Florida

A Florida Friday: New Year’s Day at Silver Glen Springs

Happy New Year to you all; I am resurfacing after a pesky December health-wise, and a New Year’s Florida ‘staycation’ spent in and around the beautiful Ocala National Forest, north of Orlando. Today, I’m sharing a few scenes from the forest’s Silver Glen Springs at the south end of Lake George—its trails strewn with palmettos, its trees festooned with Spanish moss, and its crystal clear springs a steady 72 degrees F. year-round. Spectacular! I hope to gather steam as the month progresses and get back on track with some family history posts. Meanwhile, to all my many cousins (no matter how distant) among this blog’s readership, please feel free to write a guest post or submit information that can help me develop a post for you. Let’s get those stories ‘out there’!

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Rome Daily Sentinel, 7 March 1916 – The river being referred to is the St. John’s which starts down south near Melbourne and runs north through Lake George, eventually meeting the ocean at Jacksonville. (Credit: Fulton History dot com)

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Categories: Florida, Nature, Ocala National Forest | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

A Florida Friday: Mangrove tunnels

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Cropped from Colton’s United States of America. Published in 1865 by J. H. Colton. No. 172 William St. New York. Credit: http://www.davidrumsey.com

We recently took a canoe ride along a portion of the Blackwater River which starts at the 7,271-acre Collier Seminole State Park on the western edge of the Everglades and takes you out several miles through a vast mangrove swamp until you reach the Ten Thousand Islands. Were it not for the fact that the mangroves produce tannin, the water would be crystal clear (which would be much more comforting for the purpose of alligator spotting!). It’s an incredibly peaceful experience; just remember your bug spray and sunscreen and to stay in your canoe so you don’t bring home any physical souvenirs (or lose a limb!). We’ve done this trip several times, and the mangrove tunnels where the river narrows are (for me) the most special part of the journey. The water is like glass and the reflection of the mangroves on the water makes for some heavenly scenes. In winter there’s the added benefit of seeing lots of birds.

When you go through such uninhabitable terrain, it is easy to see why the Seminole Indians were never defeated, and also easy to see why the author of the below small article on the Ten Thousand Islands, published in 1886, found this part of Florida “desolate” and “gloomy” in comparison with the northern part of the state, which was fairly well inhabited and offered comforts that clearly would have been absent in south Florida at that time. Coming here in the hot and humid months of the year especially, one can be eaten alive by no-see-ums and mosquitoes and burnt to a crisp by a relentless and unforgiving sun. The article was printed in November, so hopefully the author escaped the worst of the bugs and weather—in any case, he lived to tell his tale!

Thankfully, we 21st-century South Floridians are able to enjoy these wild  environments by day and return to the comforts of our homes at night.

Have a tranquil weekend, all.

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Blackwater River mangrove tunnel, November 2016

Starting point for the Blackwater River with canoe/kayak launch area in distance

Starting point for the Blackwater River with canoe/kayak launch area in distance

ten_thousand_islands1Daily Alta California, Friday, November 12, 1886 (Credit: California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside - . All newspapers published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain and therefore have no restrictions on use.)

Daily Alta California, Friday, November 12, 1886 (Credit: California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside – . All newspapers published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain and therefore have no restrictions on use.)

Mango [sic] trees on the jungle trail, Palm Beach, Fla. - Detroit Publishing Company, 1910-1920 Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Mango [sic] trees on the jungle trail, Palm Beach, Fla. – Detroit Publishing Company, 1910-1920 Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Categories: Florida, Ten Thousand Islands | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

A Florida Friday: Coquina ‘flashback’

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January 1966 visit to St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marcos (that’s little moi in the white glasses with mom & big sis)

Below are some shells seen and collected during a recent outing to Sanibel Island… among them, the tiny, colorful coquina. Millions line the shore, and at low tide, you can watch them jiggle and maneuver as they wait, and hope, for the tides to shift back in their favor.

