Sunday, June 5, 2016

It's Nature-palooza! ~ Sunday June 5, 2016

You guys... it's 4:34 p.m. and I'm finally sitting down to type today's recap! I have so many pictures to share :) It's been a great day and I hope yours was as well.

I got up at 6:46 a.m.  Why 6:46?!  Because my alarm rang at 6:45 a.m. and after I turned it off, I layed in bed thinking "I'm not going fishing. I'm going to stay in bed and sleep in!" because I hadn't gone to bed until 2:00 a.m.!  But a minute later, I thought about all the fun I had yesterday so I got up anyway.

Greg and I went fishing (see at the end of the post). Well, he fished and I collected all the trash that I could see (I had brought a trash bag and a kitchen glove) and took photos of fauna and flora, as usual.

We got back at about 10:30 a.m. I recharged my camera batteries and watered the garden while they were charging, had lunch, and then my daughter and I left for our Lake Apopka Wilderness Drive. I had wanted to go to the Emeralda Marsh Wilderness Drive instead since I didn't know that one, but I'm glad I looked up another site for the actual address because I came across a press release dated April 2016 that stated that the marsh would be closed for renovations during all of 2016!  It would have been a 45 minute drive to it that would have left me very disappointed!

My daughter drove my SUV so I could take all the pictures that I wanted.  Remember how the speed limit is 10 mph and it's an 11-mile drive?  We stopped so many times that it actually took us over 2 hours to complete the drive!  We had such a good time and got to see cool stuff, and almost all of it is documented at the end of this post as well. Almost all of it, as I was too slow to capture some of the action at times, which is frustrating but I'm not a National Geographic Wildlife Photographer, after all!

As we started driving home, Greg texted me that he and our son were going to Dick's Sporting Goods to look at fishing and archery stuff so I texted back that I had a $10 off $50 coupon for Dick's with me and offered for them to meet us at Bruster's Ice Cream so we could all have a snack and I could give them the coupon. So we did that.  It worked out great because I was going to use a BOGO waffle cone coupon so I was going to have to eat a cone of ice cream and I really shouldn't, so since Greg and our son were there, I got the BOGO cones for the kids and bought Greg a "stand alone" waffle cone and I just took a small bite from everybody else's cone :)

So now it's that late and I'm pooped and I still have to recap my day, post all the pictures, cook dinner...  lol.  We'll see if this actually gets posted tonight!

  • I had several coupon inserts in the Sunday paper (I paid just 1 cent for a 1 year subscription to the Orlando Sentinel).

  • There's another magazine available for me to read for free via my library/Zinio... more recipes?  I need to keep this for when I'm finally back to a better weight!
"Grocery bills: are you normal?" ?! Hmm no, no I'm not!

  • Greg and I had breakfast at home: he made us PBJs because I didn't feel like cooking anything and he didn't want to either!

  • I brought along the picnic that I had prepared for yesterday's fishing trip... but once again we got home before lunch so we didn't eat it!

  • We stopped by RaceTrac and got free drink refills for our expedition. We brought our son's cup along so Greg got 2 Diet Dr.Pepper refills for himself, and I got a Diet Mountain Dew for myself, as a change.  I redeemed a survey reward code for a free blueberry muffin, and we shared it later on, on the way home.

  • Greg caught a huge large mouth bass!  Well, it looked huge to us: 18 inches and 2.5 lbs! He cleaned it and I will cook it for dinner.  I'm counting it as 2 fishes since it was heavy, so now he only needs to catch 6 more fishes in a year for us to break even on the fishing license.

Well, what can I say? He didn't go to fish cutting school :)  It still was a lot more fish than it looks.  I should have cooked only half of it and frozen the rest...
  • While he was fishing, I uploaded new offers to SavingStar and also new coupons to my CVS app (it's good that there is indeed cell phone service at the pond!).

  • We stopped by RaceTrac again on the way home, got more free refills for us and a free frozen drink refill for our son, and I redeemed another survey reward code for a free Monterey Chicken Hot Roller Grill item for our son's lunch.

  • For lunch, Greg cooked his squirrel that he had "harvested" yesterday. As for me, I had the sandwich that I had packed yesterday morning and other things.

  • I reused some rain water to water a couple of potted plants, and refilled the jugs with water collected in a bin at the leaky garden faucet (it only leaks when it's on).

  • I washed the older cats' litter box and finished a cat litter jug by changing their litter, so I saved the jug to refill it with rain water at a later time.

  • My daughter and I didn't take the toll roads to come home.

  • We stopped by RaceTrac to get a free refill for me.  My daughter was going to use her June free 32 oz drink coupon from her app, but when she checked, the coupon hadn't appeared in her app yet; I bought her a drink and had them scan my loyalty number so I earned the points and received a receipt with a survey to earn another freebie :)

  • I used one of the BOGO coupon I found yesterday at Bruster's today.  The attendant asked me if I had a loyalty card and since I didn't, he gave me one. You get a punch for each item that you buy, and after 9 punches, you get a free small cone.  So he punched it 3 times for today's visit, and when I mentioned that I had bought 2 cones last week, he gave me 2 more punches (I had just put $1 in the tip jar so I think he was being more accommodating because of that!). So we already have 5 punches and I still have 2 more BOGO coupons.

