Sunday, 24 March 2013

Underway

I got the beautiful Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light yarn wound and started the Happenstance shawl. This colourway (Mineral) is almost the same as the Malabrigo sock yarn I'm using on the second Intertwined sock. It's actually a bit greener than this photo shows - more of an emerald green.
I'm liking the pattern. It's too intricate to memorize but each row moves along nicely.
Here we are, about 1.5 repeats through the three repeats of Chart A.
I can see what all the fuss is about Madelinetosh yarn. It is very luxurious to work with. It is a singles but quite strong. I can see lots of future projects in my future using this yarn.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Brain Cramp

I've been knitting away on the new pair of Intertwined socks with the Malabrigo in the rich Solis colourway.

'Tis a thing of beauty, if I do say so myself.

I really LOVE the hues of this colourway.
 This pattern works great with solid or tonal yarn.

Yesterday Skip and I were at the big box book store and I saw the Happenstance shawl in "Sock-Yarn Shawls: 15 Knitted Lacy Shawl Patterns" by Jen Lucas.

I remembered I had bought some appropriate yarn a couple of weeks ago so went into my 'craft suitcase' to find it and perhaps start the shawl.

You may recall that I had run out of yarn on my first pair of Intertwined socks and I was in a bit of a quandary. What did I find in the 'craft suitcase' last night? Another bunch of yarn from the stuff I used on the first Intertwined socks! Actually it was most of the leg of a pair of Pomatomus socks I had started and abandoned years ago (pictured below on the top left). Wheeee!!! It never made sense to me why I would run out of yarn on these socks as a pair for me usually only use about 68g of yarn. This explains where the rest of the yarn was.
I guess I cut the abandoned leg off a few weeks ago so I could knit from the ball, continuing to pull the yarn from the centre. And then forgot all about it. D'uh!

So I have once again changed plans and am finishing these socks with the newly found yarn. I spent the early afternoon at the condo pool alternately swimming and sitting in the shade, listening to NPR Fresh Air podcasts and knitting and the toe decreases. Ahhhh. (Insert here  an expression of enormous gratitude for being fortunate enough to be able to spend the worst of the winter in the sunny south ). If I believed in God, I would have been saying 'THANK YOU, GOD' a lot these past couple of months.

I have decided to also finish the Malabrigo Solis socks and will knit Happenstance with the Madelinetosh yarn I bought for my stash. I even have enough to do a larger version of the shawl.

During the spring, summer and early fall I am a golf widow. In the fall and winter, Skip enjoys NFL and NCAA football. Right now is NCAA basketball March Madness and Skip is glued to the HDTV broadcasts we're getting. You will never hear a complaint from me as long as I have a computer, a good Internet connection and a knitting project on the needles. ;-)

Friday, 22 March 2013

Bird Walk at Oscar Scherer State Park

Yesterday Skip and I got up early to go on the guided bird walk at Oscar Scherer State Park. We hoped to see the Scrub Jay again and hopefully other birds we couldn't find on our own.

We were a group of about 18 people including some expert birders and a photographer with a massive telephoto lens on his camera. Unfortunately, our guide talked incessantly which made it difficult to hear the bird calls and locate them. We were fortunate to see the scrub jay again. See the bands on its legs?




and a red-bellied woodpecker.
After that, we went to the Venice Rookery where in the middle of a man-made lake is a roost for dozens of egrets, herons and anhingas.
It was very noisy with many babies calling for food. We saw several nests of anhinga babies, white egret babies, great blue heron babies, their parents and an elusive black-crowned night heron.

Behind the rookery is a water treatment facility. On the grassy banks of it were resting several dozen black-bellied whistling ducks.
By contrast, these guys were quite alert.
We also got a close-up shot of this yellow-rumped warbler.
On our way back home, we stopped in at the 'Celery Fields' to see what was there. Initially, there were only a couple of grebes, moorhens and a limpkin nearby. An anhinga was drying off and warming its feathers sitting on the railing.
 We hung around for a while and saw a red-shouldered hawk and several ibis and roseate spoonbills flying in.

Here are several shots of roseate spoonbills on the wing.
 

This wood stork also flew in while we were there.

Blue-winged teal.

Some type of warbler (to be identified...)
And some type of sparrow.

Just down the road is another man-made body of water. We think it is stocked with fish as several Forster's terns were fishing for their supper.
After our busy day of birding, we both were falling asleep on the couch at about 8pm - a 'good kind of tired' after our day observing nature.

Skip has been a birder for over 30 years. I became interested in it when I identified my first bird on a trip to Costa Rica with Skip and Scooter in 2003. I had one of those laminated fold-up brochures called "Birds of Costa Rica" and was able to identify the black-throated magpie jay. After that, I was hooked. I needed a lot of help for the first couple of years. Skip was a very good guide. After a while I got better and better at identifying birds with the help of a good pair of binoculars and a good birding guide. We have also travelled to a lot of world-class birding spots, Pelee Point and Long Point in Ontario, the Caribbean, the Rio Grande Valley and South Padre Island, Florida, and other places we've travelled. Also, where we live east of Toronto is an excellent place to spot migratory birds.

