Yep…we actually did some more of that last week…and we have more scheduled for both this week and next…it’s mating season for birds in Florida ya know and that means they are all decked out in the mate attracting finery and colors which makes for much better images.
This one is pretty photo heavy…and is actually only part 1 of 2 since Neil hasn’t finished the photos from the second part of the trip but I’ll get that out tomorrow or the next day as soon as he’s done with them.
We hung around an extra day over our original plan to head out Wednesday ‘cuz Trivia Nite at the Elks ya know…and we won so that was a great decision on our part. Even better was our teaming up with Margie and husband since she was up on all of the TV and movie related stuff that we ain’t so good on and was able to give us the correct answer to a couple of questions and seein’ as we only one 26-25 that is a very good thing. We ended up with about 6 free drink tickets at the lodge (Vicki and Mike gave us their’s as well since they don’t drink the house well (AKA cheap) booze and that’s what the tickets are good for. Connie drinks the house Merlot and they’re good for that…Neil’s with Vicki and Mike and doesn’t drink that cheap crap either. We also won a $20 gift certificate to Farmer’s Market restaurant…the young lady who owns the place is a member and donated the grand prize this month.
With that in hand…we headed out about lunchtime Thursday for the Titusville area for a planned Friday dawn return trip out to Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island NWR on the northern end of the Kennedy Space Center. We stayed in a different hotel than on our last trip and after a very brief evaluation of the weather concluded that eating outside was out of the question so instead of the beach place on the water the DLETC sought out other sources of sustenance…there’s a whole involved process for that involving menu review, what we want to eat, weather, how far away it is, how hoity-toity it is, and how far she will have to walk in heels if we go there. Anyways…after this complicated process she offered up the choice of a place about 15 miles away on the water that only served seafood and had an outside that we couldn’t sit in due to the weather (cool and windy) and wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway as it would be too close to sunset…and the other alternative was a place called Durango Steakhouse. Neil pointed out that the latter was conveniently just across the parking lot from the Extended Stay America hotel we were currently sitting in so the choice was really simple…Durango it was.
Connie had her normal glass of wine and Neil had something called the Grand Junction Old Fashioned…the Old Fashioned is essentially bourbon on the rocks with some muddled cherries in the bottom for a little sweetness and some Angostura Bitters to counteract the sweetness. Durango decided to have their own twist on the classic recipe…they use Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey (which sounds like a terrible thing to do with bourbon but is actually quite tasty), chocolate bitters, and Andorra cherries instead of the normal bright red and overly sweet maraschino cherries one typically finds as garnish in cocktails. Andorras are the much darker and less sweet ones that typically get made into pies or chocolate covered cherry candy. Anyway…the combination was outstanding…so much so that Neil actually had a second one.
They split an appetizer of Oysters Rockefeller (sadly the crab stuffed mushrooms they ordered were unavailable due to either staff shortages or covid related shipping issues) and then Connie had clam chowdah while Neil went with Firecracker Shrimp (again…sadly the bacon wrapped grilled shrimp he actually ordered were unavailable). In both cases, the substituted dishes were excellent even though they were substitutes and Connie was happy with the clam chowdah.
They split a creme brulee for dessert which was somewhat lacking in Neil’s opinion. Rather than the classic recipe which is essentially baked egg custard which is very light they did their own take and it was much closer to vanilla pudding than a light custard. Nonetheless…the melted and caramelized sugar on top was excellent and despite it being less than outstanding they ate it anyway before wandering back to the hotel.
Next morning they were up early for coffee from the lobby and breakfast from Macky D’s before arriving over at the drive just a few minutes before sunrise. Following the drive they stopped by the visitor center to stamp their Park Service passport before heading west for our second hotel. They stopped for lunch in Sanford north of Orlando and visited the Sanford Brewery for brews and eats. They had a pint each of Legend Scottish Export Ale…excellent and very similar to what’s known as a Wee Heavy. Connie had spinach and artichoke dip with pita chips which was excellent while Neil went with the Sanford Avenue burger…local beef actually cooked medium rare and pink as he asked for and topped with beer cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions along with lettuce…he skipped the ‘mater slices. This turned out to be the second best burger he’s ever had…running behind only the one he had (and which is no longer available as we looked the second time we passed through there) out in Astoria Oregon…
*beep beep* We interrupt our regular blogging for an urgent update.
Actually this is the third best burger he’s ever had…but the first two were both at the place in Astoria named Baked Alaska that hangs out over the river just east of the really tall and skinny bridge over the Columbia Ricer there. The original best one had Kobe beef, bacon/jalepeño jelly, fried pork belly (like bacon only better), and white cheddar but on our second visit to get another one of those years later was no longer on the menu but they did have a combo lamb/beef burger with sautéed wild mushrooms, balsamic reduction sauce, and blue cheese crumbles that he swapped out for Swiss cheese since they don’t eat stinky French cheese and that one took second place…although mebbe since the first one isn’t available any more it’s the new first place.
We now to your regularly scheduled blogging already in progress.
Anyway…so it’s only the third best but who knows…but Ima not arguing with him about it…his mind is made up.
