Category Archives: Travel

The Cathedral of Mother Nature. My Recent Adventures in the West, Part II

I was sipping my plain coffee. It was early and still completely dark outside. I sliced some strawberries into my oatmeal. I had slept well after all the hiking the day before and it was difficult to wake up. The dream world of the vast landscapes at Grand Canyon was still with me. 早上好! Good morning! I almost dropped my knife. Mr. Li was standing right behind me in the doorway to the restaurant where many of us were still working on our breakfast. Fifteen minutes and we should be at the bus…A-HA…if we wanted to come along on today’s adventures.

The first stop of the day was at Lake Powell soon after sunrise. This spectacular lake has over 2,000 miles of shoreline, it’s 400 feet deep and 186 miles long. We would take a boat ride and see a couple of miles of that shoreline. And needless to say it was dramatic.

The high rock walls were perfectly reflected in the water and a new waterscape revealed itself after every turn. I enjoyed this early morning boat ride, but was getting very excited about the nest stop. I covered my camera and lens in a plastic bag to protect it from dust and sealed it with duck tape. I got some curious glances, but knew that the Antelope Canyon was waiting and this slightly humorous improvised cover would serve my camera well .

We arrived at the Navajo Nation’s parking lot, about four miles from the Upper Antelope Canyon and were loaded up on small trucks to take us to the canyon the Navajos consider a spiritual place, a cathedral of Mother Nature. My Navajo guide was Abraham. He would take me through the canyon and back.

This sandstone slot canyon is about 660 feet (200m) long and 120 feet (37m) deep. It is amazing! The sandstone formations come to life like beautiful art work when the light hits the walls from the small openings at the top.

Some of the views of the formations have given names. The view above is called “the Heart” and the view below is known as “the Eye”. I am sure it sees some mysterious truths amid a continuous stream of visitors like me.

I was truly grateful for the opportunity to be able to access the whole canyon. No rain meant no flooding, just bright sunshine providing one glorious view after another.

Needless to say this amazing experience left me breathless. So before walking back through the canyon, I sat down on a rock to take in some fresh air. And my guide Abraham snapped a picture with my phone. I realized that my improvised camera cover looked like a soda can…but it was safe from the fine dust in the air that found its way everywhere.

Walking back through the canyon did not include any photo stops, but I could not resist the temptation to snap a few more pictures on my way back.

This canyon certainly made an impression on me. It was like walking in a huge gallery full of live art created over time by Mother Nature. And it felt, indeed, like a cathedral.

My journey continued to yet another creation of nature, the Bryce Canyon in Utah. It is also called the ‘red canyon’ and you can see why. Even here the views were breathtakingly beautiful.

It was cold and lots of snow still covered the ground. We left the red canyon when the sun was already low and started our long journey back to Las Vegas. What an adventure!

Part 3 of my adventure in the west will include some flashes of my whirlwind trip to a couple of cities in Nevada and California and of my impromptu work trip to San Francisco last week. Thanks so much for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the art of the nature as much as I did.

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A flash report on the Osprey Family here at home: It looks to me that there are at least two chicks in the nest. I have not yet been able to spot them properly from the ground, but here’s one picture where I was able to capture the whole family about a week ago. The second picture is from this morning taken from my terrace. It is obvious the chicks are growing and I am just hoping both of them will survive.

Positively Grand! My Recent Adventures in the West, Part I

I laughed. A-HA! He spoke in Mandarin and I didn’t understand a word. Then he spoke in Cantonese and I still didn’t understand a word. Apart from the now familiar A-HA. It indicates a pause, and doesn’t translate to much else than a simple “so”.

Mr. Li was a captivating guide, he made me laugh at jokes told in two dialects of a language I did not speak. And when he finally spoke in English he made me laugh again. The sky outside the tour bus window started to turn red. It was almost 6:30 a.m. and we were traveling through the Nevada desert. Las Vegas was far behind us.

