April 3, 2019 – Bourlay Historic Nature Park

I have a goal of exploring all the parks in this region and today it was Bourlay Historic Nature Park right here in Leesburg. Buddy Bourley III donated this 88-acre property to the Lake County Water Authority in 1999 to honor his parents. Buddy is a descendant of Evander Lee, the founder of Leesburg. The land was first settled in 1843 by Leesburg’s first homesteader, Thomas Robertson. However, he moved away and the town was named after Lee, who moved to the property in 1857.

This old “Cracker House” was moved to the property and serves as the visitor center. A cracker house is an old house from early settlers in Florida. People still refer to Florida natives as crackers or Florida crackers.

Bourlay Historic Nature Park Visitor Center
Visitor Center Interior
Cracker House Kitchen
Founder of Leesburg Evander Lee with wife

Our next stop was a park information kiosk.

These beautiful, fragrant, and bee-laden flowers are growing on a small tree (or large shrub) next to the kiosk.

We walked along a trail to this chickee (palm-frond roof) stage with benches for the audience.

It is right next to Lake Griffen.

Coral Bean

This pier was just a few yards farther along the lakeshore.

I stopped to take a photo of this anhinga before we startled her away. Sure enough, she took flight just as we stepped on the first board.


We continued on out the pier.

Pier on Lake Griffen
View to Left
View to Right

We sat in a corner bench built into the pier railing and watched a group of osprey fishing.

Waterlily Leaves

We watched one osprey swoop down to the water’s surface but didn’t think it caught a fish. Then, it flew by right in front of our faces with a fish nearly as big as the bird. Of course, it was yet another fantastic photo opportunity missed. Neither the camera nor I were fast enough to get the bird focused and in the frame before it flew by. I did get another one searching for a fish though.

We also spent a lot of time enjoying this small grebe diving in the lake. It only spent about three seconds on the surface before the next dive, so it took a number of tries before I got this picture.


This is the old Bourlay house on the lakefront. It was built in the 1930s. It is now occupied by the person who takes care of the property. Nice job perk!

Here is a wider view showing the lake behind the house. The house and yard are surrounding by fencing and No-Trespassing signs.

We continued on past the house parallel to the shoreline and came upon a heavily-laden tangerine tree. I picked one and peeled it. Andy thought it was over-ripe. I thought it was tasty.

Tangerine Tree

I learned that Bald Cypress grows all over Florida except in the Florida Keys.

Bald Cypress Branches

I looked and looked, but could not find the name of these flowers.

I found these with Google Images and they have a dozen names. I’m sticking with Spiderwort.


I admired this shiny magnolia leaf on the ground in the parking area.


November 30 – Home from Disney World

For Andy and me, the trip to Disney World was more about getting together as a family than exploring Disney. We stayed in the Saratoga Springs Resort area, spread out in four suites. Andy and I spent a good bit of time simply walking around the resort. The day after Thanksgiving, we took a four mile walk around Lake Buena Vista while the children and grandchildren went to the Animal Kingdom section of Disney World.

One side of the lake, across from our resort used to be called Downtown Disney, but now there are several sections with different names. It is all shops and restaurants. And, it was very crowded.  We weaved our way through the crowds and made our escape at the far end. We did stop to see several cars driving around the lake.

b Car Boat on Lake Buena Vista

We took some time to watch the water birds along the shore. This one of a Common Moorhen in the grass is my favorite picture even though it could be sharper.

b Common Moorhen

We came to a putting green and the golf course on both sides of of the canal that connects the lake to the rest of Disney.

b Golf Course

This squirrel was next to the sidewalk near our room. It was surely accustomed to tourists taking pictures; it did not even flinch while I snapped a picture just a couple feet away.

b Squirrel

On Saturday, the grandparent generation and adult children went to Epcot while Joanne and the grandchildren spent the day at the pool with cousins. There were seven of us moving at a glacial pace. We couldn’t decide what to go see.  Then we had to discuss where we were going to eat lunch.  Andy and I decided to go wherever Mike wanted and he chose Germany. The large buffet was a delicious choice.

