Sawgrass Lake Park

A good friend of mine invited me to go birding at Sawgrass Lake Park in St. Petersburg, FL. Attached are my best efforts for the day. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and take a look. Gary

Mostly Full Moon – Handheld
Brown Thrasher
Downy Woodpecker
American Beautyberry
Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly, with proboscis extended
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Fort De Soto Park

I joined two good friends, Rick Greenspun and Paul Petrus, at Fort De Soto Park in the St. Petersburg area for a morning of birding. My new camera does not disappoint and we had an unusually good day.

Bleached Red Knot
Great Egret-Great Blued Heron Hybrid, confirmed by Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Roseate Spoonbills
Ruddy Turnstone
Sandwhich Tern
Short-billed Dowitcher
Western Sandpiper
White-winged Reddish Egret
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Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

We finally made the drive to Lake Apopka, which is being restored by the St. Johns Water Management District. They opened an 11 mile drive in 2016, which the public can access Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It is open to cars, bikes, and hikers. We did not encounter the monster alligators they are known for. A very safe Covid 19 activity.

Below is a sampling of the wildlife we encountered taken with my new Canon EOS 5Ds camera, a 50.6 MP camera. I am very happy with the results. Gary

Common Gallinule chick

Great Blue Heron

Green Heron – Notice broken wing, alligator attack?

Juvenile Anhingha

Great Egret

Common Gallinule with chick

Fulvous Whistling Duck

Osprey with lunch

Little Blue Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Juvenile Common Gallinules with chick

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Costa Rica – Day 11

Well, this is the end of our journey.  We left the USA for Costa Rica on 02-23-2020 and returned 03-05-2020.   We had an adventure filled with fun, laughter and many memories not soon to be forgotten.  So, what do you do when you get back to civilization?  Relax by the pool; have glass of wine; learn the Corona Virus is spreading and airports and flights should be empty, as well as the world economy has tanked.  Welcome home, Amigo, welcome home.  Pura Vida (Pure life!!!).  Thanks to all who took the time to stop by and take a look at our adventure.  Until next time, Nancy and Gary.


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Costa Rica – Day 10

Manuel Antonio and Catamaran Sail

We started the day with an early walk on one of the many trails at LaForesta.  There  were flocks of parakeets seen at a distance and butterflies.  I was fascinated by the bustling activity of Leaf cutter ants and perhaps another species.  I have seen Leaf cutters before in Costa Rica and in Ecuador, but have never recognized what appears to be a clear and worn trail that they utilize daily; I call it the “ant super-highway.”  Very few of the ants actually bore pieces of leaves which was unusual, and they at times appeared to be without an exact direction.  New to both of us was the Titi Monkey.  I have a small video clip that I cannot attach here, but will attach to the Facebook posting.IMG_3999


Leaf Cutter Ants

Our afternoon started out with some confusion. We were scheduled for a late afternoon/sunset Catamaran sail and were expecting be picked up at our hotel and transported to the marina.  Our patient wait for a driver to appear dragged on for over a half-hour, so we contacted our travel agent to inquire if there was an issue.  At the same time a non-English speaking taxi driver showed up looking for passengers. All he could say was “Catamaran !”  Expecting a small bus or a van, we turned the grizzled old guy away.  Frantic text messages via “What’s App” to our travel agent finally confirmed that the bus was running late and that the tour company had sent a taxi for us.  We had to quickly jump off the phone and re-hail the taxi as it was starting to pull away.  We very nervously roared through the back roads in his backseat to get to the marina.  We joked about waking up in a bathtub of ice with our kidneys missing!  But when we pulled up, the hostess called our name, placed a bracelet on our wrist and sent us off onto the dock.  Whew!!!  We made it with kidneys in tact.

Despite the shaky beginnings, the sail turned out to be very nice.  And we were rewarded with a whale-sighting to boot.  Snorkling and boat-side water sliding were a part of this sail. We did not have our own equipment and opted not to use theirs with the limited information we had about the Corona virus.   The sunset was gorgeous and came complete with a surprisingly tasty buffet meal onboard.  We were relieved to discover our own private driver waiting to return us to the hotel when the catamaran docked.  All Costa Rican kids have to attend mandatory schooling and this is accomplished by having two shifts, one all morning and one all afternoon.  Our driver must have just picked up his young son prior to retrieving us, and the son appeared to be in training to become a driver under his dad’s tutelage.  Nearing the end of our trip, appreciating this beautiful sunset was a nice way to say “good-bye.”  And, as you can see, there were some tantalizing “moon” shots to capture!!!RIMG0056RIMG0077RIMG0103RIMG0119RIMG0124RIMG0148RIMG0149RIMG0161

