Venetian Gardens

We drove to the house mid morning, but no one was there. We walked around a bit anyway and then stopped by the grocery store for some fruit before heading back to the motorhome for lunch. Since there was no one to watch working, we decided to explore Venetian Gardens.  We have passed it a number of times and often said we would have to check it out one day.

Venetian Gardens is a city park in a cove off Lake Harris. It turned out to be quite nice.  Just inside the entrance is a large playground with a water-park for small children.  I didn’t get a good look, but I think it was mostly sprinklers and no water depth.  Good idea for the little ones.

We drove through the park and out the other side looking at the large older homes among gigantic live oaks on the lake front.  Then we turned around and parked in a parking area inside the park.  It is called Venetian Gardens because there are canals and bridges, a la Venice.

We followed the walkway along the big water.

The place is alive with water birds.

Reddish Egret

I was surprised to see an Anhinga.  I think of them as Everglades birds. That is not eggs under the wing; it is a pile of snail shells.

Anhinga

There were several bridges and islands among the canals.

The gap in the trees in the distance is the opening to the main body of Lake Harris.

Limpkin
Tricolored Heron

We found a nice bench overlooking the lake and that ended our walk, except to get back to the car.

Great White Egret

There are a good number of cypress trees in the park.

Cypress Trees

The bird we saw most often today was the Common Gallinule.  This bird is very dark, appearing black to me.  I thought it was a Common Gallinule until I got it on the computer.  It is a Purple Gallinule.  I should have known by the white forehead.

Purple Gallinule

 

We’ll go back to Venetian Gardens again for future walks.

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October 31, 2015 – Big Cypress National Preserve

If Joe and Linda were any nicer, we might just have stayed parked in their driveway for a month.  I didn’t want to leave, but knew I would feel that way every morning and might was well get along with it. So, we got underway about 1045. We went south in I-75 and then switched over to US 41 at Naples. Instead of saying Tamiami Trail, Helga the GPS kept saying “Tamiamitrami”.

I wanted to stop at the Big Cypress Visitor Center to look at the alligators and birds.  I was disappointed that we did not see any along the roadway as we have in the past.  I took a few pictures.

It was definitely alligator nap time. Not one of them moved a hair. This one opened its eye for a moment and then went back to sleep. There were not as many of them as we normally see, but I can’t come up with an explanation for that.

b Alligator Eye Open

b Alligator on Shore

Here is a better look at the foot.

b Alligator Foot

b Alligator

There is a very nice boardwalk overlook with chain link fencing at the bottom to keep the alligators from climbing up on the lawn and eating tourists.

b Andy Watching Alligator

This female anhinga was sitting in a tree drying and fluffing her feathers.  (The males have a black chest, neck, and head.) Anhingas swim underwater to catch fish, but then they must dry their feathers before they can fly.  They don’t have the oils like ducks and geese do.

b Anhinga Female in Tree

b Dragonfly

This Great Blue Heron was hunting on the far side of the water.  It did not seem too concerned about being close to the dozing alligator.

b Great Blue Heron Hunting

I thought this was a Little Blue Heron.

b Little Blue Heron in Tree

But, after I walked to one end of the boardwalk and back, this Tricolor Heron was standing in the same vicinity as the little blue.  I suspect it was the same bird, misidentified at first.

b Tricolor Heron on Branch

Of course I bought another book in the gift shop.

We got to Midway Campground at 1520 and had covered 140 miles. There were no camp hosts. There are 26 RV sites and were only seven RVs there for the night. It is a really developed campground for a national park.  There is even electricity, but no water or sewer hookups.  The dump station is near the exit.

b Sao in Everglades National Park

We took a walk and then sat next to the pond for a while.  We went inside before any mosquitoes could suck our blood.

October 11, 2015 – Alligator Lake Park, Lake City, Florida

We had a wonderful walk today.  One of the nicest ever. Alligator Lake Park is a county park right in Lake City. It is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. We chose the three-mile Montgomery Trail, which is on a dike around and through the lake.  The lake had been diked and drained in the 1950s for agriculture.

I have tried to keep my photos in the order taken. I took about 235 pictures today, so this is just a small sample of the park experience. This is the beginning of the trail, just past the trail head sign.

b01 Beginning of Montgomery Trail

This is my first glimpse of the water from the trail.  It looks like Monet took the picture.  The photo did not turn our weird, that is exactly how it looks.

b02 Water Scene

As the trail rounded a curve, it became a grassy lawn. It was grassy most of the three miles.

b03 Path on Dike

There was water on both sides, but it took me a while to realize that we were walking on a dike. My turtle picture did not turn out too sharp.  A lot of the pictures were a bit fuzzy today.  I think the camera had trouble focusing, because the background was always so busy. I am a snapshooter and don’t mess with the camera settings, but I really should learn to use the manual focus. He is a big guy.

b04 Turtle

This is a snowy egret, a bit out of focus as well.

b05

It was a pretty day, but mostly cloudy. Here, we wee approaching a bridge.

b06 Bridge

The landscape was full of these tiny Morning Glories.  They were only about and inch or two across.

b07 Tiny Morning Glories

Here are a couple views of the open water/marsh.

b08 Lake View

I think I took this one from that bridge.

b09 Lake from Bridge

Butterflies were everywhere, fluttering all around us. This one is a Gulf Fritillary.

b10 Orange and Black Butterfly

We got a laugh out of this Tiger Swallowtail inside a blossom.

b11 Butterfly in Flower

I don’t think I have seen one of these before.  Google Images tells me it is a Cloudless Sulphur.

b12 Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly

Zebra Wings always flitter around so fast that I have a hard time getting a picture of one. This one cooperated for me. I had never noticed the red dots along the body on the underside of the wing before.

b13 Zebra Wing Butterfly

I thought this was a moth, but found it with Google Images.  It is a Buckeye Butterfly.  I suppose it is from Ohio.

b14 Buckeye Butterfly

Here is another Snowy Egret standing on a clump of grass out in the water.

b15 Snowy Egret

 

We are a long way from the Everglades, so I was surprised to see Anhingas here.  This is a female.  You can tell by the brown neck and head; males are all black and with white marking on the back.

b16 Anhinga Female

I liked this little island of small cypress trees.  Notice all the water lillies in front of them.

b17 Cypress Trees and Water Lillies

We were walking along and minding our own business when suddenly this huge Great Blue Heron flapped and squawked out of the tree next to us.  It landed just a few yards away, up to its belly in the water.  I said we were just as startled my the heron as it was by us.  Andy thought that knowledge would be of little comfort to the heron.

b18 Startled Great Blue Heron

There were thousands of water lillies on the lake, but I did not get a single picture in sharp focus.  This may be one of the best.

b18 Water Lillies

We came across another Great Blue Heron a bit farther along.  This one was not bothered by us. I just love those red thighs.

b19 Great Blue Heron

Here is another snap of the trail.

b20 Trail

We came to a second bridge.

b21 Arched Bridge

Here is an Ibis sitting in a cypress tree.

b22 Ibis in Cypress Tree

A bit past that bridge, we saw a genuine swamp on the right side.

b23 Swamp

It is beautiful, in a swampy kind of way.

b24 Swamp 2

One more Snowy Egret with the yellow feet showing.

b25 Snowy Egret

After the swamp, we left the water’s edge and walked through a bit of marshy forest.  Before long, we got back to the playground and pavilion where we had parked the car.  The parking lot was full and there were several picnics in progress.  The playground was covered in children. There is also a large, screened in pavilion.

b26 Screened Pavilion

Despite the name of Alligator Lake, we did not see a single alligator today.