Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Owl Saga Continues….

(Note: Sparky's post about the owls departing and the Run or Dye race was written AFTER this post, so it's a little out of sequence, but she still wanted to share these owl photos and have them posted.)

Sparky went on a LO-O-O-O-N-G bike ride today….19 miles…Nothing really spectacular to report. Sparky is usually looking for a payoff in the middle of such a long bike ride, like a nice restaurant or something. The other day, Sparky headed out for a six mile one way bike ride to Panera Bread for breakfast while Eldy was in Tamp volunteering at the Valspar Golf Championship. But the neighbor apparently left out an important detail, (or Sparky just possibly missed her turn on her own, smiles E., which happens a LOT if you know Sparky like I do), like where to make the turn to get to Panera Bread. At any rate, after ten miles, Sparky was all the way from Bradenton, down to University Drive, which is ten miles on the interstate, down one exit from our exit. No Panera Bread anywhere to be found. PHOOEY! So back she went, another ten miles, then decided what the heck?! Why not have lunch at Wasabi Steak House on I-70, a fabulous spot to have a hibachi lunch?! It was only another couple of miles or so, and sidewalk all the way, so Sparky stopped at Wasabi and wondered why the wait staff gave her a wide berth as she came in. (You didn't stop off at the house to shower? asks a surprised Eldo.) Heck no! Sparky was ticked off at not having found Panera Bread so she was bound and determined and going to reward herself with a nice lunch--the heck with a shower! So she went straight there….Once she cooled freshened up in the restroom and cooled down a bit, all was well…….And she tipped the waitress extra for having to serve an odorous customer. Sparky would not do that again as far as not showering and changing clothes…But she was HUNGRY that day!

Where was this story going? Oh, yes….on that long bike ride today…nothing spectacular, until Sparky stopped off at Jiggs Landing where the great horned owl's nest with the three babies are…high up in a pine tree….The babies have FLEDGED! Which means they have briefly left the nest and FLOWN! To another branch. The three inch rain we had yesterday with 30 mph. winds has just about decimated their nest and probably encouraged them to get going and get out for a bit….
"Is she still there?"
Two were seen today….this is the biggest one Sparky calls Big Brother…He's always at the forefront of the nest and had been peering out most of the time in the past couple of weeks.

The local newspaper has been announcing that this nest is here, and that people are to be careful about noise, and not using ridiculous things to assist them in photographing the birds, like a forklift (yes, some lady really paid a guy 200.00 to lift her up to eye level to get shots of the owls), and drones, remote control aircraft, etc. Really? Yes, really. Times have changed, haven't they?
Lots of things have happened to the owls this past week. Last Saturday, one of the smaller of the three owls fell out of the nest. Somebody called wildlife protection services or a ranger, not sure which, and he donned protective gear, put on spikes and climbed the pine tree to put the baby back in the nest! TADA!
Smaller baby brother
Just today, one of the babies flew out of the nest and got caught in the moss/lichens that heavily drape the pines around here. He was hanging part way upside down and in distress. Again, ranger or wildlife protection services to the rescue! He put on full head gear once again, and protective gloves. He got the youngster (owlet?) out of the moss, and at that point, the owlet assumed battle stance, making menacing big wing flutterings, and making all kinds of noises, crying for its mama, who luckily was not around at the moment. The ranger/wildlife guy got him back into the nest, or at least back into the tree, we're not sure of the exact story, but there were people there who saw the events unfold…..

It's been so cool to watch these babies grow and develop these past three weeks or so…We are so lucky to live in an environmentally rich area, with lots of different kinds of birds and things to see. A photographer who was standing there gave us a tip for seeing a barred owl nest with parents feeding the babies in the Amish area of Sarasota, Pinecraft, where the owl's nest is in a neighborhood park. We might go check that out!

Thanks for stopping by…...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Run or DYE!

Oh, the places she'll go……

Bike riding all around town…Sparky has found some more picturesque places to ride…lots prettier than the Legacy Trail in some cases….Honore Avenue has plenty of wide sidewalks and some street bike paths, but Sparky prefers riding on the sidewalk. She boogies when nobody's around, then slows down for pedestrians. Photos coming later….

