January 6, 2019
When we were scouting for the Matanzas Christmas Bird Count, we stopped to talk to a property owner to request permission to bird on his property. He was very nice and gave us permission. We chatted for a bit and the property owner told us about his animals. In that discussion, he mentioned that he had a horse with a duck friend. The duck wants to be by the horse and is unhappy if he can’t be by his horse friend.
On the day of the Christmas Bird Count, we saw the horse and duck when we went to the property to bird. We had to stop birding for a while just to watch as the duck made sure to stay close to the horse. As you can see from the picture above, the field is currently a lovely place for a duck. I’m not sure how the horses feel about all that water.
Below are a few pictures from the last several days.
January 1, 2019
The Matanzas Christmas Bird Count is tomorrow and I agreed to lead the count in the Matanzas State Forest. The person who usually does it was unable to do so. I had never been to the Forest. A permit is required to gain access and I got the permit. After talking to the lead Forester, I found that I could get a permit to drive on the roads that are designated for authorized vehicles only.
Two fellow birders and I went to the Forest the other day to scout. It was amazingly muddy. We did not drive on the “trails” that require the special permit. We had a lot of ground to cover and I said that I would come back with Regis and try the “trails” to see if any were worth visiting during the CBC. The Forest is 330 acres so we wanted to hit the best birding spots on the designated day to count.
The Forester recommended a couple trails would could only walk on, but would take us to the marsh. We did the first trail but goodness knows why. It was like walking through a swamp. In fact, we were walking through a swamp. Sue and I had proper boots for the adventure but poor Amy hung in there and got her shoes very muddy and wet. We saw one bird in the marsh. We decided to nix the wet hike for the CBC. At the end of the day, the car was as muddy as it has ever been including the car mats and Sue, Amy, and me.
Today, Regis and I went back to check out those side trails. I drove and turned onto the first available trail. It was a mess. But, I was in a Jeep and on a bird mission! When I saw the big puddle ahead, I didn’t think twice (or maybe I did) about driving through it with the Jeep. The water turned out to be MUCH deeper than I thought. I tried to keep the momentum going to get through it. We had our windows open to listen for birds and I failed to close them before the “puddle” or small pond. I was on the upside and mud and muck sprayed everywhere including inside the driver side window.
My momentum was stopped by a submerged tree that we did not see. As I came to a stop in the middle of this pond, I turned to Regis and said “you can take it from here”. I was petrified that we were going to spend the next several days partially submerged in this swamp. Of course Regis got the Jeep out of there while I waded through the water removing logs for him. The water was well over the top of my muck boots. Thank goodness I didn’t see a snake.
I was ready to go home but Regis felt we should continue since we came there to see birds. Of course, he may have been a bit wet, but he wasn’t full of mud like me. And, he turned the driving back to me so I could sit in the disgusting mud and muck in the car as well as all over me. But, onward.
There were several pickup trucks driving through the Forest which led to big, big ruts in the big, big, muddy puddles in the road. You could not drive a regular vehicle through this mess. We got through the day just fine, but I will limit where we go on the CBC so we can return alive.
On the way home, we stopped in Tractor Supply to get a boot dryer. I need the boots again tomorrow and they were soaked. We couldn’t find them at first and almost gave up, but Regis went to look one more time. He found the only box left. So, he turned into my hero twice today.
When we got to the checkout counter, the lady asked me what happened to the car. She said she noticed us drive into the lot. When I got home and realized I how much mud I had on my face and clothes, I wondered why she didn’t ask what happened to me.
I spent a while cleaning the inside and spraying off the worst of the muck and vegetation from the outside. Since I will be going back tomorrow, it doesn’t make sense to do more. I guess this week-end will be spent thoroughly cleaning the poor Jeep.
While cleaning the inside, I noticed that the mud sprayed clear through half the car but stopped just short of getting any mud on Regis. Really!
We have driven the Jeep in lots of off road situations all over the country. Regis usually drives while I hold the camera ready for picture taking. We agreed on the way home today that I get the award for getting the Jeep the muddiest it has ever been.
One last thing. As I was asking Regis about how concerned we should be about any damage I might have done to the Jeep by submerging it in that much he water, he said that since the water wasn’t coming up through the floorboards, it wasn’t that bad.
We are off to a great start in 2019!!
December 30, 2018
This year, I entered a few photo contests. The biggest one I entered was the North American Nature Photographers Association annual photo competition. The picture above placed in the top twenty in the Altered Reality category and in the top 100 overall in the competition.
The following photo won honorable mention in a Florida Camera Club Council digital competition.
There are so many amazing photos out there that I am honored to have placed where I did in these competitions.
December 30, 2018
For a few years now, I’ve been hearing the sound of Clapper Rails in the salt marshes but never saw one. I would try to sneak up on them on my kayak when I heard them, but they would become silent and I couldn’t see them.
When I started going out on the boardwalk over the salt marsh in our community to watch the sunrise, I started to get lucky. Occasionally, a Clapper Rail would come out of the grasses and run along side or under the boardwalk.
On one particular morning, I was able to get some video of these elusive birds.
November 28, 2018
Yesterday, when I was taking pictures in the morning and jumped in the car to warm up, a Boat-tailed Grackle came to check out my camera and scope. We were nicely entertained.
