Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Rothenbach Park, Sarasota FL

Sparky has discovered a beautiful park within Sarasota...It's a true gem....It's called Rothenbach Park and is at the east end of Bee Ridge Road, (8650 Bee Ridge Rd) in Sarasota. This is a park built around a closed, capped landfill area. There are beautiful playgrounds, shelter areas and about 4 miles of trails which are for pedestrians and bike riders. The one thing this park is not, is it's  NOT pet friendly. Pets, horses, dogs and cats are prohibited. There are so many other parks in Sarasota that allow pets, that this was a refreshing change to this former dog owner. No pet poop bags left behind, no dog poop or horse poop to worry about!

It appears to be relatively new, judging by the wonderful, modern playgrounds that are there. There is a playground called "Tot Lot" for the little ones, a second playground for kids 5-12, and a third "playground" for the whole family. The sign says bring out your family teams and have a go at all the equipment stations. It would be a fun place to have a family reunion.

Look at all the cool equipment for kids and grown up kids to play on! These side panels look like you are supposed to run through the center, kicking up your feet on the side panels as you go through? Not sure about that one...

Climb up a rope ladder as fast as you can up and then back down. There are several more stations in this fun playground area, but let's get to the trails, shall we?

Sparky has hiked Rothenbach Park twice....there is a one mile trail and a 2.75 mile trail. If you do both, then you can get almost 4 miles in. The trails are both out in the sun and in the shade. Here is the start of the 2.75 trail on a cloudy, drizzly day which goes through beautiful woodlands and jungles of Florida palms.....
Nature's umbrella
According to a local birding guide, there are northern parulas, (pretty little blue birds with golden yellow & brown chests) pileated woodpeckers, barred owls, blue grey gnatcatchers and many wintering and migrating bird species, but Sparky didn't spot any. The shady parts of the long trail are through major thickets of palm trees and vines. Looks like an umbrella, doesn't it? Nature's umbrella!
Lots of flora though....
These look like little sweet pea plants....there were cool little pods right next to this pretty little yellow flower. Lots of different colors of mosses and lichens....beautiful!
Some lichen (?) beginning to spread...
Some beautiful wildflowers along the way.....

Some more epiphytes--air plants...the plants that don't need soil. They just grab onto the nearest surface and thrive...these look like horse tails, don't they? The native Americans called them "tree hair". We usually call this "Spanish Moss". It hangs all over the place down here in Florida. It's actually a member of the pineapple and succulent family. Some people think it's a parasite, and harms the trees it grows on, but it doesn't. It gets its nutrients from rain, sunlight and airborne dust and debris. The plant's tissues hold water when it rains, and then green up a bit. As the water gets used, up, then the plant turns grey again. Dried moss makes great tinder for fires, something Sparky did not know! And chiggers don't get into the moss unless it's on the ground. Sparky saw a kid one time, on a field trip, scoop up a BUNCH of Spanish moss and put it on his head. She was thinking "CHIGGERS! Ewwwwwww!" Hope he didn't get chigger bites!

Ok, enough about Spanish Moss. Moving right along....speaking of moving, all along the trail, there are exercise stations, the "World Trail" with ideas for how to use the equipment. Sparky wasn't into that today....too busy enjoying the shady forest! (C'mon, Sparky, you aren't ever into gym equipment! says Eldo). And he'd be right about that. Sparky is not a gym person, at least not in her senior citizen stage of life. She's all about outdoor moving and walking and hiking, and kayaking.

Another view from a little bridge.....

Sparky did see some wildlife, though! A herd of white tailed deer--about nine of them. They were healthy, and really big!
On the home stretch on the outer trail....passed some kind of cement factory or quarry or construction materials site bordering on the right, hiked back around to the beginning of the trail and done!

If you want to have a wonderful, long, peaceful walk, check out Rothenbach Park. Sparky highly recommends it!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Felt's Audubon Preserve Ellenton, FL

Sparky has been going to Celery Fields in Sarasota a LOT, but there are other wonderful places to visit to see beautiful birds in the area, besides the Celery Fields. One of them is Felts Audubon Preserve, in Ellenton, FL. You know anything with Audubon in the name means some nice birding. It's free at the Celery Fields, and it's free at the Felts Preserve.

Felts Audubon Preserve is a 30 acre parcel managed by Manatee County Aubudon Society. There are wooded fields, a bird blind (they keep the glass viewing wall really clean and clear), a small pond and open fields. Over 100 bird species have been recorded. 

Sparky has been there twice. There are PAINTED BUNTINGS there! And Indigo Buntings! Today we saw pairs of both painted buntings, indigo buntings, and juvenile buntings. Sorry for the low quality photos today. The bird blind has a large glass viewing wall right in the front, so shooting through the glass into a dark, forested glen using a long zoom makes lighting conditions difficult. You can stand off to either side of the bird blind behind short partitioned wooden walls with open viewing windows but then you have to contend with the mosquitoes finding you when you might not be finding any birds at the moment! Wear insect repellent spray if you go in the early morning or late afternoon. If there are quite a few people there in the viewing room, and sometimes there are, it's too difficult to set up a tripod, so Sparky's photos are also a little bit blurry. 

