Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Anna Maria Island City Pier and Other Sightings

We love the city pier. We go there once a week just to see what wildlife we can spot and what possible fishing stories we might hear....An old codger today made a quick comment about the fishing while we were standing and watching boats come in and seeing them scoop up HUGE amounts of bait fish into their boats, which were idling next to the fishing pier. And then he launched into the coolest thing he had seen in the 40 years he's been coming to the pier to fish and people watch. And that story was......

There was a boat that came in near the pier (this took place quite a few years ago, but it's still the old codger's favorite memory of the city pier) and it was obvious that the fishermen were novices and the boat was severely underpowered. A small freshwater motor and too big a boat. Well, the guys on the boat landed about a 450 pound hammerhead shark right near the pier. They hauled it in the boat with some kind of grappling hooks and the shark got MAD. He started thrashing so hard all over the deck of the boat that all their gear went flying overboard, and one of the fishermen went flying overboard along with all the stuff. The guys on the pier were laughing their heads off!

He said he saw a pair of dolphins one time catch a decent size fish and play with it, tossing it into the air, rolling over on their backs and just have a grand old time with that fish. The game lasted for quite awhile, he reported.

We've seen a school of rays, a mama manatee and her baby swim right under the pier, an aging dolphin swim close back and forth, back and forth along the pier. We've seen all kinds of birds get caught and trapped in the fishermen's hooks, even a ray one day...and today, a pair of dolphins swim so close to the beach, had we been out wading in the water, we probably could have touched them. Sparky couldn't run out to the rocky jetty fast enough to catch a photo as they leisurely swam away....

But she did see a persistent snowy egret trying to get an elusive fish out of a rock hole...
                               "Hey, c'mon outta there. I know you are in there somewhere!"

Sparky saw some cool oystercatchers...Aren't their eyes really distinct looking? Gives a whole 'nuther meaning to "red eye flight"......

We're really excited! By the time you read this, we will be in North Carolina at a cabin in the mountains in the Smokies....Sparky is really excited about going hiking! Eldo will have to take it easy. He took a spill on his bike and fractured a rib a few days ago. One of those things where the tire caught the edge of the sidewalk as he was crossing from riding in the road and transitioning temporarily to the sidewalk to avoid interstate traffic. The tire quickly twisted and down he went, luckily on the grassy shoulder. But still, a rib was fractured from an encounter with the handlebars and he is now recovering. No bike riding for 6-8 weeks, the doctor said.

See you in the mountains next time!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

More Nature...Are We Bored Yet?

Nope! Not only does Sparky see lots of nature USUALLY on her weekly or semi weekly bike rides around Bradenton, lots of other people see really cool stuff here in Florida...

On the news tonight, it was reported that people driving on highway 41, a.k.a. Tamiami Trail, saw two bald eagles duking it out along the roadside. It was a brutal fight over territory, and there was a winner. The injured loser, ended up getting the sympathy vote as LOTS of calls went in to the local wildlife rescue organization. He was captured and taken in to receive veterinary care and then released back into the wild. A happy ending!

Sparky would have LOVED to have seen and taken some photos. Unfortunately, she wasn't there, so we don't have any. BUT---another productive bike ride today...Very early in the morning, on the one day Sparky was not subbing this week. Throughout the neighborhood, there are many many ponds and wetlands. Sparky usually sees quite a few birds and today was no exception. Down at Jiggs Landing, the dragonflies were like sentinels, guarding the marsh grasses. There must have been fifty dragonflies all perched at the very tippy top of the marsh grass stems. This one looked like he was in line for take off at the local airfield!

Jiggs Landing is a beautiful spot to stop and rest for a bit....The clouds were reflected in the water this morning, with not a breeze anywhere in sight. It almost looked like snow on the ground, just for a second. (Sparky is still missing snow and cold, but when everybody up north starts complaining about the bitter cold and the ice storms hit, she will be happy she is in Florida. :-)

The limpkins were out and about today...Sparky apologizes for the dark photos...Not the best time of day for catching the best light on subjects. This was a limpkin and a tri colored heron (?) passing each other on the marsh....

Here's a slightly better photo of a limpkin...A little blurry because he was bogeying down the grass line, worried about Sparky and getting his breakfast at the same time.

