Thursday, January 31, 2013


Just on a gamble, I drove by to see if possibly the pair of whooping cranes that wintered in Southwood had returned: They HAVE!!

I took a few (dozen!) shots of them in the pond at a great distance.

There was a pair of sandhill cranes with them. Sandhills are uncommon here. Whooping cranes are rare anywhere.

So after running my errands and on my way home, I decided to see if they were still there or if they had moved. They were not in the pond area, so I kept driving. When I saw a man with a tripod and a camera with a huge lens, I knew I had found them. This time they were much closer to the fence.

For sure, this was with my zoomiest lens. I was not close. Just closer.

Here is one sandhill crane and one whooping crane. I love the rusty spots on this sandhill. (They were not messing around. It just looks like it since there was a slight rise from the ditch where I stood.)

"Charlotte, I'm sick and tired of these people and their cameras. Here's what I think of all this attention!"

"Henry!!! You mooned them?! Honestly! What am I going to do with you?"

"What?      They were annoying."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Prickly Pear: Down to Bones

I was fascinated by the net-like "skeleton" of this prickly pear. Invasive cactus moths are taking quite a toll on our native prickly pears and we have seen many chewed, dying and dead prickly pears. But I had not noticed the skeleton forms left behind when all the thorns and flesh are gone.  I sent an email to a person who studies them to learn more but there was not a reply.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


At the lighthouse, we saw more alligators than in recent past trips.  It is always interesting to see them and we miss them when they are  hiding. There were some quite large ones and some yearlings. I have taken so many pictures of alligators that it is going to have to be something really unusual for me to take off the lens cap, so there are no alligator pictures from this trip.

This is the sign at the lighthouse pool.

But it was this lone Croc that looked almost menacing as it peeked out from the kiosk across the parking lot from the sign. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Eagle and the Great Horned Owl

We have been watching the eagles' nest on the lighthouse road for many years. Sometimes we see babies and sometimes just adults perched nearby. This weekend, we saw a great horned owl in the nest, while an adult eagle sat only a few trees away.

If you look right in the middle of the nest, just to the right of the main tree trunk, you can see the owl's head.

We had read that the nest had been taken over by the great-horned owls. Curious. Maybe it is a lease situation. Maybe the landlord is also serving as security guard?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Misty Morning on the St. Marks River

On Inauguration/ ML King Day, we decided to go to breakfast--something we rarely do except when traveling. Then we headed for a morning trip to the lighthouse, which we have only done one other time recently. We usually make it down in the afternoon and stay as long as possible. 

The bridge over the river afforded some lovely views both north and south.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What a Lovely Garden

Here are a few more shots from Maclay Gardens.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ripley's Tree

This tea olive trunk at Maclay State Gardens had naturally grafted onto another  branch; subsequently this part of the trunk rotted from the ground up. But because it is grafted, it continues to grow though it is no longer attached to the ground as it originally was.

Believe it or not!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oaks: Dead and Live

Just inside the Maclay State Garden's gate is now a huge stump from a laurel oak that was estimated to be over 100 years old.

Further down the path, B commented on the lower branch on this live oak. He estimated it to be over sixty feet in length. It grew almost parallel to the ground and had broken off near the palm.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Maclay Garden Camellias

We recently made a Sunday visit to Maclay State Gardens. It is an old homesite whose grounds were beautifully planted beginning in the 1920s and now are open to the public. The specialty is camellias and azaleas. We hit it just right for the blooming camellias. The plants have become trees over the years and with excellent care are now covered in blooms.

There are many, many varieties. In some cases, through grafting, several different blooms are seen on the same bush.

It seemed that each bloom was more glorious than the one before. Here is a sampling:

I couldn't get the light just right, but this one has purple around the edges.

This one was huge!

I also love the buds: tight cups of color.

I would have to agree with Mr. and Mrs. Maclay: you can never have too many camellias.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mailbox Monday: Pony Express

Appropriately, this mailbox is outside of a horse training center in Ocala. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Breaking Our Heart(wood)

Thursday night was a gusty one. We were told to expect up to 40 mph winds to push ahead a cold front. As we were going to bed, we heard a large limb hit the ground in the backyard. B went out with a flashlight and confirmed that it was part of the pine. Last spring sometime, a big limb had broken near the top.  It is hung up,  but not without killing a couple of other branches that are also still attached. So our hope was that it was some of that dead stuff finally dropping.  No. This was a live one of decent girth and a length of about 18 feet.

The good news was that:
a) it did not land on the screen porch or the shed
b) it has fat lighter in it

We will not let that go to waste.