Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fine Arts

I arrived in town in time for a community Christmas concert featuring three of my favorite artists.

The concert was a lot of fun - a glorious combination of handbells and sing-alongs and performance pieces, plus a charming Chrstmas-themed story about a young star who is granted her wish to visit earth just once before she takes her place in the heavens - she brings joy and a change of heart to a lonely and curmudgeonly old woman.  

Clara, as usual, stole the show with a bit part in which she showed self-possession well beyond her size and years.  She also performed an extravagant solo bow after one of the numbers.

Afterward, we got together for a celebratory mac-and-cheese dinner with the two families.  We played with the cats, and the girls showed off their prowess on the rings -- both of them are very strong, and Clara has picked up Lee's distinctive style of locomotion.

The fashion designer poses with a star model

A new camera is put to use; it will not be long before she is posting cat videos!
The next day, we made the trek out to the Mariposa Museum.  It was really cool, with a variety of objects on display, including many  puppets and musical instruments for  folks to play with.

Charmed, I'm sure!

Keep your eye on the tiger!

A delightful lunch

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Putting Two and Two Together

When we were at MoMA for the Magritte exhibit last month, we also roamed about a bit in another gallery, and there were two works (in two different rooms) that particularly caught my eye.

By chance -- if chance you call it -- both were by Peter Blume.

The first was a black and white drawing (pencil on paper) from 1934, entitled Iris and Pansies.  I took note of the artist because I was struck by the appealingly old-fashioned photorealism of the drawing.

The next was a beautiful oil painting, Landscape with Poppies (1939).  To my surprise and delight, it was also by this same mysterious artist.

But when I ran a google search on Peter Blume today, imagine my astonishment to realize that I had already discovered and loved another of his paintings back in April!  Yes, he also painted The Rock (1944-48), a dreamlike and surreal work which I'd ogled at great length at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Farewell Sanibel!

Today's highlights: 
  • two river otters on the path scurried off-trail when my dad and I made eye contact (we heard them chuffing out of sight afterward); 
  • two roseate spoonbills circled overhead, wings pinkly backlit; 
  • a flock of ibises took off right in front of us and filled the sky overhead on their way.

Another observer!

I didn't have my camera ready, so I only captured one of the flock...
There were also turkey vultures circling overhead (six of them) and all the usual anoles running around.

Fish near the entrance to the refuge

It's not often that I get to look over the shoulder of an egret...

For lunch, some sweet potato latkes and homemade biscuits (yum), followed by more homemade cookies to take on the plane (thanks, Mom!).  A really lovely trip.  

Monday, December 02, 2013

Tricolor Sextet

My dad and I biked out to the wildlife refuge again today.  We went up the Indigo Trail all the way to the end, retraced our steps (treads?) to the cross-dike path, then completed the loop on the main drive with bootless side trips to Colon's Point and the 0.25 mile path under the power lines to an overlook.

Highlights of the trip: six tricolor herons hunting and feeding at the observation area on the Indigo Trail; nine roseate spoonbills hanging out on their favorite tree; a six-foot alligator on the side of Wildlife Drive. 

(Note to self: Next time, rollerblade out here and take advantage of the beautifully paved road around the refuge.)

Tricolor on the hunt

Ibis flapping its wings on the water (presumably to stir up fish) 
My, what great claws you have!

Tricolor with shadow

Wings unfurled!

Poised to strike!

Look closely for the black wingtip on the ibises

When spoonbills rock their head side to side in the water, it looks like
the pendulum of a clock...

The unheralded end of the Indigo Trail.  Past the cross-dike path,
it gets sandy and hard to pedal, and there's not much to see. 

Back on wildlife drive - the roseate spoonbill stands out from its neighbors....

Cloud formation

On the left - white pelican with beak (and gullet) open wide!!!

This one was about 6 feet long (probably two feet smaller than the one we saw yesterday).
It also looked younger, because the bumps on its face and body were not as pronounced.
I never saw its eyelids move... but the gator's eyes are open here.

View back toward wildlife drive, from the overlook under the power lines

The bike ride back from the end of wildlife drive added about 20 minutes to the return trip (45 minutes vs 25 minutes).  Happily, we made it back in time for a glorious sunset that lit up the waters of the gulf.

Sunset at the beach

Bliss - with an oncoming V of brown pelicans

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Indigo Trail

We go to the wildlife refuge every time we come down here, but typically stay on the main drive and the primary offshoots (like the mangrove overlook and the cross-dike area).  So I hadn't been on the Indigo Trail in years.  It is a wide unpaved bike path, just two miles of sand and crushed shell to take you back to the entrance of the refuge without doing the full loop on the main drive.