I was on my way to the canyons in Arizona and Utah. After almost five hours, countless A-HAs, more laughter and a couple of convenience breaks in small towns along the way, I could finally step out of the bus and walk out to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The canyon is truly Grand. And it is impressive: 227 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and 6000 feet (1800 meters) deep. It is breathtaking when you admire it from one of the lookout points. And no pictures can do it justice.

I decided to hike along the rim from the Mather Point to the Yavapai Point and back.

I enjoyed every minute of it and took pictures of the majestic canyon and the wide landscapes opening right in front of my eyes. I observed that many other visitors took selfies. The famous last Instagram picture at the edge of the ledge is no joke. Or the video of the cartwheels on the narrow ledge (see below) to be posted on social media.

Mr. Li had warned us not to go too far out on the ledges. A-HA … safety first. And we didn’t lose anyone. Unfortunately three people fell from the rims during the week I was there.The focus on self in the midst of the most magnificent nature is a mystery to me. I just don’t get it.

I loved it there. I felt one with nature. And I heard the wing beats of times gone by.

Later in the afternoon we reached a third lookout point, near the Desert Watch Tower. The current structure is a replica of an ancient native watch tower.

Needless to say the views from there are magnificent. This became my favorite spot to observe the canyon. And I hiked again along the rim enjoying being a really tiny human in the vast embrace of Mother Nature.

After returning to the watch tower late in the afternoon, I rewarded myself with a generous scoop of ice cream. I enjoyed it sitting on a big boulder looking out over the canyon. And no, my feet were not dangling over the ledge.

That ice cream proved to be a good investment because dinner would be very little and very late that night. We said goodbye to Grand Canyon and started an hour and a half journey towards the Horseshoe Bend, a horseshoe-shaped incised meander of the Colorado River located in Arizona, not far from Utah border. We arrived at the parking lot just before sunset.

After climbing up the first steep hill in deep sand (phew!), the view downhill towards the river (darker area in the middle of the picture)was great. But I also realized it was a long sandy trail. Many people decided that the climb back up from the river would be too much and sat down on the benches at the top of the hill to watch the sunset. Not this girl.

I made the journey all the way down to the river and was rewarded with a glorious sight. I walked around the ledges and lookout points and managed to capture a view of the river bending like a horseshoe around the rock formation. Beautiful. Looking down to the river basin I noticed some people had kayaked there and now sat around a fire enjoying the peace. They would camp there overnight.

But this girl would need to climb up the long hill. Think hiking on the beach but uphill. Luckily it was not very steep and the sand was not too deep. At the end of a day that listed over 20,000 steps, it felt like a workout. But the experience was well worth it. I was secretly grateful to my personal trainer, Mr. Dylan, for keeping me somewhat in shape. I stopped only once to catch my breath – with the excuse of taking pictures of some stones that people had collected on the side of the trail.

We arrived to the little town of Page late in the evening and I was happy to get my key card… a hot shower and a nice bed were calling. This ‘night owl’ had an apple for dinner and slept early that evening. She would need to be up before sunrise the next morning. Mr. Li had promised more adventures. A-HA!

To be continued shortly. Thanks for coming along.

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For those of you who wonder how the Osprey Family here at home is doing, I can tell you that it is now obvious that they have at least one hatchling in the nest. I have been hanging out on my terrace ever since I returned from my trip and finally spotted a tiny head yesterday afternoon. My typical grainy first picture of the hatchling from almost 300 yards is below.

Now this paparazza has her work cut out for her… better baby pictures. Wish me luck.

A Bird in the Hand. And an Egg in the Nest.

My iPhone’s alarm goes off. It’s pitch black. I open one eye and see the lit face of my phone and hit Snooze. A thought crawls into my consciousness. This is not my bed and there’s no Dylan next to me. OMG! This is the day I’ve been waiting for. It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m in Cape Coral. To attend the annual Burrowing Owl Festival. The photographers’ tour starts in 90 minutes. The night owl will meet the owls. Up you go girl!

I open the curtains, go out onto the balcony to confirm my location, put on the Keurig and hit the shower. Yay! At sunrise I’m on my way. Why don’t you come with me on this little adventure?

