Image #201 – Cold Cattle egret

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis)

One of my favorite “Florida birds” is the Cattle Egret.  I put that “Florida birds” in quotations because this bird is in no way exclusive to Florida. It is found just about everywhere on the globe, rather like the Great Blue Heron. It is thought to have originated in Asia which is a long way from Florida. But I associate this bird with Florida because it was so ubiquitous when I was growing up. In those days Sarasota County had lots of pastures and lots of cattle. These little beauties were always in evidence. Sometimes they would be perched on the cow, picking bugs from the cow’s back or up near the cow’s ear. The cows seemed content with this arrangement and why not? Florida bugs can be very irritating.

This particular Cattle Egret was a long way from a pasture (although several decades ago it was grazing land).  It was in a parking lot, using a car as a wind shield. The wind was wicked yesterday and it was cold by Florida standards. This little guy was smart to take a breather — on the leeward side and in the sun.  When I looked up Cattle Egret on Wikipedia the entry stated, “The Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is a cosmopolitan species of heron …” Too right! ❧

Image #200 – Seduction of the southern woods

Image #200
Nature walk at Trout Creek Wilderness Area in Tampa, FL.

Back in Florida for a spell. I managed to miss the mess that has happened along the Eastern seaboard this week. It hasn’t been a pretty picture, certainly not as pretty as this one. The Florida woods are beautiful now. It is spring here and, in the left hand corner, you can see some of that wonderful “new green” that occurs only in the spring. It is more than green…it is living color, full of promise.  Rejoice! Spring is on the march!  ❧

Image #199 – A Wintery Sky

Image #199What an incredible winter this has been. On the news tonight I learned that Chicago is likely to break the record that has been in place since 1885 for the longest period of below zero days.  The joke in Chicago is -20 is the new 40.  How awful.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I have decided to leave it all behind and visit Florida for a few weeks.  I have gotten out of Dodge just in time.  The heavy snow has already started in the mountains. I’m half way to my Florida destination, spending the night in Valdosta, Georgia.  The most amazing part of today’s drive was the endless convoys of electric company repair trucks heading north.  Easily a couple of hundred trucks and some of them sported other vehicles “hitching” a ride. These looked like National Guard vehicles.  Looks like a rough time ahead.

This picture was shot last night from my back porch. There is some adage about a ring around the moon being a bad omen.  It seems that might be the case. ❧

Image #198 – The snow is coming, the snow is coming

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinals)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinals)

I never tire of these guys (and gals). Cardinals are a special bird.  “Winter’s flowers,” as one friend said. They have so brightened my days. This particular fellow was digitally captured during our recent snow storm. Another is forecast for this week…8-12″ are predicted.  I hope to be far away by then. I am throwing in the towel and fleeing to Florida for a few weeks. There is plenty I can do there.  If I stay here I can watch the Cardinals…which isn’t a bad thing…but life is short and it is best to make hay when the sun shines. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled and medical marijuana will be on the ballot in November 2014. I plan to do what I can to make sure that it passes. Stay tuned.  ❧

Image #197 – Goldfinches

American Goldfinches
American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

More bird pictures from last week’s snow storm. These American Goldfinches are showing their spring and summer coat of bright yellow feathers…more indication that spring is on the way.  Just a few weeks ago they were so drab, almost olive green.  It is a complicated bird according to Wikipedia:

“The American Goldfinch undergoes a molt in the spring and autumn. It is the only cardueline finch to undergo a molt twice a year.[14] During the winter molt it sheds all its feathers; in the spring, it sheds all but the wing and tail feathers, which are dark brown in the female and black in the male.[13] The markings on these feathers remain through each molt, with bars on the wings and white under and at the edges of the short, notched tail.”

Surely not ALL of its feathers? Can’t say that I have seen one naked American Goldfinch and I think he/she would stand out in a crowd. 🙂

Image #196 – Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

A good snow fall, like the one we had last week, brings many birds “out of hiding.”  The Eastern Towhee is one of those birds. Throughout the months that I have been here I would catch a glimpse of the Towhee, normally its backside, frittering about in the underbrush but rarely did I have a chance to study this beautiful bird. The snow changed all that. This fellow was grateful for the scattered seed on the porch as well as respite from the wet underbrush. I have now learned that Towhees are part of the sparrow family and it is wide-spread throughout North America. And apparently I am not alone in my inability to study this bird. According to Wikipedia, “The taxonomy of the towhees has been under debate in recent decades, and formerly this bird and the Spotted Towhee were considered a single species, the Rufous-sided Towhee.”  ❧

Image #195 – Groundhog Day

Groundhog DayAnother Groundhog’s Day has come and gone. This is a special time of year for me. The dates–February 1 and 2–have special significance. It was forty years (!) ago yesterday (Feb. 1) that Robert and I began living together. In 1974 we had already known one another for eight years. We became good friends long before we became “a couple.”  That friendship was the dearest thing of my life.  When we became lovers it was a natural extension of the bond between us, a bond that grew and grew. He was the love of my life.

Groundhog’s Day? Well, anyone who knew us in the 80s and 90s is aware that Groundhog’s Day was Robert’s favorite holiday. Each year he would memorialize the event by mailing Groundhog’s greetings to all our friends. Long before there was email there was snail mail.  Robert would write the card–a rather esoteric report on the world at large– and I would edit it.  Then it was off to the copy shop. One year we sent out close to 200 “Groundhog” cards.  We would fold, stuff, lick and stamp the envelopes. I suppose we were able to produce a mailing list somehow. I think back to those days of eight inch floppy discs that actually flopped and could hold next to nothing in terms of data but they were “State-of-the-art” to us and we somehow made them work.

Today, Groundhog’s Day, I heard from several old friends who remembered those oddly charming cards. They are missed, just as Robert is missed.

So, in honor of all that, I present a picture of Franklin Fred. He showed himself back in November and I can’t recall if there was a shadow or not, just an anxious dog who wanted to chase that groundhog in the worst way. Groundhog’s Day was Robert’s favorite holiday because in February 1978 we were visited by two young folks from Arkansas, pot farmers visiting the nation’s capital. It was a bleak period in our lives. After fifteen months of legal access to federal marijuana the feds had managed to lure away Robert’s doctor and close down the program that provided him marijuana.  The young couple had read about Robert’s dilemma and arrived in Washington with a substantial amount of prime Arkansas marijuana. In exchange for a place to stay Robert received a gift of medical marijuana that would carry him through the next couple of months–until his lawyers were able to re-instate Robert’s prescriptive access.

Those were incredible days. We were blessed with the gift that keeps on giving, the love of good friends. And that is what Groundhog’s Day means to me.  Thank you all. ❧

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