My dad and I decided to bike out for a short loop yesterday, crossing over to the bike path so we'd make it back in time for dinner and Hamlet {solo}.

I was biking ahead, a little before the half-way point on the Indigo Trail, when my dad called to me.  I turned back and a low-flying flash of bright red (apparently a bird) crossed the path from west to east.  But my dad's attention was focused on the embankment on the west side of the path.  It was an alligator.  It seemed almost sculpted from stone, sitting still on the slope, sunk in the grasses:

I'd biked right by the gator, but my dad saw the glint of its eye.  (Several other groups of bikers and pedestrians had also apparently passed it without noticing anything.)
We kept a respectful distance and photographed it mostly from the side -- rather than, for example, from in front of its jaws.  The eyes never blinked, and the gator never moved while we watched.  It was slightly unnerving to be so close to it with no real barrier between us.  Probably we could "outrun" it on our rusty old bikes, in a pinch - but we really didn't want to find out.

A bit further on, we noticed that behind the exterior barrier of mangroves and underbrush, there was an interior rank of mangroves which was covered with white birds (probably ibises).  When we got to an opening, we saw a tree with five roseate spoonbills and a few ibises on it.  One spoonbill was grooming itself in a very photogenic way, the bill clearly visible in front and fluffing its darkest pink feathers.  Unfortunately, I couldn't focus my camera on the tree due to the young mangroves in front.

I had slightly better luck capturing their reflections:

Next up was a very nice new observation walkway/platform, from which we were able to see ibises, anhingas, and ducks.  

Observing the observer
A bit fuzzy, but the scene was very cute:

Fuzzy ducks (for Suzie)
It has been more than a year since Suzie died.  I don't recall if she ever joined us here (I know Becky did), but I am sure she would have loved it.  Every time I saw duck-like waterfowl, I thought of her.  It also called to mind our high school gang's catch-phrase: "Wanna buy a duck?" "Does it quack?" "Of course it quacks; it's a duck!"  Perhaps a mini-reunion is in order for 2014, to be hosted here.
Today, we came back and brought my mom.  We tried to keep our expectations low for the walk up 1.5 miles along the bike trail and back again... but we were really hoping for another gator sighting (and, on my part, for more roseate spoonbills).

At the observatory, we saw more herons, ibises, anhingas, and ducks.


Immature ibis

More waterfowl

Female anhinga

Two waterfowl among the mangroves

Little blue heron
The roseate spoonbill tree was again bedecked with roseate spoonbills and ibises (hooray!).

And... we spotted an alligator in the water! Again on the west side of the bike path, but about a mile further south than yesterday.

It appeared to be 8 feet long
We could not tell if it was the same alligator as yesterday.  It's possible that this one might have been bigger/older, but we just don't know enough to say for sure.  (In any event, I felt safer because there were trees and underbrush between it and us.)

In any event, we watched for a while, and it eventually submerged a bit, re-emerged, and turned around (away from us) to face the bank of an interior island or delta in the river.  This is when we were able to see its full length.  On the far side of the interior island were many ibises; we were wondering whether the gator was hoping they would stray toward his waiting jaws, or whether the gator was gearing up for a hunting foray.  The gator seemed to be settled in for the moment, so we finally proceeded on our way.

Large circles created by the mangrove roots and their reflections

You know the area is really closed when there's a cactus barrier

A little after 5 p.m., we heard a rustling in the mangroves behind us on the west side and turned around to look. Out came an otter, up out of the foliage and onto the bike path! 

It crossed the path and went down the embankment toward the water on the east side.

Then (to our surprise and delight) the otter came back up again to hang out on the bike path.  As always, we kept a respectful distance... but we couldn't stop smiling.

That's when I took this video:

The sand and crushed shell must be good for an itchy back!

I caught a short video of it scrambling back down to the water (not shown), and then another short video of it swimming away:


This was the first time I've seen a river otter in the wild - and I've been to this wildlife refuge many, many times over the years.

We saw a few birds flying low over the bike path as it grew dark, and my mom and I even glimpsed an osprey flying low over the path in front of us, carrying a large fish in its claws - that was pretty cool.

We went on to the 1.5 mile mark (and verified the location of yesterday's gator sighting) without further incident, and then turned around.  The return trip went very quickly.


We felt very fortunate.