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.