Monday, February 19, 2018

Foggy Dawn

The weather warning on Saturday predicted, "dense fog". There was none around our house but as I went south on my early morning jog, mist was enveloping the airport. 

A strange thing to see palm trees looming out of the fog

And a landscape more suited to the north - to autumn and ghosts and headless horsemen

I wonder how the alligators and bobcats that haunt the golf course like the fog? They are of course very much alive.

Mist surrounded the fishing pier too.

And against the moody pastels of the sea and sky there wasn't a pelican to be seen. Like the tiny planes at the airport, they had been grounded in the fog.

Until, as I turned northwards up the beach,  here they came

He wasn't bothered. Best stick close to the ground.

There were a couple of white egrets there too - a less familiar sight.  There must be rich pickings at the moment. 

The next day I was at the beach enjoying the sun when a man picnicking with his family caught what looked suspiciously like a baby shark. Everyone flocked around taking photos. It was about 18 inches long I'd say. Enough to give you a good nip on the ankles.   It didn't stop me going in for a swim though, the conditions are perfect now - just as we're leaving soon to go up north.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Hill in Florida

Yes, there really is a hill in Florida. We drove past it at the weekend. People come from far and wide to hike up it and relive the experience of using their climbing muscles and re-activate their distant memories of the North where the land isn't endlessly flat.  There was another hill we once encountered in Florida. It had a gentler slope than this and a resort at the top called "Alpine Chalet" or something like it. They have to make the most of what they can get. The one pictured above is called Celery Fields and is of course an artifical hill, In the winter there's a ski lift. All right, I made that last bit up.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Coyotes Rule

Dateline: Venice, Florida

Forget politics, the hot topic in these parts has fur (if it's lucky), four legs and a pointy nose. For the benefit of my British friends, coyotes are like a cross between a fox and a wolf. They are pronounced "k-eye-oh-tee", though I usually can't bring myself to say such a mouthful. In my head, I always say "coyotte".  The wily characters, like urban foxes in Britain, enjoy foraging from dustbins. They are also unfortunately partial to cats and small dogs. Since countless people around here possess miniature yappy dogs as substitute grandchildren (aka grandpuppies - very PD James), there have reportedly been incidents. Also reportedly there are streets on the island where dawn dog-walkers always carry big sticks. Sadly, some of the coyotes are mangy. Those who have lived here a long time are aware of the risk. Newcomers often are not. Hence the City Hall held a Coyote Forum, to educate people about what to do.  Star of the show was this handsome stuffed specimen. 

The gist of it was chiefly common sense - keep pets on a lead, don't put out food for the coyotes and so on. There was also a film on "hazing" coyotes, which basically means seeing them off the premises by shouting and making yourself look big. One thing you shouldn't do is run away, as they will enjoy chasing you. Coyotes, all the speakers emphasised, are here to stay. They only moved into Florida from the Wild West some 50 years ago and now they're in every county.

It was interesting that the speakers didn't invite questions afterwards - I think they were afraid that there would be a slanging match. (I have noticed that the hysteria in America over politics has filtered down to every aspect of life. People panic when they find someone challenging or disagreeing with them and can get aggressive, at least verbally). So different speakers manned desks at the back of the room and took questions in what was presumably a more controlled atmosphere. I observed one lady haranguing one of the speakers with a "So what are you going to do about it?" tone. The speaker suggested automatic sprinklers, pepper sprays and so on. No one dared mentioned guns - that would be illegal so near houses anyway. Personally I feel some sympathy for the coyotes, who are only doing what coyotes do, though I wish they'd get better at chasing the rabbits that are taking over my garden. But then I don't have a small pet.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

It's Pelican Circus!

As a Londoner, I'm fond of saying about heavy traffic, "It's like Piccadilly Circus here!"  Well I'll tell you, when I walked from the fishing pier to Golden Beach early the other morning it was Pelican Circus. I've never seen so many pelicans. As a child in London I used to go and see them in St James's Park and I thought that was exciting. Well nothing could prepare me for this.

 They were cavorting around

Hunting what was presumably a big shoal of fish


 And diving in left right and centre

with a splashy thud

 They are so ugly

But so funny

 And brilliant at skimming low over the water

like the Dambusters

 There goes another one

 and another two. I couldn't get enough of them.

 Funny too how there will often be a smaller seagull with them, trying to grab the fish

This one actually took off from the pelican's back

 He's seen it all before. 

Ah the wonders of nature. You never know what you're going to see on the beach.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Marvellous Manatees

A friend and I went to the Museum of South Florida, a picturesque Spanish-style bulding up in Bradenton 

to see a photographic exhibition. National Geographic's best photos. Some of then were excellent but elsewhere in the museum was this wonderful sight.

Yes the first time I'd seen a real live manatee, or sea cow. The pair had their own swimming pool with a coastal scene painted on the wall to make them feel at home.

 The piled up boxes contain lettuce, which they like to eat, hence all the lettuce leaves floating on the water's surface. Then you can go downstairs and see them swimming under water.

They are truly almost the size of cows, charming and cumbersome and apparently very tame if you can get close to them. In the winter, they like to congregate in warm water, around power plants and such. And are sadly very endangered, suffering constant collisions with power boats and other hazards. I'm all for saving them. Meanwhile you can buy manatee souvenirs in the shop but I was quite taken with these pink flamingo slippers.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Marie Selby's Little Eden Part 2

The elegant white house in the post below used to be owned by one Christy Payne. It had been his retirement home. Can't be bad. It was later added to the Marie Selby Gardens. I was intrigued by what looked like a collection of orchid flowers floating in jam jars above the fireplace. I had visions of Victorian explorers snagging orchids (along with beetles and such) and sticking them in alcohol to preserve them.

In fact, it was a very modern way of studying the structure of the orchids. Also at the Gardens was a lily pond. The very slim egret is trying to be invisible.

In the background is a tree festooned with ribbons, possibly carrying hopes and wishes. A little new-agey, along with the various exotic deities about the place. I preferred some straightforward  Monet-esque waterlilies.

This is about the nearest they come to a beach but you look at that view and wonder if it's changed over the centuries.

Another bird enjoying the view and possibility of lunch.

Pleasant paths meandered through exotic vegetation.

And I assume this was another epiphyte (see post below).

As was this.

But not this. The paths were still decorated with Christmas lights. It would all look gorgeous at night.

I like these wooden walkways. This led through mangrove swamps. Mangroves, (which sound like something out of Lewis Carroll but actually come from mangue-grove in the English sense) have their roots in salty water and are home to all kinds of wildlife, stop the coast from eroding and are a good place to park your boat in a hurricane. They are being sadly depleted, what with the gallloping waterfront development all over Florida.

This was a gorgeous shrub. Brunfelsia pauciflora. All the way from Brazil. I want one.

And there were a lot of the famous banyan trees with their enormous roots, like gargantuan writhing serpents, great for kids to play among.

 And this was the children's rainforest area - note the steamy mist rising from the waterfall.

 A pond full of overfed goldfish - or koi carp.

A grounded yellow blossom fallen from a tree.

We watched this chap walking out into the bay to fish.

Another timeless scene - apart from the multimillion dollar houses across the way. This is Florida after all.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Surf's Up

On Golden Beach.  

You can hear the surf at night, the mornings are chilly again and someone's getting

a roller-coaster ride

His friend, spotted outside a neighbour's house, has a more leisurely stroll

Time to revisit some warmer memories. More on the Botanical Gardens shortly.....