My Secret Garden

I arrived early for work this past Saturday (it was a new location for me and I’ve learned to allow extra time because of this insane Florida traffic). Since I had some time to kill, I wandered behind the shopping plaza toward a little drainage in the hopes of spotting some interesting birds.

As I slipped through a break in the shrubs, I found myself in a forgotten orchard. Three large mango trees towered overhead and a spindly avocado was bearing fruit but they were all overshadowed by the flowering citrus trees.

Citrus blossoms are my all time favorite scent! I wasn’t alone in my appreciation for them, there were a number of pollinators busily flitting from bloom to bloom. As I stood there savoring the scent I tried to imagine the old home that once existed on that land.

The roar of traffic from the busy road nearby interrupted my daydreaming. I gathered a couple treats to take with me, some fragrant blossoms and a couple ripe citrus fruits. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to that little corner of disappearing Florida.

Passion Butterfly

I was pleasantly surprised to discover this Gulf Fritillary caterpillar (Dione vanillae) in my front yard last week. As their other common name denotes, they use passion vines (of the genus Passiflora) as their host plants.

I converted my front lawn into a pollinator garden last Spring and have added more plants over time. My sister brought me two passion vines when she visited back in October (cuttings from her vines in Tucson).

Thankfully, the vines survived the frost in January and they are now supporting the next generation of flutterbies (my preferred word for lepidoptera). I’m a happy girl!

End of an Era

This past weekend I bid adieu to my trusty companion of the last ten years. After traveling 164,000 miles across this country (through all of the lower 48 states excepting New York and the ones up in New England) the house battery in my 2012 Prius finally gave up.

After careful consideration, I decided not to spend the several thousand dollars to replace it. Instead, I purchased a new hybrid. I’m hoping my Kia Niro will be as reliable and long-lived.

And yes, for those of you who know me, she does already have sand in her. That’s life at the beach for ya…

Sea Greatest

I came upon this Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus) one sunny afternoon. It didn’t seem too concerned about my presence as the ablutions continued unabated for at least another ten minutes.

This is one of the largest tern species in my area. Easily differentiated from the similar Caspian Tern by the bright white forehead which is visible outside of breeding season.

The Latin binomial translates as sea greatest (though personally, it’d make more sense as great of the sea).

Back in the Day

Took advantage of the sunshine this past Monday and wandered through the Manatee Village Historical Park in downtown Bradenton. Thanks to the foresight of Manatee County back in the 1980s, this site preserves 14 historic buildings along a stretch of brick-paved Manatee Road.

Only the visitor center, which occupies the old Wiggins Store/Hotel Dixie Grande, is original to the site. All the others were relocated from various locations across the county.

According to their signage, the town of Bradenton owes its existence to a storm. In 1865, Captain John Fogarty’s fishing vessel was beset by wind so he turned up the Manatee River for protection. The natural harbor and thick woods enticed John to move his entire family from Key West.

The family claimed 132 acres and established the Fogarty Boat Works. Boats were in high demand at the time for two reasons; the consequences of the Civil War and waterways were Florida’s highways. The rest, as they say, is history…

Sea Pie

I snapped these photos of an American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) last January. Sadly, they were lost in the shuffle until now (in my defense, I have over 3,000 photos from last year – and those are just the ones I deemed worthy of keeping).

As their common name implies, they munch on oysters as well as other bivalves. The key to success is to stab into a partially open mollusk and detach the muscle. A mistake could cost the bird its life if the shell closes around the bill and holds the bird under water.

The historic name of Sea Pie comes from their coastal residencies and piebald coloring. They are decidedly more colorful than their cousin, the Black Oystercatcher (found along the Pacific coast of North America).

Kayaking Downtown

I joined a local ladies meetup group on Facebook last May, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve yet made (besides the one that landed me here). Not only have I met some amazing women who inspire me (looking at you, Katie) but I’ve taken part in some fun adventures along the way.

Last night’s sunset kayak in downtown St. Pete was one such outing. One of the members of our group Christine (owner of Wandering Adventures a kayak rental/guide company), hosts this monthly paddle at the municipal marina.

It was a bit breezy which kept us close to shore since there were some novices in our group. The sunset’s afterglow was stunning, the conversations were fascinating, and we were escorted around the bay by a couple of dolphins. What a fantastic way to spend an evening!