I don't painstakingly keep life lists noting dates and locales of new species spotted but I do use checklists and often tally up what we see in any given geographical location. Thus far on all our birding ventures in Florida this year, we've spotted 70 species and we haven't really done any seaside birding this trip.

Birdwatching is a fun past time. One gets to spend time outdoors, usually in nice weather, observing plants and animals. The walking isn't usually very strenuous and the fresh air is invigorating. You don't have to spend a lot of money once you have a good pair of binoculars and good birding guide or you could spend lots of money traveling to well-known birding spots. One doesn't need to be an expert to enjoy identifying birds and matching what one sees to what's in the guide. If you're interested in doing some guided birding, find a park or wildlife centre where birding takes place and sign up for a guided birding tour. Or ask a birder you know if they'll take you birding next time they go out. I don't know a single birder who wouldn't love to share their passion with an interested newbie.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Our Trip to the Everglades

On Sunday, Skip and I attended a Spring Training baseball game with the Rays at the new Red Sox' JetBlue Stadium in Fort Myers that is a replica of Fenway Park in Boston.

After the game, we continued on down I-75 to Naples where we spent the night before heading into the Everglades National Park. On Monday morning we drove to Shark Valley Loop Road to take the 2 hour guided tram tour of the 15 mile loop through that part of the Everglades.

This red-shouldered hawk was atop a pole beyond the parking lot. It was an overcast day so the light was really crappy for long-distance photos.
We saw lots of alligators, herons and egrets, roseate spoonbills, etc, etc., many from a very close vantage point. These green heron babies were noisily awaiting their mother and food source.
They were very fluffy so must have been born not too long ago.
Here was a trifecta: a glossy ibis, two mature white ibis and an immature white ibis.
 The American Bittern is very hard to see amidst its grassy habitat. This is only the second bittern I've ever seen. The first one was at South Padre Island last year.
At many times on the tram tour, the wildlife were right on the road. At one point, the tram stopped beside a 12 foot gator that was right on the road, directly beside me. Mmm, let's say about 5 feet away. Then the guide started telling us how fast the gators can move on land and rear up on their hind legs - with this large gator only a few feet away from me. I looked over to my companions and their eyes were like saucers and very glad I was the one on the outside seat. I was very relieved when we moved on.

Yesterday, we decided to do some further exploration and headed to the Ernest Coe Visitors Centre and the Anhinga Trail at the Royal Palm Visitors Centre.


When we pulled into the parking lot, we saw cars parked with blue tarps on top. This was to protect them from the black vultures that were climbing all over the cars in search of bugs. They are known to scratch the paint with their sharp beaks and talons and damage windshield wipers and the rubber strips around windows and windshields.
Unprotected vehicle
Black Vulture

Black Vultures drying their wings in the sun
 There was a self-serve bin at the visitor's centre with the tarps and bungee cords so we covered up the car before heading off to see the fauna and flora.

The Anhinga Trail is a 0.8 mile loop along and through waterways. There are either paved paths or boardwalks. We spent 2.5 hours on this and the adjacent trail alone.

My 'bird of the day' is the green heron.

I had never had a good look at a green heron until the day before and I sure made up for it yesterday.



I even saw a fledgling green heron but didn't get a photo.

There were lots of wood storks
 and their pink feet.
There were lots of double-crested cormorants.

This anhinga had just shaken a lot of water out of his feathers. They're also called 'snake birds' because of the way they go through the water to catch fish.
And 'turkey birds' because of the formation of its tail feathers when it is under water.
We saw a few nests with noisy, fuzzy anhinga babies.
We got a close-up view of this anhinga spearing a fish then flipping it in the air, catching it in its beak and gulping it down in one piece.
video
We got some good close-up views of a purple gallinule.

It's related to the common moorhen but has bright feathers, a white forehead patch above the yellow and red beak and bright, lemon yellow legs. This was a life bird for David - very exciting!

This fairly non-descript bird was determined to be a female common yellowthroat.
This was a life bird for me - the palm warbler.


Some of the epiphytes (air plants) were starting to bloom. These plants use other plants and trees for support but unlike parasitic plants, they do not take anything from the host plant.

I only got one good shot of a turtle.

Grey catbird.

There is only one place in the world like this - what Marjory Stoneman Douglas deemed a 'River of Grass' in 1947. When the Tamiami Trail was carved horizontally through the centre, it cut off the water flow from the northern section to the south, resulting in a lot of the southern area becoming desert-like particularly in the dry season. Also, to provide fresh water to the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas, canals were created to divert the water in a southeasterly direction from Lake Okeechobee which normally had flown in a southwesterly direction. A 40 year restoration project is underway with the hope that the Everglades will be restored to its original state. Hopefully not too many animal species will be lost in the meantime. Endangered species in the state are the Florida panther, wood stork, snail kite, American alligator and crocodile, loggerhead sea turtle, piping plover, manatee, scrub jay, Cape Sable seaside sparrow, roseate tern, bald eagle, red-cockaded woodpecker.