Saturday, May 26, 2012

Flowers From Around Florida

I've been roaming Florida a long time. I have plenty of travel pictures using a variety of inexpensive digital cameras and along the way I've snapped a few shots of interesting flowers. Now that I have some really expensive cameras and lenses, I have hardly taken a single flower photo. After combing through my old pictures, I'm beginning to rethink that. Even though these photos are from across the state, you can take pictures of flowers year round and about five feet from your front door no matter how in town you might be. I won't pretend to know the names of these flowers or even care. From what I hear the most popular flower in Florida is the "Invasive Species". For some reason the native flowers are not all that popular. I'm sure there are readers out there that do know the names of these flowers and care very deeply about helping me identify them. That's why they are numbered. If you think you know what they are and where they are from originally, feel free to leave me a comment. At least I'll know someone is reading. For me it's more about the special memories of where I was and what I was doing when I snapped the shots and that's what I'm planning to share. If you want to visit the places I've been, click the links I so cleverly leave in bold type.

(1) Flamingo Gardens

This first flower is for Red Nomad Oz who has yet again thrown down a challenge.   Australia and Florida share a similar climate it seems. Well at sea level anyway. Red recently posted about flowers from downunder and then asked me to do the same. Challenge accepted. This Red beauty was found at Flamingo Gardens in Davie. Not only are there unusual flowers but also a small zoo and bird show. Any business in South Florida that can claim an 85 year history is doing it right and a must see. Be sure to have a friend feed the flamingos while you take a picture of their expression when they strike.

(2) Anne Kolb Nature Center
I found this prickly beauty at Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood. Don't let those whispy purple flowers fool you. There are three inch spikes right behind them. My favorite feature of this park are the elevated walkways through the mangroves. I have been there numerous times and frequently walk the paths. For some reason they don't seem all that popular with the visitors. You will find more folks at the kayak launch.There are plenty of kayak trails through the mangroves but be careful of the tides. Large portions are actually above the water line at low tide.

(3) Fairchild Gardens

This one will keep the botanists guessing a while. Give up? It's glass. Chihuly glass to be exact. Dale Chihuly brought his unique glass work to Fairchild Gardens in Miami a few years back. Not once but twice which was a first. I actually went to both presentations and was astounded both times. If you have never heard a Chihuly glass, click on the link above. He transforms glass into the shapes of nature. I've seen his work all over the world so it's very likely you have seen a piece or two. His exhibit at Fairchild consisted of hundreds if not thousands of pieces and were intermixed with the live outdoor plants, in the green houses, and floating in the ponds. Truly an unforgettable experience. 

(4) Fairchild Gardens
As far as the living plants at Fairchild Gardens, they have those in abundance. Most are outdoors and the place is enormous. I've been with friends who could simply not endure the summer heat so be careful. They have a variety of events during the year but I prefer the free weekends so keep an eye out for those. On the day I took this photo the sun was not really an issue but it broke through a cloud just long enough for me to get this shot. 

(5) University of Florida
When my daughter was looking into colleges, we paid a visit to the University of Florida in Gainesville.  She was not that interested in the college but we had a great time exploring the Butterfly Rainforest right on campus. It's part of the extensive Florida Museum of Natural History. After a quick tour of the campus, we spent the rest of our visit in the museum.

(6) Markham Park
This entire bouquet is no larger than my thumbnail. This was one of the first successful attempts at using the macro setting  on my old Sony Mavica. I was with some friends riding bikes around Markham Park in Davie when we stopped for a little break and sat in the grass. I fiddled with the camera setting and took this shot not realizing how awesome it was till I got home. Markham is better known for it's gun ranges and mountain biking trails than it's tiny flowers. As exciting as biking and shooting can be, I always like to stop and notice the little things in life. Tiny in this case.

(7) Micanopy

I came across this flower in Micanopy. This is one of the most unusual spots in Florida and I had one of the most unusual visits. Micanopy was built near the shores of a lake. A lake that was once so vast, steamboats would cross it. In 1891, a natural drain opened up and the whole lake disappeared. The area is now known as Paynes Prairie.
I had journeyed to see this marvel not realizing the town is a postage stamp. No hotels, no food, nothing close by and it was getting late. If I didn't spend the night, I was going to head on past it. I lucked into finding a bed and breakfast that was once a mansion and they had an open room due to a cancellation. The next morning I had the most extraordinary adventure spotting a buffalo and watching a pair of eagles feed their enormous chicks for hours. Between flights I took this picture.

(8) Morikami
One of my favorite local spots is the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. If you want to fill your camera with beautiful images, this would be the one stop place to do it. Not only flowers but sculptures, water falls, zen rock gardens, and a museum with changing exhibits. There are plenty of events if you like a crowd or on non event days visit for a quiet stroll. They also have the best Bento Box lunch in town at the Cornel Cafe.

