Friday, October 05, 2007

Mad Dogs And Ulstermen........................

Hasn't got the same ring to it, has it ??

Anyway, as we spent a lot of yesterday shopping in Sebring, I wanted to get out into the park today. As always I took my camera with me in case I came upon a gator or a Yeti or some other exotic creature. I had no luck with any of those and had to settle for a couple of common (for here) birds.

I've no idea what the temperature was when I gingerly stepped outside and exposed my pale Brit body parts to the Florida sunshine, but it was almost uncomfortably hot and humid. It was also midday and I had to be mad. It also explained why I never saw another soul for most of the hour that I was out under the blazing sun. Every park native was wisely inside sipping ice cold pina coladas and knitting quilts or something. A lot of that goes on here. Idle fingers and so on.

I went across the grass on the other side of the road as the relevant homes were still empty, awaiting their snowbird owners to arrive in November when the park will be full to bursting with Northerners and Canadians escaping the first snow flurries of the year.

This bird thingy was on the bank of the canal (Jackson Creek) which runs from the lake (Lake Josephene) and goes past our house...almost. I can see it as I sit here typing this so it runs past the house, ok ?

Is it a heron or a crane or a crow or what ? Somebody let me know as there are lots of them here. I'm sure I asked the same question when I was here before but you know how that goes !

Anyway I could've gone left or right along the cart path that skirts the canal and in the end I decided to go left as I wanted to see the bocce courts. The gravel path is just wide enough for golf cart access and it was strange to see it devoid of all life - well apart from that albatross thing above.

Where it meets the lake, there are some benches and it's a lovely place to sit and watch the wildlife and any boats that are out on the lake. It's also a favoured spot for sunset watchers as it sets over to the right and is pretty spectacular every time.

It's a sort of headland point as the land goes off to the left towards the main park 'play' areas of the bocce and shuffleboard courts and the horseshoe pits.

This photo also shows the wooden pier that goes out into the lake and has a sort of gazebo thing at it's end. I don't know what else to call it and I had the same problem last time too.

It's also is a lovely place to be during sunset but, as I discovered to my cost last year, it's also favoured by mozzies who take every opportunity to feast on fresh blood. They love mine anyway and nip off with a few cc's every time I want to enjoy a sunset. Little bastards...pardon my French.

By now I was sweating like an Estonian shot putter and I needed shade. I found this very unBritish as we usually crave the sun like it is going to implode by late afternoon the following day.

"Hey George, the sun is out and the ITV weather girl says it's to get to 63F"

"Wow, ok I'll phone in sick and you get the kids up and lets get to the beach"

"The beach ? We're 3 hours drive from the beach !!! And you know what the traffic will be like. We'll have to start back as soon as we get there"

"But it's the sun, Mildred, the sun. It could be gone forever by this time tomorrow"

"You're right. let's go but we'll need to stop off at ASDA and stock up on candles !!!"

Before I started on my quest for shade, I did take this photo looking back down Jackson Creek with the view of all the boat docks - as opposed to the boondocks which is another thing altogether.

"As opposed to the boondocks which is another thing", they all chorused to get a cheap laugh.

Once again it was strange to see no activity along the canal. When the park is jumping, as it will be by next month, the proud boat owners can be seen most days polishing their yardarms and hoisting their mainbraces.

Thankfully I've now exhausted all the nautical terminology at my disposal and have probably used what little I had in all the wrong places.

So moving swiftly on, as I now did in real life anyway, I pointed both my body and my camera lens at the view west of the pier.

You can see the benches again and the start of the wooden pier this time.

In the background, over to the right, are the bocce and shuffleboard courts. Hard to imagine I know but we'll get to them next.

You can see why I like to walk along this cart path. You can also see the sky begin to cloud over and I knew rain was in the air.

Before I could leave this part of the park, there were 2 birds that got my attention. The first one was on the ground just out of shot to the left of the benches. It wanted to get to the water of Jackson Creek but it seemed to have forgotten it could simply fly there.

So it 'walked' up and down on the grass as I walked a parallel path on the gravel track. I'd hoped it would come closer when it realised I was no threat but I guess my parallel walking was threat enough.

I stopped and gave it a clear path to the water and I had to laugh when it strolled majestically to the edge of the canal........and promptly took off and flew to the far side.

As Peter Kay would've said "What was THAT all about ?"

Maybe it just enjoyed the inter species dance we'd just shared. Maybe it was a mating thing.
For all I know, I'm now engaged.

I think I'll stay away from the area just in case it comes back and demands a prenuptial.

The other bird was much smaller and thus cuter. It was perched on the wooden pier and had been watching this bizarre courtship ritual going on with a sort of detached interest as it wasn't involved in any way.

But now things had changed and I was approaching it's space.

You can almost tell that it's not happy. It's whole posture suggests one more step from me and it's off.