The small bus is full of photographers. And huge lenses. The knowledgeable guides are Listers. One of them currently tops the North America list of bird sightings in so far this year. They explain what we can expect to find today. And soon we are at our first stop, a field of burrows next to a football field, all marked with little T-shaped wooden lookout posts. The owls are still sleeping. But wait, someone’s out already. Daddy Burrowing Owl has fallen asleep on his guard.

After a while his beautiful wifey comes out too. Oh, so many long lenses pointing at her … at a respectable distance. She turns her tiny head around in swift movements to check on everybody.

And finally her hubby wakes up too, moves closer to his wifey and inspects the crowd.

These expressive tiny owls reach about 9 inches from top to toe. They are too cute, but we need to let them go on with their Saturday morning chores. We move on.

Our next stop is about ten minutes away, at the nest of the Great-horned Owl. And we are not disappointed. Two Owlets huddle next to each other high up in the nest. Aww.

They are curious little fur balls. The older one inspects me thoroughly, but there are no adults in the nest. Where are mommy and daddy? We look around and finally spot an adult a few trees away. And another adult yet a bit further in the woods, but so well camouflaged by branches I don’t get a good picture. It’s comforting to know both parents are around.

What a treat to see the owlets. We move on, drive quite a while and come to a large meadow known to be the home of some of the few remaining Florida Scrub Jays. Last year, we spotted six of them there and being very curious birds, a few got close up and personal with us.

But we heard that this year, unfortunately, only two individuals had been seen there. These birds are endemic to Florida and their numbers are going down fast despite their protected status. We are lucky. The couple comes and finds us. They settle at the top of a bush not too far from us.

They fly around and we enjoy their presence. Finally one of them lands on the hand of a fellow photographer. For one second tops.

Then they fly away together to the far end of the meadow. And we hear the melancholic song of the Eastern Meadowlark.

She moves around in the grass, her tiny head sticking up at times, but finally she flies on the top of a cable box in the middle of the meadow and offers a somewhat clearer view. She is a strikingly beautiful bird.

We spot a few other birds in the distance, like this Loggerhead Shrike on a wire, and then we move on.

Our next stop is a Bald Eagle nest. We don’t see any activity at the nest. We hear that, unfortunately, this eagle couple have been unsuccessful in their breeding efforts the last two years. And now it seems there are no eggs or nestlings in the nest. So sad. Finally we spot an adult flying towards us.

It circles around and then lands in the tree where the nest is.

Then it sits in the nest and observes us. It seems to be getting slightly nervous about our presence and we promptly leave the vicinity of the nest. This majestic bird needs its peace and quiet.

By now it is almost midday. The heat is up and we head to our last stop of the day. It’s another burrow very close to a small road of white sand. An adult sits on the observation post.

And we spot a juvenile’s head sticking out among all the flowers near the opening of her childhood home. As this is the farewell picture of our tour, I’ll make it to a post card from these precious tiny owls. Until next year, be well!

Back home on Sunday Dylan reminds me there’s something we need to do. Right now. And it’s not just going out to bathroom. We need to check whether or not Mama Osprey has laid any eggs while we were gone. We approach the nest and find Papa Stanley sitting on the perch and Mama Sandy standing in the nest.

She’s not sitting on the egg(s), but it certainly looks like she’s in the process of laying her first egg.

Stanley is holding guard and warns everybody flying too close to the nest. Usually he only sounds an alarm when another raptor, mostly another osprey, flies by but today he’s vocal even when a gull flies by. And he’s keeping an eye on us too. Something’s definitely up.

We go back late at night on Monday, on our way to the dog park, and there she is. Incubating her first egg when the sun has just gone down.

And I can tell you she’s still there. Today it’s been raining all day, but whenever Dylan and I check on the nest from inside our dry and comfy home we see a head in the nest. It’s not always Sandy. Stanley is a modern dad, he settles on the egg(s) many times a day to give her a break to eat, exercise and take a bath. I hope there are already two eggs in the nest. But right now there’s no way to tell. Incubating osprey eggs is a long journey of 34 to 40 days.

