Tag Archives: Hiking

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.

Multitasking. On Wings and on Foot.

Hi everybody! I can’t believe I’ve been absent from here since mid August. Life has been overly busy since I returned from my summer vacation in Sweden. That doesn’t mean it’s been all work, not by a long shot. Lots of fun with family and friends too. But time has wings. And the faster they flap, the more difficult it becomes to slow down and pause.

After checking on our salt marsh friends this morning I decided it was time to sit down, pause and reflect back on my late summer adventures. So here it is. A long hodgepodge of birds, rhinos, sea creatures, travels and reflections.

Grandkids ud170I’ve been lucky to spend quite a bit of time, on several occasions, with ‘my girls’. They have an incredible curiosity and desire to discover – and the energy to match. So we’ve been on ‘safari’ in Busch Gardens observing the rhino family, mom, toddler and dad…

baby rhino and mama ud170

rhino ud170… lots of stripy zebras and numerous different antelopes …

zebra ud170

antelopes ud170…and several families of giraffes.

two giraffes UD170Even some beautiful flamingos.

flamingo UD170That was a full 12 h day of countless rides and animals! Fireworks at the end of the day, both literally and figuratively. Some of us slept already on the way home.

fireworks at busch gardens UD170On another occasion it was time to explore the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. To our delight they had tropical gardens where some ‘duckies’ and familiar shore birds could come and go as they pleased.

wood duck and moorhen ud170

male ruddy duck UD170

tri-colored heron ud170

adult roseate spoonbill UD170And the underwater world was full of wonders from sharks and numerous other fish species to sea turtles and other small and big creatures.

shark FL aquarium ud170

stringray UD170

sea turtle 16x9 ud170

florida aquarium ud170

jelly fish 2 UD170

giant lobster ud170A fascinating world of its own….followed by other adventures at the children’s museum and elsewhere. All these excursions provided welcome breaks from work that has intruded my world a bit more than I had bargained for…but it’s all good. Although I work mostly from my home office with a view of the ocean, the bayside and the salt marsh, I have also been traveling. Last week, for example, I worked in the Big Apple. Right in midtown Manhattan where the sun only reaches the ground in small spots between the skyscrapers.

Manhattan midtown ud170

Midtown manhattan workplace ud170

It is, indeed, a city that never sleeps. And it’s a city of travelers from all around the world. Convoys of carry-on pieces walk the streets intercepted occasionally by jugglers of larger luggage.

traveller NYC ud170

And the yellow taxis are still there. Racing up and down the streets alongside with Uber drivers in black SUVs.

taxis ny ud170

I didn’t have time for sight-seeing, but walking the streets to and from my meetings I observed the diversity of buildings lining the streets. Glass towers that reflected the skies next to older buildings with some character, intricate details and windows into the soul of the city…

manhattan midtwon skyscrapers UD170

new and old in NYC ud170

detail of old building in NYC ud170

window ny ud170

And I realized I could see it all captured on the façades of the glass towers…

NYC reflections UD170

Is it all stone and glass? No it isn’t. It’s a melting pot of everything. People from all over, food and drink from every corner of the world and … dogs patiently looking for that little green patch. Or just happily posing for a photographer and making her smile.

dog ny ud170

In the coming months I’ll have a more opportunities to rediscover the spirit of this place, such a contrast to what I am used to here on the beach. Talking of home, I have to tell you that Dylan and I have discovered a new park, not far from home, to walk in. It’s been hot, but the other day we ventured there for a short stroll between thunder storms.

lake at Taylor Park ud170

This park has a beautiful small lake and you can walk around it. Even in the afternoon heat we spotted some familiar birds: a Great Egret, a young Little Blue Heron, several Moorhen and Anhinga.

Great egret at Taylor Park ud170

young little blue heron 2 at Taylor Park ud170

Moorhen at Taylor Park ud170

anhinga 2 ud170Once it gets cooler, we’ll visit this park more regularly, but for now we walk right here in the neighborhood.