I stopped and took some photos as one of the most important wildlife photographic tips I was ever given is to take a shot, or shots, as soon as you can - no matter how far away you are.

If the subject runs or flies away, at least you have something to show for your efforts.

This bird had learned from it's time watching me earlier and as I slowly moved along the pier and paused, so did it. It managed to keep us apart by just about the exact same distance and I knew this was as good as it was going to get.

As I walked away, I took this view of the pier in all it's glory.

I next came to the 3 bocce courts and I've mentioned them in several posts from last year as I really like playing bocce.

Our best friends in the park are here already this year and they also like to play bocce. The balls are always laid out for informal contests and although the twice weekly official games won't be starting until November, we will be making good use of the courts before then for some keenly contested international matches.

Official matches are played every Wednesday and Sunday from November as until then, there aren't enough players in the park.

It's a wonderful location for any game as you may be able to see the lake in the background.

I think there are plans to increase the number of courts as although 24 people can be playing at once (4 players on a team, 8 players per court, 3 courts and so 24 players in total), there are often upwards of 50 or 60 people wanting to play.

Just behind where I was standing to take this photo of the bocce courts, are the shuffleboard courts. Beside them are the horseeshoe pits and then the Cafe On The Lake which will be opening soon to dispense freshly bbq'd burgers, hot dogs and other basic goodies for a couple of dollars every weekday at noon. I can't wait.

All around the Cafe are wooden picnic tables set amongst the trees which sweep down to the lake. It's a beautiful setting and certainly helps with the digestive process. You are usually joined by ultra tame and cheeky squirrels that will eat the food out of your hand or even your mouth if you don't get it in fast enough.

I know it looks dark and a bit foreboding in this photo but it really isn't. The trees provide welcome shade and that's what I desperately needed right then.

I've no idea if there is a season for squirrels but there were none to be seen today. I guess with the cafe closed and few people in the park, they've had to find other places to scavenge for food.

They're probably attacking customers outside Burger King and McDonald's as the Cafe On The Lake will have given them a taste for bread buns and burger meat. I mean, who wants nuts ?

Leaving the Cafe behind, I went past the water hole that last year had a gator as an occasional occupant. Once again it must've gone elsewhere as there was no sign of it. I know that some gators were chased off the park roads over the summer and some were removed from the lake itself and taken to a more appropriate place (a Gucci sweatshop somewhere). I'm sure 'water hole gator' will be back and I'll keep you posted.

I walked up to where we had lived last year and it was rather strange to see the empty space where our 5th wheel had been. I believe someone will be moving onto the lot in a few weeks time but for now, it was empty and sad looking. I think the sun was affecting my brain.

Don't even go there.

A sudden downpour freshened the air and I'd managed to stand under the car port of an empty house for the few minutes of torrential rain. Once it had stopped, I decided it was time to get 'home' as I'd been out in the sun long enough.

I took a couple of photos of my place partly because it will soon have a huge RV parked on the lot to it's left. They just haven't arrived yet and that is why I can now see the canal from my chair as I type this post. In a few weeks I will be looking at the side of an RV which is a bit of a shame although it'll be nice to have our neighbours back.

As you can see, the storm shutters are opened up, the living room window a/c unit is in place, the golf cart is fully charged and ready to go and the door and windows leading into the Florida Room or Lanai (Hawaiian word for a porch or balcony but also used here as a sun room built onto any building) are decorated for Halloween.

For UK readers, the white truck at the side of the house is a Chevy Silverado (One Ton Dually) 3500 HD. I say this because you may think the house looks quite small as you'll have the idea that the truck is like the ones we see now and then on our roads.

These photos don't do it justice and I've never seen a truck like it on our UK roads - which is a good thing as it would dwarf everything other than a bus.

It would look down it's exhaust pipe at a pathetic Range Rover and spit on the windshield of a Toyota Landcruiser. It would take up one and a half lanes on the M1 and oncoming traffic would simply be run over in the Lake District.

We got it to tow the 5th wheel and we'd really like to sell it and get a more practical vehicle but until the 5th wheel itself sells, we're stuck with the truck.

So to summarise, the truck is huge and the house is NOT as small as it looks.

But then I would say that.

More views of the park will be coming soon but tomorrow I'm off to play bocce ball with a Yeti.


Daphne said...

The top bird is a heron, oh yes.

The correct term for the wooden pier that goes into the lake and has a sort of gazebo thing at its end is "wooden pier that goes into the lake and has a sort of gazebo thing at its end"

But the other two birds are Strange American Long-Legged Wader Things. And I'm going to find out what they are.

Jennyta said...

Great post Ian,although at times I struggled with the vocab - eg. bocce, 5th wheel, shuffleboard, RV. Translations would be welcomed. I mean, I presume this 5th wheel is attached to a vehicle of some sort???

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