I don’t think I’ve shown a picture of the new Earth flag since we got it mounted to the pole. Here it is proudly waving at the end of our drive. THANK YOU CARRIE!!
I also want to make note of David’s clever awning anchor for those sites where the ground under your patio is cement or almost cement. Just use your wooden jack blocks and weight the awning down. The blocks were custom made and have handles.
This afternoon, along with Nancy and Bill, we make a trip to what is known locally as The Celery Fields. Its more than 300 acres is Sarasota County’s main storm water collection zone and primary flood mitigation zone. It’s a wonderful way to maintain wetlands and serve a dual purpose of public safety and recreation.
The area of the Celery Fields was once known as Big Camp Sawgrass and was drained in the late 1880’s and converted from sawgrass marsh to agriculture in the early 1920’s by the Bertha Palmer who seems to have owned everything around here and as far as the Gulf. Several crops were tried before the decision was made to predominantly grow celery, a thirsty plant. The farms were eventually sold off as private units and continued to produce celery until they were purchased by the city of Sarasota in 1995.
We arrive at the parking area and first go inside the newly opened Sarasota Audubon Nature Center run by the Sarasota Audubon Society.
On the walk through the parking lot we get a huge laugh out of the stickers on the back of this super size car. I guess they make the opinion of this NRA member clear.
Inside we find information on the Celery Fields history, lists of bird species seen in the fields as well as specifically the species seen each day for the past week including today. On the wall is a magnificent quilt made by Jane Shannon. From this distance the birds look like photographs. But I assure you, they are not.
The piece work in each of the birds is astounding. Such care and attention was taken to picking out just the exact right piece of fabric. Ms. Shannon is an amazing artist. This is the first year we have been in Florida during the winter when we have not seen any roseate spoonbills other than this one.
Once outside, Bill is at the head of the pack. Notice horizontal and vertical trails. One is a sanctioned trail and two are not. Can you guess which one the boys take?
Tsk tsk you two. Erosion follows non maintained trails.
We all reach the top and the views are wonderful. The hill was made from the fill removed from the wetlands in order to restore them. During this process more than 20,000 aquatic plants and trees were planted, and two boardwalks installed.
Since 1990 about 970 million monarch butterflies have vanished. Homeowners and farmers have used herbicide on the milkweed plant which serves as the monarch’s nursery, food supply and home.
In February 2015 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced new steps to reverse this decline including efforts to plant milkweed seeds in refuges and other areas it controls to create 200,000 acres of habitat along the Interstate 35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota, where 50 percent of monarchs migrate. Fish and Wildlife will encourage other federal and state agencies to do the same on public lands and is working with the governments of Mexico and Canada to help save the butterfly.
I know we used to see Monarchs all the time at the farm and also noticed that despite our milkweed actually increasing there, the populations of monarchs were seriously declining. I am absolutely thrilled to see just this one. It has been a long time.
We see flocks of birds rising up out of the fields and the edges of the water.
A good pair of binoculars is an asset here.
There are miles of trails but it is quite windy and despite Bill’s shorts, he has polar fleece on above them and the rest of us are bundled up. So we skip the remaining trails on this side of the park and go across to the other side where there are boardwalks out into the water..
Trees are covered with red winged blackbirds.
It must be a bit cold for the ducks too. We see only a few. The largest group is about 5 blue winged teals with no blue feathers showing.
In the grasses a hawk is watching.
I believe this is one of the pair of mottled ducks we see.
Here’s a blue feather but it’s on a mallard.
Boy this blue wing sure does look like he has a green head. Is it the light??
I’m betting this is a wonderful bird sighting spot when it isn’t quite so windy. Nancy and I hope to return some morning to walk more of the paths.
Today I want to walk to the Outpost and back but David doesn’t so I walk and he rides his bike. As usual, our first stop is at the bridge where we see a head peeking above the water on the far side of the flooded river.
I have to zoom in a pretty good distance to get this stretched out and standing tall portrait of the Tri-colored heron.
An anhinga near the water’s edge.
Here’s another Tri-color all scrunched down. What a difference in how they look.
We’re about to move off the bridge and on down the road when the placid water and stillness are breached by a boat zooming up toward the bridge.
Several people, including us gather to see how this guy is going to get under the bridge with the high water. If he were sitting down inside a kayak, probably OK. But as he goes under I don’t see him anywhere.
Out the other side, I wonder if he knocked his head. Notice that his seats were up as he approached the bridge and they are flattened now. We heard something slam but he speeds away scaring off any wildlife anyone might hope to see for probably the next hour.
I walk on down to the little picnic area where we often find one great egret, one snowy egret and one great blue heron hanging out fishing. Today there is one great egret but the only other folks we see are across the channel in the tall grasses.
Two Cattle Egrets looking out.
A great blue heron.
This is an interesting look at the difference between the close up adult Great Egret and the smallest white egret, the cattle egret.
On down the beautiful park road we go, David on his bike and me walking.
David parks his bike at the power line road and we walk away from the water.
The ditches along the edge of the road are filled with water.
And alongside the ditch is one sleeping alligator.
Overhead on the power poles are two hawks.
One is looking down on us or on something very near us on the ground.
Back out along the road we find the limpkin blending into the grasses so well that if he hadn’t screamed we would never have seen him. He sounds like a squalling baby.
Oh yummy doesn’t that look like the place you want to put your face in to??
Also along the road is an even more striking comparison of size than the Great and Cattle egrets. Here are the snowy egret and the Great Blue Heron. How does the snowy think he’s going to catch anything in this flow of water going under the road with the big guy also right there?
Aerial activity is going on over the marshes.
We reach the outpost, my goal for the day.
We walk up to the cafe and gift shop.
We walk in the gift shop door and over to the cafe. On the way we spot these holders for wine and salt and pepper. I guess people actually buy these things.
Over in the cafe, the menu is quite interesting with gator stew and seafood gumbo.
We do our stops again in reverse. At the power line road there is yet another hawk. Or is this the same hawk. We sure have been seeing them everywhere. At the bird walk, at the Celery Fields, along the park road, on the power line road.
Another thing we’ve noticed at several discrete locations along the park road are theses wild boar traps. I wonder when they load them? Wild pigs are really destructive to the environment of some of Florida’s largest state parks.
The road sides are flooded on both sides.
Back at our picnic table the trio have gathered for fishing.
The great egret.
The Great Blue Heron has caught something.
The snowy strikes in a flash.
The snowy egret’s golden slippers can be seen as he steps high in the normally absent water.
By the end of this walk I have done 15,000 steps and figure I can retire for the day. It is Saturday and the cars on the park road are on the increase. Time to get out of the fray.