Thank you for coming along. Mr. D and I hope you’ll have a great rest of the week.

Ps. Dylan tells me he’s itching to blog soon. I’m not sure whether to take him up on his offer. He tends to spill out things that I’ve kept quiet about.

Flying in and out of the Nest. With the Osprey Couple.

In the past few weeks I’ve been flying in and out of my nest on this barrier island I call home. Several work trips to big cities. Lot’s of ‘osprey time’. And bird’s eye views.

Or views from my temporary nest high up in the air in the Big Apple late in the day…and night.

So after all this flying, I have enjoyed being earth bound this past week. Watching others fly. Like Papa Stanley, who recently flew in for some Valentine’s Day romancing with Mama Sandy. Dylan and I backed off to allow them some privacy.

I think Sandy is pregnant. Her belly is growing and Stanley is already feeding her. And she’s spending lots of time at the nest every day. Yesterday she was watching intently over the bay…

…I turned around and saw Stanley flying far over the bay with a big fish.

Sandy would get it, eventually. But first the head had to be eaten. Sandy was working on rearranging the furniture in the nest, but kept an eye from time to time on Stanley and the fish on a nearby lamp-post.

This morning my assistant and I visited the Taylor Park and spotted many familiar birds. It’s funny how the birds favor the same spot, like this Anhinga who always dries her feathers at almost the same place.

She always faces the lake looking for any signs of approaching gators, but turned to look at my assistant. She didn’t move. Dylan is already trusted by these birds. Next to the kayak launch pad we usually find the Ring-billed Gull. So also this morning.

And the blackbirds are chilling out there too. The dad Boat-tailed Blackbird was reading the sign warning about the presence of gators and warned his wifey who was wading in the water nearby. Wading is a no-no according to the sign.

At the north end of the lake the resident Osprey dad was trying to spot some fish and at the south end two Great Egrets were chasing each other amid a loud argument.

We walked around the lake and spotted our usual suspects, the Little Blue Heron and the Tri-Colored Heron.

A Double-crested Cormorant with bright blue eyes was windsurfing on the lake, watching the waters carefully for any signs of gators.

And he was right in being careful. According to my latest intelligence, there are at least five gators in the lake. So far we had not spotted any of them. But we saw a large flock of American Coots in the middle of the lake and a few brave individuals were cruising solo closer to the shore.

That’s when we saw him…sunbathing on the shore.

I tightened my grip on Dylan’s leash, but since the gator posed calmly I went for a portrait too.

He was quite impressive. We walked back to the other side of the park and before going back to my car, we spotted a little head coming up for air in the middle of the green slime in a small pond. That was our tiny friend, the Pied-billed Grebe.

Today being an outdoors day for us, we also visited the Osprey couple this afternoon. They were napping together in the nest. Stanley seems to have grown a short beard. Perhaps to mark that he’ll soon be a dad once again.

While Sandy was truly sleeping, Stanley was just nodding off. He opened his eyes and told us “I see you.”

The salt marsh was fairly quiet in the middle of the afternoon, which is not unusual. The Mayor was walking around and checking his territory…

…and Mama Moorhen was gliding quietly right below the osprey nest.

I thought that was it…until we found someone hiding deep in the shadows. I had to smile. It was the younger Great Blue Heron. He didn’t want to be seen either by the Mayor or Mama Sandy. His has some unfortunate history with both of them.

I’m hoping for evidence of eggs in the Osprey Family within the next two weeks. And this coming weekend I’m off for another little nature adventure in South Florida. Stay tuned and thank you so much for visiting.

Walking Stockholm. With Gifts and Christmas Snow.

She smiled and greeted me when I stepped into the British Airways lounge area close to my departure gate at Chicago O’Hare airport. I greeted her and handed over my two remaining boarding passes on this “points trip” to celebrate Christmas in Sweden. She lifted her head and with a big smile she asked if I would like to sit in the first class on my trip to London. I said I would love to but didn’t have enough points to do the upgrade. She smiled even wider and handed me my first class boarding pass. “You’re worth it”, she said.