Sparky's ride is not complete without spotting a gator....She read just the other day about a guy working in his backyard on a golf course here in Sarasota...He heard a commotion behind him, and a gator came charging full blast out of the pond and after him, getting a grab on his leg! He managed to get the gator off him, and made it to his house, where he then got himself treatment at the doctor for the leg bite. Yikes! Sparky still likes to get a little too close to gators to get photos, but she is becoming more cautious after hearing stories like this. ("One of these days....."---says a worried Eldo.....)

This gator is in the big pond right on our street, just a few doors down. He was out today as Sparky rode by--on the opposite side of the bank. He looks like a decent size, doesn't he? You are supposed to be able to figure out how long the gator is, by estimating how long his snout is to his eye ridge. Sparky wants to know how the heck can you get the approximate "guesstimate" snout measurement without getting a lot closer to the gator?! (DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!! warns E.)

And Sparky passed this one in another pond, keeping cool......She's glad she has a 30X zoom lens.

No spoonbills today, that is a VERY unusual sighting in the neighborhood to see one of those...Usually we have to head out to other parts of Sarasota and Bradenton to find them or we just get lucky like Sparky did last bike ride out. But, the cranes are back in force all over the place in pairs  as they usually are, and drilling the golf course for bugs. This one was beside a pond, busily preening as Sparky biked by...He didn't even blink an eye as she stopped to get a photo.....They certainly can contort themselves around to get at those itchy spots!

Another great day in the neighborhood! Sparky is looking forward to the fall temperatures coming....The rains are diminishing...We had over 10" last week, and Myakka River State Park flooded and closed most of the park. Sparky thinks soon she will want to get back over there to go gator watching....(What is it with my woman that she has this thing about alligators???? wonders Eldo.)  Don't know, dear...they are just very cool looking and so dinosaurish.....And ever since we saw a gator capture his prey and heard the bones crunching as he chomped down while we were watching at the bridge at Myakka River State Park, Sparky wants to go back again and again.....

Until next time.......See ya!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Jackpot Bike Ride Today

It's been a LO-O-N-G hot, humid summer down here in Bradenton...Hotter than normal, more humid than normal, and drier than normal. Sparky has been the lazy one in the family. She hasn't been out on her bike since mid summer, when things started to cook....In the pool once in awhile doing exercises but not as much as she should have been.

So-o-o-o-o....a cool front came in last night..We're talking the temperature was just around 60 degrees this morning when Sparky got up. Woo hoo! Time to get her bike out and get going! Not a cloud in the sky...And here's the very first thing she saw coming out of the back of the subdivision, near Jiggs Landing, the little preserve and waterway to the Braden River. She hadn't even gone half a mile on the bike when she heard lots of high pitched screeching. Hey, that sounded like a bald eagle cry! Not one, but TWO up high in a branch just across the street!

A great start! Headed down the road to Jiggs Landing...Not much going on there but a dragonfly who paused long enough for a photo...Did you know a dragonfly with its four wings can fly as fast as 30 m.p.h.? That 90% of young adult dragonflies get eaten by predators? That they have almost 360 degree field of vision? And, dragonflies are great mosquito eaters!

And a little while later, Sparky spotted this black bellied whistling duck on the left and another family of ducks keeping it company....

A few miles later and it was a great blue heron catching and eating something, not sure what!
Then, a great white heron or egret stalking some fish....Does anybody know how you tell the difference between the two?
Turn around another bend and another pond, and lo and behold.....A tricolor heron doing some fish stalking, too.

And the best saved for last, Sparky's favorite, a lone roseate spoonbill cruising around the golf course right down the fairway. Then he decided to head for the water.....

A fine day for a bike ride, indeed!  Not a cloud in the sky and temps will be moderate this coming week....YAY! About time! Sparky will be heading back out more regularly now, on her bike. She's got to get back to exercising on a regular basis!  See you later!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's a Quiet Week.....

Sparky is anxiously awaiting the arrival of fall....Oh, yeah, wait a minute, we don't really have a fall...but it's nice to pretend. Temps are starting to come down a LITTLE...like high eighties all next week. Whew! Sparky loves to craft fall things, and when football comes on, that makes Sparky think of fall leaves, crisp fall mornings, and time to start knitting scarves and making fall items...Take a ride over to "Millie's Girls" if you'd like to see what Sparky has been crafting to get into the fall spirit.

