Monday, April 28, 2014

Birds at Baldpoint

On Saturday morning at the FSU Marine Lab, I attended a very informative presentation “Beach-Nesting Shorebirds: Florida’s Original Beach Babies” by Bonnie Samuelsen. The images below were taken in the Bald Point State Park after the presentation during a guided bird walk by Bonnie and Audubon Florida's Coastal Bird Tech, John Murphy. We also viewed American oyster catchers and marbled godwits through John's fine spotting scope.

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Brown pelican

Laughing gull

Red knots and short-billed dowitchers

You can almost hear this bird proclaiming
Willet, Willet, Willet, Willet!!!!

Short-billed dowitcher

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wakulla's wondrous water world

The first seven images were taken on Monday, March 21 in the Wakulla Springs State Park. 

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Recent rainfall has caused increased an increase in flow out
of the caves. This image and the next three images were taken
at the bridge along the park drive next to Sally Ward Spring.
During high water, the flow goes from the Indian Springs area
to Sally Ward on the way to the Wakulla River.

The next five images were taken the same day at the cypress dome along the park drive.
Virginia creeper

Netted chain fern

Royal fern

Royal fern reflected in the water
 The next three photos were taken this morning, Thursday, March 24 east of Highway 98, between Medart and Panacea in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. This is my first visit to a small pond in a pine forest a short walk from the highway.

These final four images, also taken this morning are in the woodland adjacent to the pond.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April Wildflowers

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St. Marks Refuge Road 105, east of East River Pool

Bull thistle
St. Marks Refuge Road 105, east of East River Pool

Blue-eyed grass
St. Marks Refuge Road 105, east of East River Pool

St. Marks Refuge Road 105, east of East River Pool

Orange milkwort
St. Marks Refuge Road 407, west of Surf Road

St. Marks Refuge Road 407, west of Surf Road

Wild azalea
St. Marks Refuge, Surf Road at Buckhorn Creek bridge

Blue flag iris
St. Marks Refuge, Light House Road

Blue flag iris
St. Marks Refuge, Light House Road

Blue flag iris
St. Marks Refuge, Light House Road

Crow poison
St. Marks Refuge road 406, west of Surf Road

St. Marks Refuge road 406, west of Surf Road

Grass pink orchid
St. Marks Refuge road 406, west of Surf Road

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Amazon Rainforest Vacation in March

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This is the second set of images from our March vacation to Ecuador. During the first seven days we toured the Galapagos. Trudy and I spent the next five days at the Sacha Lodge in a 5,000 acre rain forest preserve within the Amazon Basin. We flew from the Galapagos to Quito, then over the Andes to Coca. There we began our thrilling journey down the Napo River, a major tributary of the Amazon River.

We sped down the river at 30 miles per hour in motorized canoe for 50 miles. The River here was about one-third of a mile wide and laden with sediment from the Andes Mountains.

The boat crew included a lookout in the bow to watch for tree stumps and sand bars.

In two hours, we arrived safely at a dock on the bank of the river.

From the dock, we hiked in the rain through a rain forest for 30 minutes, then paddled in a canoe 
across Lake Pilchicocha to the lodge. Our luggage was transported in wheel barrows by lodge staff.

Both the journey and the destination were awesome! I took this image and the next one before sunrise the next morning

The main lodge building was two-stories high with a palm thatched roof and crows nest.

We stayed in Cabin 6, a structure in perfect harmony with the surrounding tropical jungle. Our accommodations were by a long boardwalk that provided privacy and a sense of remoteness.

Creature comforts included screen windows, electricity, ceiling fans, hot and cold water, a flush toilet, and a porch with two hammocks!

A large screen window in the shower made you feel that you were outside!

There was so much to see and do that we actually didn't use the hammocks or the porch.

Trudy (below) is dressed and ready for a hike through the rain forest, with boots and hiking stick supplied by
Sacha. The boots kept our feet clean and dry on the muddy and sometimes wet trails. They also provided protection from poisonous snakes and ants. We saw only one snake, a small anaconda; however, ants, especially lines of leaf cutter ants, were everywhere. Occasionally we saw single conga ants (aka bullet
ants because of their powerful bite that reportedly was extremely painful for 24 hours).

Surprise, surprise! We routinely have encountered more mosquitoes  in Florida than in the Amazon. I was 
soooooooo relieved

The trail system through the forest is extensive. Thank God for the guides!

Elevated boardwalks were welcomed over periodic low, wet areas.

We hiked a 1-mile long trail several times to the canopy bird walk. The 900-foot long walkway was 120 feet above the forest floor, connecting three iron towers.

The view looking down on the lush green tropical forest is an experience that I will never forget.

We saw more birds and monkeys while on the tower than anywhere else. UNFORTUNATELY, the animals were often 100 to 200 yards away. Fortunately our two guides had an uncanny ability to find animals at a distance of 2 to 3 FarSees (one FarSee is as far away as I can see!) So kudos to the guides and a spotting scope!

The next four images were animals that accidentally got close enough for me to photograph!

Double-toothed kite

Crested oropendola

Many banded aracari

Spider monkey

I spent most of the time on the canopy bird walk enjoying the trees, especially palm trees. That is appropriate for our stay at the Sacha Lodge, because sacha is the Quichua Indian language means forest.

Here is a very satisfied and grinning Trudy in a canoe paddled by our native guide.

Joel, our bilingual (Spanish and English) naturalist guide, is showing us a coca fruit.

Trudy and Joel at the base of a huge kapok tree.

Luis, our native Quichu guide, identified plants with medicinal properties.

Bromeliad bloom

Blue-morpho butterflies mating.

After the morning excursion, we were 
served fresh fruit juice and a snack.

Amazon lily

Fern ... everywhere there were ferns!

Champagne glass mushrooms

Large tarantula on a railing of the
lodge boardwalk.

Rainforest plants

Termite nest

Unidentified butterfly

Tree silhouettes along the lake shoreline early one morning

With few exceptions, the frogs we saw were less than one half inch in size. Sigh ... none were brightly colored.

Howler monkey

Heliconia flowers (false bird-of-paradise)

Using cane poles and chunks of beef for bait, six of us went fishing for piranha in the lake.

Only Luis caught them. He caught four piranha.

The next-to-last day, we visited a parrot lick on the Napo River. These yellow-crowned Amazon parrots come to eat the clay in the mornings, possibly to supplement their diet of fruits and nuts with sodium.

Sacha supports several schools in the area, including a small indigenous rainforest community, Sani Isla. We visited the school, observed sustainable farming and watched preparation of a snack of fish, fruit, and heart of palm salad for the group.



Live grub

A Sacha guide eating the grub.
Trudy ate a grilled one, Bob passed.

I spent some quality time in the Sacha butterfly house.

Owl butterfly

Blue morpho butterfly

While paddling down a small creek to climb the "wooden tower", we got insanely close to this female snail kite. I first saw her eating a snail on a tree branch six feet over my head.

We then hiked a short distance ...

to the "Wooden Tower", a staircase 
built around an enormous kapok tree

I was the last one to the top,
because there was so much to
see on and around the tree.

At the top, 135 feet high, a wide platform provided
a 360 degree view.

 This was the climax and our last day at Sacha.

The end