August 19 – WWE

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s Water Water Everywhere (WWE) challenge.

Grebe makes a water large water circle in a lake
A lone Grebe

August 19 – BOTD – Redstart

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Female Redstart perched in a tree
Female Redstart

The American Redstart is a medium-sized warbler that flutters from branch to branch snapping up insects in mid-flight. The male is much more colorful, orange & black.

Hop a Train

My take on Sunday Writing Prompt “Train Ticket” https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/08/18/sunday-writing-prompt-train-ticket/

Follow the tracks

No ticket needed when you’re dared to jump a moving train. In the summer of 1980, I was minding my own business when my cousins (all boys) started talking about hopping on the next train that came into town. It just happened to be the small town of Bridgeport, Texas. I was 14 and the only girl in the bunch. I thought they were crazy! How could they even think of such a thing??? Not gonna get me to do that! Nope! Never!

There were times the train would creep through town & times it would blast by. As kids, we never knew how it was going to arrive in town nor did we care. Today, we cared! Often, we would walk or ride our bikes to the nearest convenient store to buy candy & a soda pop in a glass bottle. The train tracks ran right by the store which was located on our side of the tracks. No need to cross those dangerous rails to get our goodies.

As my cousins & I hung around the convenient store, the conversation got heated over the decision to do it or not do it. It’s amazing how brave or foolish we can be based on peer pressure. It reminds me of the saying “would you jump off a bridge because your friends are doing it?” Whenever I heard that, I always thought…depends on how tall the bridge is. Better yet, it depends on how fast the train is going.

I was all of 5 feet tall, 80 lbs of tomboy at the time. Each of them, ranging in ages from 15-19, were staring manhood in the face. As the debate continued, I was ready to walk away and head back to the house. They started saying things like “she’s a girl & ain’t got the guts”. Making chicken noises & parading around like a bunch of dorks doing the chicken dance. It wasn’t the chicken dance they were doing as they egged me on. The dare complete!

Then the whistle blew! It was time to decide. The guardrails came down, the lights started flashing and we could feel the ground shutter as the train approached the crossing. We moved closer as vehicles were stopping in a straight line yielding to the approaching train. The boys caught sight of the train which had slowed as it got closer to our destination. The boys were ready and I know I must have had a look of terror on my face as I tried to be brave. I kept my composure, adrenaline running hot and prepared myself not to be a chicken. Follow the Leader at its best!

The engine passed us and we waved to the conductor. The train was only moving about 5 mph. The boys looked at me & counted down. 3, 2, 1 and before I knew it, we jumped. Caught the side of the rail car & road it passed the crossing guard & then jumped off. A couple of bruises & scrapes for our troubles. It was a rush! My stupidity to give into peer pressure now turned into guilt.

It got worse though! I was fine, no broken bones, no harm, no foul! Wrong! Someone in the car line recognized us & ratted us out to our parents. I got my butt beat for my efforts of bravery! This day has resonated for me my whole life. The lesson of this day sure came in handy 4 years later when I joined the United States Marine Corps & almost backed out when one of my other cousins dared me to keep my decision in tact. He claimed I was too little to make it through boot camp. At the time of enlistment, I was 5′ 1″ & 88 lbs. Proved them wrong again! Served 12 years & got out as a Sergeant.

By the way….I would not suggest taking a train without a ticket to anyone! No matter what!!!

Me, 1984

Cee’s Black and White Challenge – Any Topic

Heart shape leaf found during a light rain
Heart shape leaf found during a light rain

August 18 – BOTD – Red-Tailed Hawk

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Re-tailed hawk perched on a branch at UNF nature trail in Jacksonville.
Red-tailed Hawk at UNF Nature Trail after eating baby cardinals. Cleared the next.

Whether they are soaring or circling, there is no mistaking the red tail when you spot a red-tailed hawk in the air. See my blog oureyesopen.com for the full story that led to this photo. Learn more about this magnificent bird of prey at Audubon’s site.

They Call Me “The Seeker”

My submission for Song Lyric Sunday August 18th – Song that References Another Group

The Who is one of my favorite bands of all time. I was only 3 when they rocked Woodstock in 1969. “The Seeker” wasn’t release until 1970 as a single, but certainly name dropped Bob Dylan, The Beatles & Timothy Leary (advocate of psychedelic drugs) which was so popular during that time.

The Who – One of the Greatest Rock Bands in History

I’ve never seen them in concert and am still hopeful that I can at some point. I think Roger Daltrey can still belt out a tune & (for me) sounds better today! Pete Townsend can still stir those strings! The 50th Anniversary 2015 Glastonbury concert lives on our DVR and gets cranked up on the surround sound whenever we are in the mood to listen (which is often). Absolutely Amazing!