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Coquina shells

Whenever I see coquina shells, St. Augustine always comes to mind. If you’ve been to that beautiful, historic city on Florida’s NE coast, you know that the Spanish quarried coquina rock (a limestone composed of sand and mollusk shells found in NE Florida) to build their Castillo de San Marcos (known for some time as Fort Marion) from 1672 to 1695.

I first saw the fortress at age 5, and it, and the coquina rock, made a huge impression on me. The old ‘downtown’ as well, of course, which was supplemented by Henry Flagler’s amazing architectural creations in the 1880s. What kid would not be awestruck by all that?! And, goodness, let’s not forget Ponce de Leon’s ‘Fountain of Youth‘ up the street from the fort. (I think I am way more interested in that fountain now than I was even back then!!! 😉 )

Of course, I’m not alone—for generations, St. Augustine has been casting a spell on travelers. I found one visitor’s account from 1890 (below; scroll down); much of what they wrote about then could easily be experienced today.

Well, have a good weekend all; we’ve ‘cooled down’ here to a chilly 82! I think we’ll go fishing.
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St. Augustine, Florida, 1898

Fort Marion, St. Augustine and harbor, Detroit Publishing Company, 1898 (Library of Congress image LCCN2008678231 - No known restrictions on publication)

Fort Marion, St. Augustine and harbor, Detroit Publishing Company, 1898 (Library of Congress image LCCN2008678231 – No known restrictions on publication)

A visitor’s perspective – Duluth Evening Herald, Saturday, March 15, 1890
(courtesy of http://www.fultonhistory.com)

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Categories: Florida, Sanibel Island, St. Augustine | 6 Comments

A Florida Friday: 1960s Sanibel Island brochure for ‘Casa Ybel’

Quite a while ago, I did a post featuring Sanibel Island, a place we enjoyed on family vacations in the 1960s. I recently came upon this brochure for Casa Ybel, which is where we used to stay. The resort still exists after all these years, but, as you can imagine, it is much-much different! For their website, click here. To be honest, while it looks lovely today, I think I’d rather time travel back to the Casa Ybel of the 1960s; you could really feel like a bit of a castaway back then. The beach was THE place to be! I don’t recall having TV in any of our accommodations, which back then would have meant getting several channels at most—changed manually sans remote, of course. When not on the beach, we were busy exploring the island, reading books, or playing games. 🙂

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Image from ‘Florida’ in Davis’ new commercial encyclopedia, the Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Published by Ellis A. Davis. Berkeley, Cal. Seattle. 1909 (Credit: Rumsey Collection; http://www.davidrumsey.com)

But we were far from the first to be captivated by this area of Florida. Below is a near-100-year-old article* from the Homer (NY) Republican, dated 21 February 1918, which features a letter describing one person’s impressions of a winter-day boat tour around some of the sights off the coast of Ft. Myers (winter residence of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison): the pristine and exotic-looking (to a Northerner’s eyes) Sanibel, Captiva, and Pine islands.

(Note: The writer erroneously describes the Caloosahatchee River as having been named by the Seminole Indians and meaning ‘beautiful river’. Caloosahatchee refers to the culture of the Calusa Indians who preceded the Seminoles and thrived in SW Florida from 500 BC to 1750 AD!–and were ultimately pushed out (even sold into slavery) by Seminoles and other hostile tribes that had come down into the Florida peninsula from northern areas. Some say the remaining Calusa escaped to Cuba.)

*Credit: http://www.fultonhistory.com
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Categories: Florida, Sanibel Island | Tags: | 2 Comments

A Florida Friday: Winter scenes of Fanning Springs

Winter scenes from Florida’s Fanning Springs State Park. Located along the Suwanee River, these first magnitude springs release 50 million gallons of water daily and are a constant 72 degrees F.  On a cold winter’s day, with trees bare, steam rising from the spring, and Spanish moss festooning the trees, the setting looks very ethereal.  Of all the Florida state parks we’ve visited, this was one of the most memorable. We stayed several days in one of the five comfortable cabins, enjoying the tranquility of the Springs and exploring the surrounding area.