The baby owls have fledged and departed, and look at this---the stolen nest which was taken out from under the ospreys has been reclaimed! The osprey is back in it! Wonder if she's going to be having babies soon? But maybe it's a "he"…..
"What a mess! It's gonna take some doing to get this one back in shape!"

We were out driving around this morning over by University Mall in Sarasota, at Benderson Park, home of a pretty amazing rowing/athletic facility under construction and darned if there wasn't a "Run or Dye Race there in addition to a rowing competition. The rowers were having difficulty paying attention to their coxswain while this race was going on. No wonder!

Ever see one of these or participate in one? It looks like a LOT of fun! It's very informal…No time is kept…Dress up in a crazy style….the crazier the better! One of the ladies today got a wedding gown from Goodwill and she and her family/friends dressed in bridal party wear. Tutus were VERY popular!

It'a a 5K and you can run or walk…nobody cares, come out and just do it!  The fifty-seven dollar entry fee didn't deter the 4500 participants today. The fee from the race is used partly for local charities and for the huge vats of dyed cornstarch powder that envelop the runners and walkers in CLOUDS of riotous color! There are different colored stations around the track and the volunteers have just as much fun as the runners and walkers trying to REALLY douse the participants in clouds and clouds of color. It was hard to tell if they just threw the colors at the runners or sprayed it at them.

Check out the guy on the far left in this photo above. He started at the other end pushing his girlfriend through the colored vapor, hiding his head behind her shoulders, making her get the brunt of it! Coward! But it looks like he got just as much as she did when he came out the other end!

It looks like this little girl is definitely NOT sure about her mom's and sister's colorful outfits.

Sparky thinks there is some kind of celebratory explosion of multiple colors at the end, but she's not totally sure about that, we didn't see the finish line….How cool! Everybody appeared to be having a marvelous time. Sunglasses are a big help in keeping the clouds of cornstarch out of your eyes so you can see where you are going!
It was looked like lots of fun and that's the whole idea…Come out, get off the couch, have fun and get hit in the face with color from total strangers. Take lots of photos if you can keep the cornstarch from blowing all over your camera. The whole shebang is one big social event. Bet lots of photos got posted on Facebook today!

Sparky is going to definitely think about entering the next local Color Run/Run or Dye event if she can walk it…haha……Not going to start running seriously at this stage in her life, although lots of people do…..But she definitely would walk it! (And I'll just take photos, says E.…SOMEBODY is gonna have to document this!)

Stay tuned…..

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When Nature Calls….

No, Sparky and Eldo are not blogging about their bathrooms and bathroom habits at their digs in Bradenton…. :-)  Although their bathrooms are due for much needed updates which will just have to wait for now…

Nap time after flight practice
Sparky just wants to share some beautiful bird photos today….She has been out on her bike checking out the latest owlie sightings….It's nap time for these great horned owl babies that are getting to be VERY big. They've been fluttering up in the nest, rising up a little and settling back down, trying out their wings. There were three in this nest but only two are visible today. They will be departing very soon, it looks like….Right before Sparky got there today, the mother owl dropped a rabbit into the nest to feed the babies. In a bit,  a rabbit leg dropped down out of the tree in front of one of the photographers there with a loud thud. Scared him half to death!

It's so hard to hold the 30X zoom lens steady..Sparky needs a tripod!
If you've been reading the blog, you saw the post perhaps about the lady that paid a fork lift operator 200 dollars to raise her up to eye level for a nest shot…It turns out that the fork lift operator escapade was not for the eagle's nest down the street but for THIS owl nest! An amateur photographer Sparky talked to, said he had photos of her escapade and it was right here at Jigg's Landing, in Sparky's backyard. Sounds like this could be one of those weird Florida stories that get published all the time in the newspaper. Those Florida stories even made Jimmy Fallon's Tonight show one night recently. At any rate, signs posted around the nesting tree specifically state, "DO NOT USE LIFTS" after that birdbrain escapade. And talk about how things have changed in cautionary signs to tourists or photographer wannabes…"Do not use remote control aircraft on this property." 