It was an early Christmas gift I was grateful for and thoroughly enjoyed. After a delicious dinner and some champagne, I changed into my provided pajamas, received my pillows and a comforter, and slept practically until touchdown at Heathrow. For the first time ever, I slept through the breakfast service! But there was one more ribbon on my gift yet to be opened, a wonderful sit-down breakfast in the 1st class arrival lounge.

I felt rested and well fed for the rest of my journey to Stockholm. When we approached the Arlanda airport I glanced out of the window – and saw snow! I would experience my first white Christmas in over 20 years. Another unexpected gift.

I thoroughly enjoyed the long walks that Beppe, the poodle, took us on every day along Stockholm’s snow covered sidewalks and paths through the many parks. As you can see this Florida girl was properly attired for the winter weather with a hooded buffer jacket, snow boots and borrowed warm gloves.

I made some interesting discoveries on our walks, like this Santa climbing up the side of a tall condo building in my sister’s neighborhood. And the sentinel cats guarding a shop door.

The blue hour was always beautiful…the snow adding a magical hue.

And the late night walks allowed me to immerse in the feeling of warmth of the Swedish Christmas – despite the below freezing temperatures. Most windows in the city were lit with chandeliers or Christmas stars, like this one at my sister’s…

… and many courtyards of these over a century old buildings were decorated with lit trees.

Very festive and beautiful indeed.

On the Saturday before Christmas I visited my aunt in Gothenburg. A convenient MTR Express speed train now provides a three-hour connection between the two cities. It was great to see her after 13 years! And I couldn’t complain about the all natural Christmas decorations at the Central Station in Gothenburg.

On the Sunday before Christmas, as is customary in Sweden, we visited the grave site of a recently departed loved one. The cemetery was beautiful in its all white outfit. And light snow was still falling.

After some silent moments of remembering our loved one, we felt it was time for an afternoon ‘fika’. And the nearby café offered coffee and lots of goodies to choose from.

Warmed up by a good fika I decided it was time for an afternoon solo walk. I wanted to see some of my favorite places again.
The old town was charming with snow-covered sidewalks and lots of lights outside and inside the shops.

I walked the narrow streets and slippery cobble stone alleys to the Royal Palace, which rises at the north end of the Old Town.

The Old Town is sometimes called “the city between bridges” as there are seven bridges connecting this island, first inhabited in mid to late 1100s, to other islands that form the city of Stockholm. I walked out from the Old Town via the Riksbron bridge.

From that bridge I admired the City Hall and the Centralbron bridge on one side and the Royal Opera House and the Strömbron bridge on the other.

I loved the beautiful Christmas lights on and around these bridges.

By now I was really cold and needed something warming. I stepped into a busy bistro and Santa kindly offered me a tasty Irish coffee.

I lingered inside long enough to feel my toes again. Then stepped back outside on the busy Queen’s Street full of shoppers making last minute gift purchases.

I walked to the Central Square and took the metro for a couple of stops back to my sister’s. My walking quote for the day was full.

Now it was the time to carry home and decorate the live tree… and bake the Christmas tarts. While my sister decorated the tree, I baked the tarts. To be enjoyed with a cup of warm glögg, of course.

In Sweden the Christmas Eve is the time for a sumptuous Christmas dinner, glam and gift giving, while the Christmas Day is more for quiet contemplation and celebration of the real gift of Christmas.

Our dinner was delicious with all the traditional Christmas dishes, from two kinds of hams, all the vegetable casseroles and Janson’s Temptation to small sausages, meat balls, beet salads, red cabbage etc. etc. Poor Beppe was left guarding the presents under the tree while we lingered at the table enjoying all that food. Finally Santa came and Beppe could open his presents, among them a toy squirrel from Florida. He thoroughly enjoyed chasing it.

Needless to say my Christmas was warm and wonderful. Full of love…

… and good food 🙂 Luckily Beppe took us out several times a day, and on Boxing Day we did a long walk around the Karlberg Kanal in the bleak winter sun.

