This weekend is Memorial Day weekend…and like most of us we’ll be grilling some meat out back on the lanai on Monday and generally having a good time. Nothing wrong with that at all.
However…in the midst of your celebrations and libations…please take a moment to reflect on the actual holiday we’re celebrating and what it means. Politics aside…we have a free country here in the US of A with constitutional rights, a good economy, and plenty of brews and burgers for the holiday. Remember that it is our men and women in uniform who have fought for their country…and a good number of them have died for their country…in order for us to have the freedoms we have. Neil as you know retired from the Navy and although he was never in combat it was always a possibility that some situation could blow up somewhere in the world and we would end up in hostilities with another country.
I just took a look at wikipedia and going back to the Revolutionary war we’ve had 666,441…plus or minus…members of the armed forces killed in the service of their country. Most were men because until recently women were legally barred from serving in combat units but that number does include women who were killed not serving in combat units plus those serving in those units since the prohibition was lifted.
That’s what the holiday is about…Memorial Day is a day to remember those who sacrificed their lives in the service of the country…and to thank them for their service and as President Lincoln said at Gettysburg…”they shall not have died in vain.”
So in the midst of your barbecuing and quaffing of tasty beverages…don’t forget to remember the fallen and to raise a toast in their honor. And if you are a veteran…as Neil is…I thank you and appreciate your service.
OK…what else is going on. We headed off to Orlando on Thursday morning for the Florida Elks Convention at the Rosen Center which is immediately adjacent to Sea World…and I gotta tell you I-4 in Orlando is about the worst traffic we’ve ever been in and that includes LA, San Francisco, and NYC. It’s just turrible as Charles Barkley would say…turrible.
Neil says that when we go up for the convention next year he’s finding a way to get there without getting onto I-4…it’s that bad.
Anyways…they had these great plans on where they were going to eat out on Thursday and Friday nights…but then they discovered the Hospitality Suites. Essentially each district gets a suite for their use from the hotel as part of the convention package along with the Ladies of Elks and several other groups associated with them…and every darned one of them has an open bar and way too much eatables. Each district has somewhere between a dozen and two dozen lodges in it and each lodge is told by their district management what they should provide for the hospitality suite…6 bottles of booze or whatever along with mixers, food and all the various accessories and ingredients needed…and none of it is the cheap booze, it’s all top shelf stuff.
So by the time you wander around 3 or 4 of those and spend 30 or 45 minutes at each socializing, nibbling, and quaffing adult beverages…well let’s just say that dinner becomes and afterthought. Thursday night they were still a bit hungry so they split an appetizer…conch fritters which while they did have calories had pretty much no flavor…at the poolside bar before heading back up to the room.
Friday morning came early with the alarm going off at 0430…Connie had a Ladies of Elks luncheon at noon but he was headed back over to the Orlando Wetlands Park Preserve to see the birds…and he needed to be there at sunrise which was 0630…and it was 40 miles away. He stopped by the Golden Arches and got a breakfast sammy and cup of coffee for breakfast and headed over. Arriving just before sunrise and the park opening…he went on a nice 4 mile or so hike around the marshes and lakes before getting back to the parking lot about 0830 to head back to the hotel…that might seem like a pretty early stopping point but the beautiful golden light only hangs around for an hour or so in the morning and afternoon…photographers call it the Golden Hour.
He got some good shots and took a nap for a bit when he got back to the hotel…then had a cheese steak for lunch while Connie was dining on her huge luncheon meal…then they spent a couple hours at the pool before heading off to another evening in the Hospitality Suites. They ensured that they got enough for dinner on Friday and headed up to bed when they got tired.