  • At Dick's, Greg ended up only buying hooks and fishing weights so it was pretty cheap (less than $4.00) and he presented my loyalty card so we earned a few more loyalty points. He returned the $10 off coupon to me.

  • He got gas for his truck so I have another receipt with which to take a survey and earn a freebie!

  • For dinner, Greg and shared the bass that he fished today (I breaded and pan fried it with some Cajun Seasoning) and I cooked more pasta because the kids want pasta and meatballs.  I also reheated the broccoli that Greg had taken to work by mistake on Friday, but none of us were in the mood for broccoli so it's going back in the fridge.

  • It rained tonight, finally. Not a ton of rain, but it's something.

  • Gas to get to the fishing pond and back and then to go to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and back and for Greg to go to Clermont and back!  Good thing we met our "No Drive Days" goal earlier this year!

  • Water to water the vegetable garden and refill the self-watering bins. We're supposed to get big storms today but I'm glad I watered anyway because Greg said it was pouring about 1/4 mile away from our house when he got back from Dick's, but we got maybe 3 drops at our house!

  • My daughter and I took the toll roads to get to Lake Apopka Wilderness Drive.

  • I bought her a 32 oz fountain drink at RaceTrac since she didn't have the freebie coupon on her app.

  • We got ice cream (well, I didn't) at Bruster's.

  • Greg bought more fishing hooks and weights.

  • Bath & Body Works is having their semi-annual sale and my local store is open... oh this is bad!  I'm going to stop by this week and get their Lilacs candle as a treat for myself because it's going to be 50% off and I won't have to pay for shipping. Yay!

  • Hmm, I don't think we had any?

  • Repacked a picnic
  • Picked up trash at the fishing pond
  • Refilled the hummingbird feeder
  • Refilled the bird feeder
  • Watered the garden
  • Cooked dinner

  • I had a PBJ for breakfast

  • Mid-morning snack was about 1/2 a blueberry muffin (a large one)

  • For lunch I had a turkey and cheese sandwich, 1/2 cup of Southern-style potato salad from Publix and a cup of grapes.

  • For mid-afternoon snack, I had a small bite of 3 different ice cream cones and 1/4 of a chocolate castlette baked by my daughter yesterday.

  • I didn't exercise (save walking a little in the forest this morning) and I didn't log my food intake today. I'll start again tomorrow.  I'm still wearing my insoles but not when I'm at home.


I had a big day today!

Fishing Trip

So we went back to Rebels Pond again.  We left earlier today and got there at about 7:45 a.m. We didn't see the turkeys, probably because I was indeed ready this morning to snap their picture should they be on the path.  They are contrary birds!

When we got to the parking area, we were delighted to find ourselves the only ones there again.  Greg decided to try fishing from the "small spot", where I had seen the gator yesterday. It was still there but Greg wanted to try that spot anyway.  I decided not to set camp there, lest the gator decide to charge (it could happen!), so I kept myself occupied by collecting the trash that other people had left there (I had brought a large trash bag and a glove so I could do this) and I also walked a little in the forest bordering the pond and took some photos of plants.

Wild Bachelor's Button

Wild Bachelor's Buttons
Wild blueberries (I wish I had found a whole patch of them!)

Our friend the gator

View from the "small fishing spot"

I think this is Mexican Primerosewillow

After a short while, Greg texted me (I was right behind him but he thought I was further away) that he was moving to the other spot on the other side of the pond.  I trailed behind him as I was taking more photos, and when he got to the access road, he spotted a deer standing there!  He texted me to alert me and tried taking a picture with his phone but it's pretty blurry.  The deer was gone by the time I got there.  Poop.

Doe (a deer, a female deer!)
He went on to the other fishing spot (where he had caught the fish yesterday), and I collected trash in the parking lot area and alongside the small access trail, while also stopping a lot to take pictures.  I also collected trash around the other fishing spot area and wandered in the forest there to take more pictures.
Picking up trash. I left with most of the large trash bag full!

I wondered what bird had lost this feather...

Same unknown kind of flower as yesterday but this one had a seed pod attached to it.

Fruit of the Sweetgum

Yellow Meadow Beauty? (not sure)

I wonder if this is Sky-blue Lupine?

Could be Yellow Vigna...

A mushroom of some kind...

Darn, that water hyacinth IS invasive!  Here is started growing on land and then expanded into the pond.

I'm not sure what this is. Will come back to update if I ever find out!

Pipewort.  They grow in large sundial shape, almost parallel to the ground with many stems radiating from the center of the plant. From the top, they look like 1950s wall decorations!  I tried taking a picture but it doesn't come out because they get lost in the other vegetation.