(9) Morikami
As many times as I've visited the Morikami, and all the photos I've taken, a surprisingly few are of flowers. I have an abundance of walkways, bamboo, tiles, bonsai, bridges, water features, drummers, a dragonfly, and a turtle. Next visit I will try and round out the collection.

(10) Silver Springs
Silver Springs in Ocala is better known for their glass bottom boats and crystal clear spring water rivers. They also have a wildlife park, botanical garden, and a few rides for those of you who want a little more out of a nature park than nature. I took this shot soon after my daughter was handed a baby alligator to hold. I remember decades ago Silver Springs was pretty much a boat ride. Now it's a full day experience.

(11) St Augustine

St Augustine is one of those magical places that once you visit you are always drawn to. I've been several times for the "romantic getaway" visit but my last trip was all about exploring. Starting with the tram to get the entire overview of the city, proceeding to the lighthouse, carriage ride, fort, and museums. A non-stop weekend totally worth the drive up and back. If you are forced into an afternoon of shopping, be sure to negotiate for an evening ghost tour as payback.

(12) Edison House
I think everyone will guess this is a rose but since it was found at the Edison Winter Estate in Fort Myers it may be a special breed. Thomas Edison was certainly a breed apart. His invention engine defined our modern world. Some 100 years ago we were still lighting our homes with whale oil. We have Edison and his lab to thank for the light bulb, recorded music, film, and thousands of other inventions that set our future on the path it has taken to bring us this amazing present. The grounds and museum take a look back at those early days and how it all began.

(13) Fairchild Gardens

Back to Fairchild Gardens. When I think of ponds I don't really think of flowers. I'm not sure where this beauty is a native of but it didn't seem to concerned about the blazing Florida sun. Most of it's fellow flowers were not holding up as well so I'm going to guess this was a very recent bloom. I have plenty of flower pictures from this visit but only a few floating on the water.

(14) Butterfly World
Butterfly World in Coconut Creek is one of those must see once places that you will likely visit again and again. It's been a while since I've been last and since then my camera collection has improved vastly. Although the butterflies are interesting, my favorite exhibit is the hummingbirds. I have a few good photos but with my new lenses I'm betting I can get some outstanding ones.

(15) Butterfly World

Of course Butterfly World has an outstanding array of flowers that the butterflies use for food. Since I was distracted by the butterflies, humming birds, and lorikeets I took very few flower pictures. If you don't know what a lorikeet is, you will be in for quite a treat when you have one on your finger, shoulder, or landing on your head.

Yet another fun challenge and chance to sort through ten years of photos with all the associated memories. Now a challenge to my readers. If you know the names of these flowers, pick a number and send me a comment. Remember Blogger is a Google product and comments work best with Google Chrome. If you have trouble leaving comments, send me an email and I'll post it for you.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tooting My Own Horn

Something I don't do well is self promotion. When it comes to this blog, I don't even try. I began writing this blog in January 2009. It's actually hard to believe I've kept it going this long. I'm a computer geek and started posting on the internet several years earlier on a server I built in my spare bedroom. I began with hosting websites and running my own FTP server but one day the server blew up and I never fixed it. Probably one of the many reasons I didn't launch my own multi-billion dollar IPO this week.

One of my favorite ventures on that old server was a Wordpress based blog I used as a little diary of the things I did around South Florida. Many of which my friends or family had never heard of. Actually I just got tired of telling people what I did the past weekend so I would simply say check my blog. If I got 10 hits a month I was pretty happy. Once the server was gone along with the hundreds of hours I put into building and playing with it, I found a free product from Google called Blogger and continued my postings. All the fun - none of the pain. Oh and the title. I always meant to change it but I never really thought of anything better.

About a year ago, the South Florida Daily Blog picked up on my little efforts. Getting 100 hits in one day was a really big tip off. Since then, I've stepped up my game a bit. Not only do I have a couple of regular fans, I have real, professional bloggers watching. I didn't realize how closely till this week.

I was in the running for the post of the week and not for the first time. If you would like to see the other nice things SFDB said about my blog this past year, click here. So what's the big deal? Well I started the year with a total of about 2,000 all time views. Because of a few recent postings, I now get that many hits a month. I'm astounded my hit counter says over 22,000. I have made a lot of new friends in real life this year and have been invited to events I never thought I would ever partake in. The ones I've really enjoyed, I've posted about. My other hobby is photography and I've met some of the best who's work I've followed on Flickr but never thought I would meet in person. The little effort I actually put into this blog has opened numerous doors for me this year. I'm often asked if I make any money or get any free stuff. That would be a big fat no. If I had about a hundred thousand visitors a day I might make enough in my Google ads for a Starbucks run. I write what I want, when I want, and I do it for the pure enjoyment of my friends asking to join me on my many adventures around South Florida. So what's the point of this posting?