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Costa Rica – Day 9

Trip to Manuel Antonio

The trip to Manuel Antonio on the southern Pacific coast was a very long drive through the country side to the La Foresta Hotel.   We had to traverse the Cordillera de Tilarán mountain range, home to the famous Volcan Arenal. This “cordillera” or “mountain range” is part of the Continental Divide and located to the east of Lake Arenal.   There were beautiful vistas of the Pacific Ocean and coastline.  Unfortunately there were not many opportunities to pull off for photo ops, so we will have to rely on our aging memories.  The only incident along the way was when a cat ran out in front of our car and the driver could not stop in time.  Costa Rican “road pizza?”

The property of the hotel was very beautiful, sitting on 100 acres of  gardens and over three miles of walking trails.  It is also just off  the Pan American Highway.  The constant truck traffic was not exactly a soothing lullaby.  There were zip lines on the property, though we didn’t see them in use (and Nancy was quick to veto such activity!) and hiking trails that were fun to explore in the AM before the temperature rose.  This nice pool was a draw for us in the afternoons.

RIMG0041RIMG0040RIMG0044Sad commentary – what does a modern family of five do while on vacation? These French brothers are on their phones while the mom and daughter play in the pool.IMG_3983


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Costa Rica – Day 8

Monteverde Cloud Forest

We started with a visitor for breakfast; a Capuchin Monkey walked up the hill and jumped on the rail on the other side of the glass while we were eating our hotel breakfast.  There was an open door and the staff chased the monkey away.  These are the wily little guys who have been known to steal things from your personal belongings while you are on the beach.  IMG_3965The highlight of our day was a half-day guided walk through the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  In the early 1950s, a group of Quakers from the United States left their homes in Alabama and arrived in Monteverde at a time when the region was just beginning to be settled.  The Quakers, fleeing the United States to avoid being drafted into the Korean War, established a simple life in Monteverde, centered on dairy and cheese production.  Some of these families helped establish the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  By birding standards, especially trips with local Sarasota guide Rick Greenspun, our visit was a bad day for birding.  We did finally come across a pair of Resplendant Quetzals.  We ended our morning tour at a local outdoor restaurant hosted by our guide.


Spider Monkey


Long horned wood-boring beetle on spotting scope


Beautiful Foliage


Green-crowned Brilliant


Purple-throated Mountain Gem




Slate-throated Redstart


Resplendant Quetzal


Silver-throated Tanager


Drymonia rubra


White Pepper Plant – The white pepper we eat


Unknown – but it sure looks like a jellyfish hanging off the tree!


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Costa Rica – Day 7

Trip to Monteverde

This was primarily a travel day across Lake Arenal to Monteverde by slow-boat (mercifully, not to China!).  It perhaps was the most confusing day of our trip.  We were transported on the last of nicely paved roads we would see for the day and dropped off at a dock on Lake Arenal.  We loaded our luggage onto a waiting boat, but which boat was not really clear as one being loaded left us and then we were pointed in another direction.  That said, our boat captain seemed to want to give us the slowest ride across the lake and became a tour guide/”naturalist.”  We stopped to see a toucan very high in the tree that could only be seen with high powered binoculars; then there was a heron on the edge of the lake.  We guessed he was not in any hurry, and perhaps not the authority on flora and fauna that he imagined.

It was even crazier on the other side.  Our driver started calling names and we schlepped our luggage to what we thought was his van, only to find out we were one seat short, so Nancy and I were going to ride up front using the middle jump seat.  The driver finally realized that he had a passenger in the van who did not belong, so she gathered her luggage and exited, leaving a seat in the back for me and Nancy riding shotgun next to the Spanish-only speaking driver.  As Nancy put it, “the trip from hell.”  It became a 2.5 hour journey across the most narrow and curvy mountain roads you could imagine. Our driver was in a hurry and seemed intent on hitting as many ruts as possible.  If I’m not mistaken, Nancy may have kept her eyes closed most of the time, and obviously not game for a lot of conversation with the guy! (Donde esta el bano?)A trip not without merit, because we saw some of the most beautiful landscape in all of Costa Rica.  So how do you relax in the aftermath?  Catch some sun around the pool and then take a night hike.

Arenal Volcano and the adjacent “sleeping Indian.”  IMG_9690IMG_9685Two small Islands in Lake Arenal.