“The Seeker”

I’ve looked under chairs
I’ve looked under tables
I’ve tried to find the key
To fifty million fables

They call me The Seeker
I’ve been searchin’ low and high
I won’t get to get what I’m after
Till the day I die

I asked Bobby Dylan
I asked the Beatles
I asked Timothy Leary
But he couldn’t help me either

They call me The Seeker
I’ve been searchin’ low and high
I won’t get to get what I’m after
Till the day I die

People tend to hate me
Coz I never smile
As I ransack their homes
They wanna’ shake my hand

Focusing on nowhere
Investigating miles
I’m a seeker
I’m a really desperate man

I wont get to get what I’m after
Till the day I die

I learned how to raise my voice in anger
Yeah but look at my face ain’t this a smile

I’m happy when life’s good and when its bad I cry
I got values but I don’t know how or why

I’m lookin’ for me
You’re lookin’ for you
Were lookin’ at each other and we don’t know what to do

They call me The Seeker
I been searchin’ low and high
I wont get to get what I’m after
Till the day I die

Songwriters: Peter Townshend

The Seeker lyrics © Spirit Music Group

August 17 – BOTD – Northern Cardinal

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Male Cardinal

Talk about a bird that gets around! What is a Cardinal? A Major League Baseball team?…yep! A team in the National Football League?….yep! A priest in the Catholic Church Hierarchy….yep! Most of all it is a symbol & one of beauty in its own right! The Northern Cardinal serves as promise, hope & peace during the Christmas holidays. There is no mistaking this bird with its tufted head, black mask & bright red tones. Although the female displays the same tufted head and black mask, she sports buff brown outer feathers with undertones of red & orange. Adults have bright orange beaks, while the juveniles will have a black beak until they reach adulthood. Cardinals can have 2-3 broods per year. The male can be found feeding the young of the first brood while the female builds the next nest. We have had at least 4 pairs of cardinals with fledglings in our yard this year. Watching this unfold year after year is a treasure! Never gets old!

I’d Rather Be…Birding – 1

I’d rather be birding.

I’d rather be birding in Las Vegas.

Yes, Las Vegas! But not until Spring! Too damn hot to bird there right now.

Forget the strip…forget the hotel hopping…forget the shows…forget the casinos (ok, maybe not the casinos). A good Texas Hold ’em Tournament is hard to turn down.

Royal Flush in a casino at a poker table.
Show me the Money….or Money Shot
Costa's Humminging Birds in a nest
Costa’s Hummingbird Nest at Henderson Birding Preserve, Henderson, NV

What I’m talking about is getting out in nature. Las Vegas is smack in the middle of it, if you venture out just a bit. For example, if you drive Southeast, you will run into the City of Henderson. There you will find The Henderson Birding Preserve. Each time we visit Las Vegas, we make The Preserve one of our first destinations. It’s a very special place with many fond memories.

The Preserve is located at 350 E. Galleria Dr. and features approximately 140 acres of ponds within the Water Reclamation Facility. The habitat supports thousands of migratory waterfowl and many local residents. Expect to see a tremendous variety of birds such as the Greater Roadrunner, Verdin, Albert’s Towhee, American Avocet, Black Necked Stilts, and so many others.

We have birded there in late March, early April and many life birds have been added to our lists on our visits. The weather is ideal and it’s right in the middle of the Spring migration. I’d be willing to take a trip in the Summer to see birds I can’t see in Florida, it’s just so hot! That’s funny; a FL resident complaining about the heat. It’s giving me a hot flash just thinking about it.

Redhead paddling on the lake
Redhead
Cinnamon Teals, American Coots, Ruddy Ducks, Mallards
Birds as far as the eye could see

Remember, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas….except when you want to share your impressive birding list on ebird.org. Time to go birding!!!

Henderson Birding Preserve
Henderson Birding Preserve – Note the Las Vegas Strip skyline in the background

It is simply amazing how such a great concentration of varied bird life can be located so close to Sin City. As noted in the photo above, the Las Vegas strip was in plain view while we enjoyed the serenity of birding at one of the many watering holes located on the preserve. It’s a great example and a true testament to the the importance of preserving natural habitats in and around metropolitan communities.

Visit Henderson Birding Preserve on your next trip to Las Vegas and let me know how you loved it! The park rangers are most hospitable & very knowledgeable. If your timing is right you might have a chance to get a guided tour through the preserve with one of them in their battery powered carts.