I have to tell you that I’ve been worried about Mama Osprey. While I had seen Papa perching at the Sailing Center in the evenings, I hadn’t seen her since I returned from Sweden. So this morning I decided that we would go out soon after sunrise and look for her.

mama osprey at sunrise ud170

Because she has not been perching at the nest like she has done the previous summers, I decided to walk on the bayside. Right off the bat we discovered Papa Stanley on his favorite perch at the Sailing Center. He nodded a friendly greeting as in wondering where we’d been.

papa osprey at sailing center ud170

Then I looked around for Mama Sandy. She was nowhere to be seen….until I trained my camera on the small spot at the far end of the pier.

mama osprey at sailing center ud170

There she was! In the company of a pelican and some gulls. And I happily took her portrait in the golden haze of the rising sun.

mama osprey ud170From there we walked to the salt marsh and discovered it was quite lively after several months of little activity. I was delighted to see the Mayor in his slightly untidy office again.

mayor the older GBH in his office ud170He was proudly surveying his village. I noticed that Great Egrets were back from their summer vacation in big numbers and so were the smaller Snowy Egrets. The grass was so tall that it was difficult to get good shots of them.

Great egret ud170

snowy egret ud170Suddenly we saw that the Mayor flew up to a higher branch and trained his eyes on something.

the older gbh mayor ud170We walked a bit closer…and noticed that Harry, the younger GBH, was walking towards a group of egrets exercising his self-appointed authority…

Young GBH and a great egret UD170He glanced at the Mayor and noticed he was under surveillance. He knew from previous experience how such a confrontation would end, so he stopped at his tracks, turned around and walked away. We walked home too. I was happy to have spotted both osprey parents and realized that the new nesting season is only three months away.

Dylan and I wish you all happy fall days.

Curious Pairs of Eyes. And Other Drama on Honeymoon Island.

On Friday morning I took my new ‘lens baby’ out for a long hike on Honeymoon Island. Dylan and I wanted to check on the progress at the many osprey nests we had spotted on our end January outing.  And it was time to test whether or not the three of us would be able to hike together. Like last time, we followed the Osprey Trail.

female osprey HMI UD154We spotted several osprey nests. And in all cases found one parent incubating and the other guarding the nest close by.

second osprey nest female incubating HMI ud154

male osprey with a fish HMI UD154To my delight, I discovered that this was the case even at the nest that an osprey couple had just started to rebuild when we last visited. It was a sizable nest now and the mom-to-be was sitting on the eggs.

female osprey incubates HMI UD154

Daddy Osprey in the new nest UD154As far as I could see, the osprey couples on this island were on the same time-table as Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley here at the salt marsh. All were still incubating. Then I remembered the nest that had been overtaken by Great-horned Owls. That explained the tight security around the osprey nests. In January mama owl had been incubating and now I wanted to see if there were owlets in the nest.

Mama great-horned owl ud150I soon discovered two lively owlets. They were having brunch. The older sibling was eating something white and feathered, while the younger one was getting its pickings.

Great-horned Owl chicks at HMI UD154

two owlets HMI 16x9 UD154

Owlets showingntheir feathers UD154There was some occasional brawl around the brunch table and I could see them flexing their little wings. But they were still far from fledging. After a while they finished eating and discovered us on the trail quite a bit away.

Owlets 2b at HMI UD154

Younger owlet UD154Both owlets were very much aware of our presence. Perhaps more Dylan’s than mine.

the Owlets on HMI UD154 featured 2We stayed quite a while – treats for Mr. Dylan for his patience – as I was trying to locate at least one parent in the trees surrounding the nest. Finally I spotted a well camouflaged mama owl sleeping high up in a pine tree.

Mama Great-horned Owl HMI UD154When we left the owl nest I noticed that the younger sibling had fallen asleep, while the older one was keeping watch.

one owlet is sleeping HMI UD154When we approached the end of the trail, I found a female osprey perching in a tree that also housed a nest. Her hubby was nowhere to be seen.

young female osprey hmi ud154Suddenly he flew up from the vicinity of the nest. She looked surprised.

an osprey couple HMI UD154He flew right on top of her. But despite a good effort, they didn’t quite know how to mate…and he flew down to a lower perch. They clearly had no eggs in the nest.

mating young ospreys HMI UD154I found it unusual that they were trying to mate at this time, in mid March. Maybe this was a young couple who already occupied a nest, but had not succeeded to lay eggs as yet. Or perhaps their eggs had become food for predators and they were trying for a second clutch. Whatever the case, I wished them all the best.