In the mean time.....it's our weekly jaunt to Anna Maria Island Gulf Gate Tiki Bar and Grill for breakfast, and then a ride over the Anna Maria Island City Pier to see what's happening there....Always something! Today it was a momma manatee and her baby swimming right in front of us under the pier and off into the distance. Momma had a scar, a small one...We think every manatee we've seen has had a scar so far....some really big, some small. Not sure if that's an encounter with a boat or something else that caused it, but always a little sad to see.....
There were lots of Great Blue herons there at the pier today...Several were on top of the building that houses a restaurant and a bar at the end of the pier.

One had himself situated just so....It's cool to see animals and birds in nature that obviously inspire people to design things---like tripod stands for cameras.

And this one was having a bad hair day!

And what else is new?  Eldy has lit a fire in himself to get in shape. He has gone from being an admitted couch potato, snacking and watching TV for hours on end, to a bicycling' road dude, dieting and whipping himself into shape.  He's lost 13 pounds in just a few weeks, and now cycles and average of more than 12 miles a day. He decided to take this cycling so seriously, he bought himself a road bike, and the biking gear to go along with it.

He is bound and determined to get his blood pressure down and his sugar levels through exercising. Neither one of us has to take medication, and we both want to stay that way. Sparky is really proud of him! Sparky, in the meantime, has sloughed off...The heat really got to her this summer, but she's starting to realize she needs to keep some kind of routine going for her.  Playing pickle ball once every couple of weeks is NOT enough to keep the pounds at bay...Time to for HER to get back to some serious exercise...She's just not sure what, yet...Walking isn't something she enjoys very much. Might take a zumba class, who knows? :-) Stay tuned.....

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sparky's Texas Visit

It was fast, WAY too fast....just for the weekend....

Sparky flew in...Sparky flew out, but what a time she had with her little grandson!

He's grown so fast....He's a little over two now and can he talk!

"Grandma? GRANDMA! WHERE ARE YOU?" and he came running down the hall to find her. That made Sparky very happy. She thought it would take him almost the whole two days to warm up to her, but it didn't take long at all. We quickly got into the business of playing...and being silly....

He's a typical boy...all about cars and trucks. He identified each car and truck by make and model AND color as he showed Grandma his collection. "This is Honda Civic.  Daddy's car is silver Honda. John Deere  tractor. Garbage truck. This is green car. Barron's blue car. This car goes fast. This car goes slow."  Then he'd demonstrate how slow or how fast.

He can count to 20 and not miss a number!  One to one correspondence (touching each object and counting them correctly) now that's another story---not quite there yet.

What's amazing to Sparky is how much he loves books and looks at them intently by the hour and pretends to read them....And of course, if they are about trucks, all the better!


Sparky made a little photo story book with photos of Barron on each page and a little caption about him. "Barron likes to go to the park with his mommy."  "Who came to visit Barron? Aunt Kelly." "Barron's favorite meal is Chicken Nuggets from McDonald's." And, "Barron likes to get wet at the water park." The last page had this....A photo of Barron asleep in his car seat and the caption, "Uh-oh! Barron is tired. He fell asleep. He's had a busy day. See you later!" Grandma read it to him ONE time, and just a little while later, he was "reading" his little book and parroting back what it said on each page! We heard a little "Uh-oh! Barron tired." There were 15 pages in the little book! Not only that, but from a very specific photo of JUST his car seat, he said that the car seat was in Daddy's silver car, which was correct! He's got an amazing memory, that little guy!


We had a lot of fun...We went to the playground....

Grandma got to babysit....Grandma got to wrestle....Grandma got tired, and so did Barron!

Sparky had a WONDERFUL visit with her daughter and little grandson....It went by way too fast...
Kerry
Hard to say goodbye to this adorable little guy....
Sparky is saving up for the next trip and hopes to come back soon, she's missing too much! Kerry says that he is now sounding out words! They were at the grocery store, went past the beer aisle and Barron says, "B-b-b-beer. That's Dadda's." Oh, what comes out of the mouths of little babes...... And, he's doing BLENDS! " Bl-bl-bl-black. That's black." Smart kid, that one!

Until next time.....

Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting Ready to Head to Houston!