Don’t forget your binoculars and camera. Make sure those batteries are all charge up so you don’t miss that Cinnamon Teal playing in the water or the Blue-winged Teal flying in style as he circles around to land with fluid movement. If you are lucky, you will see the Yellow-headed Blackbird. What an amazing bird! Couldn’t get a decent shot of him though.

CAN’T WAIT TO GO BACK!

August 16 – BOTD – American White Ibis

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

These American White Ibises were posing for these shots. Photos taken at Gemini Springs Park in DeBary, Florida just east of Orlando off Interstate 4. Learn more about them by clicking on this link.

August 15 – BOTD – Little Blue Heron

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Little Blue Heron Posing

Little Blue Heron posing on a branch in shallow water. The reflection is almost as amazing as the bird itself. One of our favorite wadding birds.

August 14 – BOTD – Catbird

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Gray Catbird perched on a branch
Gray Catbird perched on a branch

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

The gray catbird has its name for good reason. The sound that comes from this elusive fellow sounds just like a cat in heat. You would think, oh it is just another gray bird, but when you get it in focus with the binoculars or your camera lens, you see that famous black mohawk on the top of its head. I think I will call this the “Mr. T” of the birding world.

August 13 – BOTD – Common Yellowthroat

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Common Yellowthroat
Male Common Yellowthroat

The Common Yellowthroat is a very hard songbird to get in focus. They will flit & flutter from branch to branch. This male sat pretty on this branch just long enough for me to get the shot.

August 12 – BOTD – Anhinga

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Anhinga sunning to dry out those feathers.

One of our favorite resident birds in Florida. They are often referred to a snake birds because they will dive for their food and reappear with that long neck coast along the water. To learn more about these awesome feathered friends, check them out on Wikipedia.

Also another great read is from Audubon about how climate change is changing the range of these birds. Rare bird sightings maybe the new norm.

The Perfect Country & Western Song

My submission for Song Lyric Sunday – Name Dropping. A Unique Title for Me

My country roots brought us here today. There wasn’t a honky tonk in the 80’s that didn’t have a cover band playing this song at least twice in one night. Those were the days.

You Never Even Called Me by My Name – David Allan Coe

Well, it was all That I could do to keep from crying’
Sometimes it seemed so useless to remain
But you don’t have to call me darlin’, darlin’
You never even called me by my name

You don’t have to call me Waylon Jennings
And you don’t have to call me Charlie Pride
And you don’t have to call me Merle Haggard anymore
Even though you’re on my fighting’ side

And I’ll hang around as long as you will let me
And I never minded standing’ in the rain
But you don’t have to call me darlin’, darlin’
You never even called me by my name

Well, I’ve heard my name
A few times in your phone book (hello, hello)
And I’ve seen it on signs where I’ve played
But the only time I know
I’ll hear “David Allan Coe
Is when Jesus has his final judgment day

So I’ll hang around as long as you will let me
And I never minded standing’ in the rain
But you don’t have to call me darlin’, darlin’
You never even called me by my name

Well, a friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote that song
And he told me it was the perfect country & western song
I wrote him back a letter and I told him it was not the perfect country & western song 
Because he hadn’t said anything at all about mama
Or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting’ drunk
Well, he sat down and wrote another verse to the song and he sent it to me
And after reading it I realized that my friend had written the perfect country & western song
And I felt obliged to include it on this album
The last verse goes like this here

Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got run over by a damned old train

And I’ll hang around as long as you will let me
And I never minded standing’ in the rain, no
But you don’t have to call me darlin’, darlin’
You never even called me
Well, I wonder why you don’t call me
Why don’t you ever call me by my name

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: John Prine / Steve Goodman

You Never Even Called Me by My Name lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

FOTD – Mexican Petunias

Here is my entry for Cee’s  Flower of the Day (FOTD) challenge.

Mexican Petunia
Mexican Petunias

The Mexican Petunia is drought tolerant & multiplies pretty quickly. It blooms during the day and by late afternoon, early evening, all the flowers have fallen off until the next day. Throughout the year, they will continue to bloom, but during the summer they are at their peak. They are visited by bees and butterflies…and the occasional hummingbird. Hummingbirds prefer the other flowers specific to them in the other gardens. Mexican Petunias are a beautiful contrast to the other foliage that shapes our front yard.

Circle of Life

One of the most alluring things about nature is the unexpected. This great wondrous creation, that we’ve been gifted, is constantly changing with surprises around every turn. Many of the special places we write about are favorites we return to again and again, excited with the knowledge there’s a chance we’ll see something truly special. That’s where our story leads us today and as the saying goes, expect the unexpected.