These are immature indigo buntings, we think. The one on the left might be a female. They start out as brownish tan and as they mature, they lose the tan, and the blue starts coming in as you can see on the bird on the right.

It was a thrill to see BOTH the indigo bunting and the painted buntings come in to feed. They would stay for a few minutes then fly off. 
Some knowledgeable lady viewing there said, "Oh, they will be back in about ten minutes." And sure enough, they came back, this time with more friends.

Not only is this a great place to see buntings, but you might also see butterflies or great horned owls (we did)....

This is a JUVENILE great horned owl...his sibling was right next to him in a big ole tree wa-a-a-a-y up high. The sun was in the wrong place, but at least you can see the two of them, headed for sleepy time.

They blend into the trees so well! And they are so BIG for being young!

Heading back to our car, we spotted some beautiful wildflowers. Have no idea what they are, but they sure were pretty....
If you are thinking that you'd like to go visit this small preserve, we highly recommend it. 

Directions: From I-75, take exit 224, Ellenton. Go west on SR-301, turn right on Ellenton-Gillette Rd. Travel north for about 2 miles. Turn left on 49th Street East for 0.25 miles to 24th Avenue, and turn left.  The entrance gate is on the left about 100 yards from the corner. You have to park on the sides of the road at the preserve. 

It's definitely headed straight from winter to summer here in the Sarasota, Bradenton area. We've definitely had a nice cool spell for awhile back in February, making it more pleasant to get out and enjoy nature. Temps will be cool next week, in the seventies, during Sparky's spring break, so she's going to really enjoy that. Might get another posting in, we shall see! But then temps are climbing back into the usual......Bye for now......

Friday, January 4, 2019

Welcome to Celery Fields, Sarasota!

Well, hello, everyone! Sparky is back...Yes, everything is well and good starting the New Year 2019. Sparky is on holiday break from teaching/subbing at school, so it's time for an update on Where's Eldo? Eldy is golfing, Sparky is on hiatus from school, so time to revisit the Celery Fields in Sarasota, a gem of a birding spot, if you are into that. (Note: All of today's photos are Sparky's from combined trips to Celery Fields and walking the perimeter, along the ditches, the boardwalks and the "Hill".)
Purple Gallinule
If you are NOT into birding, that's ok, too. How about fitness? You can climb the hill at the Celery Fields many times and get lots of steps and altitude in on your fitness watch that you may have gotten for Christmas. Celery Fields Hill is the highest point in Sarasota County at 75-80 feet and on an average walk/climbing day, Sparky gets in 2-3 miles, about 9500 steps, and 21 flights of stairs. The hill itself is not much to look at. Deep ruts from rainwater rushing down the hill from occasional storms make the climb a little bit of a challenge, but there are also meandering loose gravel trails that traverse the hill horizontally. To get your heart rate up a little, follow the trails that lead up and down on the side of the hill. Or, you can just take your time and walk around and around the hill. The trails on the hill are very narrow and uneven, so the hill itself is NOT wheelchair accessible or scooter friendly.

Across the street from the hill are sidewalks that go around the perimeter of the some of the fields, two boardwalks with covered areas that are wheelchair friendly and you can see plenty of nature even if you don't venture anywhere else but those sidewalks and boardwalks. The best nature to be found is along the canals and ditches which have some semblance of a gravel level trail to them and other parts are flattened berms that you can walk along as well.
Little Green Heron
Celery Fields is a combination of open marshland, deep ponds, shallow pools, and canals. It is the site of 360+ acres of the county's primary storm water collection. It has developed into a major birding attraction for the area and now has an Audubon Nature Center right there at the fields and trails. 
Male Boat Tailed Grackle
One hundred wetlands acreage has been restored. There are 200,000 aquatic plants and trees there, and over 215 species of birds have been recorded. There are two boardwalks where you can observe the daily comings and goings of lots of different types of birds and ducks.

Female hooded merganser
Sparky is not a birder, but she sure enjoys seeing the wide variety of species of birds that are there, and with the help of local Audubon Society birders and naturalists that volunteer their time a couple of hours a day during "season" (when all the snowbirds are in town, a species of exotic bird, haha)...she has learned a LOT about the birds that come to the fields. Like this loggerhead shrike, that impales its prey on thorns or barbed wire. It's also called the "butcherbird" for this reason. It gets its name "loggerhead" because its head is much larger in proportion to its body, but you can't tell that in this particular photo.
Loggerhead Shrike
Celery Fields is rated #22 on Trip Advisor, but Sparky thinks it ought to be further up on the list of things to do and see in Sarasota!
Male hooded merganser
 Sparky has seen LOTS of species of birds, from hawks to spoonbills (her favorite)....
....and anhingas to parakeets! These are Nanday parakeets and there are bunches of them at Celery Fields on any given day. The latest exotic bird destined to become very common in this area....
Tiny birds to big birds....This is either a yellow rump warbler or a pine warbler...

Hope you enjoyed today's photos....Hope you have a "ducky" New Year in 2019!
Blue wing teal duck and friends

                                          Sparky and Eldo