At a marina out there, I spotted an interesting weather forecasting device. A hanging stone.

Since many of my readers don’t speak Swedish, I will provide the translation of the forecasting guidance here:

CONDITION OF THE STONE FORECAST
The stone is wet Rain
The stone is dry No rain
The stone casts a shadow on the ground Sunny
The stone is white on the top Snow
The stone is not visible Fog
The stone swings Strong winds
The stone jumps up and down Earthquake
The stone is missing Tornado

That made me smile. And I saw a faint shadow of the stone on the snow, a treat during a long walk in nature.

Time flies when you’re having fun, and soon it was time to travel back home. But the good memories last. I am still musing on the wonderful time I had.

I wish you all ‘happy continuation on the new year’ or ‘god fortsättning’ as we say in Sweden. May this year bring you many blessings.

Finally above water. And Flying.

The last few weeks I’ve felt like I’m underwater. It’s been hard to get a really deep breath. And impossible to sigh. Too much going on, particularly on the work front. But finally it’s slowing down. On Sunday I was able to sit down and dive into my pictures (fair warning: they are many). I had to find out what I’ve been up to between all the Sundays that have flown by in a flash. And, indeed, I’ve been underwater for real. For the first time in years. Here’s the proof.

However, I wouldn’t bank on a career as an underwater photographer. For obvious reasons. But as I’m flying north and more north today, it warms my soul to look back at pictures from a short cruise to Bahamas with my friends last month. That was so much fun. And food, I might add.

During the first day at sea, we had time to examine our ship, the Enchantment of the Seas. And there was much to explore, from vast sundecks, solariums and common gathering places to bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and shops. Plenty of programming too. Anyone so inclined could easily put stress right back into their lives and run from one event to another. Not me and my friends. We wanted to relax and enjoy the sail. Lagom is best as we say in Sweden. Life onboard was full of small delights, such as the ‘animals’ I would find in my cozy stateroom waiting for me on the sofa or on the bed every night.

Our first port of call was Nassau, the capital of Bahamas. It seemed to be the port of call for some other ships as well. I suspect this scene gets repeated many times each week.

I had been there twice before, but coming from the north I had spent my days mostly on the beach. This time was different. We set out to discover the city. We started off by visiting Fort Charlotte (est. 1788) situated on a hill above the town. It certainly was a great place to spot enemy ships approaching from the ocean. Luckily we were only approached by an army of vendors.

Quite unexpectedly, we spotted Christopher Columbus.  In October 1492, he sighted a Bahamian island (probably the Watling Island) and believed he had arrived in East Asia. Poor man. He went ashore and claimed this Asia for his sponsors in Spain. Sponsorship is quite an established phenomenon.

We also visited the John Watling Rum Distillery. It was a tasty experience. The Pina Colada we were served didn’t leave much to desire…other than perhaps a more generous serving.

On the distillery grounds I finally got an opportunity to ‘shoot’ some birds. Two handsome roosters were touring the front yard.

I also discovered that the flower and fruit trees along our route matched the many colorful buildings in town…

… and that the little barrier islands out in the sea were, indeed, very Caribbean.

We also visited the Paradise Island, just over the Sidney Poiter Bridge from Nassau, famous its trademark hotel, the Atlantis.

We politely declined the offer to stay at the Michael Jackson Penthouse Suite for the bargain price of $25,000 a night. We simply couldn’t stay for the required minimum of four nights as we had to head back to the ship. But I have to say the hotel is quite impressive. Both outside and inside. The massive aquarium was definitely worth a visit.

Our second port of call was Cococay, a tropical island less than a day’s sail away from Nassau. That day was all about relaxation. On the beach, in the water and underwater. 

The only wildlife, in addition to some seabirds, I spotted on the island were iguanas. Several families with parents, kids, aunts and uncles.

That was a fun little cruise which still warmed me when I had to go to chilly NYC shortly after coming home. My week there was filled with meetings, but I got one free afternoon. I decided to play tourist…and take pictures.

