Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Birding at St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge

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Some mornings, I am astonished at how wonderful it is to live in a place where we have the luxury to set aside wide tracts of lands to preserve our natural heritage. St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge evokes that response in me. It’s even more astonishing that because a couple years ago I bought a lifetime Senior Pass, getting into the national parks is free – for the rest of my life. What a great country we live in. 🙂

It is a cold and frosty morning as we load up to head out to St. Marks for some serious bird watching and photographing. Serious, that is, for AdventureMan, who actually does birding trips with other serious birders. I am a bird-appreciator, as in I know what a cardinal is, and a blue jay. I can pretty well recognize a buzzard. Hey, show me a painting and I can probably tell you who painted it, but birds . . . not so much.

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I love being outdoors in Florida on a wonderful clear cool day with fabulous conditions for taking photos. I love just wandering along some of the birding trails and seeing what we can see. It’s an amazing place; in some of the areas where we stopped to wander, it reminded me of places we like to go in Africa, of Zambia, of Namibia, of Botswana . . . some of the habitat is so alike, I can almost hear those tectonic plates creaking apart, drifting, and wonder how much of the flora is directly related to African flora.

 
We had these in Tunisia; we called them Prickly Pear, and the Tunisians used them for borders to separate their lands. They also made jam with the prickly pears, and they skinned the leaves and fried up the meat from inside the thick prickly pear leaves. I think what a great border they would make in Pensacola, but a very unfriendly border. Good for keeping away thieves and burglers, but not very attractive, and not very welcoming . . . but very very African:

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Some fishermen, probably setting some crab traps near the shore:

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The St. Mark’s lighthouse:

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Every now and then you have a lucky moment, and I happened to shoot this heron just as he had a wiggling sparkly fish in his beak, just before he swallowed it. I admit it, I wasn’t trying. If I had been trying, I could never have gotten it just at the right moment:

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Some very clever park person went around and made all the deer crossing signs into Rudolph signs, LOL!

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The park is full of very serious-faced people carrying HUGE lenses on cameras attached to seriously sturdy tripods, lenses meant to capture the details of the pinfeathers, cameras to document a rare sighting. These people don’t talk about ducks, they talk about Merganzers and Koots, and the rarely seen such-and-such, and I just listen and keep my mouth shut while my head spins.

For me, it’s enough to see these wonderful creatures, free of fear, safe in their migrations. It’s enough to have a cool day, a great day for walking, and NO mosquitos. It’s a great day for my kind of birding, which is very non-serious to be sure.

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December 30, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Birds, Botswana, Cultural, Environment, ExPat Life, Florida, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Wakulla Springs Boat Trip

At Wakulla Springs, everything is separate. Like the entrance fee goes to the State. The Wakulla Lodge is run by some corporation with a state contract, I am guessing, and the Wakulla Boat Rides are another separately run concession. If you are staying at the Lodge, or booked for the lunch buffet at the Lodge, you get into the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park for free, instead of paying the $6/vehicle entrance fee.

The boat trip is half the fun. On hot days in the park, you can swim right in the same spring as the manatees, but on chilly winter days – take the boat trip. We took the boat trip twice, it is so much fun, and because we love the late afternoon light. I will share my photos of some of what we saw on the hour long trip below; warning you that trying to get a shot of an underwater manatee is not such an easy thing to do. You may have to use a little imagination to see the manatee 🙂 but I swear, it is there.

These are leathery buzzards, wintering in Wakulla Springs:
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Great Blue Heron:
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Little ducks called Koots:
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Sunning Gator:
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Close up of Gator skin:
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Close up Gator head – he was so cold he didn’t even care about the boat being near, he just wanted to soak up as much sun as he could before it set:
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Wakulla Springs Cypress:
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The Wakulla Springs Lodge from the Springs:
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Old fashioned swimming platform:
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Buzzards roosting:
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Turtle soaking up some sun:
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Anhinga drying out his wings:
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Merganzer Duck – don’t you love his helmeted head?
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OK, there it is, the Manatee, otherwise known as a sea cow, a siren, and a sea slug – about the size of a small whale or a very large shark:

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December 29, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Education, Entertainment, Environment, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments