Scenes from a Spring Paradise in Florida

Hope's front door

Hope’s front door

After hearing me moan and groan about our cold, wet, dreary weather, my sister Hope sent me a visual spring tonic.  It is hard to express how powerfully seeing these photos taken in her yard impacted me.  There is hope!  There is beauty!  There is glorious life just one state south of here… and it’s headed my way.  Really!  It is!  🙂

Bee on azalea

Bee on azalea

These photos are a treasured gift.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Bee on Japanese plum flower

Bee on Japanese plum flower

Sulfur butterfly and orange

Sulfur butterfly and orange

Another shot

Another shot

Here he (she?) poses on an azalea flower

Here he (she?) poses on an azalea flower

Mama cardinal.  Hope said she raised a little brood of one in a nest in the azalea bush.

Mama cardinal. Hope said she raised a little brood of one in a nest in the azalea bush.

Here's papa cardinal.

Here’s papa cardinal.

Another little visitor

Another little visitor

This is the baby cardinal that the mama raised in the azalea bush!

I think this is my all time favorite.  She sent this one to me a while back.

I think this is my all time favorite. She sent this one to me a while back.

There are 5 birds in this picture.  Can you spot them all?

There are 5 birds in this picture. Can you spot them all?

This one was taken a couple of months ago, while it was still winter.

This one was taken a couple of months ago, while it was still winter.

Horse hair on fence.  Her rainy days sure are prettier than mine!  :)

Horse hair on fence. Her rainy days sure are prettier than mine! 🙂

Pear blossom

Pear blossom

Fish Eagles, Alligator Encounter & Deer

View of fish eagle nest and Casita from water

[On edit, Peggy, of Camping Tales, identified the “fish eagles” for me as ospreys.]

We started our day with a sweet little worship service at the picnic pavilion.  Two brothers have been coming here on Sunday mornings for the past 16 years to provide this service for campers.   We sang some of our favorite songs, then one of the brothers gave a talk on the passage in Ecclesiastes, to every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.  He tied it into the good and bad seasons in all of our lives and how they are appointed by God for specific purposes — the good times for joy, and the bad times to develop different aspects of our character.

This looks like gator habitat!

After the service, I took Sunny and Sheba for a walk.  I usually head for the clear water near our campsite.  But this morning I wanted to see different scenery.  I came to a little canal that borders Sandy Creek.  It was loaded with water vegetation and I thought, This looks like alligator habitat.

I was very hesitant to allow Sheba in the water, but she was determined she was going in.  I spotted a small area free of vegetation, and kept an eagle eye on her.  Then I saw it.  A small alligator (about 3-1/2

Young alligator on the edge of the canal

feet) was swimming directly toward Sheba — fast!  I yanked her out of the water and ran up the bank, hoping the gator wouldn’t follow us.  It didn’t.  WHEW!

Lesson to self:  If it looks like gator habitat, it probably IS gator habitat!

Closeup of alligator’s head

Later, dogs safely penned at the campsite, I went back to see if I could find the gator and photograph him.  I found it in the grass on the bank of the canal.

Both parents on the nest

Later a neighbor saw me straining to get a shot of a large nest in one of the cypress trees growing out in the water.  He asked if we would like to go out in his boat to get a closer view of it — and he said that there were also other nests out on a nearby cypress island.

I asked him what kind of birds they were, and he answered “fish eagles.”  I have never heard of them before, and am guessing that it’s a local name for them.

The pontoon boat ride was incredible.  How amazing to be in the wind on the water — in the shade!  Ken and Sharon took us past the best nesting areas and explained how the main body of water is about 20 feet deep, but the cypress tree islands grow up in about 3 feet of water.

Fish eagle nest on cypress island

One nest actually had young in it, but I was unable to get a picture of them.  I also saw one large gray and white speckled egg in another nest, but couldn’t focus my camera properly to photograph it.

As if all those fantastic photo opportunities weren’t enough, this afternoon I saw two deer across the canal near our Casita.  One was in the water.  The other was deeper in the underbrush.

One parent flying away

This was one of those days that will live in my memory as a highlight of this camping year.

Deer in the water

Deer in the underbrush

Ken and Sharon and their boat

Baby Bunnies

This isn’t travel related, but I did want to share something that happened last evening.

Ron was outside weeding the raised garden beds.  One had a real thick clump of chickweed in it.  When he pulled the clump up, two tiny bunnies hopped out — about 5″ long each.   They were so fast that at first Ron thought they were mice.  One immediately disappeared from sight.  But then Ron called me to come take a look.  He stood still and pointed at the grass behind a planter.  There sat the other little bunny motionless as a tiny carving.  And where Ron had weeded, a nest lined with rabbit fur was exposed.

I was so afraid the mother would abandon the babies since the nest had been disturbed.  I wanted so badly to pick the little thing up.  I thought briefly of trying to bottle feed him and raise him.  But then I decided to just hope the mother would come back and rescue her babies.  So we left the garden.

Maybe the Mom did return and round them up.  I am afraid to check the nest again. I don’t want to know if she didn’t.

P.S.  The nest was abandoned.  I do hope the Mom relocated her babies.

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