Blogger is easy! I set mine up in an hour. There are a lot of people out there with something to say. If you are one of those people, you can be up and running tonight with your very own publication. I've met several bloggers in person and many more online. My two biggest fans don't even live in this country. You will have an instant world wide community and audience. There are thousands of like minded blogs out there. Post a few comments on them and if your blog is half decent you will quickly build a fan base. It's a great way to meet people in real life as well. I don't even try and I can hardly avoid it. Even if you never intend to write your own, check out what others are writing. You will be amazed about the variety of content out there. And if someone, somewhere thinks enough of your writing to enter you into their contest, you will feel pretty damn good about the world.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sea Turtle Rescue - Hollywood Beach

Sea Turtle Rescue Volunteer - Janet Baker
 I have lived and worked near Hollywood Beach off and on for the last 34 years. I'm sure if you have been to the beach even rarely or maybe for just a weekend, you've seen the Sea Turtle Nest signs and the yellow tape around them. If you are like me, you give them a passing glance and that's about it. Last night I sat with the Sea Turtle Rescue volunteers and got an extensive crash course in turtle nesting. I held out to 4:00 am but no great turtle hatching stories to share. In the next few nights, someone else will be able to finish this story but I still have plenty of information to share.

The story begins with volunteers who ride ATVs along the entire coastline every morning at dawn from March to October looking for the tell tale signs of a mother sea turtle who came ashore to lay her eggs. That would be 80-100 eggs at a time. They then tape off the area and post a sign noting the nest number for the season, type of turtle, and date of the laying. I was stationed at the first nest of the season, species Leatherback, March 16.

Marriot Hotel - Hollywood Beach
Some 65-70 days later those eggs hatch and I was there at day 68. I was informed there are now some 700+ nests in Broward and out of all those nests and all those eggs, maybe... just maybe one of these turtles will return in 25 years. They will lay eggs some hundred or so yards from where they were hatched. Because of the artificial lighting in some of these nesting areas, many of these turtles will head inland and not survive. In the photo you can see the size of the taped out area is rather large (behind Janet - oh there it is). There is currently a study to see how far a disoriented turtle will travel before - or if - it will turn around and head to sea.

I had a special invitation as an observer so I decided to make a night of it. I met my friends at the Marriot Hotel right after work for a fabulous dinner on a perfect beach evening. As the sun slowly set I loaded up my gear (a beach chair) and headed to the nest about a hundred feet from the patio. Janet brought her chair also along with paperwork, a permit, an official turtle capture bucket, low light - red lens flashlights, rain gear, water, and 40 hours of training. That last item seemed a bit excessive and that's when my lessons began. To get all that info in a better format than from my memory, visit STOP (Sea Turtle Oversight Projection) by clicking the link. They also have a Facebook Page.

I sat through two shifts until 4:00 am checking the nest frequently, talking to various people who where curious about sea turtles, enjoying the live music, and the bright lights of Hollywood Beach and meeting a variety of volunteers. Careers included Fire Marshall, FBI, Military, School Teacher, Boat Captain, and Stock Broker. To me this was a fun night out but these are professional people who take sea turtle safety very seriously. You can't just grab a wandering turtle up and toss it in the ocean. They are protected and wayward ones need to be carefully collected and cataloged so that lighting and other hazards can be mitigated by ordinances and enforcement. The more turtles that make it to the water on their own, the better.

I did not get to see a hatching but as it was explained, all the turtles in the nest will work their way out of the sand and cause a tell tale depression. Once they have made the two foot trip to the surface and generally orient themselves to which way the ocean is, they all burst out of the nest and scatter. The nest coordinator has the job of counting all these fast moving little guys and document which way they go then sweep the beach with the low light flashlight for an hour after and gather the disoriented ones. These little guys need to eat almost as soon as they hit the water and even a little sun will dehydrate them if they wind up stranded on the beach. Tough way to start life but hopefully there will always be enough dedicated heroes who will give up a large portion of their nights to watch over them rain or shine and help them to maybe make it back one day to start the cycle over.

Baby Turtle's First View of the World
Special thanks to Richard Whitecloud, Director of STOP and the volunteers I met for this rare opportunity to sit in for a night of nest watching. Volunteers require extensive training and permitting and casual observers are generally not allowed. They have asked me to share some additional information:

1) It is illegal to handle hatchlings if one is not permitted by the Fish and Wildlife Commission
2) If you happen to spot disoriented hatchlings, call the STOP 24 hour emergency hotline - 954-404-0025 or on your cell *FWC.
3) Sick, injured, or dead sea turtles can be reported to Nova University at 954-328-0580
4) No filming with lights or flash photography permitted on the beach during hatching and egg laying.