Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sand sculpture

For her birthday, December 26, Lou wanted to see the sand sculptures at West Palm Beach. It is about an hour and a half drive if: (A) you don’t miss your turn and (B) you  know where you are going . Well, I missed the turn and only found the place by much searching. I had studied the map the night before leaving. I still don’t know how I miss Okeechobee Blvd.

I first drove us to Palm Beach rather than West Palm Beach. Well, it is a very upscale place. It cost $5 per hour at the parking meters along the ocean front drive. The vehicles that you see are mostly BMW, Lexus, Rolls Royce, etc. Much of the beach is private. There are tall thick hedges at curbside so that you can not view what the other half are doing.  The wind was blowing in off of the ocean and the temperature was 82 and sunny. A beautiful day to be at the beach. After we left I took us a scenic tour. (I did not know where the event was taking place.)

We arrived on Clematis Street and dined at the Tin Fish. We each had a nice fish and chips lunch. The Tin Fish is on the street across from the “Waterfront”. That is what they call their park.

Waterfront Park

The theme of the sand sculpture displays was to play on words using “sun” and “sand” for the “sea-sun” (season).



The center piece for the array of sculptures was a three story tall Christmas tree with lights, ornaments and presents under the tree. I took pictures from different sides as the gifts were neat. You have to look close to see some of them. The sand being of one color, you have to rely on shadows cast by the afternoon sun. (Remember to click on the image to get a closer look.) The inscription on the left that does not show well due to near vertical incidence on it reads “To WPB from Sanda-Claws”.

Tree 1 




Lou w sand

Note the size of the teddy bear. It helps to realize the size to the sculpture. They claim that there are 400 tons of sand in the tree sculpture. It had been up a couple of weeks when we saw it. It was still in good shape. I wonder what they add to the sand to keep the elements from eroding the surface details. I know that as they are piling the sand it is being watered in continuously by a couple of hoses. That makes the sand pack tightly. They watered in the sand behind my seawall when it was built.

Lou w teddy

There were a number of other sculpture around. I liked this one. Notice the palms in the background. It was very windy that day.


I may be a while before we travel with the motor home as we need to save up for our trip next summer. It is certainly uncertain at this time what fuel prices will be.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Exciting Sighting

Kind of a catchy title if I must say so. As I was driving, Lou made an exciting spotting. At first she thought that she was mistaken. A revisit proved that she was correct in her interpretation of what she saw.

In a previous blog I had stated that white pelicans spent their time away from shore. Well I was not aware of their migratory habits. Breeding colonies of several hundred are common on the West Coast and some lakes in Florida. I estimated at least two hundred in this colony. We first observed them before 10 am and they were still there at 5 pm.

This was our first view from the road.


Zooming in with the camera I got a closer look.


Using Picasa to crop, even closer. (Notice the cattle egret in the background.)

DSC07569 w pelican and egret

Using Picasa again.

DSC07559 w pelican close up

As an added bonus less than 50 yards from the pelicans was a group of wood storks. They are the only American stork locally common in the US. They are sometimes know as wood ibis. They are a very large bird. More on them later.

DSC07560 wood storks

There is always something new to see on God’s earth. What wonderful diversity.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tanzy’s Encounter

I was out in the yard working with my trustee helper near by. I heard her give a single sharp bark. That should have been my clue but I missed it. I thought that she was after the anoles around the telephone pole where I had some cement blocks stacked. Alones are the little lizards that some people call geckos or chameleons. When she barked again I thought “rabbit” as we have some that she loves to chase. After getting Lou to handle Tanzy in the wash tub, I started to un-stack the cement blocks.


My nose had  told me what I would find although it was much smaller than expected.

DSC07543 Skunk 1


Of course it would raise its tail again.


After much encouragement the skunk decided to make a run for it.


Almost on my foot.


The yard still has the odor left. Tanzy still has the smell after two baths. And we know that since this was a very young one, there are more around. So, I guess we have to watch for gators and skunks to protect our dog and our noses.

We used a receipt from the Internet: 1 qt hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 tsp liquid dish detergent. A friend, Glenn, says that he always covered his dogs with mud and left it a few hours. After washing the smell was gone. Thanks Glenn.

Naples, FL Part 3B of 3

We continued on to Shark Valley Center. Shark Valley Center had a tram ride that travelled 45 minutes out into the everglades. There was a thirty foot observation tower. Then 45 minutes return via a different route. The trip was catered by a couple who were retired school teachers. One drove and one narrated. They were hired by an outside agent as the Park Service out sourced the concession. $20 per person less $1 for seniors.