Sparky went over to University Mall the other day, and near the new high end mall being constructed, is the Nathan Benderson Park rowing raceway, home to the 2017 World Rowing Championships and many other venues. At the raceway, across the street, are some marshes. Sparky had spotted some roseate spoonbills the other day without her camera. So back she went today to see if they were still there…Yep, they were! A marsh with a lot of duckweed is the perfect eating grounds for spoonbills and they were busily swishing their spoon shaped bills back and forth in the water, feeding delightedly on their fare while Sparky snapped away…..Sparky LOVES spoonbills! She would love to capture one in flight but that photo op still eludes her….
And the gators continue to visit our neighborhood pond almost every day….This one looks FAT and well fed, which is probably a good thing for all the little teeny tiny dogs in the neighborhood.

It's almost mating season--April thru July here in Florida--May and June are prime egg laying times. Mating season is going to be early this year because of the unseasonably warm winter this area has had. That means gators are going to be out and about more, actively moving around in ponds and perhaps neighborhoods for the next couple of months. They move around at night, and then find themselves stuck in places they don't want to be when daylight comes….in a fence, in somebody's yard, etc. The young alligators from last year have to watch out for the aggressive adults who EAT the young ones if they are near when they first start aggressively searching for a mate because they are hungry after a relatively long period of inactivity during the winter.

We haven't heard any stories about nuisance alligators in our neighborhood, nor have we seen any wildlife nuisance trucks in the area at all. The gators come visit the pond, stay a few days and leave….Tourists love to take photos of the ones at our street's pond…Sparky is no longer a tourist, but she still likes to take gator photos. She's still hoping to find someone to hike the 2 1/2 miles in and 2 1/2 miles out of Myakka River State Park's "Deep Hole" to see hundreds of gators! Eldo says "NO WAY!"   It's a hot, dry hike in and out with no shade, which is why he says no…..sigh….. Gotta go…Nature is calling…...
Great Horned Owl Babies

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sparky is NOT a Fuddy Duddy Grandma!

But then, nobody ever said she was! Sparky just wants to go on record as she is still moving to keep from getting "stove up" as Indiana Hoosiers say, and probably a bunch of other folks around the country use that expression, too? She just wanted some proof that she is still moving at the age of 63 going on 64, so her pickle ball playing friends at Sun 'n' Fun took some photos to prove it. Suzette, thank you…At first Suzette had nothing but butt shots---the angle was all wrong. "NO MORE BUTT SHOTS, PLEASE!" begged Sparky. So here's Sparky, playing her favorite game…..

What else is new? We found another cool place to eat on the beach, The Beach House!  They have a terrific fish dip there, one of the best we've ever had. Sparky had the BIGGEST peel and eat shrimp in her life there and Eldo had a grouper dinner which he said was delicious.

The restaurant has recently been renovated, and it looked really pretty although it isn't quite done yet. They will be finished with renovations by the end of this month somebody said. We plan on going back….

Sparky is subbing regularly at her favorite school. This past week, the kids were priming themselves for St. Patrick's Day. Sparky was in kindergarten again, and the student teacher assisting the absent classroom teacher, was helping the kids try and catch a leprechaun this week. It's almost spring break…They were bonkers on Thursday, with one more day to go. But the teachers are coping by having some fun stuff for the kids to look forward to…The leprechaun was very mischevious! He knocked over some chairs in the room, got into her M & M's, (AHEM! Maybe SPARKY got into the M & M's, says E.) Nope! Sparky doesn't care for regular M & M's. Now, PEANUT M & M's, that's another story! At any rate, a trail of green and gold glitter showed the leprechaun making an exit out the back door so the kids just missed him. They were SO EXCITED that he'd been there. The culmination on Friday, was the kids were going to put their traps they had made during the past two weeks out to see if they could catch themselves a leprechaun. Here are a couple of whiz bang traps they made…..Awesome! Even if they did have a little help from mom or dad.

Sparky almost blew it after reading a story about leprechauns and discussing whether is was fiction or non-fiction (yep, learning this in kindergarten), when helping the kids come to the conclusion that the story was made up or fiction, had a little boy ask with a VERY solemn face, "Mrs. Sparkles, are leprechauns real?"  Mrs. Sparkles, a.k.a. Mrs. Sparks said, "Hm-m-m-m-m…what do you think?" And then quickly changed the subject……

Sparky had a visit from her sister, who's had it with winter in Michigan. She and her husband, came just for a day and night visit. Too quick, but we'll return the visit to them soon in Matlache, a quirky little town further south from us, near Pine Island…Wonderful little shops there, great kayaking, and my sister has already seen 1) two dolphins jump totally out of the water while she was standing on the dock, and 2) a sting ray fling itself out of the water, a BIG one! Hope we get to see something!

