I’m sure you’re all familiar with the current war situation over in Ukraine…and I don’t think that many will see this as anything other than a blatant territory grab by a national leader who has gone ‘round the bend as we used to say in LA (lower Alabama for those that might think it’s that other LA out in the PRC).
After the completely botched retreat from Afghanistan and the associated abandonment of both sensitive military equipment as well as the Afghan citizens who helped us…any halfwit could have easily understood that the government there was going to fall to the Taliban and while that decision was made during the previous administration (another obvious failure of foreign policy…and whether we should have been there or not and left or not and a bunch of other things might be a nice debate…that’s not the point here) it seemed pretty obvious that despite his bragging about his extensive foreign policy experience during the campaign that he basically screwed that up pretty badly. Then when Russia invaded Ukrainian territory…again…he told them as the troops were massing that military action by the US was off the table and thus the rest of NATO would obviously not take any either since they look to the US for leadership…that statement essentially gave a green light to the Russians to invade.
So clearly…this administration is grossly incompetent at foreign policy…but the both the previous and previous previous admins were just as incompetent at least as standing up to Putin and for democracy goes. In fact…one can go back a long way to the initial placement of troops in the country, the attempt to set up a US style democracy which wasn’t ever going to happen since the country isn’t really a country but a bunch of tribes and most of their citizens identify as tribe/clan first and Afghan second…but that’s really coolant through the ion exchanger (as Neil used to say back in his Navy days)…and looking at the current situation over in Ukraine it’s hard to see any other alternative but that President Biden screwed the pooch on this one. In fact…there is serious evidence to believe that President Obama back when he was in office said to some of his advisors “Never underestimate Joe’s ability to f**k things up”. I googled to see and while there’s no video/audio report numerous senior Obama advisors have confirmed the validity of the quote.
He’s not the only one though…as I said both previous and previous previous did so as well…previous for not providing weapons to the country and previous previous for his infamous “red line in the sand” statement. It sure would be nice if we could actually get a completely competent President but I can’t really recall the last one who was.
Anyways…’nuff o’ that.
Last Friday we took a ride up to Fort De Soto Park in Saint Petersburg. We actually took the toll bridge (only a buck fifth each way) since the way not on the bridge made the trip 50something miles longer and since we needed to be there at 0650 when the sun was coming up and Connie was already irritated about having to leave at 0500…Neil decided that paying the toll was just a better idea all the way ‘round. We ended up paying another $0.75 toll as well as a $1.50 one but both of those had no alternative route anyway since the park is out on a couple of islands.
On entering the park…you come down from the north to the main road and then choose east or west and we knew we were going to go to both ends anyway…we noticed that most of the cars turned to the west. Since the east side was closer (about 3 miles or so from the turn) we went that way first but saw nothing. Turned around and drove all the way to the west/north end and still saw nothing. At that point we figured the trip was a bust but got to thinking about it and saw that in the parking lot for the far north beach there were a dozen or more cars at the far northern end of the lot. Since it was only 20 minutes or so after sunrise at this point we decided they couldn’t possibly all be beach people and the fishing piers were nowhere near so we grabbed the camera gear and headed across the sands just in case…and as it turned out all those cars belonged to birders and we hit the jackpot. Unfortunately we missed about 1/2 of Golden Hour light so when we go back in a few weeks at the peak of breeding season we’ll head straight to the north beach to start with. The reason we know we’re going back is that some of the pretty rare Reddish Egrets nest there and the one we saw wasn’t quite to full breeding plumage yet.
We did get a couple nice shots of the sun coming up from the east end beach…looking back across the water and the toll bridge back to the other side of Tampa Bay.
As we drove across to the north/west beach area we did spot what turned out to b a Green Parakeet…it was pretty far away but at the time we thought it was an unusual find.
Out at North Beach.
Seagull…this a Laughing Gull…they look like their heads were dipped into paint.
This is a wider shot of the tidal pool left behind that the birds were feeding in…Reddish Egret, Snowy Egret, and Roseate Spoonbill plus other species.
Roseate Spoonbill…again not quite up to full mating plumage yet…should be all pink later on.
Great Egret in flight.
The Reddish Egret that was looking for breakfast. The pinkish area on the bill is the primary breeding characteristic but the brownish feathers on the breast should also get more red as the season progresses. The beak will end up being hot pink on the half towards the head. There was only one Reddish Egret for all the shots in this post.
Snowy Egret and Willet.
Reddish Egret feeding behavior. Very similar to what a Wood Stork does…this species spreads wings and uses them to shade part of the water. This either attracts the fish or helps them see them better depending on which scientist one wants to believe. Most wading birds have a species specific feeding behavior…for instance a Great Egret stands very still and waits for food to swim by and then stabs down at it while a Snowy Egret shuffles his golden feet along the bottom to scare up the fish before grabbing it.
The Reddish Egret also sort of half flies while running to move from place to place quickly.
Juvenile Black Bellied Plover.
Reddish Egret stabbing for and then with a breakfast snack in mid air between the beak halves. Neil got the first and Connie the second…both had shutter set on burst but it’s the luck of the draw even at 8 or 10 frames per second.