Red Maple Boardwalk, University of North Florida
Entrance to the Nature Trail at the University of North Florida

Two weeks ago, we were hiking down the Red Maple Boardwalk nature trail. The trail is part of the University of North Florida’s Environmental Center and is an integral component of the Sawmill Slough Preserve. With 382 acres and approximately 5 miles of trails it’s a true treasure and an important natural area inside the Jacksonville city limits. Please look forward to more information on the preserve, nature center and trails in future posts.

University of Florida Lake
University of North Florida Lake

It was about 2pm and the sky was grey and spitting rain off and on. There was a nice breeze to keep the bugs down and the temperature was warm, unlike the blazing sweat producing sweltering heat and humidity of a normal July day in Northeast FL. In other words, the weather was perfect for an afternoon jaunt through the woods in search of our avian friends. With our binoculars attached securely to our bodies & cameras in hand, we set off on our adventure of the unknown.

The boardwalk borders the entire southern end of a beautiful lake and has a raised loop in the middle that circles through a mixed wetland forest. We walked down the the boardwalk and took the loop through the woods. This eco-system is full of all types of lush green foliage, vines, palmettos, hard woods and soft woods. We had the entire trail to ourselves accompanied only by the sites, sounds and smells of what could have been an ancient southern forest. These are truly special moments when the worries of the day to day world melt away and we become part of nature itself.

Pileated Woodpecker
We missed the shot at UNF, but this is a photo of a Pileated Woodpecker taken at
Timucuan Preserve (more on that coming soon)

We observed a Pileatted Woodpecker high in a pine tree searching for his next meal. They are the largest woodpeckers in North America (except for the Ivory-bill which are considered extinct) black and white with a beautiful large flaming crest. That’s right, they look like Woody Woodpecker. Next, we came into a flush of migratory birds mixed with our local residents.

One of the really exciting things about birding is sometimes you can walk for the longest time and see almost nothing and all of a sudden there’s a group of birds. Usually if there’s one species, you’ll see other species as well. It’s beautiful and rewarding to see how different types of birds work together to keep each other safe. A lesson that would prove poignant later on during our afternoon escapade.

We continued down the boardwalk and turned right on the trail that circles the rest of the lake. On the other side is a bridge that takes you to an island. I stepped onto the bridge and crossed slowly as there were 3 turtles sunning themselves on a piece of wood in the water near the bridge. While I took a moment to watch them, a snapper turtle splashed out of the water just under the bridge where I was standing. He was a big un’ and fun to see!

Red-tailed hawk on the ground with a baby cardinal in its talons
Frank is only about 8 feet from the Red-tailed hawk.

When I finally crossed the bridge, Frank had been over on the island for a bit & I noted that he was off to my right. When I looked over at him, he motioned for me to be quiet & approach with caution. Instead of turning right off the bridge, I continued forward & flanked him after I walked about 100 ft. It was at that moment that I saw what had him paused & pulling his camera from his pack.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed hawk

There on the ground about 8 ft from where Frank was standing was a red- tailed hawk. At first I thought it was injured as it was hopping around on the ground. This was certainly a rare situation. Most birds of prey will fly off into a tree as humans approach, but not this guy. I started clicking off shots & shooting video. What I couldn’t see was what the hawk had in its talons on the ground. Now the hopping made sense but I still didn’t know what was on the ground.

With us standing right there, the hawk flew from the ground to a lower branch of the small tree in front of us and covered something. As it covered its wings around the branches, I knew it was a nest. The male & female cardinals were chirping up a storm, fluttering from bush to bush and flying in and out of the tree, trying anything they could to distract the hawk. Nothing worked and my heart sank.

Any video that I was taking at this point became pointless. I was shaking and upset and feeling sick. Now I know as much as anyone who loves being out in nature, that hawks have to eat too. The balance of nature and the circle of life is what it is. Even with that knowledge, this was difficult for us to see.

Love Bird posed on drift wood
Tweety, our Love Bird had a great personality.

As hard as that was to witness, the death of those baby birds wasn’t the part that made me sick. I was reliving a terrible memory of what happened in my life 12 years ago. Our beautiful beloved love bird Tweety was sunning himself on his perch in the backyard after his bath. Out of nowhere, Tweety was knocked off his perch and onto the ground by a red-tailed hawk. The same thing happened. The hawk covered him with its ginormous wing span & flew away with him in the grips of its talons. Just like the cardinals, it happened right in front of me and there was nothing I could do about it.