After lunch we stopped by the local NFCU branch to pick up some more cash before heading to the hotel…the same one we stopped at the last time we were in the Orlando area for our second scheduled dawn trip…this time to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. But I’ll tellya all ‘bout that when part 2 goes live.
So…on to the pictures…as per usual there’s a mix of Connie’s and Neil’s shots. I’ll try to point out who took them if it’s important…and if ya really care then hover your Mose over the pictures. Ones that have names starting with Z72 are his and Z50 are hers. I have to tell you she really likes this mirrorless body instead of her older one…mostly because the kit lens combo has much more telephoto reach than she had before so birds and such get into her shots now. Neil tells her she coulda had a longer lens before but she never wanted to carry the extra weight…she says her mind is made up and don’t confuse her with the facts so he moved on.
Great Egret with mating plumage…this one is…we think…a male as normally they get much more elaborate plumage than the females get. The real reason for this is that the female wants the best prospect for healthy prosperous babies and picks the one with the best most outlandish mating plumage…while everybody already knows that males are much less choosy and typically (at least with non bird species) have a harem anyway.
Not super sure but we think think this is a juvenile Night Heron…not sure whether it’s Black Crowned or Yellow Crowned. The problem is that it has some of the characteristics of each…but then it has some of the coloration of a mature Tricolor Heron as well but it doesn’t fully match any of them. It seems not slender or tall enough to be the Tricolor and there are numerous Night Herons of both types in the area so we’re going with that over the Tricolor.
Connie’s shot of the same individual…this shows the almost Tricolor coloration better than Neil’s shot but the legs are the
Little Blue Heron
Blue Winged Teals…both males and females.
Great Blue Heron or GBH as we call ‘em.
Red Winged Blackbird male.
This is a Redfish…they were eating bugs off the surface right near the shoreline…you can’t really tell size from the shot but they were probably 35 or 40 inches in length.
When we first saw this we thought it looked like a 3 inch tall heron standing in the water instead of the plant it turned out to be.
One of a pair of Turkey Vulture.
They flew over to the roof of a bird blind and were doing that whole courtship waving their wings and necks thing…about to go and make some vulture chicks.
Warbler of some sort…we typically call them Tauntey Birds because they hide in the bushes and taunt you with their calls.
GBH…he was on the railing to the original bird blind that the flying vulture above just left…completely ignored people walking within 20 feet.
Another male Red Winged Blackbird.
Tricolor Heron…you can see the faint resemblance in coloration (legs mostly) to the juvenile Night Heron at the beginning of the day above as well as the slender and long necked body as compared to the Night Herons.
Snowy Egret. Neil’s sorta bummed that the autofocus missed the eye and got the plumage instead but it happened too quick for him to switch from a wider area AD mode to single point but the water droplets from a failed stab at breakfast make the shot anyway…and again starting to get into the serious mating plumage. These were the birds that were hunted to endangered status back in the day for feathers for ladies hats in the late Victorian period.
Roseate Spoonbill…neither Neil or Connie can recall seeing one of these up in a tree before instead of being on the ground/water.
And Connie’s shot of the same li’l guy. Neither shot shows how long the neck actually is, when extended to grab food the body length just about doubles. This species is pretty skittish and usually hides back in the mangroves more but it was a cool morning so it probably wanted to warm up…never moved the 10 minutes we watched it so that’s a pretty good guess we think.
Male Anhinga…one of the few species that female plumage is more colorful and striking
Connie’s male Anhinga…I think it’s the same individual as above.
Bald Eagle…first one we’ve seen there but it’s great eagle habitat…so we missed them last time I guess. Same as with our lack of Reddish Egret shots although this is the primary nesting area for the species…you pays your money and takes your chances and ya get what ya get.
Connie’s shot. Her lens isn’t quite as long as the one Neil uses and his body has more megapixels than hers does (it’s her fault…she doesn’t want the weight of the heavier but higher end gear). If you zoom in and pixel peep to the original shots you can see a very subtle difference between the two body/lens combinations but at blog size there really isn’t a difference that you can see in the cropped and exported shots so mebbe she’s got a point about the lighter gear.
Tricolor Heron caught at the moment of takeoff…actually Neil grabbed this one through the open car window.
These last two were taken at the Visitor Center pond.
And finally a second mystery bird…possibly a juvenile Reddish Egret White Morph but more likely a juvenile Little Blue Heron. Doesn’t fully match either but based on size and greatest number of coloration matches most likely the latter.
One looks at beaks, legs, plumage, size, coloration of various parts of the body, eye color and other things to determine species of individuals that don’t present an easy identification…obviously like humans birds are individual and just as we have blondes, brunettes, redheads, and blue haired old ladies they have their individual characteristics as well. Size and body shape (slender or plump and short or long necked) usually help to determine things…fortunately any species generally looks pretty much lie that species but ID’ing the outliers presents a challenge.
This one was taken on a little side trip on a road just before we exited the refuged…the lady at the Visitor Center recommended it but this was the only photo worthy thing we found. Saw a bunch of coot/duck but the groups were way out and not really closer enough to make out much…not to mention it was 1000 by this time and Golden Hour was far past so we were into the harsh middle of the day lighting conditions.
And that ended our shots for the day so we headed off to lunch as I talked about above. I’ll send Neil back to do the second day’s shots just as soon as I post this.