We walked around the lake some more and came upon a stage where a four-person a cappella group was singing Christmas songs.  Margaret and I stopped to listen.  Andy and Andy found a park bench farther away. The next group was a gospel choir dancing and singing Christmas carols in the hip hop fashion.  I really enjoyed their high-energy performance, but Andy said they were just screaming.

b Hip Hop Christmas Carols

Son Andy suggested that we take a boat ride across the lake.

b Roof in China Venue

b Spaceship Earth Across Lake

It didn’t take me long to figure out that he was aiming for the Italy exhibit.  He had voted for it for lunch.  They have the most charming pizza ovens named, from left to right, Stromboli, Vesuvio, and Etna. One of the pizza chefs told Kathy that they are 800 degrees F.

b Pizza Ovens at Italy Epcot

We saw plenty of birds around the lake within the resort as we walked on Sunday.
b Great Blue Heron

b Great White Egret

b Osprey on Top of Building

Many of the turtles had come up on shore to bask in the sun.

b Turtle on Grass Bank

We loved to walk across this foot bridge across the lake within the resort.

b Bridge Over Lake

We drove to the Grand Floridian resort inside Disney for lunch.  This is one of the most beautiful hotels.  They set up this gingerbread house in the lobby every year for Christmas. There was a line of people buying stuff from the two sales ladies inside the house.  Maybe they were selling gingerbread cookies.

b Gingerbread House

When Paul lived in Orlando, he went to the Grand Floridian cafe often.   All the staff came over to greet him. This is our waitress Rola, who is from Lebanon.

b Paul and Rola

This was my lunch view out the window.

b Lunch View at Grand Floridian

Monday was the day for our seven-hour drive back to Marathon. Before we hit the road for the long trip, we stopped in nearby Kissimmee to visit Ken Brooker. He was a campground host in the Cataloochee Valley section of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We drove over the mountain to visit him, but he was not there.  He drove over the mountain to visit us in Big Creek, but we had gone out for groceries.  We could not call ahead because we did not have a phone signal in the mountains. This was our day to actually meet each other in person.

We were admiring the huge Live Oak trees in Ken’s neighborhood and he took us into the back yard to see a large tree, part of which had fallen on his house during Hurricane Charlie. Andy was the first to notice the bear that had been carved into the stump of the section that broke off.

b Andy and Bear Tree

Andy stood close by for scale. Here is a closer look at the bear.

b Bear Carved in Tree

Then Ken and Andy posed for a picture before we went inside to swap stories about campground hosting in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

b Ken Brokker and Andy

It was a great, if short, visit. But, we had a long drive ahead of us. We vowed to visit each other when we are both in the park next June.

We got home after nine o’clock that night.

Crane Point Nature Center

It was another beautiful day in paradise. We ate breakfast outside, in our screen room.  We had our annual checkups at noon with Dr. O’Connor. Then we took a real walk in the Crane Point Nature Center. Our first stop was the room with the orientation film to see how nice the room looks with the huge turtle shells mounted on the wall. The walls behind the screen have been painted with leaves.

Then we went to the cracker house to see the new/old shell exhibit.  Neighbors Sue and Mac have been working on it for months.  I’m not sure of the actual division of labor, but think Sue cleaned up the shells in the old exhibit and made new labels. There are a lot of shells in the collection and she looked them up to verify that they were all labeled correctly.  Maybe Mac built the new shadow boxes.  Sue also arranged some of the shells on sand in a jewelry case. In addition to the shells, she made an exhibit of sea beans that may have been her own collection.

We are so impressed with the job they did! It was a lot of work and they did a beautiful job. Here is most of the exhibit. A local artist painted the underwater scene on the front of the case. I love the waves in the back of the case behind the sand. I remember Sue and Mac talking about the job of putting the lights in the case.  They look great.