Male Cardinal in a bush
Defeated Male Cardinal after the Red-tailed Hawk cleaned out the nest.

As nature promptly broke our hearts when we saw the circle of life happen before our eyes, it made the moment we had seen earlier so special. We saw Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Carolina wrens, Carolina chicadees and Yellow-Throated Warblers…five different bird species working together in the woods. They traveled from tree to tree eating, resting and watching out for each other as if they were a family.

When we see and live experiences like we had this day, we feel alive and a part of something so precious and so special. As we like to say, open your eyes to your surroundings and see what is really there. You never know what’s around the corner.

August 10 – BOTD – Canada Goose

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Canada Goose at Perdue Pond in Jacksonville, FL

Perdue Pond used to be on our schedule of birding hot spots in North Jacksonville near the airport. We would find all kinds of waterfowl. Depending on the time of year, we would see Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallards, Mottled Ducks, Domestic Geese, Redheads, Buffleheads, Pied-Billed Grebes, Northern Pintails, Blue-Winged Teal, American Coots, the rare American Black Duck that took up residence for a few years and of course the Canada Goose. Several years in a row, we observed a Snow Goose flying over in the winter. However, in recent trips this past winter and spring, there was not a single bird on the pond. I have to wonder why?

August 9 – BOTD – Black- Crowned Night Heron

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Black-Crowned Night Heron at Lettuce Lake Park, Tampa FL

The Black-crowned night heron is generally seen at dusk or night time, however, they get out throughout the day in Florida. This photo was taken in the middle of the day. To learn more, check out the link at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

August 8 – BOTD – Smooth-Billed Ani

Here is my entry for Granny Shot It’s  Bird of the Day (BOTD) challenge.

Smooth-Billed Ani at Little Talbot State Park, Jacksonville, FL

The Smooth-Billed Ani is a member of the cuckoo family. It is a resident from southern Floridathe Bahamas, the Caribbean, parts of Central America, south to western EcuadorBrazil, and northern Argentina. How it made its way to North Florida is a true mystery & was rare bird for around these parts. This bird hung out at the park for weeks at the end of 2018 & beginning of 2019. We went back several times just to catch a glimpse one more time. We were able to see it 4 times in 4 separate trips before we didn’t see it any longer. This was a life bird for us and we were able to put it on our ebird.org count for both years.

Hidden Treasures of North Florida

Little Talbot Island State Park

Florida is one of the most popular tourist destinations for people across the US and around the world. Vacationers come from all over to breathe in it’s captivating beaches, spring break parties and Disney World. Yet, Florida has hidden treasures that people don’t know about, so before planning a trip, check out locations such as Little Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville, Florida. Sure Disney is the place where magic happens, but you can create your own magic in other “not so publicized” areas that Florida has to offer.

Little Talbot Island is located off of A1A between Jacksonville and Amelia Island. It’s $5 to get into the park per car for a day full of sun & fun along a 5 1/2-mile natural stretch of beach. No hotels, motels, or restaurants to distract from the natural beauty of this barrier island. There are no vehicles allowed on the beach. You will see an occasional park ranger vehicle driving down the beach, but it is rare. During the winter months, you can explore the entire stretch of the beach pretty much to yourselves. During the summer, the crowds can be thick, however if you walk about 1/4 mile up the beach north of the main boardwalk, you will find a nice area to stake your claim for the day. There are 4 boardwalks along the paved road with restrooms & changing rooms at each location. Picnic pavillions & tables are spread out along the roadway as well.

For a more pleasant experience, it’s a good idea to bring a large umbrella, beach chairs, towels, blankets & cooler. A beach cart or wagon is recommended if you have one. Makes walking down the beach to your desired location a huge plus. Please note that dogs are not allowed on the beach so your furry family members will need to stay home or in your camper if you are here for an extended stay.

For those who enjoy the outdoors, Little Talbot has it all; a full service campground (reservations are required), hiking trails, biking trails, beach biking, areas to kayak, surfing, bird watching, fishing and strolling along a beautiful sandy beach. Search for shells, sand dollars, star fish & shark teeth. Relax and listen to the crashing of the waves as they come in or the lull of the shore as the tide goes out without the crowds that dominate Florida’s other beaches. A true hidden treasure for the curious nature lover! Florida’s State Parks are rated America’s best and Little Talbot Island is a great example of why.

Take a picnic, don’t forget the sunscreen and get ready to enjoy your vacation Florida style!

Check the website for any boardwalk closures or for more information to one of Florida’s hidden treasures that is Little Talbot Island State Park. https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/little-talbot-island-state-park

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