Florida is for the Birds

June 22, 2011

I’ve determined that if you’re not a bird watcher when you move to Florida, you eventually become one. Whether it’s the Red Wing Blackbird that catches your eye, or the statuesque herons and cranes, something inevitably draws you in. Several have caught my attention by now, and I seem to be looking for them everywhere I go.

From the Sandhill Cranes (which I wrote an earlier post on)…

Sandhill Crane (photo by Matt O'Neill)

to the graceful herons.

Great Blue Heron (photo by Matt O'Neill)

 

White Heron (photo by Matt O'Neill)

 
From the hawks that fly over our house daily, to the ospreys and owls. I enjoy them all.
 

Osprey (photo by Matt O'Neill)

 

Barred Owl (photo by Matt O'Neill)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A Trip Down 2010’s Memory Lane

December 29, 2010

I still have a long way to go before completing my List of 50 Things to Love About Florida for the non-theme park enthusiast.  But 2010 has brought me closer to my home state, and 2011 will undoubtably bring me even closer.  Looking back at 2010, here a few of my favorite photos and discoveries.

Alligators are everywhere in Florida.  

Florida birds are incredible to watch, particularly the graceful and brave Sandhill Crane.

And the Osprey.

The Florida coast is dotted with several historic lighthouses, full of romance and mystery.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse

Outdoor Florida  provides beauty in many ways, one of which is the Oak Trees draped in Spanish Moss.

Fairchild Oak

And although not as old as some of my favorite European countries, Florida does have history.  Its beautiful historic courthouses are part of that.

Osceola County Historic Courthouse

Writing this blog pushed me to get out there and explore this great state.  I researched things I never knew I wanted to learn about. I hiked swamps. I observed gopher tortoises, snowy egrets, golden silk spiders. I dove the waters that surround the state. I climbed to the top of lighthouses for a perfect view. I learned all about mollusks and honey bees. I learned the history of what lies beneath the sea, Spanish ships and slave ships included. I toasted Florida’s authors, past and present. I enjoyed the great Florida outdoors and dabbled a little in its politics.

Yet there is so much more to do. 

2011 may see me experiencing the new Salvador Dali museum, visiting Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Cross Creek homeplace, scuba diving on the aircraft carrier Oriskiny, and possibly even taking a train across the state. Undoubtably I want to visit more towns, small and large.  Find more historical places. Seek out more original foods and recipes.  And find that one peaceful beach to lull away the hours. 

This list may take a while.


Sandhill Cranes

May 21, 2010

There is something very unique about Florida birds.  One in particular is the Sandhill Crane, which we unexpectedly encountered on a recent hike.

We spotted the Crane a short distance away, poking its bill repeatedly into the ground.  As we quietly approached I fully expected the Crane to either walk the other way or take off in flight.  It did neither.  Instead it just kept moving toward us.  Finally we decided to pass, staying well to our side of the wide path.  With only three feet or so between us, the Crane continued its search, not flinching, or even looking our way.    

A few interesting facts about the Sandhill Crane:

  • Sandhill Cranes are preyed upon by avian and mammalian predators.  When approached by avian predators (eagles, large owls) the Crane will fly straight at the predator, kicking it with its long legs and feet.  When approached by a mammalian predator (fox, bobcat) the Crane barrels straight for it, wings spread wide and bill pointed at the predator. 
  • Cranes are known for their dancing.  This includes bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing,  and wing flapping.
  • The Florida Sandhill Crane often is seen in residential yards, with apparently little fear of human approach.  They also saunter over fields, wet grasslands and meadows.
  • Sandhill Cranes nest in marsh vegetation or on the ground near water. 
  • Florida Sandhill Cranes are less common than other species of Sandhill Cranes. Some experts estimate there are only about 5,000 remaining.  The biggest threat to their survival is habitat destruction.
  • During breeding season, the Sandhill Cranes camouflage themselves by preening mud into their feathers.
  • If you hear a loud, rattling kar-r-r-o-o, a Sandhill Crane is most likely nearby.