The Beauty and the Beast. For Real.

It’s slowly getting a bit fall-like here in Florida. And we love it. Mr. D. and I have been going out to enjoy nature more frequently in the last two weeks. Last Sunday morning we took a walk at Florida Botanical gardens and met a real beauty. A Gulf Fritillary at the outskirts of the Butterfly Garden.

Adult Gulf Fritillary 2 ud172The various gardens were beautiful, both the cultivated ones with plants native to Florida and the many natural habitats. Lots of mosaics are incorporated into and around the walk ways. I included a couple of them in the slide show below.

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Earlier in the week we walked the Taylor Park again. It’s becoming one of our favorites…always some excitement in addition to its natural beauty. And I’m learning to recognize the residents of this ‘village’ while Mr. D. is learning the important spots to sniff.

Taylor Park lake ud172Right off the bat we spotted someone in the grass spying on us. I guess we had surprised him in the middle of his breakfast.

squirrel ud172Then I heard someone working. Looking around I spotted our smallest woodpecker, the Downy, on a tree trunk quite a bit away.

a downy woodpecker ud172On the lake side we spotted a Wood Stork ooking for breakfast…

woodstork taylor park ud172… and soon realized that the whole village was out and about. A Great Blue Heron, a Little Blue Heron and Tri-colored Heron we all looking for an early bite.

GBH ud172

little blue heron ud172

tri-colored heron at Taylor Park ud172When we arrived at the canoe launch ramp, aka the local Starbucks,  we saw it was busier than ever.

white ibis drinking ud172This time there was no gator lurking nearby, the coast was clear. So the Ibis had their morning drink and their morning bath all at once. On the side of the ramp an Anhinga was drying his wings…

Anhinga at canoe ramp ud172… and another one was checking his outfit in the mirror.

Anhinga looking in the mirror UD172Nobody seemed concerned about dangers lurking in the water. Looking out on the lake I discovered a large Pied-billed Grebe family in the company of a young Moorhen.

grebe family and a moorhen UD172While they were diving for food and generally having fun,it was clear they also kept an eye on the water, like these two…

two grebes ud172I looked in the direction their eyes were trained at…and there he was. Silently gliding in the water.

new gator at Taylor Park ud172Sometimes only the very top of his head was visible. Then he turned to check on us, or perhaps he was interested in the busy Starbucks on the shore.

gator looking at me ud172I was glad the birds were keeping watch. We continued our walk to the end of the lake and turned around.

Part of lake at Taylor Park ud172We spotted the resident Osprey. She made a few fishing attempts at the far end of the lake, but didn’t seem to have any luck. Walking back we spotted her again on a pine branch above the trail. She was looking intently out to the lake…

resident osprey at Taylor Park ud172… and I did too. First I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The gator was no longer there and all the Grebes seemed to be safe. But scanning the water with my zoom lens, Mr. D. patiently sitting by my side, I spotted another, much larger gator. He was well camouflaged with a green head covering.

a well camouflaged gator ud172He was quietly swimming about quite close to the shore. Suddenly he turned around with a splash…

gator hunts at taylor park ud172… and opened his mouth. I remember checking that there was no bird close by. And then I saw it. He caught a fat fish!

gator swallows a fish UD172Phew! I was happy he had fish on his menu that morning. The little birds diving in the lake seemed to be safe for now. Relatively speaking.

Florida Mottled Duck ud172

Pied-billed Grebe ud172We caught up with some moms on an outing with their babies…

Moms and babies at Taylor Park ud172…and also spotted another little cutie on the lake before arriving back to the parking lot.

Pied-billed Grebe 2 ud172Next week we will be getting company. Good friends from Sweden are coming to visit. Stay tuned for some new and different adventures. Thank you for walking with us again. Mr. D. and I wish you wonderful fall days…or spring days for those of you in the southern hemisphere.

 

 

Walking the Taylor Park. With Gators.

taylor park lake ud171It’s a beautiful morning, not humid and not too hot. A rare treat for mid October. Dylan and I jump into the car and head towards the Taylor Park to walk our newly discovered nature trail. We invite you to come along.

wooden bridge Taylor park ud171The shadows are still long when we start our walk. Dylan is on a short leash. The trail goes right next to the water so all sniffing is done strictly on the forest side of the trail…for a good reason. While we haven’t seen any alligators on our previous visits, I know they are lurking in the water, like in most fresh water lakes in Florida. This park is also favored by many birds. And right away we spot one of them, an Anhinga with her wings spread to dry after the morning dive.

anhinga B ud171The next one we see has selected a good spot to scout for the gators…and makes us smile.

anhinga on alligator sign at Taylor Park ud171And the third one does double duty. Dries her wings while spying on gators down below.

anhinga in the tree ud171I’m keeping my eyes trained on the water too, but no luck so far. All I see is water sprinkled with flowers and Moorhens.

water lilies ud171

moorhen family ud171

flowers at taylor park ud171

moorhen 2 ud171And an Osprey on a reconnaissance flight over the lake.

osprey at taylor park ud171On the forest side of the trail, I spot two woodpeckers, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and Pileated woodpecker but miss the latter. Dylan decides it is time for a bathroom break. I get a big splash of red in the picture as the large woodpecker flies away.

red-bellied woodpecker at taylor park ud171Next we spot a Little Blue Heron and a Limpkin. I am delighted because Limpkins do not often come to the salt marsh.

Little Blue Heron ud171

limpkin ud171Further, in the shadow of the bridge over the lake, we see a Green Heron in the water. He seems to consider his options for a morning meal while exhibiting good situational awareness.

green heron ud171But close to him a Tri-colored Heron is only aware of a potential breakfast bite in the water below. He has no worries about becoming a breakfast himself.

tri-colored heron hunting ud171By this time the sun has climbed higher. After stopping for some water we decide to turn around and walk back seeking some shade in the forest.

Taylor Park trail ud171We reach a canoe launch pad and hear loud screams. We look towards the lake and spot three White Ibis lining up for their morning drink. A Starbucks line with unexpected hassles.

white ibis and a gator ud171A gator is waiting for an opportunity to strike.

alligator ud171

gator at taylor park ud171These birds quickly leave their watering hole, but an Anhinga stays close by right on the side of the launch pad. Perhaps he has concluded the gator cannot jump.

an anhinga ud171The last bird we hear and then spot is a male Red-winged Blackbird hanging out in the reeds.

male red-winged blackbird ud171Thanks for walking with us, the birds and the gators. Have a great weekend and week ahead.

All is Good. Mama is Back.

Yesterday morning I looked up from my laptop and saw something I’ve missed since late June. Mama Sandy was flying back and forth right by my windows and over the salt marsh. Previous summers she has been ‘babysitting’ the nest daily starting in August. But not this year. I have looked out towards the nest several times a day, but she would be there only in the shadows of my memory. The nest would be empty.

memory of mama osprey perching ud171I was getting really worried about her until I finally spotted her at the sailing center one morning just about two weeks ago. But she wouldn’t come to the nest. I had no idea why. She had left with her daughter Bubbette (remember her ?) at the end of June and stayed away much longer than the usual 3-4 weeks.

osprey chick Bubbette ud171But that all changed yesterday. She was flying around the marsh and passing by my terrace several times…

mama osprey in flight 2 ud171…as in making sure I would notice her. Finally she landed on her perch at the nest. Looking at the picture taken from my terrace, I noticed that she had been gardening again. Her flower bed was green after all the rains this past summer.

mama osprey at the nest ud171She was still there when Dylan and I passed by briefly at lunch time. Now she was taking her nest-sitting seriously. And I liked it. The salt marsh felt homey again.

mama osprey babysits the nest ud171Another fellow I’ve missed made an appearance too. The Reddish Egret, aka the Clown, was hunting for a lunch bite in the middle of the marsh.

reddish egret hunts ud171He danced around, flapped his wings…and caught a fish! He turned to show off his catch…

reddish egret caught a fish ud171… and then enjoyed it without further ado.

reddish egret eats the fish ud171After his meal he posed for me, in his usual charming way, looking straight into my camera. I love watching his performances. And I think he knows it.

reddish egret ud171Last night Mr. D. and I visited the bayside and the dog park just before sunset. I realized we’ll need to adjust our schedule as it is getting dark much earlier now. It was almost too dark to take pictures. We found Stanley at his favorite perch at the Sailing Center and Sandy close by on a lamp-post. It was good to see them together again.

papa osprey at sunset 2 ud171

mama osprey at sunset 2 ud171The marsh was already in the shadows, but far away I could see the Mayor on the ‘bird island’ in the company of numerous residents, mostly White Ibis.

the older GBH and ibis ud171A  juvenile Little Blue Heron, who was still completely white,  got a bit startled after seeing Mr. D., but then realized he was leashed and graciously posed for a picture.

snowy egret ud171Another friend I haven’t seen in a while, a Tri-colored Heron, was trying to find supper in the last light for the night…

tri-colored heron at sunset ud171…and Harry, the younger Great Blue Heron, was keeping a good distance to the Mayor and his company.

younger GBH at sunset ud171Mr. D. ran around alone at the park. I guess we were too late and everyone had already gone home. When he finally sat down to rest, I snapped a picture of him and glanced over the fence…

Dylan at the dog park oct 4 ud171…at a gorgeous sunset sky.

dog park sunset ud171We walked out of the park and enjoyed the sunset from a distance. Mr. D. is a bit sour about not being allowed on the beach, but he took it all with stride.

sunset ud171Walking back home through the darkened marsh, we discovered that Sandy was now perching at the nest. Her silhouette against the sunset’s after glow was reassuring. All is good. Mama is back.

mama osprey in the nest after sunset ud171Thank you for visiting. Mr. D and I wish you a wonderful upcoming week.