This morning we went to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge to watch the sunrise. It was amazing. It was also freezing, literally. There were pockets of frost in the refuge. I used a remote shutter release for the camera so I could keep my hands tucked into my jacket. It was worth braving the cold. The sunrise was absolutely beautiful. And, we got to watch hundreds of birds fly on a bird highway to who knows where. I suspect they were leaving the places where they had roosted for the night and were heading to the Gulf for breakfast. We could recognize the silhouettes of many of them like the Great Egrets and Ibises, but some we were not sure of.
We got the results of Dart’s biopsy and it is not cancerous. Yipee!
By Linda November 27, 2018
We arrived outside the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday afternoon. We set up camp and left to visit the refuge and promptly got lost. There aren’t that many roads around here to get lost. I forgot the maps and I tried to rely on my memory and signs. Our GPS was useless. I used the phone for navigation and that’s how we wound up on dirt roads. The GPS showed us driving through the woods. We wound up at Wekulla Beach at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. It was fine, but we wanted to be at the lighthouse. We enjoyed the tour anyway.
We visited the Lighthouse area of the refuge on Monday morning. It was overcast and showed signs of thunderstorms coming our way. We were able to spend several hours before we decided to get out before the rain started. As soon as we got back to the RV and got inside, the rain started.
The rain brought very cold weather. We woke up to temperatures in the 30’s. That’s very cold for Florida. We braved the low temperatures to go back and visit the refuge today before sunrise. While Regis kept the car running with the heater on, I got out and looked for birds in the scope. When I got too cold, I jumped back in the car. The thing I needed the most today was a pair of gloves. I wish I had brought my winter coat.
We came back for lunch to warm up and went back out this afternoon. We thought the alligators would be too cold to come out, but we saw several lying in the sun trying to warm up. There are some big ones out there.
We never went kayaking. I don’t know why we bother to bring the kayaks. Monday it rained and today was so cold there was no way I could kayak without the right clothing. We are headed back home tomorrow.
November 24, 2018
While Regis did most of the packing for the short camping trip we are leaving on tomorrow, I went birding. It was a great deal for me.
We are headed to see the St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge. We should be able to do some kayaking. We are only staying a few days. The campground host warned us that the space we are camping in is tough to get into with a rig like ours but doable. Since Regis is the one who has to do it, it’s not stopping us.
When Regis went to pack the RV this morning, he found that the radio is dead. That’s how we view the cameras, like the backup camera. We’re going to go on this short trip anyway and Regis will repair it when we get back. Regis thinks that there may have been a lightning strike near the RV that toasted the radio.
For those of you who know that Dart had some surgery last Wednesday, I’ll give an update. Dart had a small tumor in his mouth and they removed it on Wednesday. He came home ready to play. He’s been eating well and driving us crazy, so we know his recovery period was almost zero. I did have them send it out for a biopsy and I will get the results next week. I think he acts too healthy to have anything wrong, so I’m sure the results will come out ok.
November 18, 2018
Regis and I went birding at the Saltmarsh yesterday and saw lots of birds. We saw four different birds of prey: Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-tailed hawk, and Northern Harrier. While standing on the dock at the intracoastal waterway (ICW), I looked across the ICW at the GTM Reserve to watch all the bird activity. Regis called that a manatee had just surfaced. It turned out to be four manatees cruising by the dock. There was a baby in the group! They were so close, I couldn’t get a picture with my long lens until they got further away. I suppose they are migrating to warmer waters. There were lots of boats headed south on the ICW also. The manatees were hugging the shore and I hope they do that the whole way so they don’t get run over by those boats.
I took Regis birding with me at the same place I saw the leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher last Monday and Regis found it again. How cool is that??
Following are some favorite bird pictures from the last few bird hikes.
By Linda November 13, 2018
I’ve been spending some time birding in the area lately in preparation for the Christmas Bird Count. I plan to participate and I’m trying to get a handle on the local birds I might see. I have lived here 3 years, so I’m still learning.
I recently went to a local storm water management facility with two friends to do some birding. It was an amazing place to bird. It also shows the wonderful outcomes when you use natural ways to deal with storm water issues. The facility creates a wonderful wetland that attracts a large variety of birds.
The coolest bird we saw while we were there is a Leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. According to Wikepedia, the definition is leucism ” is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes.”
Here are some pictures of a regular Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and our leucistic Gnatcatcher. We identified 41 birds while we were there in one area. Here is a link to an area of our website that includes other bird photos from that trip.
I also hang out at our local saltmarsh regularly. It is very beautiful. Every time I go, the weather, lighting, and clouds are different so you get a different feel for the area.
Regis, Dart, and I are planning an adventure to another part of Florida in early December. As long as the motor home hasn’t been sold, we intend to enjoy it!
By Linda (November 9, 2018)
I love Wood Storks. They are ancient looking and beautiful in their own way. This stork was hanging out by the Ark Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation center hoping there would be fish available. If the Ark has more fish than they need for their current patients, the extra fish are tossed to the birds waiting outside who are happy to quickly dispose of the leftovers.
I went to the marsh again this morning to watch the sunrise. It was particularly beautiful. Following are some favorite pictures. I also got a confirmed siting of my first Clapper Rail. I’ve heard them many times, but they have eluded me and I have never see one. Not only did I see one today, but I got a picture too!