Saturday morning Connie had her Ladies of Elks business meeting so Neil packed the car, checked out, and waited in the lobby until she was finished then we headed home. Having failed to figure out a better way to go they started west on I-4…it was all of 15 miles over to FL-27 which they would be taking south to head home. Well…I-4 was basically a parking lot so they got off at the first exit and Connie navigated them over the river and through the woods but not to Grandma’s house…to FL-27 instead. Those 15 miles took them about 45 minutes in total but it was still better than the hour+ it would have taken if they had stayed on I-4. Once on FL-27 it was a nice easy drive back home down 27, US-17, and I-75 to home. They stopped and Neil bought some corn to cook tomorrow along with our bison burgers and unpacked the car before heading over to St. Therese for 1600 Mass as Sunday was a bike day and he likes to go early during the summer before it gets too hot. At Mass…we discovered there was no cantor…don’t know whether she forgot or had an issue but as Connie was the only other cantor in the music section she got drafted to sing…she was apprehensive as she is normally a preparer and likes to practice to get it perfect…she hates going into it cold…but she did her usual outstanding job. Fortunately…most of the music was stuff she had sung before so even though it was awhile back she was at least familiar with the tune and words. The only issue was the Alleluah before the Gospel…there’s a refrain at the beginning and end with a verse in the middle…the refrain is standard so she was OK for that but she had no words for the verse and there wasn’t a copy she could use…so Marge (the music director) sang just the verse which was printed on her piano music and Connie handled the refrain. Since it is Memorial Day weekend…the Mass recessional hymn was God Bless America which is one of her favorites…and she did the flourish stratospheric note version at the end…got herself an ovation from the crowd which is atypical for Mass.
Dinner tonight will be some scallops with either linguini or polenta…haven’t figured out what Connie wants yet but I know it will involve butter and bacon and garlic and cheese…so how could it be bad…oh yeah, and some wine too.
OK…let’s get on to the images from Neil’s trip over to the Orlando Wetlands Preserve Park…which is actually located in Christmas Florida…not Orlando.
Just after entering the marsh area of the park about 1/4 miles from the parking lot…sun just coming up.
Great Blue Heron against the rising sun.
Daddy Sandhill Crane doing his best to look fearsome and aggressive to keep Neil away from his colt…yeah, that’s what a baby Sandhill Crane is called…not sure why he was concerned because this was with the bird lens at a range of maybe 50 yards and a bit later on he walked past them at about 10 feet and both dad, mom, and colt just ignored him.
Roseate Spoonbill and Black Bellied Whistling Duck.
Dad Sandhill Crane still being fearsome.
Another Great Blue Heron.
The Sandhill Crane family after Neil walked past them…he was walking down the middle of the road as he passed and they were standing where they are in this shot…Dad must have decided Neil wasn’t a threat by then.
Tricolor Heron…also known as a Louisiana Heron…still in breeding plumage as he has the little white ponytail on the back of his head.
Black vultures against the early morning sky…this is about 1/4 of the clump of trees in the shot and there were literally hundreds of them perched there.
Osprey with some Spanish Moss hanging from his talons…or maybe her talons, can’t tell as the sexes look the same. Not sure if it was taking nesting material back to the nest or not but don’t think so as this is just hanging by a strand from the lower leg as opposed to being carried if it was nesting intended.
Gator portrait…this was about 10 feet from Neil and is maybe 7 or 8 feet long but he thought it made a nice shot…you can see the swamp reflected in it’s eyeball.
There are a few wading birds in this shot as you can see.
A pretty big bull gator doing his “I’m bigger than you” thing. They arch themselves like this and do a rumbling groaning thing and the lower the pitch the larger the gator is…it’s a useful mechanism for them to establish dominance over an area and it’s females for breeding. Sometimes you can see water droplets dancing from the vibration of pretty much the whole body of the gator.
This is…I think…Bob…one of the regulars at the park said that the locals had named him. Bob is a pretty big fella…after he passed and went into the water Neil went back and measured the road and it is about 15 feet wide…so that makes Bob probably 12 or 13 feet long which is huge for a gator. This shot was actually taken before the one above and Bob was headed for the area where Neil spotted the rumbler above so it might be the same gator although if it is his swim over there washed all the algae off of his back. Neil had noticed a couple of dozen narrow drag marks about an inch wide going across the road and thought they were from snakes crawling over but decided they were too straight for that and then noticed that Bob had left one behind as well so what he was seeing were gator crossings.
Another Tricolor Heron.
Osprey…this one actually has nesting material with it as it is grasped in the talons.
Great Blue Heron.
Black Bellied Whistling Ducks…Neil’s never seen ducks up in a tree before.
Male Red Winged Blackbird.
Interesting things found on the net.