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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Calling the Great Horned Owl

The article about Great Horned Owls said they have such keen hearing they can hear a mouse rustle the grass at 1/4 a mile. It also said that a GHOwl will respond to a recorded owl hoot, or a good imitation.

So the other morning, as I was watching the nest through binoculars, I gave a trial, "oot oot" and sure enough, the owl lifted her head and looked right down at me.

I don't want to wear that out, but I am going to try again from time to time.
Sunday, February 24, 2008

More about the Great Horned Owl

I feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to watch this owl and her nest. It is quite far away, considering the height of the tower and that it is across the little bay. Some day I will get a good picture of her.

This is from the website Desert USA

Great horned owls are one of the earliest spring nesting birds; eggs may be laid in January or February through April. They use abandoned stick nests of a hawk or heron or crow, but also nest in rock alcoves, hollows of trees, abandoned buildings, or sometimes on the ground.

Throughout the winter, courting great horned owls will light up their nesting territory with nighttime hooting. Generally 2-3 white eggs are laid, although they may lay up to 6 eggs. Both the male and female incubate the eggs for 30-35 days. The young are fed by both parents, and the parents fiercely defend their nest site against intruders. If young owls fall out of the nest prematurely, the adults will feed the bird on the ground.

The young fledge from the nest at 45-55 days old.

Great horned owls can live greater than 12 years; some captive birds have lived to 29 years old.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Guessing About the Birds

A few evenings ago I saw the Great Horned Owl w-a-a-a-a-y at the top of the cell tower. That is one of the tallest towers around and to see the Great Horned Owl at the top was a surprise. The big predator was sitting right at the edge of the Osprey nest built last year. We never did see baby Osprey last year and I hadn't noticed any activity at all this year so I guessed that the nest was abandoned.

What did the owl want with an old abandoned nest? The Great Horned Owl and Osprey prey on each other. Was that it? Was the owl looking for nestlings or eggs? Was the owl looking for a ready-made nest for this year's owl eggs? Don't they nest in hollow trees?

Soon the owl flew to another perch on the tower and evening took over.

The next evening I checked the nest with the binoculars again, just idly and there was a head...a MOVING head, peaking over the edge of the nest. It was NOT a Great Horned Owl. It MIGHT have been an Osprey. I couldn't see the telltale signs of white and black around the eye area.

The mystery continues.

Eclipse!



In anticipation of last night's eclipse, there were several articles about taking photos of night celestial events. I read them, checked my camera's manual and was ready!

The camera was set to "No Flash", the tripod was extended as far as possible, and the camera was firmly mounted on the tripod. I pointed it at the moon and then noticed the clouds skittering around the moon. Oh well...it is digital. I knew I could always delete them if I didn't get a good shot. The first one looked good on the screen. So for the next couple of hours, I alternated between watching TV and my every-10-minute shots of the disappearing moon. As less and less of the moon showed, the shot took longer and longer. I was using the 10-second timer to reduce camera shake and I noticed how much longer the aperture remained open. I wasn't at all sure I would have any usable photos. Finally, right at Totality, the clouds won and I couldn't get any more photos. The above digital scrapbook page shows what photos I did get. The clouds actually add interest.

Road Tripping in Florida

Friends of ours are staying in a campground to the west of Lake Okeechobee and we took a day trip to visit them. We had never driven across the state and never been on Okeechobee Road. I guess I expected the ride to be like the one up to Orlando...an expressway through wilderness...same thing for miles and miles.


I was pleasantly surprised. Land must have been cheap in the center of the state. There were huge tracts of and used as dairy and beef cattle ranches. I have never seen so many heads of cattle. I thought it must have looked a little like this in the Old West.


Other huge areas of land were devoted to sod farms. SOD FARMS? I didn't think anyone HAD grass in Florida. All I have ever see is St Augustine Grass...like our crabgrass in the north, and, I thought, something to try and kill.


However, nothing prepared me for the vast citrus orchards. they went on and on for miles on both sides of the road. When the trees were planted so that you could look down the rows, they stretched clear to the horizon! The bus loads of workers were picking and it looked like the job would never be completed. Big semi-truck loads of oranges were heading out to processing plants. These orchards were so vast that they HAD to be corporately owned.


The last surprise was a huge strawberry farm.
Friday, February 15, 2008

Hide-and-Seek



Yesterday I went out with the binoculars and this little woodpecker and I played a game of hide and seek. He was so amusing, peeking around the palm tree trunk first from one side then the other to be sure where I was so he could move.

This morning I heard his "Tat-tat-tat-tat-tat" and there he was again, having breakfast. I grabbed the camera and this time he was too busy to play, or rather, to care if I was there or not.

Making a Guess

I was awakened before 8:00 AM the other morning by a din outside the bedroom window. By the time I roused and looked out the window nothing was there. However, I compared my memory of the screech, flap of huge wings, distress call of doves with what we know is around and came up with one of the Great Horned Owls taking out one of a pair of Doves that hang around the little flower garden. When I looked later there were a couple of down feathers. It certainly is a series of sounds I will never forget.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

THE TRIP HOME - Feb 10, 2008

This is the END of our trip to Key West. Please go "back" to DAY 1 and read up to here. Sorry. That is just the way blogs work.
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This is the pool at the Motel where we stayed...Spanish Gardens in Key West.



All weekend I had wanted to wade in the ocean. This beautiful little beach was on one of the lower keys on the way back home. Thanks to our companion for suggesting it and for manning my camera.