The Costa Rican country side.IMG_3276IMG_3275IMG_3274IMG_3273IMG_3272IMG_3271IMG_3270The night hike.  An amazing couple of hours.  Moon, Emerald Toucanet, Blue-crowned Motmot, three-toed Sloth, and a scorpion.  The sloth actually came down to poop, which our guide told us they only do once a week.  Lucky us?! A nice ending to a crazy day.IMG_3811IMG_9725IMG_9738IMG_3824IMG_9893IMG_3835

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Costa Rica – Day 6


This is an image of Arenal Volcano taken by our guide Marcos Jimenez on the day prior to our arrival, a rare day without clouds.   We had an early morning with two stops prior to lunch with Dona Mara.  Our first stop was La Fortuna Falls, the most visited falls in Costa Rica.  The waterfall drops about 250 feet and is at the base of the dormant Chato Volcano.  For us it was an arduous hike down many flights of man-made stairs … and UP again.  I joke that there was not any Corona Virus here. We had mostly turned off our phones and news of things going on around the world –  a nice escape? No news is good news?? IMG_2482

IMG_3680Our next stop was a Chocolate Factory tour.  A guided walk through Cacao trees and step by step explanation on how the beans are fermented and processed to make chocolate.    Tourists like us can ride in an ox-cart to experience how beans were transported years ago.  We mixed up our own chocolate at the end of the tour; it was like a brick by the next day … probably tasted even less appealing.  Had my vote won over Nancy’s, we might have been white-water rafting and rappelling instead!!

Our midday stop was to Dona Mara’s to make tortillas.  Dona Mara recently moved from the downtown area to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning property.  She told us she saved her money with her husband to buy 9 hectares (22 acres) of property.  They built an open air (no glass windows,  not even screens) home that was painted vibrant colors that just made us feel happy and warmly welcomed.  I jokingly told her through our guide that I would purchase her property from her, and she told me there were other lots available.  She utilizes a wood-fired stove to do all of her cooking; the sides of the oven were hand-painted especially for their home.  The only modern appliance I saw was a rice cooker.

Shortly after arriving, she had us put on aprons and hats, and Nancy got right down to business.

Everyone made their own tortillas which she cooked on the stove and she served us casado, traditional Costa Rican lunch with rice and beans, a type of slaw, and meat, in this case, chicken.  Of course for me, her drip coffee was a delicious treat; her secret is to add cloves to the boiling water for added flavor.  By the way, she also makes her own blend of coffee from four other brands that she mixes together. For birders, you can see the open-air area behind our table.  A Collared Aracari flew in and did not stay long.  We did discuss that she could build a viewing-area for birders that included various feeders, and birders would come to shoot as well as eat.  Perhaps a visit in the future for birding?

In the evening, we spent a few unenthusiastic hours at EcoTermales Fortuna Hot Springs surrounded by boisterous, inebriated tourists frolicking in the steamy waters. The included buffet dinner seemed like the Costa Rican equivalent of an old Morrison’s Cafeteria.  The hot springs surges from the veins of the Arenal Volcano and heats the thermal pools which range from 90° – 106° F.  The evening’s most enjoyable entertainment was by a group of Spider Monkeys foraging for their evening meal as well.  Need I say more?



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Costa Rica – Day 5

Next leg:  Tortuguero to Arenal

This will be short as this was primarily a travel day.  A few shots around our lodge cabin prior to leaving.

Clay-colored Robin, Costa Rica’s national bird (understated for a national symbol?)EM1A2733Jesus Christ Lizards are both green and brown.  Yesterday was the green variety.        IguanaIMG_3231The trip back to civilization was interesting.  The river was now so low that we were told it will be the last day for the river to be used and the alternate boat ride will be 1.5 hours longer.  I counted ten or twelve boats very slowly weaving their way up the river, and at times, boats honking at each other.  Near the end of the trip, boats began passing and squeezing each other out in order to get to the landing first.  It was worse than the San Jose rush hour traffic.

Awaiting our bus to Arenal, notice the muddy wheels and behind us, “Boris and Natasha,” a rather dour Russian couple who kept popping up as our fellow-travelers – obviously, pre-global edicts of “social-distancing!”

IMG_3235Our driver/guide, Marcos, spotted this Scarlet Macaw sticking out of this palm tree.IMG_3240Our veranda and view of Arenal Volcano at Hotel Fonda Vela.  Rooms were individual casitas with front views of beautiful tropical greenery and rear views of the volcanoIMG_3244

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