FLORIDA … IT’S FOR DA BOIDS

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Feeling cold and crotchety in mid-February I decided I should take the cure in Florida.  My friend was amenable so off we went, first to her family condo at Delray Beach.  The sun was shining and it was warm and we enjoyed a pleasant few days there.  We justified the cocktail hours with a little work, redoing a stepping stone path from the lanaii to the lawn with its sunset bench by the lake.

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One of the highlights of the area is the Wakodahatchee Wetlands.  This excellent project of Palm Beach County’s Utilities Department is a fifty acre meadow traversed by three quarters of a mile of boardwalks through and around marshes and ponds and thickets of nesting and resting bird life.  We visited it last year (see Wakodahatchee Wetlands) and it was great even without my long lens.  This year I brought the lens (100-400mm) and I was pleased with the results.

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There is the usual array of Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, and Anhingas.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

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Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Anhinga

Anhinga

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A fun capture for me was this Red-winged Blackbird.  I’ve heard them in the fragmites and other shore foliage all my life, and watched them flit between hiding places, never pausing long enough to be captured.  This one did, and I was pleased to find the splashes of yellow under the red.

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From Delray Beach we headed across Alligator Alley to another favorite place…Sanibel Island.  After a few days on the beach there I began to think that maybe I could get into this Florida-in-February thing.  It is a quiet, laid back life pretty much focusing, for us, on the beach, the wildlife refuge, the competitive shelling, and looking for the green flash.  The opening scene above was taken early in the morning on our adjacent beach.  Here’s another scene illustrating what’s referred to as the “Sanibel Stoop.”

The Sanibel Stoop

The Sanibel Stoop

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As the above scene and the one below suggest, the weather wasn’t splendid every day but it didn’t get in our way.  One morning started this way but eventually cleared enough for a float-boat ride with a naturalist through the mangrove thickets of Tarpon Bay.

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We also went through the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge three times including once with a guide which was worthwhile.  And, we toured the excellent educational visitor’s center.  On the refuge trail I managed to capture something new for me: juvenile ibises, long legged, long billed wading birds. 

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On our last day on our way off the island we took one final swing through the refuge.  I was thrilled to capture this Yellow Crowned Night Heron.  They don’t come easy; they’re named Night Heron for a reason.  This one, however, was locked in on something, never flinching as I got close enough for the capture.  The feather detail and colors are beautiful and the yellow stripe and its head spike-feathers are high-five sporty.——————————————————————————————–

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Waiting for the green flash.  An evening ritual.

Waiting for the green flash. An evening ritual.

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For more scenes from the trip please click here.

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THE WAKODAHATCHEE WETLANDS AND THE MORIKAMI JAPANESE GARDENS

I recently enjoyed a week at a friend’s condo in Delray Beach, Florida.  The condo looked out on a small lake where there was a lakeside bench we enjoyed during  the cocktail hour.  Out in the lake was an aeration fountain;  its peak is shown above, caught in the setting sun marking the end of each pleasant day in the area.

One highlight was a visit to the Wakodahotchee Wetlands.  This is a vast park maintained by Palm Beach County as a pleasant place for bird watching while serving to final filter the already pure outflow from their water treatment plant.

The park is fifty acres with a three-quarter mile boardwalk that crosses between open water pond areas, emergent marsh areas, shallow shelves, and islands with shrubs and snags to foster nesting and roosting.  Over 151 varieties of birds have been seen along with turtles, alligators, frogs, otters and racoons.  I was envious of the photographers with their long lenses, capturing the various herons, anhingas and cormorants nesting in the thickets.  My own long lens was nesting back home.  Oh, well.

a tri-color heron.

 
 
 Here’s a female Anhinga and a Great Blue Heron.
Talking about all the crazy photographers.
 
This place was so pleasant and enjoyable that we returned for another walk.  We also visited a similar Palm Beach County Park, Green Cay Nature Center, 100 acres of constructed wetlands with a 1.5 mile elevated boardwalk through it with extensive educational facilities.
 
 

ANOTHER REWARDING ACTIVITY WAS A VISIT TO THE COUNTY’S

 

 MORIKAMI JAPANESE GARDENS

 

In 1904 a group of pioneering Japanese farmers came to Florida to establish the Yamato farming colony between Delray and Boca Raton.  By the 20’s the group had given up its dream but one member, Sukeji Morikami, persevered and became a successful farmer and fruit and vegetable broker.  In the mid-70’s he donated land to the county to be used as a park to preserve the colony’s memory.  Today it is a magnificent destination.  One wanders along peaceful paths through six major gardens surrounding a central lake.  The gardens reflect periods of Japanese garden design from the eighth to the 20th century.  Centrally there is an excellent museum and educational facility, the museum housing some 5000 artifacts.  The cafe lived up to its reputation as one of the three top museum cafes in the country.

The Wisdom Ring
 

Morikami Falls

Memorial Waterfall

 

For a gallery of trip images, please click here.  

 

CHARLESTON REVISITED

What a pleasure it was to return to the lowcountry surrounding Charleston.  It is a gentle and genteel place in this world….easy going, gracious, and beautiful.  I enjoyed three days with multiple generations of friends in settings ranging from quiet, winding tree-lined roads of  Mount Pleasant, to strawberry pickin’ at Boone Farm, to the good life of Wild Dunes on the beach, and to the plantations along the Ashley River Road.

On my first morning I drove to see old (fauna) friends at the Audubon Swamp Garden adjacent to Magnolia Gardens.  Civilization has arrived there in the form of an admission guard and a locked gate with a combination lock.  I’m not going to give away the combination but Magnolia Plantation dates from 1676.

As seen below, the Great White Herons were in their breeding plumage.  The feathery plumage is the standout feature but also characteristic is the green cast in front of their eyes, and the blackened bill top.

 

Elsewhere in the garden this anhinga, wings spread to dry, seemed poised for a lift-off to an earth orbit.

My other big outing day was to the Middleton Plantation.  The panorama at the top of this post is of the Azalea Hillside above the Rice Mill Pond.  I keep trying to capture this but I’ve never been there at the right light.  So, another compromise but such a beautiful scene.

Below is another view of the hillside, with one of the many sculptures on the grounds.

 

There was an 18th century reenactors camp there for the weekend.  Here are a couple of the kids taking time off from reenacting to just play and talk.  This shot was suggested by my friend, Bob W.,  and it was a good idea.

 

Here is a view at the aptly named Reflection Pool.

 

Finally, having had a nice lunch with a glass of Chardonnay, I could relate to this fellow’s (in)activity.