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30 January 2008


After 3 days/2 nights in the Tampa Bay area, I did not want to come back to the cold dreariness up here. The first day was rainy, but the sun came out the next morning. We set out bright and early to explore the local parks. First stop was Largo's Central Park Nature Preserve. Before we even parked, we spotted a large flock of Quaker (AKA Monk parakeet) and Black-hooded (AKA Nanday Conure) parrots. We decided to take the trail to the larger lake and soon spotted a nesting pair of Ospreys. The boardwalk goes all the way around the lake and there is a floating dock. An anhinga was drying his wings at the end of the dock. I slowly edged closer and closer and was amazed at his tolerance for my proximity. Finally, he had had enough and gracefully nose-dived off the edge.

About halway around, we spotted a large fish in a grassy spot. It was a huge plecostomus! As we marveled at his size, we noticed another one... and another... and another... and... There were at least a dozen hiding in the grass, all ginormous. A little further along, there was an anhinga sitting on the rail... possibly the same one I had annoyed earlier. As we slowly approached, I noticed a pair of moorhens just below. After snapping a few shots, I turned back to the anhinga. He didn't seem too concerned with our advancement and I was taking lots of pics. Amazingly enough, he stayed there even when we walked past him. We were both careful to turn our heads away, as neither of us fancied losing an eye. A young lady coming from the other direction wondered if there was something wrong with her. No, just drying out. She, too, turned her head away as she passed and the bird didn't move.

Nearly all the way around now, we heard a ruckus overhead. The parrots were flying around in a panic. We knew there had to be a predator nearby. Sure enough, perched near the edge of the substation was a Cooper's Hawk biding his time, seeking out the tastiest morsel from the soaring smorgasbird.

We were both getting pretty hungry. so we tore ourselves away before he scored. But we were delayed by a limpkin sitting fairly close and nearly as bold as the anhinga. Unfortunately, my camera's battery was having a near-death experience at that point. I managed to squeeze in a few shots of the limpkin and a white ibis. Then there was another limpkin and I was beginning to get quite frustrated.

Just down the road a bit, we circled Ulmer Park - named for my great uncle - then began an earnest search for food and a new battery. Who knew a simple battery would be so hard to find?! I finally gave up and grabbed a power converter for the car's lighter. Why on earth I ever thought this would be the time something would work as it was supposed to... Every little movement made the charger start tilting out. I had to hold the stupid thing in place for nearly 2 hours. I gave myself a break by exploring the cemetery where my favourite grandparents were laid to rest, then stopping at Publix for supper. Looking back, I reckon eating 4 pieces of their fried chicken was a bad idea. It wasn't long before I began to experience the old familiar discomfort of a gallstone trying to escape. PTL, it only lasted about 45 minutes or so.

We talked about it and decided to skip Lowry Park this trip. Instead, next morning, we drove down to Fort DeSoto. The beach was beautiful and the weather was nearly perfect. Well, except for the bone-chilling wind. Not many birds there, but we had a great look at a pileated woodpecker on the way out.

It was really nice not having to rush back. We stopped at Anderson and Fred Howard parks in Tarpon Springs, then breezed up Dodecanese and detoured around Anclote Blvd. Just before crossing into Pasco County, we spotted an osprey we had seen the day before. We knew it was the same bird because the poor thing was dragging around a huge piece of black burlapy-looking something. It was eating a fish, so was OK... for now. But it was just a matter of time. So I made a mission of finding a working phone booth and called FWC. They seemed appropriately concerned and promised to call someone to recue the poor thing.

Now it was time to beeline home. I was disappointed that we hadn't seen any scrub jays or sandhill cranes. but we'd both had a great time, anyhow. As the traffic on 19 got sparser, DS suddenly cried out... turn around! He had spotted 2 sandhills out in a small lake! Ain't God good?!

Naturally, I took around 300 pictures. As soon as I go through them all, I'll post a few highlights. Some turned out quite decent. Some so-so. I have to get used to using/removing the lens hood.
Stay tuned. I'll try not to stay away so long next time. 8-}


Anonymous said...

A blessed day, indeed!
I am looking forward to your pictures!
All the best-
Alison Evans-Fragale
The phrase 'more research is needed' must never become a failure to act.

Floridacracker said...

Too bad a flock of Coopers didn't come in and clean out ALL of those exotic parrots.
Can't wait to see your pics!

Meems said...

sophie: Glad you made it down and glad you enjoyed the beauty & nature of central Florida. Looking forward to the pics.

I've actually got a Sandhill Crane post/photos to put up sometime next week...

SophieMae said...

Thanks for stopping by, Alison! I finally got my pics on the laptop, now I just have to find my PSP disc so I can cut them down to size. 8-}

FC, I knew you'd be the one to catch that little pun. 8-] I know what you mean about the exotics. Starlings were everywhere! I have to admit, though, I'm kinda torn about the cute little parrots. 8-\

Meems, there is just never nearly enough time! Can't wait to see your cranes! The two I saw were way too far out for decent pics.

rcwbiologist said...

Looking forward to those pictures. Sounds like you had a good time.