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The man-made descent into the springs

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Plenty of space to swim!

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Depth at the spring’s vent is about 18 feet. A platform is available for jumpers.

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The Suwanee on a cold winter’s day

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The park has a gazebo overlooking the waters of the Suwanee

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Two-bedroom fully equipped cabin

Categories: Florida, Nature | 2 Comments

A Florida Friday: Birdhouse welcomes new tenant

After being vacant for almost three years, our bird house finally has a new tenant… he’s not what we were expecting, but we’ll take him. Rumor has it that he thinks his new digs are toadly awesome!

birdhouse(P. S. Apologies for the lack of ‘family history’/history-related posts in recent weeks. Things have been quite hectic here, and I am flying in a holding pattern at the moment!)

Categories: Florida, Nature | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

A Florida Friday: Birds of a feather…

ibis copyI pulled back the blinds one morning last weekend and instantly felt that kind of ‘wow’ kids feel when they wake up in the morning and catch their first sight of an overnight winter snowfall. But instead of a blanket of white snow, I saw a preserve dotted in white—a patchwork quilt of white ibis, palms, and cypress trees. And for every white ibis I could see, there was a brown ibis blending in with the debris and dark waters on the cypress preserve floor.

ibis2 copyI guess we can thank El Niño for this unusual winter sight. Record rainfall has filled swamp areas back up to summer levels, and these ‘gals’ and ‘guys’ have come to scour the grounds for bugs and other edible critters. And throughout the past week, they have continued to turn up daily to put on their show. Greedy for more, I am now hoping some egrets, herons, woodstorks and roseate spoonbills decide to join them!

ibis3 copyWhen one sees ibis in such abundance, it’s hard (and sickening) to imagine that there was a time 100-odd-years ago when ibis and many other of Florida’s beautiful birds were hunted down and slaughtered for their plumage with populations being decimated as a result. The author of the accompanying article from the Rome Daily Sentinel, published on 18 August 1896, attests to the fact that hunting for the birds had gotten way out of control and measures were desperately needed to protect them. Thankfully, that eventually happened, and hence, sights such as the one in my backyard are not uncommon in Florida today (they are just uncommon in my backyard!).

"Eudocimus ruber -Cubatao, Sao Paulo, Brazil -flying-8a" by Dario Sanches - Flickr: GUARA (Eudocimus ruber). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eudocimus_ruber_-Cubatao,_Sao_Paulo,_Brazil_-flying-8a.jpg#/media/File:Eudocimus_ruber_-Cubatao,_Sao_Paulo,_Brazil_-flying-8a.jpg

Eudocimus ruber -Cubatao, Sao Paulo, Brazil -flying-8a” by Dario Sanches – Flickr: GUARA (Eudocimus ruber). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The 1896 article mentions the scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber) as particularly being singled out by hunters (image right) along with herons and snowy egrets, and song birds like mockingbirds and cardinals. (The American flamingo, mentioned in the article as being abundant in South Florida in the 1800s, has all but disappeared in the wild. If you happen to see one in Florida today, it is likely an escapee from an area attraction.)

I’ve never seen scarlet ibis in the wild in Florida, but apparently they are occasionally spotted. Their native range today appears to be along the northern and eastern coastlines of northern South America, down to São Paolo. They can appear as vagrants in Florida, Ecuador, and a number of countries in the Caribbean.

The current IUCN Red List of Endangered Species lists the scarlet ibis as a species of ‘Least Concern’, which would please the article’s author, no doubt, if he were alive today, as would knowing that all of Florida’s birds became legally protected in 1913.

