Sandhill Crane Courtship Dance

When you live in central Florida, you have a first row seat to some of the most amazing nature shows. One of my favorites is the highly entertaining mating dance of the sandhill crane, or what I refer to as the “Sandhill Crane Courtship Dance”. The birds often provide their own music (insert loud squawking noises) and the moves include ducking, bowing, jumping, running and some impressive outstretched wing movements. All of their choreography has a fluid, graceful quality that brings to mind Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and led me to name these two lovebirds, Fred and Ginger. The larger crane, I’m assuming is the male, has a distinct marking on its eye (shown in the last picture in this blog). Since sandhills mate for life, this is a love story worth celebrating.

To see all my sandhill crane photos, for sale on Fine Art America and Pixels, click HERE.

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I’ve created a slideshow of the latest sandhill dance. To see it, click HERE.

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Proud Sandhill

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Childhood Memories

I recently purchased an awesome new bird feeder system and it has sparked memories of my childhood. It calls to mind my parents saying, “You can have a pet, but you will have to take care of it.” Maintaining feeders is actually a big responsibility and one I don’t take lightly. I know that with our hot weather and humidity here in Florida, the feeders will have to be cleaned regularly and water refreshed often. Thankfully, my husband has agreed to help me out (like my parents eventually did) and will maintain the feeders when I’m not at home. It’s fun to share this hobby and we feel good about helping out the birds.

One of my favorite games when I was a kid was Hide and Seek. That’s the game I now play with the birds at my feeder. Cardinals are especially skittish and will not land if I’m sitting too close or am out in the open. Yesterday, I “hid” in the shadow of a ligustrum tree and it worked perfectly. Two times, large birds (a red-shouldered hawk and a great blue heron) flew right over my head and seemed surprised when they saw me! I almost yelled out, “Gotcha!” I think, if you can fool a hawk, you’ve done pretty well (patting myself on the back).

Another fun game that we played as kids was Musical Chairs. Birds love it too! There is a popular branch in a distant live oak tree where mockingbirds and woodpeckers give regular concerts. I call this the “songbird perch”. Another branch, located directly over a pond, is perfect for the birds of prey and they literally knock each other off for this prime viewpoint. Remember being knocked to the floor when the music stopped? Birds are about that gentle…

It was a beautiful birding day in Florida yesterday.  I did have work to do, but decided to “play hooky” instead. I followed two sandhill cranes around the pond, talked to my hummingbird, counted birds, listened to birdsongs and when the sun started to set I remembered a most vivid childhood memory; I heard my Mom’s voice, “You can stay out until it gets dark.” Time to say good-bye to my friends. Sigh.

To see my Bird photographs on Pixels, click HERE.

These pictures represent one great birding day in Florida:

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Miami

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One week in Miami, in search of iguanas, orchids and alligators.  I found iguanas at the amazing Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, along with gorgeous lily ponds and an orchid garden! The informative docents offer an excellent tram ride around the gardens, explaining the history of the place and pointing out interesting plant facts. Start with the tour, then walk to the butterfly garden for lunch with the butterflies (the food is very good and the cafe overlooks the conservatory).  You will find huge iguanas around Center Lake, hidden among the mangroves, and many beautiful birds along the ponds.

In the heart of busy Miami Beach, there is a smaller botanical garden called  Miami Beach Botanical Garden. It can only be described as an oasis in the city with its quiet paths, a lily pond (where I enjoyed chasing dragonflies) and a lovely Japanese Garden, complete with red bridge. While there, I had a nice chat with one of the staff who explained that Hurricane Irma had done a lot of damage to the various gardens in the area and that hundreds of volunteers helped with cleanup. Just around the corner from this garden is the Holocaust Memorial.  If you have a chance, please stop and visit this beautiful, unforgettable tribute to those who lost their lives in the Holocaust.

Alligators were on the agenda for a day trip to Big Cypress Preserve. My husband and I drove east on HWY 41, to Big Cypress Welcome Center, taking our time along the way to stop at the various roadside parks (this is where you will find gators). My favorite stop was at Kirby Storter Roadside Park which has a lovely boardwalk meandering over  pinewood flatlands and a lovely cypress swamp. It’s fun to do a little research on swamp wildflowers, spiders and birds before you go, come up with a list and check them off as a kind of treasure hunt. I suggest you bring a picnic lunch (not many places to eat), extra water and bug spray. Heading back to Miami, we took the Scenic Loop Road, which I highly recommend, if  it is open.  At the moment, it is closed due to high waters, so check the website before you visit. It is a one-lane road through the “wilds” of the Everglades. I found it hauntingly beautiful and a great place to see wildlife. One of my favorite photos from the trip is of an “Audubon-like” scene of a Great Blue Heron hiding among the cypresses.

Other highlights from my week in Miami were: walking along Miami Beach boardwalk, eating lunch on Ocean Drive  (people watching is amazing there) and hanging out on Lincoln Street, a lovely pedestrian shopping area with great restaurants, well-known stores and a very cool bookstore called Books & Books. I saw several movies at the theater there, including Loving Vincent. I was so excited to see that it was playing and bought tickets before I arrived.  Very special.

A quick trip to Little Havana was very fun. I enjoyed taking photos of the colorful buildings, walked through the famous Maximo Gomez Park  and enjoyed yummy Cuban food (and probably the best mojito I’ve ever had), at La Esquina de la Fama.  I didn’t have time for Viscaya Museum and Gardens this time, but is an awesome place to visit, as is Biscayne National Park with its beautiful beach and lighthouse. So many things to do and see in Miami. One week is not enough time to see it all, but it is just enough time to have a lovely vacation.

To see my Miami photos, for sale on Pixels, click HERE.

 

 

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