Because Sparky's daughter, Kerry, wasn't able to make the family reunion, she graciously bought her mom a ticket for Sparky to come to Houston! Woo hoo! Sparky is headed there in just a few days to see her daughter and grandson, whom she hasn't seen since he was born. He's now just a shade over two years old.

In the meantime....Sparky is crafting up a storm. Head over to Millie's Girls to see what she's been making.

It's been too hot to bike ride for Sparky, but Eldo, now that's another story! Eldy has been upset about a recent uptick in blood pressure and a few extra pounds put on this summer, so he's on a roll, let me tell you, folks! He is riding his bike every day, even tho it's in the high nineties...out early in the morning before it gets REALLY hot! He's really watching what he eats...No more stick and a half of butter on a BIG bucket of homemade popcorn. And no salt this time....Sparky is impressed! He's making healthy smoothies in the morning, started eating oatmeal for breakfast, and watching meat intake. Way to go, Eldy? Is Sparky doing all that? No-o-o-o-o-o....but she's working on that Coke a day habit, cutting down. Sparky gets in the pool a few times a week and does some exercise and jogging in the water....That's all she can handle for now.....
Gulf Gate Cafe
So-o-o-o-o....we do some of our regular routines...like head to Anna Maria Island once a week to eat breakfast at Gulf Gate Cafe, check out the banana tree, which is growing right outside the restaurant, then we head over to the city pier see what's up.....

Today, there's a little boy fishing....He seems to know exactly what he's doing...We asked him if he had caught anything. He said, "Not yet. But I'm working on it."  A few minutes later, Sparky watched his line take a big curving dip, and she heard him say, "WHAT THE HECK?"  He caught a little fish, no idea what kind. You never know what people are going to catch at the pier. We've seen a ray get caught by accident, a pelican, and an egret tangle with the fishermen's lines.

We've heard people sometimes land a shark!

"What the heck!??!!!!

Sparky is always looking at the birds... A snowy egret getting ready to grab a fish....Not the best photo (iPhone) but look at those legs at perfect right angles!
Another egret that caught a fish.....

We saw a family looking very closely at this small turtle near the boardwalk...They were holding it and handling it gently, but Sparky wished they would place it back in the cover of the shrubs where we think it came from. People have been very informed about sea turtle nesting and turning around baby turtles towards the ocean if they find them in the parking lot but outsiders don't always know the rules. However, Sparky thinks this is a young gopher tortoise. (?)

And we always like to people watch....There are lots of old codgers at the pier, weatherbeaten, leathery, and burnt to a crisp. There's lots to see at the pier......

We've seen fishermen fishing with just a reel of line, no rod....We've had some great conversations with foreigners who speak a little English.... We saw a BIG manatee pass under the pier last weekend and much to the excitement of a French family who had two young children, we called it to their attention. First one they had ever seen, so they were thrilled to see it and thanked us. It had a huge wide scar on its back, so sad.....But it seemed to be doing ok....

Time to head home....Sparky might start subbing this week...She's been having fun volunteering over the lunch hour at the local elementary school, helping the little kindergartners navigate their way through the lunch line and learn how to punch their student number into the code machine to register that they bought a lunch. Some can't even match number to number from a card they have around their neck. But they are so cute! "I don't like that," "I don't eat that," said one little boy who said no to everything the lunch lady suggested. His teacher finally just plopped some food on his tray and told him he had to eat SOMETHING! One cute little blond boy asked Sparky, "Hey, wanna come to my party?" Sparky said, "Oh, are you having a birthday?" He answered, "No, I'm just having a party."  Sparky said thank you, but she had a lot of things to do that day.......One little boy remembered Sparky from last spring! "Hi, Mrs. Sparks! Do you remember me?"  "Uh, no, dear, I'm sorry I don't remember your name."  "Nathan!"   Oh, to have a memory like that once again!

See you later......

Friday, August 22, 2014

Last but Not Least....

Here's the REST of the story.....Where we ate in Traverse City, and some cultural stuff thrown in, too!

There are some AMAZING places to eat in Traverse City....and some too expensive for us to even think about...Like the Boathouse on the Bay Restaurant...Some of the family thought about going there, and we're sure it's excellent, but yikes---the prices! How about dinner for two--two 5 oz. Kobe beef filets, a one pound lobster with crab stuffing,  two salads, fingerling potatoes and asparagus--just 149.00!  What, no dessert at that price?????  Not for us....Here's the menu if anybody wants to take a look...
http://boathouseonwestbay.com/menu-2/dinner-menu/   There's always lunch.... but we didn't bite...heheheh.....

