Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Big Cypress National Preserve, FL

I stayed at the Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve Feb. 6 – 12.  I choose this campground because it is very close to Shark Valley, one of my favorite places in the Everglades.   This is a nice National Park campground, but for those who have been there before be aware that they have changed.  They now take reservations so while I was there people who were expecting a first-come, first-serve campground were turned away as they were full with reservations.  Also the price went up quite a bit from last year. 

While there, I rode the 15 mile loop at Shark Valley 5 times.  It was a great way to start the day.  I saw quite a few alligators, with several of them on the path and a couple actually blocking the way (well I thought they were!).

I had stopped about 20 – 30 feet from the alligator above debating if I was going to go around him when the quy in the picture just zoomed right past him.  I had decided to go for it, when the gator decided to move.

Most mornings were foggy or very cloudy, but I enjoyed it because it was cooler!  One day it was a very light drizzle to very heavy fog--


While at Shark Valley, I watched some baby Anhingas grow.  At least I think they grew in the week I was there. 

There were a good many Black Crowned Night-Herons this year.  This one seemed to be looking for breakfast.

I saw several Purple Gallinules, including the one below that got the yellow flower and then started eating it. 

I just about missed the American Bittern as I rode by, he is hidden very well since his coloring is a good camouflage.

I also drove down the Loop Road in the Big Cypress Preserve several times. It was a great place to sightsee and spend a couple of hours.    I enjoy looking at the swampy areas  --

From the road, I spotted the flowers below and later found out that they are Alligator Lilies--

Many of the Bromeliad were blooming as in the one below that the egret is looking at --

Green Heron --

From the road, I spotted the reflection  below but the foliage was so thick I couldn’t see the bird. 

From here, I head to Miami for a few days before heading into the Everglades – Flamingo area. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fort Myers, FL

I stayed at Woodsmoke Camping Resort in Fort Myers January 30 – February 5.  Woodsmoke is mostly permanent Park models or  long-term winter visitors, so it is not quite the type park I am used to.  It was ok and my neighbors were very nice. 

While in Fort Myers, I went to Sanibel Island a few times.  I only went to the beach twice  and not for long as it was too hot for the beach.  It was in the 80’s and humid.  (Sorry to those who have been freezing this winter, but I prefer the beach in the 60’s and 70’s) 

I parked my car at Ding Darling National Wildlife refuge and then biked from there.  I rode the wildlife road at least once and most days twice.  I am not going to post too many pictures since I have been there previously and blogged about it several times. 

I had seen a Hooded Merganser before, but never a male.  They are an interesting looking bird.  I saw him on 2 different days.

I watched the Little Blue Heron below enjoy his (or her) lunch.

I must have been there at lunch time as I watched the Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron below catch and eat several small crabs. 

One day, I went to Corkscrew Audubon Swamp Sanctuary.  I did not see too many birds, but I enjoyed the scenery and the walk.  I did see a juvenile Night-Heron catch a fish and then watched 2 Hawks chase and fight him for it. He kept the fish for a while, but after the third time of being chased, he lost it.

Before chase --

After chase and looking a little frazzled -- 

After Fort Myers, I headed to Big Cypress National Preserve where I stayed at Midway Campground. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hillsborough River State Park

Since I enjoyed biking at Hillsborough River State Park in the past, I decided to go again and was there at the end of January.

Like much of the country, it was cold – well for Florida.  One day, it only got to the mid 50’s (one night we were actually in the 30’s)!!!   While at Hillsborough, I walked some but biked most days.  I would bike on one of the dirt trails that led to a dirt road.  I made a bad mistake and biked a day after we had a good bit of rain.  Biking the trail wasn’t too bad, but the road was rather muddy, it made for an interesting and tough ride. 

The only other pictures that I took while there was on the day I went to see the manatees.  I had been told that because of the cold weather, there were more manatees than normal at the Big Bend Power Plant observation area in Tampa.  I could not believe it --

I estimated there were at least 200 manatees, I heard other people estimate 250 and more.  Each of the dots in the water above is a manatee.   I heard several locals say they had never seen that many manatee here. 

The Big Bend Power Plant and manatees---

Manatees among the reflection--

Many of the manatees had scars. This huge manatee had a really large scar --

This manatee enjoyed swimming on his back and appeared to be waving at the people on the observation deck --

A small manatee watching us --

I tried several times to get a picture of a manatee when they dove, but was not quick enough until ---

From here, I went to Fort Myers.  Since I didn’t got to Sanibel Island in 2012 for the first time in several years, I am having Sanibel withdrawals!!  Since the Sanibel campground is impossible to get into, I stayed at an RV park in Fort Myers and drove over to the island a few days.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fort DeSoto County Park, Tierra Verde, FL

Fort DeSoto Park is in Tierra Verde, FL, but is very close to St. Petersburg.  While there I did a little bit of hiking and a good bit of biking.  I also went to the RV Super Show in Tampa.  My main reason for going there was to see the vendors, not of RVs, but RV supplies.  I didn’t get anything I had on my list!  The only RVs I looked at were several made by Nexxus RV.  I am not in the market for a new RV, just thinking ahead and wondering about these as they have been discussed a few times on the Lazy Daze yahoo group.   Of course, they didn’t have the plan that I really wanted to see.  I might stop at the Indiana plant on my way up to Michigan since I usually go that way anyway.   

I have been to this park before, but learned something this time.  I reserved one of the waterfront spots that is on the main water. (something Bayou). The other side of my loop is on water, but it is just a boat channel.  Well, 3 or 4 days while I was there it was extremely windy.  I noticed that the other side did not get near as much wind.  There was so much difference that if there was an empty spot on that side, I would walk over and sit at their picnic table.  Next time I will try for that side of the park. 

Like much of the country, Florida is having a much colder winter than normal.  I have had to use my heat several times up to this point.  I guess I can’t complain, my sister in Wisconsin has had several days where they did not get above 0 degrees!!!

One day, I went biking for a while and when getting back to the campground I noticed that on the non-windy side of the loop was an empty spot and lots of birds.  I stopped for 30 minutes or so and enjoyed watching the birds and kayakers.   The birds seem too tame as I was only 10 feet or so away from some of them, I am guessing that some campers feed them.

Below is the view from my campsite as a storm is blowing in.

I joined a Bird watching group, but unfortunately it was a bit windy and we didn’t see too many birds.  We did find the Roseate Spoonbill below(one of my favorites!), along with a Tri-colored Heron, Oyster Catchers, Willets …--

We also saw a nesting Great Horned Owl.  When I saw her on the tour, the light was not great, so I went back another day.  When I visited the second time, the sun was shining perfectly on the tree where the nest is and I was thinking what a great picture this will be.  This is what I found --

The owl was facing the opposite direction!  She did turn around and check me out a few times --

Below is a picture from the first day --

There are a few birds visiting the area that are not typically in Florida.  Above is a Western Tanager, that many birders were very excited to see. 

We had several great sunsets.  The one below was taken from my campsite on my first night at the park. 

From here, I head north to Hillsborough River State Park.