water was higher than any time we have seen on our several visits to Cedar Key. We drove around to take a look. We were also disappointed that the only coffee shop failed to open. While in our motorhome, we can supply ourselves with our required latte and cappuccino every morning. Being out of our usual element, we needed to be supplied by a local establishment. We were bummed to start our day without our fix.

When we made reservations, we hoped to kayak regularly, but the weather made that a bad option. Once again, we loaded kayaks for a trip and did not get to use them. Oh well. We came up with an alternate plan to leave early and visit Sweetwater Wetlands in Gainesville on the way home. While there, we got lots of great wildlife viewing and saw some alligator nests. One of them had its resident momma alligator hanging around for us to see. Regis lugged his large lens and tripod around the long walk and was ready to get an electric scooter for future visits of this kind. I carried my “carriable” long lens while he lugged his behemoth and he got the better pictures.

Whistling ducks.
Snowy egret with a fish.
Green heron waiting patiently for some food to show up.

We saw a momma deer and her two fawns and were saddened to see they had something wrong. There were growths (or something else) on their ears and sometimes face. It was sad to see. One little fawn was in worse shape than the other.

Fawns with growths on their ears and one has some growths near its right eye.
Momma with terrible growths on the back of her ears.

Food Poisoning

Great-horned owl behind our house.

It’s been a rough week. Last Wednesday I became ill and had a fever of 101 by Thursday. I wear a mask in enclosed spaces but was, of course, worried I got COVID. I got tested Thursday and it came back negative. Whew for all the people I had been around. When not better by Friday, I did a telemedicine chat with my doctor, and it was determined I have food poisoning. Lesson learned: Wash your fresh produce before eating it. I have not been this sick in decades. I am not fully recovered yet and it has been six days.

In the meantime, my healthy husband got some pics. We had a great horned owl show up behind our house and the wading birds have been congregating in the marsh behind the house. We also know a place where some of them congregate in the mornings and evenings at a nearby hospital.

Little blue heron in the marsh behind our house.
Roseate spoonbills at Flagler Hospital.

Blue Land Crab

Blue Land Crab

Regis and I went to the Palencia boardwalk to take some marsh vegetation pictures for a research project for the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM). When we returned to our street, we found this blue land crab (Cardisoma guanhum) running along the street gutter. I had my camera with me, so I stopped to get a picture. It was somewhat difficult because the crab found a tree and kept trying to get on the opposite of the tree from me. Eventually, it stayed still long enough to get this photo.

Wikepedia says the distribution of these crabs is as far north as Ponce Inlet which is about 80 miles south of us. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website says they are limited in their distribution by cold weather. During harvest season for them in Florida, you can bag 20 without a size limit. The season is closed from July 1 to October 31. They presumably taste as good as the blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) I grew up eating in Maryland. It is a beautiful crab and it was a thrill to see our first one.

Following are the drone pictures Regis took from the Palencia boardwalk in support of the GTM research project. We are planning to take them once a month.

Aerial view east from Palencia boardwalk.
Aerial view north from Palencia boardwalk.
Aerial view south from Palencia boardwalk.

Regis Got a Blue Ribbon

Prairie Dog Family Portrait

Regis won a blue ribbon in the Florida Camera Club Council 2021 2nd Triannual Print for the above photo. I love the shot. I think momma has her eyes closed praying for strength to handle all those young ones.

local session on Wildlife Photography

Seagulls silhouetted against a St. Augustine sunrise.

Least Terns and Turkeys

Least tern parent with chick.

It is late in the season for it, but I finally went to Anastasia State Park to see the nesting, endangered least terns. The chicks are almost as large as the parents. These pictures are severely cropped because I keep my distance so I do not bother the birds.

Least tern parent with chick.
Two least terns with fish.
Least tern chick.

On my way back found this adorable Wilson’s Plover chick with five leg bands. That is a small bird for so much jewelry. There was a smaller chick running around but it was so tiny and moving so fast that I could not focus on it.

Wilson’s plover chick with five leg bands.

I was happy with my gifts for today but got one more when I was almost home. I saw a mother turkey with about 10-12 babies. I was driving and pulled to the side of the road and took pictures through the car window.

Turkey with her chicks.
Turkey with her chicks. About half of them are outside the image.