There are several different egrets in Florida. This is know as the Snowy Egret. I remember its identifying mark because, to me, it is opposite of what I would have thought.


It has a black beak! The feet are yellow and it is one of the smaller egrets. Notice its little top crown. Like all egrets, it is a member of the heron family.

Previously I had mentioned the anhinga. Since they lack oil on their feathers they sink suvh that only their neck and head is out of the water. It helps them to submerge quickly and easily to hunt for fish. The draw back is that when they leave the water their wings are very wet. It is a lot of added weigh. They will perch in the sun and usually face the breeze to dry their feathers. This is a female (note the neck coloration).


As you look out across the everglades you will see an occasional clumping of shrubs and trees. These are places where the elevation is slightly higher. They maybe a foot or two higher. This is a slightly different eco-system so different flora.


The next sighting was of a bird that while not extremely rare, it is rarely seen. We had the privilege several years ago of having one come on our dock and eat within four feet of us. Beautiful birds!

DSC07535 purplr gallinule

DSC07538 purple gallinule 2 

The identifiers are a green back, purple head and under parts. The white plate on its head is what I first see. The purple gallinule has a cousin that is much more abundant. The common gallinule, aka moorhen, lacks bright coloration. The frontal head plate is bright red. The bill is yellow tipped. Sorry no picture at this time.

We did travel to the old town of Naples on Monday morning. It was a very quaint town. The shops were mostly up scale. It seems to be a place for the well to do. A large percentage of the autos parked were Jags, BMWs, Vets, and the like. The first vehicle we saw as we entered was a Rolls Royce Convertible. What a snazzy ride! We “hitched our ‘gitty-up’” as Rod would say and headed home.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Naples, FL Part 3A of 3

Sunday morning before those who were not working left, we went for breakfast at a very good restaurant. It was just around the corner from where we ate the morning before. As I said, Workampers like to eat, drink and enjoy the company of friends. Soon Lou and I were the only ones free to explore, so we did.

Back down route 41 south, aka, Tamiami Trail, toward Everglades City and 30 miles beyond. Our target destination was Everglades National Park Shark Valley. Did you know there was a valley in Florida? The two coasts are limestone rigs that are slightly higher then the middle, hence, valley. LOL.

Since we were making good time in our hour and a half drive, we stopped along the way at the Oasis Visitors Center run by the NPS. The boardwalk caught our attention first. It was totally different from the boardwalk on Friday. The boardwalk was over a large ditch or small canal between the Visitors Center and the highway. There was much to see. Hence, part 3 will be in two parts, 3A and 3B.

We saw places on the water where the surface boiled with small fish coming up and diving right back to the bottom. The ranger thought that since the water level was going down there was less oxygen and the fish were coming up to grasp an air bubble to take to the bottom. Whatever the reason. the alligators loved it. They would swim through the swarm of fish with their mouth open. All the ripples are fish as the water surface was as smooth as glass.


We had a much better view of a green heron. The sun on the water adds to the sparkle.

Green Heron




This is a female Anhinga. The buff colored neck shows off her sex. Notice the pointed beak used to spear fish. The Double Crested Cormorant has a hooked bill to snag fish. The Anhinga has no oil on its feathers to repel water. Consequently it sinks to the point that only its neck is out of the water when surfaced. Some people call it the Snake Bird aka the American Darter or Water Turkey.


There are many fish in the water. The two longish ones are Gar. They are about 2 foot long. I think the other is a cichlid of sorts. Cichlids are tropical fish that are considered invasive.


Inside the center were several nice and informative displays. We watched a 20 minute video presentation on the Big Cypress National Preserve. It was done very professionally. After the lights came up we noticed quilted art works hanging on the walls, beautiful workmanship! These are a few of the hangings.



Butterfly quilt

Florida State Butterfly, Zebra Longwing

Ghost Orchid

Ghost Orchid

Night scene quilt

Night Scene

This concludes our stop at the Oasis Visitors Center. The next blog will take up at the Shark Valley Visitors Center.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Naples, FL Part 2 of 3

On Saturday we car pooled with four of our friends and headed back toward Everglades City where Lou and I were the day before. Our main destination this time was the Big Cypress Fest. It was advertised as a special event with several different organizations presenting information about southwest Florida and the Big Cypress National Park.

One thing that I was not aware of until we lived in Florida for a while was the apparent interest in the Indian Wars. I wasn’t aware that there were any in Florida. There were three wars between the US Army and the “Seminoles”. They were fought between 1814 and 1858. It is reported that they were more costly, per capita, than any other US war. Long supply lines, difficult terrain, etc were the cause of high costs. The Indians usually just moved further into the Everglades. We have a National Historic Site in Okeechobee commemorating the war in that grounds.