I started at the 911 memorial and museum. That visit was a stark reminder of that sad and chaotic day in 2001, which I had experienced in Washington D.C. All my memories from that horrible day came back.

While there, I decided to visit the Observatorium at the new World Trade Center One. The views from up there were fantastic. 

I rounded up my afternoon on a cruise around Manhattan. The city appeared softer and somewhat more … human in the warm light of the setting sun.


And I really wanted to see Lady Liberty again. It had been quite a while, but I still remembered the steep staircase up to her crown. Now I admired her from the water. Amazingly, she  doesn’t seem to age like the rest of us.

Okay. After a work filled couple of weeks at home onto the next adventure. Right now I’m in the windy city waiting for my next flight over the big pond to celebrate the holidays with family. I’m hoping to exchange the warm holiday lights at home to a white Christmas.

Thank you all for heart-warming friendships here in the blogging world. I wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas and lots of blessings in the new year. 

Help! Where was I?

The answer is here, there and everywhere. And I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps warm greetings from a chilly NYC, where I’ve worked this past week, would be in place?

I can’t believe I’ve been away from here for over six weeks. Various adventures near and far with my friends visiting from Sweden have filled my days… sprinkled with some necessary work sessions. And then a completely unnecessary bout of severe cold kept me ‘lying flat’ for days. But now I’m upright and on the go again. Feeling thankful for it.

Our nearby adventures included, of course, the salt marsh. This past month that little village has been lively. Many migrating birds have made a stopover there to mingle with the locals.

The Mayor has tried to keep peace among the sometimes unruly crowds, but despite his watching eye, the Clown (aka the Reddish Egret) got into trouble. It started innocently enough. A Wood Stork was trying to catch a fish. But the Clown got upset and flashed his red hair… and that was it!

The larger bird went into attack. And the Clown had to flee!

That was the first time I have seen him retreating. Ever.

He had met his match and settled on a small islet. He was sulking. Or maybe mulling over what just happened.

That day the marsh had more than fifty visitors. Birds everywhere. Some were flying…

Others were running…

Many were fishing…

One or two were dreaming…

Or just mingling and giving speeches…

Mama Sandy was, as always, only watching the nest and the skies. She couldn’t be bothered with the crowds. She knows they come and go.

One day my friends went for a walk with Dylan when I had to take a break … for work. And Tony spotted something special. Sandy had allowed Stanley to the nest although the nesting season was still more than a month away!

I hadn’t seen Stanley for a couple of weeks, so perhaps they had an argument and he’d gone away for a while? To let it cool down. And when he finally returned and brought her a fish as a sign of reconciliation, she allowed him to perch on the nest. Here is the proof. Thanks Tony!

And after that they have been flying a lot together. The other day when I was trying to work while battling a bout of bad cold, they flew several times past my office window.

And one morning I saw them working together. They were chasing a huge Bald Eagle away from the salt marsh. I had no camera, but Dylan is my witness. They took turns to dive on the back of the eagle until it got tired and flew to the other side of the bay where it lives.

But I spotted a juvenile Bald Eagle on one of our trips to Taylor Park. It was trying to fish, but gave up after several unsuccessful attempts and flew back into the forest.

My friends liked Taylor Park too. So many birds always show up…
…just to disappear like magic.

And it is quite a thrill to spot a gator lurking around and looking at you…

We got to see many more of them on an airboat ride with Captain Duke we did in the central Florida swamps.

In fact, we were guests in their very special world.

We spotted numerous huge old ones in and out of the water…

And deep in the swamp, we saw a baby gator who had dared to come out of the nest hole all alone.

It was a great journey through the St. John’s River swamps, or the ‘real Florida’ as our captain put it.

Of course we spotted lots of birds as well, but it was not easy to capture them on camera while speeding through the waters.

It was an adventure deep into nature my friends appreciated.

Although they flew back home a couple of weeks ago, you can still participate in more adventures right here in the coming weeks.
Thank you for coming along to the salt marsh, the Taylor Park and to the central Florida swamps. Have a great weekend. Lady Liberty says hi.