I recently took a trip to Florida, right on the heels of our family trip to California. This was a solo effort, however, with the goal of finding a vacation home. I stayed with our friends Bob and Jamie at their condo in Highland Park. On the first morning Bob and I went on a hike in nearby Tiger Creek. We got an early start when it was not yet too hot. The hike proceeded through some prairie and scrub, then around a marshy lake. Because of the heavy recent rains, there were lots of flowers and insects to photograph.
|Relative of Day Flower? From Florida 2012|
The first 21 images in this album are from Tiger Creek (click the “Florida 2012” link below the image). Others include mating robber flies and a dragonfly eating a large fly head first.
Wednesday I had reserved to meet with the realtor, Bob’s nephew John. First we looked at many homes in nearby Lake Wales. There are lots of houses on the market since the crash, and we saw many in my price range. To make a long story short, all the homes were either in bad neighborhoods or required complete renovation. For example, one house had steel burglar bars on the screen door, but someone had tried to break in anyway. Our last hope was a condo in Highland Park two buildings down from Bob and Jamie’s. It was beautiful and immaculate, having been recently restored. However, the building carried no insurance and the HOA fee was pretty high. I looked at a pair of condos in another unit, but the guy wouldn’t separate them and their HOA was even higher. We are left hoping that a condo in Bob and Jamie’s complex will open up. Alternatively, we are considering getting an RV. That way we can see the whole country and take our dogs with us.
Friday we got up really early and drove down to Sanibel Island for Jamie’s favorite activity, hunting for shells. The tide was up and the shelling was tough, although the beach was heaped with piles of shells in a lot of places. I found a few good ones. I learned that you can only walk barefoot on broken shells for so long before you wear most of the skin off the bottom of your feet and every little spot has been poked with a sharp point a hundred times. After lunch Bob and I went canoeing near a site called Dog Beach. The tide was going out and the mud flats were full of shorebirds, herons and other waterfowl. I put my camera with the big lens in a dry bag to take advantage. Normally, I won’t take my good camera in a boat.
|Roseate Spoonbill From Florida 2012|
Roseate Spoonbills were abundant and tolerant of close approach. So, naturally, I took hundreds of photos of them. This sequence starts with a fiddler crab, includes cormorants, egrets, herons, and pelicans. There were fish, mostly mullet, jumping everywhere in the shallows. On the way out, the dogs were having fun playing on Dog Beach. An osprey at the take-out signals the end of this sequence. We picked up Bob’s friend Tom and had dinner at the Bass Pro Shop. We got to see some of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. We spent the night in The Fountain Motel, which dates from perhaps the 1950s. The rooms were little cottages and out front were large statues of Alvin and the Chipmunks. It was clean and we slept well.
|Great Egret with shrimp, From Florida 2012|
In the morning we went canoeing out to Mound Key, an island made of shell deposits left by the Calusa Indians. It was much bigger than I thought. We hiked across it, photographing flowers and dragonflies. Curiously, there was a fenced area containing a goat. Not sure what’s going on with that. We paddled across a big flat into the mouth of a river. We didn’t see too much up there, except two guys trying to net some mullet. I got to practice my Spanish on them. We crossed back and went around Mound Key again, where I saw some dolphins or porpoises in the distance. I think they were porpoises because they were relatively small. I wanted pics so we put maximum effort into our paddling. But even when porpoises are not trying very hard, they swim pretty fast. Eventually, we caught up with them. When they come up for air, they only surface for a second. It’s just about long enough to raise the camera, and find them in the eyepiece. But by the time you press the shutter button and the camera focuses and fires, they are back underwater. Through repeated efforts I was finally able to get some shots of them. There were at least 6 in the pod. After we were through harassing them, a group of people on water maggots (personal water craft, AKA jet skis) came along and got right among them. As we paddled along the front of an island I saw something break the surface. Bob heard a blowing noise and identified the culprits as manatees! We were already among them. There appeared to be one young one and two adults. Like porpoises, they’re difficult to photograph when they come up for air. In the photo, it will look like an alligator snout, but you have to look close to see the hairs.
|Porpoises, From Florida 2012|
After we took the canoe out we went to Times Square in Fort Myers beach. I looked in all the tourist trap shops, then we had lunch at a cafe on the beach. We watched the parasailers and the people frolicking in the water. We picked up Jamie, who had stayed with a friend, then picked up Tom for an afternoon snack. On the way home I spotted a Crested Caracara on a fencepost by the roadside. Bob did two U-turns so I could shoot it. I got a much better image than I had last year.
|Crested Caracara, From Florida 2012|
Sunday morning we went out to Bok Tower Gardens. It’s just outside Lake Wales. I love the tower, the flowers, and the insects. I was finally able to get a shot of a zebra butterfly, since they were swarming one particular bush. Skinks were out sunning themselves on the trunks of trees, giving me some opportunities. I was shooting the tower, but it was too contrasty. Bob spotted some clouds about to come over. We waited and I got the shot while the sun was briefly occluded, which evened out the lighting for a better shot. On the way home I saw a Swallow-tailed Kite soaring over a clearing in the orange groves. Bob turned around and we pulled into a sandy lane. We watched it come down and grab something out of the field. I was shooting with the big lens the whole time. They didn’t all turn out well, but on magnification you can see that it caught and was eating on the wing a huge yellow caterpillar.
|Four by Four, From Florida 2012|
Monday Bob took me to the airport at a crazy early hour. For those who have lost track, I have gone to Ecuador, California and Florida this summer, requiring 14 separate flights. It’s been fun, but I’ve had enough of airports and airplanes for awhile.
|Swallow-tailed Kite with caterpillar, From Florida 2012|