This is the Banyan Tree Antiques and Plants between Mile Marker 80 and 81. What a place!!!



I just read a description of this Island Grill as "looking like a bait shack from the highway". However, we DID have to wait for a table so it isn't much of a secret. Again, our companions knew JUST the right place to go. Everyone raved abut their food AND they have Sweet Potato Fries. Yes, that is a canal from the ocean just the other side of the railing.

DAY 3 in Key West


Here we are, still tooling around Key West in this little golf cart. This photo is outside a little boutique I loved called Beseme Mucho.



We seem to find a lighthouse wherever we go. This is the 1847 Lighthouse. "One of the oldest Florida lights, dating to 1847, and displaying the original Fresnel lens. Walk up 88 steep steps to the top of the conical brick lighthouse for a grand view of Old Town. The Key West Art and Histrical Society impeccably restored both the Keepers Cottage and Lighthouse in the 1990s."



One of the garden paths at the Hemingway House.


Southernmost House - "Perhaps Key West's most elegant tribute to grandeur, circa 1905, is a treasure" Now it is an historical museum.



This interesting garden gate caught my eye. Simple, but creative!




Two Friends Patio Restaurant...we just had to have one last fantastic meal. The patio is just dripping with this and that. Lots to see while we ate breakfast.



I was so taken with this house that I took about 8 photos. Then I saw a photo very like one I took in the Biking and Walking guide. Too bad I didn't learn the history while we were there.



This huge sculpture "God Bless America" is by Seward Johnson, Jr. and is outside the Old Customs House Museum. The web cam by www.kwahs.org is pointed right at passers-by.



The huge Kapok tree at the Monroe County Courthouse. The wood from this kind of tree was used to make life jackets for our sailors during WWII.

EVENING OF DAY 2 in Key West



Last dinner in Key West: Conch Republic Seaport: in the Afterdeck Bar.

I can't say enough about our meal! Just imagine! APPETIZER: Conch in a tempura batter, deep fried with a marmalade-ginger-horseradish sauce. DINNER: Shrimp and Red Snapper in a Wellington crust with Hollandaise sauce.

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You just HAVE to put in an appearance at the Hog's Breath Saloon. We have both been to the one in Carmel, California so now we can say we have been to both.
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Just one more night shot.

KEY WEST ROAD TRIP - DAY 2



This is how we got around Key West...electric golf cart for 4. It was more than a LITTLE cramped in the back seat, but we managed and it got around the streets far easier than cars or trucks. Traffic, not to mention gas, make this the preferred method of transportation. When the power is low, you take it back to the rental place and get another one. I think we had 3 or 4 for the 3 days.
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We just HAD to do the tourist-y photo at the marker. This was early morning so just one other couple was there ahead of us. Later in the day they are lined up out to the street!
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Breakfast: BLUE HEAVEN: Thank goodness the other couple was so familiar with Key West and love good food. This place was terrific! I could have eaten all of our meals there, easily. The coffee was the best I have had and my blueberry pancakes were made with FRESH blueberries.
There is a very colorful history to the structure...house and courtyard. The stairs lead up to a floor of tiny bedrooms...what was once a bordello.
This is the door to the inside eatery, but I guess everyone likes the patio. There is a bar, tables, and a stage with 20 or so chairs. Breakfast didn't have any entertainment except the roosters. The Jimmy Buffett song, Blue Heaven Rendezvous was inspired by this place.
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After breakfast we went back to the Southernmost Point for some photos and a visit to "Louis' Backyard".
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We stopped at one of the beaches and I was fascinated by this pier they are rebuilding. The piers extend way outside of the left edge of this photo. It will be AWESOME when it is done. I assume one of the hurricanes destroyed the original.
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Pepe's! Our friend wanted to shop so the guys waited here with a couple of Margaritas. I wish we could have fit in a meal...it was a very relaxing courtyard with an amazing Bougainvillea.
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Being Jimmy Buffett fans, we just HAD to visit the store and restaurant. Of course we had a CHEESBURGER for lunch!

Longer Road Trip-Key West

DAY ONE:
For all my friends and family, here is a little pictorial overview of our long-awaited trip to Key West...our Christmas Present to each other.
The Rain Barrel - a store and artists colony on Islamorada. We would have missed this if our companion couple weren't SO familiar with the out-of-the-way spots.
This is looking back into the shops and studios behind the store.__________________________________________________
The Wreck and Galley Grill on Grassy Key:
Best Key Lime Pie around. One slice is more than enough for two people.

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Sundown is an EVENT in Key West. The Mallory Square by the cruise ship docks is a magnet for street performers, vendors, strangeness, and tourists. All are waiting for the magic moment that the sun disappears and everyone cheers. That also starts the nightlife as the crowd heads out for dinner and the bars. This evening the cruise ship Enchantment of the Sea was just leaving. Our first cruise in 1994 was on this ship.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Honest! We only intended to stop for ONE drink...just to say we had been to Sloppy Joe's. But when we got there they were preparing for the headliner for the night...PAT DAILEY. He winters in Key West, but summers at...Put-In-Bay...a huge party spot in Lake Erie between Ohio and Michigan. The crowd was almost all Ohio and Michigan people, like we are. We HAD to stay and enjoy the show. I plan on tuning in this weekend, too, as it is on live Web Cam all weekend. What a party, though!!! All those drunks chanting "OOOOOO-HI-oooooooo!"
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Laura Lou
Michigan/Florida, United States
I am a retired Middle School Science teacher from Michigan spending 4 months each winter in Florida and learning about a whole new world.
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