We ate one morning at Sparky's Diner, a little place in a strip mall and a VERY reasonably priced breakfast that was delicious! It better be, with Sparky's name on it!  A fun diner....reproduction cool '50's formica tables and chairs, cool record LP's on the walls, lots of locals eating here the morning we ate, so you know it's got to be good....Sparky bought a tee shirt with the diner advertised on the front....

We also ate a Peegeo's...a great snowmobile destination bar and grill in the winter and just as great in the summer--it had that type of atmosphere, VERY "up north"---dark wood throughout, noisy popular bar with the locals.....old looking...but GREAT pizza and sandwiches...We ate there twice.....

How about some ice cream? Eldo's absolutely favorite dessert of all....So we tried the Cherry Cone in downtown Traverse City. YUM! They have a terrific mission statement.

It didn't take much convincing to get Eldy to eat some ice cream, so we did! Sparky picked something similar to "Moose Tracks"---bits of Reese's peanut butter cups and fudge pieces. Lo and behold, they put actual peanut butter in the ice cream, fresh candy, and real fudge! And they mix it with two paddles! It was fantastic! (Yep, fantastically fattening, but we'll worry about that later, says E.)

At one point during the week we were going to try and eat at Apache Trout Grill which my nephew said was fabulous, but starting at 4:30 PM, the wait stretches out to over an hour and more, it's that popular. The family wasn't ready to eat that early so most of us never made it there....The family members who did said it was very very good! The atmosphere looked cool!

(OK, enough about food, Sparky..Everybody knows how much you like to eat out. What about the culture? asks E.)  Oh, yes...Sparky and her brother and family went to the Dennos Museum Center,  at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, where there was an Innuit exhibit this summer....It was interesting but small. It was a nice collection of art and sculpture from the Baffin Island area of Canada. Sparky REALLY enjoyed the neighboring exhibit in the room next door that was a Korean artist, Seungmo Park, who did portraits and landscapes entirely of mesh screening! WOW! VERY cool! Look at this.....

When you get up close, this is what you see (pictured on the left)...Back off, and this is what you see.

He cuts layer after layer of wire mesh and overlaps to create shadows and illusions....Here is a better description of how he does it...  http://www.dennosmuseum.org/exhibitions/current/wire-wrapped-park-mo.html.

There was a landscape where you could go behind the screens and become a part of the landscape, so Sparky did......It was a VERY interesting exhibit overall.....We really enjoyed it.....


We recommend going to the Old Mission Lighthouse at Mission Point, which we did. At the beach in front of the lighthouse, there are aquatic cairns--Usually you see those little rock piles that hikers make to point out directions of trails on land--only these were built in the water and there are probably more than a hundred of them sitting in the shallow waters. And of course, there's a small lighthouse there, too. We didn't explore that today, it was really busy there!
And we even got to play pickle ball one day with our friends, Suzette and Larry Kurfis, who we got to know back at Sun 'n' Fun last year....

It was a fantastic week with family. We are very blessed that everybody gets along well with everybody else, there's no family drama, and a great sense of humor abounds in this family.  We just really really enjoyed seeing everyone and talking to everyone. The campground was perfect for communicating with each other and keeping in touch while everyone was coming and going....Got to see lots of wildlife, kayak, eat well, laugh lots, and regain that family connection that is so hard to keep when everybody is spread out all over the country.....And if we needed space, we had that, too. The Windjammer on the Lake is a great setting at Spider Lake, Traverse City, for a family reunion if you like a more "campground" atmosphere and not so much a fancy resort type of place. No place for RV's, just cabin accommodations. The managers of the campground, Keith and Theresa, were absolutely wonderful.....A big thank you to them for all they did for us. We recommend this place to anyone looking for a wonderful, campground atmosphere, which was a little further away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Traverse City (it was about a 15 mine drive from the campground). Loons calling out every night and morning, a peaceful lake, and a shady campground for relaxing and connecting with family. Life doesn't get any better than that....except to be retired and healthy, maybe!  :-)

Bye for now.......