Snowy Egret plumping himself to scare off an intruder.
And a successful eviction.
Neil had wandered off down the beach a little and a fella near Connie yelled “Hey, the White Ibis has a crab.” Connie turned and got a nice burst of it.
Moving it around to get it properly positioned to swallow whole.
Annnnnd…down the hatch.
Roseate Spoonbill again…they sort of nibble along the bottom until they find something…again a species unique fishing style.
Heron track on the sand…could be Egret as well…in any event one of the waders.
Osprey pair we spotted as we left the parking lot. There were Ospreys aplenty there…we must have seen 30 of them.
Another pair of Green Parakeets.
And yes…there were a bunch of them as well…probably saw 30 of them near the fishing piers.
Took us awhile to figure this one out…we’re pretty sure it’s a juvenile Coopers Hawk as it was pretty small and that’s about the only hawk that’s small enough. The talons gave it away as a hawk pretty quickly but the rest of it was a lot of checking features and comparing to Peterson’s Birds of North America app.
Willet with Whimbrel in front.
Snowy on the roof of the fish cleaning station at the fishing pier…guess he knows where to hang out for an easy meal.
Red Breasted Merganser.
Semi-palmated Plover…we had to look up what semi-palmated means…palmated means webbed feet and semi is because it’s only partially webbed between the toes.
Great Blue Heron on the fishing pier…they stand on one leg a lot.
Seagull flying by…we looked and looked and couldn’t really tell what this is…based on size first and then features it had one feature of a half dozen species but not all of the species and of the half dozen at least one feature that didn’t exist on the same species that matched the first feature. So we’re just going with seagull here.
And that was our day…by this time it was a bit after 0900 so we did the 2 hour drive home and had lunch and a nap. We went down to the Elks after dinner to visit with Tammy the bartender an because we were skipping the Mardi Gras dinner on Saturday evening at the Elks as we had plans for a long day on Sunday and they were serving Gumbo and Jambalaya for dinner…but most folk down here make those dishes with okra for the thickening instead of File power (that’s pronounced fee-lay for ya northerners) for both thickening and the classic gumbo flavor which okra doesn’t provide. For those who like Cajun flavor…ya need to gets yerself some File…in the south it’s pretty much available in your standard grocery stores but up nawth ya might need to buy it from Amazon. File is actually ground up dried sassafras leaves and no true southern cook would be without it. It’s not spicy…that comes from the cayenne pepper or smoked paprika or hot sauce you put in the dish…File just gives it that N’awlins flavor. Neil puts it in his jambalaya as well as gumbo although it’s not a traditional spice for the former. Besides not liking the taste of okra…it’s got that horrible slime crap inside of it…which is pretty gross in our opinion (Connie only eats the stuff fried so the slime gets solidified) and neither of them likes the slime.
Sunday…we were up early so we could have breakfast before heading out to the choir mass at 0900. Home for a quick lunch and then left about noon for the drive up to Sarasota for the Sarasota Symphony concert…they played some music we weren’t too familiar with but it was all nice. Following that…we headed to Rossini Trattoria Gastronomic up in Charlotte for their 1800 Wine Dinner. This is the place we went a week or two back that had real as in Italy Italian food…we liked it and Connie got on the mailing list…which got us invited to the $90 a person plus tax and tip wine dinner. We had 5 different wines from sparking through white through a pair of reds and then a wine based amaretto for Neil and a chocolate wine for Connie since she doesn’t like the almond taste of amaretto. Along with the sparkling Prosecco we had an Aperitivo (Italian for Happy Hour…it’s designed to whet your appetite) of a slice of a Stromboli (think rolled up pizza) with peppers, prosciutto, and truffled pecorino cheese. Moving on…we had prawns with chickpeas and olive bruschetta for appetizer, a pasta course of potato/basil ravioli with a sausage tomato rag with salted ricotta, a main course of veal with cauliflower gratin, and finally a desert of Zepolla covered with chocolate creme and candied oranges…this is sort of a cross between a beignet, a puff pastry, and a croissant with an open top filled with medium chocolate dairy egg goodness and topped with candied oranges and some extra dark chocolate sauce.
All in all…we liked the food and the wine and left the restaurant a bit after 2000. On further review…despite the excellent food and wine we don’t think we’ll do another of the their wine dinners…with 5 different wines and all that rich varied food we ended up eating way more than we usually do (despite the plates being small and the wines being fairly short pours since we were all getting 5 glasses) and Connie in particular can’t do that…makes her feel bad most of the night hours and until after lunch today. We’ll definitely go there for dinner as the food is fabulous but for just a dinner we can eat less and stick to a single bottle of wine to share or a couple glasses if we are eating different dishes that need red or white wine…although to be honest we don’t put much stock in that whole “red wine with beef, white with fish or port or chicken” thing…we drink whatever we like that day but generally try to have lighter reds if we’re having one with pork or fish and stick with white for seafood so the wine doesn’t overwhelm the food.
Connie’s feeling better this afternoon so we’re having some sautéed fish for dinner with mashed taters and corn and she’ll head off to her Mastersingers practice.
Interesting things found on the net.