We walked back to the car. My assistant was thirsty and my arms were tired of holding the ‘lens baby’ for almost two hours. A bit of a workout for both of us. But we had proven that we can hike together. We just need more practice.

Dylan after hike UD154For us this coming week means ‘hatch watch’. We’ll be hanging out on our terrace with binoculars and the superzoom camera whenever we have time. If we’re lucky, we might spot a hatchling or two at the osprey nest before next weekend. Dylan and I wish you a great week.

Free Like an Eagle. A Hike in the Urban Wilderness.

This is Sarge, a five year old female American Bald Eagle. But unlike in the song, or how I pictured her here, she’s not free. Quite the opposite. Sarge can’t fly, and now lives at the Narrows Environmental Education Center in McGough Nature Park. But let me start from beginning.

mcCough nature parl trail ud70This long weekend I suddenly found myself without plans. Our smallest granddaughter woke up with a viral infection and sky-high fever when her family was supposed to drive this way on Saturday.

So yesterday I decided to hike in McGough Nature Park, a jungle-like small park bordering to intracoastal waters south of us. Huge oak trees mix with tall pines, palms and mangroves providing a peaceful spot of wilderness in the middle of the hubbub of this crowded beach weekend.

jungle 2 ud70This park is a safe haven for hundreds of turtles, so I started my hike at the turtle pond. Some turtles were enjoying the sun on the ‘resort deck’ in the middle of the pond.

turtle resort ud70While others preferred to lounge solo on the land or in the water. I thought many of them had beautiful colors. And observing their slow pace of life was calming to the soul. They had no hurry to do anything or to go anywhere. A lesson on “just being”.

turrtle 3 ud70

turtle closeup ud70In the open areas of the park, lots of wild flowers were blooming.

wild flower 2 mcGough ud70

wild flower at McGough ud70But around the forested trails sunlight reached the ground only at a few spots.

McCough trail ud70I could hear an Osprey calling and many birds singing, but it was impossible to spot them high up in the dense forest. I walked towards the intracoastal hoping to find some birds.

nest UD70I walked along the long pier over the water and spotted a pelican just taking off. But all wading birds were hiding from the heat in the dense mangrove forest.

pelican on the intracoastal ud70I stood there in the welcome breeze for a while and observed the busy boat traffic, a sign of families having fun on the water this long weekend.

boat traffic on the intracoastal 2 ud70It had become cloudy and I hurried back through the park to visit the raptors who had their permanent home at the Education Center.

pier McGough nature park ud70Sarge is a newcomer to the park. She was found weak, dehydrated and malnourished in Tennessee a couple of years ago.

sarge ud70After a long rehabilitation at the World Bird Sanctuary near St. Louis, she was deemed non-releasable. She has an irreversible and rare feather disorder. Her feathers are brittle and can break easily. Her molting, unlike for other birds, happens all on one side. That makes balanced flight impossible. Thus she cannot take care of herself in the wild.

Sarge is a beautiful, big bird of about 11 pounds. She came here only in May and is still getting used to her new home. But now she is safe and well cared for, and gets to go on outings in the park once she’s familiarized herself with the new environment.

I found her fascinating. She looked at me, the only visor at the time, and we talked for a while.

american eagle ud70Next to her, some Great-horned Owls had their little home. I thought one of them looked at me a bit suspiciously from the corner of his eye.

great-jorned owl ud70And then there were several hawks, all with different injuries that made life in the wild not an option for them. I thought this Red-shouldered Hawk girl was most beautiful.red-shouldered hawk ud70I stayed with these wonderful raptors until a few fat rain drops started falling and I had to head back home. It was a great hike. I hope you enjoyed it too.

fireworks ud70Happy Independence Day to all friends in the US!

Hiking. With Serenity. And a Dog.

