Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Walk On The Wild Side

I'd not walked around the park here for quite some time and yesterday, with nothing better to do, I decided to take my camera and see what new photos I could take.

Buttonwood Bay isn't exactly big, but it seems that each time I explore it, there are new sights to see.......and photograph. It's just that kind of place. Most of the owners put up cute hanging signs or flower baskets, have gnomes or other figurines in their front yards and generally personalise their places to overcome the uniformity within the park.

Considering the flooding reports that have been coming, soggily, out of the UK recently, I thought it pertinent to show this little hanging woodcarving to display my solidarity with my countryfolk and suggest what they need to build to survive further flooding !

It's kind of bizarre to see it hanging here in central Florida where we're more likely to be carried off by a rogue twister than submerged by a deluge of biblical proportions.

Mind you, if all the lawn sprinklers came on at once, it would be a close thing.

I have no good reason whatsoever for including a photo of this lawn ornament - apart from the fact that it's cute too and I like it.

That was obviously enough for the houseowner to have bought it and who am I to disagree.

It was a windy day yesterday and most figurines on poles were twirling around merrily which added to their visual delights.

By now I'd reached the Nature Trail and set off along it as it's usually a good route along which to see 'things'. These 'things' can range from critters which scurry out of the undergrowth (it's a jungle along there) to man made objects of the variety shown in the first 2 photos.

Sometimes the two combine - as they do here.
I know the bird looks real but it's not. I'd love to have claimed it was real as then we could've been impressed with the bravery of the little lizard and you'd have left me comments asking if it got away.

As it was, he, or she, was in no danger.

No lizard was harmed in the making of this blog post.

The end of the Nature Trail comes out onto the internal park road furthest from the main entrance and I could fill an entire post with photos of the many decorative figurines and statues that can be found in the front yards there.

This little girl caught my eye as the house owner had placed her in amongst some lovely complementary blue flowers to bring out the blue in her eyes.

Well ok they are colourless stone eyes but in my mind they are blue. I was temped to use photoshop to create her some real life 'eyes' but in the end, I decided that would have been just too creepy.

At the far end of this road is the starting point for the other internal park trail and this one skirts the canal which leads to the large lake which is such a scenic area of Buttonwood Bay.

It's along this canal path that I've always found the birds that I've photographed so often for this blog. Yesterday was no exception and after the slightly cooler weather we've had here in Florida, they were out in force.

This big fella was a new type to me. My Leeds friend, Daphne (who is always willing to search her Ladybird Book Of All Things Feathered) tells me it's an Anhinga and I've no reason to doubt her research.

I just have a problem saying it quickly !!

It can be found in Southern States and South America and so it's in it's rightful place, I guess.

It was a pretty bird when perched on a post, as in this photo, but it was keeping it's odd appearance a secret at this point in our relationship.

When it is hunting fish or even when disturbed by avid photographers, it can extend it's neck to prodigious proportions relative to how it looks normally. It wasn't all that keen on my presence and as well as extending it's neck which showed off the pelican type pouch under it's head, it also made loud warning noises to show that it wasn't to be messed with.

At the time I thought it looked more like a snake than a bird and so I was pleased to read later that the Anhinga is also known as a Snakebird.

Well obviously.

When it's in the water, it's really in the water and often swims with only the neck above the surface. When swimming in this style the name Snakebird is apparent, since only the coloured neck appears above water and the bird looks like a snake ready to strike.

The Anhinga's feathers are not waterproofed by oils and can get waterlogged, causing the bird to become barely buoyant. However, this allows it to dive easily and search for fish under the water. It can stay down for significant periods.

After realising that it's warning squawks were not having the desired affect on my presence, it decided to use the old 'sod you I'm going to get on with my wing drying routine' and ignored me completely.

I sat down on the top step of the dock to show I was no threat and was able to watch this routine up close.

The Anhinga had beautiful feathers and when opened, it caused the neck to extend and so I saw the head pouch much more clearly.

It held this 'Karate Kid' pose for ages, letting the hot sun completely dry out it's wings and body.

After a while, when it became obvious that the show was not likely to end anytime soon, I got up and left it to it.

I mean I like birds well enough but I have a short attention span when they don't move !!

It's just not what a bird is supposed to do.

Where the canal channel meets the lake, I saw the usual birds doing the usual things.

Being a windy day, it was perfect weather for flying and even better for soaring.

Sadly I didn't get any photos of soaring birds so you'll have to make do with these.

I got to the wooden pier which goes out into the lake and it is a haven for perched birds. I scared all of them away just by walking out to the end of the pier but I knew they'd soon be back.

The covered structure at the pier end has wooden seating for looking out at the lake - especially popular at sunset time. Yesterday, however, I wanted to face the other way and so I sat backwards on the seats facing the way I'd just come, giving me a partially hidden view of the pier itself as I knew the birds would soon return to perch on or near it.

Several mainly black birds arrived first but bypassed the pier and landed on the water lilies close by. They then proceeded to have a bathing session by dipping their heads into the lake and scooping the water up and over their bodies.

It was fun to watch them from my hidden vantage point and they hopped from one large lily pad to another like some sort of choreographed Riverdance for birds or maybe it was their version of water chess.

Then they all left the pads and flew the few feet to the pier and began the preening and drying out process.

When the sun shone on them, I noticed they weren't jet black at all but had several subtle yet distinct colours - mostly on the top half of their bodies.

They were also noisy talkative birds and rarely stopped squawking at one another.

I guess they were females.

Moving swiftly on, I left the lake and walked back home via the tennis courts which are next to the larger of the 2 heated pools in the park. I'd never stopped to watch any tennis games here before and yesterday I decided to give it a try.

The standard was quite high and I took the opportunity to try out various camera settings to get some action photos.

In this photo it looks like there are 2 balls in play - an idea that ties in somewhat with my previous post !!

Closer inspection shows the player is simply holding a ball in his hand while preparing to hit the approaching ball with a deft sliced backhand.

One cannot fault his technique of keeping his eye on the ball, something that is fairly critical in tennis and something that Geoffrey Jones would be wise to do from now on (again see previous post).

After a few games, I left the court and made my way back to the house.

On my 2 hour walk around the park, I'd taken two photos in particular which sum up life here in Buttonwood Bay.

It may need to be explained to UK readers that here in the US of A, vehicles only need licence plates on the back and so the front can have nothing at all or more often than not, it can have a vanity plate, custom plate or personalised plate.

Whatever you call them, they can 'contain' just about anything you want, from the christian names of the normal occupants of the vehicle (Chuck & Mary Beth for example) to a witty comment about life in general or the state you come from.

This was one I saw on the front of Roger and Mary Ann's vehicle in the park yesterday. It was parked on their driveway as I was walking past and it was too good a shot to pass up.

It leads me nicely to the final shot for this post and once again it sums up life here for us retirees who, although we may never have to work again, still like to do our bit for society. Well someone has to keep an eye on our dwindling water reserves and what better way to do it than from a sitting/rocking position with our fearless pooch in our arms.

Just why said pooch needs a multicoloured sun visor is something you'll have to take up with the owners I'm afraid. I'm off for a well earned nap.


Daphne said...

I think the shiny bird in your bottom photo is a Brewer's Blackbird (often mistaken for a Common Grackle, apparently, which has a longer tail).
The one in your photo is in an aggressive posture and sounding its beak off for no reason at all. Probably a male.

Anonymous said...

Lovely photos and very readable commentary!


BirdLadyofAlcatraz said...

Beautiful bird pics

Silverback said...

Thank you for the kind comments - even you Daphne !

And I was SO sure it was a Common Grackle too.

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