Sumac Shell Display

Here is a slightly close look of the case and the shells.

Shell Case Closer Up

I did not get a single picture of a shadow box of shells that doesn’t have reflections on it.  Maybe this one will give you an idea of how cool it is.

Sumac Shadow Box

And, here is Sue’s sea bean collection mounted on a fabric map of the world.  Where did she get that map?  She is so clever and artistic.  So is Mac.

Sumac Sea Bean Display

After ooo-ing and ahh-ing over the display, we took our usual walk around Crane Point.  We were delighted to see the Prickly Pear Cactus in bloom.

s Cactus Blooms


s Prickly Pear Cactus Bloom

I took a few pictures of the Crane House, which was started in 1954.  It is rather run down and not open to visitors.

s Crane House Back

We walked around to the water side where there is a picture of that side of the house. It had open water views on both sides. The pool is sea water that comes in a narrow opening.

s Crane House

But, now the pool is being taken over by mangroves and the house is obscured.

s Swimming Pool

There were plenty of spiders hanging about.  This is the first one we encountered.  She is a beautiful Golden Orb Weaver.

s Golden Orb Weaver

We saw some kayakers out at the point.  They paddled under the bridge and on east across wide water.

s Kayaks

We stopped at the wild bird hospital.  A few years ago, boating buddies Martin and Betsy bought a picture of a cormorant.  The striking feature was the eye.  I’ve been trying ever since to get a picture of one too.  This cormorant was sitting right next to front of the cage, at my camera height.  I didn’t get the picture I was going for, but I did get a good eye. Isn’t it amazing?

s Cormorant

I was inspired by my eye picture and took a few more in the bird hospital.

s Hawk Eye

s Merlin

s Pelican Eye


s Red Shouldered Hawk

We headed back toward the museum and passed the osprey nest atop a tall pole.  As we approached, one of the adults took flight, hovering and squawking.  The one left on the nest glared at us.

s Osprey Watching Me

This road back to the museum is a tunnel through the trees.  There are plenty of spider webs and spiders along there.
s Tunnel Through Trees


Crane Point Street Fair

Crane Point held a street fair in the garden behind the museum today. We really went there for our normal daily walk, but stopped to see what was going on.

Our neighbor Sue was greeting people at the front door of the museum and putting red stickers on them.  She had just stuck a sticker on this smart aleck man and he jumped and howled as though she had stuck him with a pin.  It startled Sue and she also jumped and squealed.  We were lucky enough to walk up just in time to see it and get a good laugh at her expense


Sue Got a Shock

A man and woman were there with a telescope for looking at the sun.  Whoa! Won’t that blind me? The man explained that he has plenty of filters on the telescope so it would not be too bright.  Wow, I could actually see the small fringe of rays around the edge.  There were not any big solar flares today. Here is Andy taking his turn.

Andy Scoping Out the Sun

They also had a Sunspotter.  The woman had to explain it to me.  With holes and mirrors, an image of the sun appeared on the paper in the center (when the instrument was oriented correctly). The image was so clear; it looked like a photograph.  It would be perfect for watching an eclipse or Venus transiting the sun.

Sunspotter with Sun on Paper

After a quick walk through the art tables, we continued on our walk through the park. Thatch Palms are actually used to thatch roofs.

Thatch Palms Along Bahama Trail

Close-Up of Thatch Palm Leaf

The Golden Orb Weaver is huge. Her venom, similar to a Black Widow is potent but not fatal.  Her silk is exceptionally strong. Check out Wikipedia for a picture of a cape made from Golden Orb Weaver silk.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_silk_orb-weaver

Golden Orb Weaver

I had pretty good luck getting portraits of some of the birds in the bird hospital through the wire.

Green Heron


Peregrine Falcon

Plumbago in Key RV

And that was the end of our walk.