Immersed in serenity. Whispers of the forest. Beholding the dance of the clouds. And tasting the air. Fresh. Comforting. It fills my being.

forest in Finlandlichen in the forest Finlandsmall stream in FinlandHiking. We pass the childhood “river”. At both ends of the lake. And the picnic “island”. Destination for countless boat trips. Lunch bags and shared secrets. The two sisters. Rain or shine.

islet in a lake in Finlandlake in FinlandAnd later, I marvel about the snow flakes as they slowly float towards the ground. Others eager to discover what might be hidden underneath. Like fallen apples.

a pudel in the snow Or happy memories of childhood winters. When the earth was cooler. And the snow made itself comfortable on the trees early in the season.

snow falling on trees in Finlandfirst snow on the montains in FinlandSunrise after morning coffee. Well after. Calm lake announces a beautiful day. The reeds hum a familiar tune. And the bird of the week jumps high up in the sky.

sunrise over the lake in Finlandsunrise over the lake in Finlandgreat tit FIThe hiking companion comes flying on the ground. Checks on those in his care. Covers three times the distance.  Nine miles instead of three.

dog runningAnd so the days go. Until the fire in the sky announces tea time. Jam filled donuts. Warmth inside and out. Childhood home.

sunset over the forest in FinlandI’ll see you soon. Around tea time.

 

Papa Osprey’s Photo Shoot. And an Illicit Visitor at the Salt Marsh.

The sun was barely up on my first day home after the trip when I stepped out in the garden. Without even a cup of coffee. I just had to go see my feathered friends before starting a busy day. And he was right there. The Little Blue Heron, in a shady spot under the palm trees.

little blue heron in our garden ud21It was wonderful to be welcomed home by one of my friends from the salt marsh. The beach was quiet. And the rainwater “lake” was gone.

sunrise beach ud21The salt marsh looked fresh and misty. And I saw the water levels were almost back to normal. Little islets stuck up from the water, just as they used to.

sunrise at salt marsh ud21Most birds were still in their sleeping quarters, but Mama Sandy was already having her breakfast at the nest. She had a nasty wound on her left leg, but looked okay otherwise.

mama osprey with a fish ud21When I came closer, she greeted me in her typical straight forward, but friendly manner. I thought she even smiled.

mama osprey at the nest UD21I found the young Great Blue Heron (GBH) close to the osprey nest, as often is the case. He didn’t bother to look at me. He might be familiar with my view on his attacks on the nest earlier this year.

young blue heronThe Tri-colored Heron, who had temporarily moved elsewhere during the floods, was back home. She was happily hunting for her breakfast in the shallow waters.

tricolored heron ud21And just when I was about to leave, Rosa, the Roseate Spoonbill flew in. It’s always nice to see her. And it looks like she might think the same about me 🙂

roseate spoonbill landing ud21roseate spoonbill Rosa ud21I continued my walk to the bay side, and marveled at the European Starlings greeting the sun on a lamp-post next to the park.

starling family at sunrise ud21I decided to check if Papa Stanley would be at his resort. He was at home. Still sleeping when I arrived.

papa osprey sleeping ud21He soon discovered me and decided to pose for a photo shoot. A rare treat, and so very kind of him.

papa ospey says hi ud21papa osprey in his resort ud21papa osprey portraIT 2 UD21papa osprey portrait ud21I thought he was quite handsome. That was a great home-coming.

I got another opportunity to get out for a quick walk this morning. I discovered that the “beach lake” had reemerged after yesterday’s short, but intense storm. Many birds were enjoying rainwater baths and the special menu the fresh waters had to offer.

more rainwater and birds on the beach ud21snowy egret 2 ud21theyoung great blue heron ud21black skimmer drinking fresh water ud21juvenile black skimmer sleeping ud21And some, like this juvenile Black Skimmer, were just plain tired of all the excitement.

While the young GBH was frolicking at the “beach lake”, the older one, the Mayor, was back in charge at the salt marsh.

mayor great blue heronI bet he was not happy to see this illicit fisherman trying to capture the fish that belongs to the residents. I was not happy either.

fisherman at salt marsh ud21I wished Sandy had been at the nest and given him a small lesson. But luckily, as soon as I started walking towards the park HQ, he packed his gear and left. Once he was gone, I came back to greet the Great and Snowy Egrets who were enjoying the sunshine in large numbers, and then walked back home.

great egret on the top ud21So much excitement, as always, at the salt marsh. Thank you for coming along. We all wish you a wonderful weekend!