As an aside, you can left click on any photo and see it enlarged. Be certain to use the back arrow to return. Some images contain more detail than is visible in the thumbnail image.

Mangroves are a very important part of the ecology of Florida and 118 other countries were they grow. The three varieties are red, black and white. The red and white have prop roots that hold the plants up in the brackish to salty water. They also help stabilize the soil. They are coastal in tropic and sub-tropic climates, usually between 25 N and 25 S latitudes. Marine life depends on them for shelter and food.


No blog would be complete without a photo of the cast of characters. (I use the term characters loosely). Of course, Lou took the picture.


We observes many of Florida’s most notable wildlife. This one is about 10 foot long.


Anhinga are a common fish eating bird. They dive under and swim to catch their prey. Better images in a future blog. The light colored throat is the sign of the female of the species, Anhinga anhinga. (It is the only member of this genus so its scientific name sounds like you are repeating yourself.)

DSC07495 -2 

Can you guess what the structure that Lou and I are standing in front of? A hint, it serves part of two counties and the Indian population that is nearby. It was originally a shed to store drilling rig parts. It is on the Tamiami Trail somewhere between Naples and Miami.

DSC07498 -2

If you guessed a US Post Office, you were correct. It is the smallest post office in the United States. It was not open when we were there. I took a chance a mailed a post card to myself using the mail box. It was stamped Ft. Myers. I had hoped for Ochopee, FL 34141. Such is life.

PO  Hours

This is the lady who was our boss at the Bar Harbor KOA in Maine in 2011 and may become our boss at Trinity, California KOA for the summer of 2013. Negotiations arre underway at this time.

After a very nice day of travelling with friends we returned to camp for what Workampers do best. They eat, drink, talk and enjoy each other’s company around a campfire.

Campfire 2

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Naples, FL Part 1 of 3


We travelled to Naples KOA to meet up with  fellow Workampers. Many were ones that we had spent an enjoyable summer with at the KOA Bar Harbor in Maine. It was a 165 mile drive from our home near Okeechobee to the KOA in Naples. It took 3 hours. We tow a Honda CRV. Honda states that towing over 60 mph can damage the transmission so we go 60 or less. It is also more comfortable at that speed.

We arrived a day before the others that were not working there. It was early afternoon so we made camp then headed out to explore an area we had not spent much time in. We headed for Everglades City and the Everglades National Park. We had previously visited the eastern Everglades Park with Chris from England. The western part is quite different.

Of course we looked for birds. They are so numerous that you really do not have to look. They are just there. These little birds were on the dock at the national park center. There are several species represented in this shot.

DSC07464 -2

Some of them made a neat row on the root of a mangrove. Look close to see them.

DSC07465 -2

Then there were the ever present pelicans. There are two types of  pelican in Florida. These are brown pelican. The white pelican stays out to sea. With binoculars, white pelican can be seen on Lake Okeechobee but never on shore. Note different head coloration. The white headed bird, like many of us with white hair, is a more mature individual.



Being good Ohio Staters, we could not pass up including a picture of a common butterfly in these parts. Can you guess the name of the butterfly? (Hint, look at the large eyes.)

DSC07469 -2

If you guessed Hawkeye, you are in the wrong state. they are BUCKEYES too. LOL.

Our next stop was the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. Boardwalks are always interesting as you never know what you will see. Notice the reflection of the foliage in the smooth clear water in this first image. The water is very clear as it has flowed through the Sea of Grass on it’s way to the Gulf of Mexico.


Our first treat was a view of a green heron. He/she would not pose for a picture so I had to snap a few. This is the one with the least movement. There were a pair of them just off the walkway but the other, true to the nature of green herons, was quite elusive. We only had several glimpses of it.

DSC07473 -2

It is reported that this eagles nest was started over twenty years ago. It has not been used every year. It is much larger than the photo shows. It is over ten feet thick an twelve feet across. There is a protrusion on the boardwalk triangular shape for a tripod. When the eagles are present they set up a tripod and scope for viewing without blocking passage. Neat!


It was reported that a piliated woodpecker was hanging out at the end of the boardwalk. We heard it but never got to see it. It was getting darker when we arrived at the end. No one else was around so we sat and waited. We were rewarded by a visit from a pair of night herons. They are also shy but we were able to get a few decent shots. Both the green and the night heron have long necks to stretch out and catch prey but when sitting tight their necks seem to disappear as they fold them in.

DSC07480 -2

It was back to the campground to share goodies to eat and stories to tell with old friends and new acquaintances. The setting is as always the campfire.