The Smithsonian article “How Two Women Ended the Deadly Feather Trade” describes how this hideous trade ultimately came to an end:

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Snowy Egret

Egrets and other wading birds were being decimated until two crusading Boston socialites, Harriet Hemenway and her cousin, Minna Hall, set off a revolt. Their boycott of the trade would culminate in formation of the National Audubon Society and passage of the Weeks-McLean Law, also known as the Migratory Bird Act, by Congress on March 4, 1913. The law, a landmark in American conservation history, outlawed market hunting and forbade interstate transport of birds.

One hundred years later, we are blessed to have these birds in our midst, but the picture is far from 100% rosy as Florida’s current list of threatened and endangered species attests. Thirty-six species of birds are on the list, including the snowy egret, brown pelican, and white ibis, which are classified as ‘species of special concern’, so if they were ever completely ‘out of the woods’ after 1913, they are back in them now…something to keep in mind and let others know about, if they don’t know already.

Well, enough said—time to take another look out the back window.

Have a great weekend, all, and thanks for stopping by.

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Rome Daily Sentinel, 18 August 1896 (Credit: Fultonhistory.com):

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Museum of Natural History Guide leaflet, 1901. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons from Flickr, no known copyright restrictions

Museum of Natural History Guide leaflet, 1901. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons from Flickr, no known copyright restrictions

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Categories: Florida, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Florida Friday: Backyard wildlife — painted buntings and not one, but two (!) bobcats

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Some painted buntings (multi-colored male and green female/juvenile) at one of our feeders recently; they and some of their other family members arrive annually in late November and depart by late March.

As some longtime readers of this blog know, occasionally I post Florida-related items, usually on a Friday. For example, one backyard wildlife post from two summers ago featured a bobcat—a very rare sight for folks in this area. Another featured some of the spring and summer critters who live in these here parts; another featured the resident short-tailed hawk getting scolded royally by a feisty mockingbird; and yet another the sight of two great-horned owls atop some nearby trees at dusk.

Unfortunately, with all the construction going on in this area, we’ve made fewer and fewer interesting sightings in the last year. However, two Sundays ago, we were shocked to see not one, but two bobcats playing out back in the woods across the water run-off ditch. As luck would have it, my camera was not immediately available, so I took the below images with my cellphone, zooming in as best as I could. Unfortunately, I missed the initial action of the two of them playing in the grass, and the glass in the sliding door and the screen on the lanai made for some less than ideal images. Still, they are worth a look (I think), so have a scroll through the below if you want to see more.

Perhaps this was the same bobcat from two summers ago, but this time she was with one of her offspring (the one in the distance with the darker coat)?

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Categories: Florida, Nature | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

A Florida Friday: Mystery bird?

99 copyMystery bird? Well, perhaps, not to many of this blog’s readers, but when I came across this fellow a few days ago standing in the road with seemingly no intention of budging and sporting such attractive red ‘boots,’ I had to do a double-take. We are very accustomed to seeing Muscovy ducks here in SW Florida, but I had never seen one of these. Who was this strange visitor? Well, after Google-ing “Duck with red legs,” up popped a match: images of the Egyptian Goose, a native of Egypt and Syria. Actually, it’s neither a goose nor a duck, but something called a shelduck—a cross between the two.

Upon doing a bit of research, I learned that the Egyptian geese were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians. The ones found in Florida are largely escapees from some of the animal parks in SE Florida where they are, I’ve read, a very common site. And, while not commonly seen here in SW Florida, apparently they are not a huge rarity either. But I doubt too many folks around here have ever spotted one. When I took the below photos, I was in my car, which as I later learned was a good thing because, according to birdinginformation.com, the Egyptian goose is (especially in breeding season) “quarrelsome and aggressive, very intolerant of other birds, including their own kind,” and “can even be vicious.” So, welcome to the neighborhood, exotic little visitor! I shall keep my distance! 😉
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Categories: Florida, Nature | 4 Comments

A Florida Friday: Summer’s spectacular sunsets

It’s been a busy week, and I had little time to devote to family history, so I will leave you with some images of last night’s sunset–always a special treat at this time of year—and wish you all a good weekend.

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Categories: Florida, Nature | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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