And that's all for now, folks…See you later…..

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sparky is Prepared!

Sparky has learned her lesson, the next time she goes out kayaking, she said she will be better prepared. Sparky decided to head out to the Jigg's Landing right outside her backyard of her subdivision and get back in her boat today, with her NEW phone, and her NEW Lifeproof case…waterproof, drop proof, snow proof--hahahaha, frost proof, shock proof, everything proof. Lifeproof is a nice case--you have to water test it first, so Sparky did…..

This was the second one Sparky tried. The first one leaked, very very slightly, just a tiny drop inside the case. You're supposed to put it underwater with something heavy on top of it holding it down under for an hour to see if any water bubbles show up inside, or any water leaks inside. Sparky is always tempted to forego the water test, having one of these cases a long time ago, but after dropping her phone in the water and having to get a new one a couple of days ago, she thought she'd better do the water test since the first one failed. This one passed with flying colors. O-o-o-o-h, pretty in pink!

Dry bag? Check
Waterproof camera case inside the dry bag?  Check
Plenty of snacks and water and food that's good to eat and that will provide energy?
Peanut M & M's-- Check
Phone in waterproof case inside dry bag? Check
Paddle? Life vest?  Check, check….

Off she went, but not before checking out the three little Great Horned owlets in their nest WA-A-A-Y up high in a pine tree with mama nearby in the parking lot at Jiggs…Great Horned owls are the biggest owls that can take over another bird's nest and keep them from it while they lay their eggs. The nest that the horned owls took over was an osprey nest..This is the ever vigilant mama….

Photos are with a Canon 30X zoom and a shaky hand…Sorry about that!
They are so cute! They still have their downy feathers….
But they are getting antsy to fly….They are starting to move around more in the nest the last couple of days…The little red spot next to the eye is the owl's ear, Sparky thinks….They seem quite big!

A lot of people have gotten wind that the nest is there and amateur photographers show up now on a regular basis… The local birding people have walled off the pine tree stand to keep people from getting too close to the base of the tree with the nest. There are signs that say, "no lifts" among other things. Guess some lady here locally, hired a fork lift operator for 200 bucks to have her lifted up to eye level to an eagle's nest down on Caruso Road just a little ways from Sparky and Eldo's subdivision, so she could get some great photos of the eagles in their nest. Gad, what some people will do to get THE nature shot! (AHEM! says E., clearing his throat.)  Sparky WAS NOT THE LADY WHO DID THAT, for the record, she just wants you to know. SERIOUSLY…..

In the parking lot, Sparky talked to a lady today who had a 700 zoom lens which was DOUBLED!  She had it on a big tripod…Sparky will settle for her little Canon point and shoot for now…Maybe some day, a bigger lens will be on her Christmas list.  OK, off to kayak the reservoir at Jigg's Landing and see what there was heading towards the dam this time….Not much…

So Sparky turned back and headed towards the Braden River channel…She was just moseying along and decided to pull up in a shady area to get out some snacks…she heard a splash behind her, but didn't think much about it..there were lots of little blue herons fishing all over the channel…She pushed off from the shady area, and headed out into the channel, munching on some Fritos…All of a sudden, she caught movement out of the corner of her eye---GATOR ALERT! There was a fairly BIG gator swimming along right next to her kayak! Sparky about lost her Fritos and her paddle in the river channel as she hastily tried to get her camera out of her camera waterproof case and out of the waterproof dry bag. By this time, the gator had decided to move away from the kayak…maybe it was the smell of the Fritos, or maybe he just decided Sparky's kayak didn't look much like lunch…tee hee……The most important thing was he was heading AWAY from the kayak and over to the riverbank. Sparky headed in the same direction momentarily and slowly…Then when she saw him sink like a submarine near the shore, she decided to move along back towards the main reservoir lake…That was a close enough encounter for her….He didn't seem too concerned at all where Sparky was going. We were just cohabiting the river together, he and I…….
View from the kayak TOWARDS the bank

It was a wonderful day out on the water….Perfect weather…..Lots of herons--little blues, tri-coloreds, AND an alligator…WOO HOO!