This trumpet vine blossom feel to the bottom of a pine tree and looks like it's growing right off the ground!

When I got back to the pond, I immediately noticed that Greg was struggling with a fish!  Woohoo! It was a large one indeed and he reeled in an 18-inch, 2.5-lb large mouth bass!  We were so excited, lol. I rushed back to the truck to get the cooler that I had brought along while he took care of the fish.  We spent more time at the pond after that but he didn't get another one, and the reel soon became all tangled so we decided to go home. I think it was about 9:45 a.m. when we left, and we were happy to realize that we still had the whole day ahead of us!

There was some weed stuck to it.

Mexican Primerosewillow (?)

Water hyacinth

Floating Bladderwort?

My expert in forestry daughter tells me this is probably from a longleaf pine tree

And this might be from a sand pine. I'm told I should have looked at the needles because that's really how you distinguish between all the different pines.

Sand blackberries

I don't know what those are but they reminded me of coriander!

Found this snake skeleton in the forest, the ribs were pretty long, which means the snake was kind of chunky... then suddenly I thought that maybe I shouldn't be standing there in my sneakers...

A flock of... egrets, probably?

So relaxing... although today was noticeably muggier than yesterday.

I spotted a trumpet vine on a tree on the other side of the pond.

Lonely Common Moorhen.

Boat-tailed grackle

Same bird, he followed me and came to perch in a pine very close to me... and was staring!

Possibly Saltmarsh Fleabane (also known as Camphor Weed)?

Fine-Leaved White-Top Sedge

Don't know what this is, but I thought it looked interesting...

On the way home, I asked him to take a small road that I had noticed ran parallel to SR 50, CR 719. It ended up taking us all the way to the top of the General Van Fleet trail and we enjoyed the drive on this tiny countryside road, bordered by trees on both sides.  I thought it was much nicer than very busy SR 50, even though we were just a few feet away.


I took a few pictures of my garden as I watered it, mid-day.


Another jalapeƱo plant

Serrano pepppers

Baby serrano pepper plants that grew from the peppers I had left there to decompose

I have 4 such Ichiban eggplants growing right now. I'm never really sure of when I should harvest them!

Supersweet 100 tomatoes ripening (plant from last Fall)

Sigh, I need to harvest the lettuce before it all starts bolting. Oh,too late, one of them is already bolting!

I don't know what happened to some those Supersweet 100 tomato plants: the tomatoes are double the size of the others!

First okra flower of the season

The bush bean plants in the self-watering bins are looking very healthy

The tomato plants in the bins behind the bush beans are not doing well. They have enough water but the heat is killing them.   don't even know if the tomatoes will have time to ripen before the plants completely die.  I don't have an awning for them or anything... and the bins are way too heavy to be moved.

You can't really tell but my peanut plants are looking awesome under my screened area!

My pineapple empire! They appear bigger than they actually are, though.

More tomato plants, although these aren't in self-watering bins. They're just planted in pots that are placed in bins to try to retain more of the sprinkler water or rain water for their roots.  The plants also don't look too healthy right now.  Darn heat!

This is my okra patch.  I'm disappointed that not all the seeds germinated.

This is one of my mint pots.  The mint was just about cooked!  I watered it thoroughly. I hope it comes back!

The verbena is doing splendidly, though. This is their 3rd summer... they've bloomed continuously since we got them in April 2014!

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

This afternoon my daughter and I went back to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  As she had offered, she drove my SUV so I could concentrate on taking pictures.  We actually took 2 hours to drive it, as we stopped very often. On several occasions we stopped to let the cars that were trailing us pass us.  We saw a lot of the same sights as last week, although this week I was pretty unlucky in photographing the gators because they would all go underwater as soon as we approached in the car.

We saw tons of ospreys and every single one of them was dining on a large fish that they had caught!

I think that the most excitement that we had was when we spotted a heron catch a HUGE black snake and dine on it. Unfortunately, it was partly hidden by some grass and we had a couple of cars right on our bumper as we tried to take pictures and film it (at that point there wasn't a proper area to stop so we were blocking the roadway).  Arrgh.  That snake was as thick as my arm, no joking.  And the bird gulped it down!

Warning: I didn't post all the pictures that I took but I still couldn't pick between several heron pictures, anhinga pictures, etc... so there will be a lot of repeats, but they're all of different birds.

Male anhinga

Great Blue Heron

Red-winged Blackbird

Great Blue Heron

Common Moorhen

Cattle Egret



Common moorhen family!

Look at the babies up close... they are so fuzzy!

A flock of... immature Little Blue Herons?  (or great white egrets, not sure, they were far away!)

I think this is a molting juvenile Little Blue Heron

Glossy Ibis with its baby

Great Egret

Nothing like a "Narrow Bridge" sign over gator-infested waters to make you really nervous as you approach it in a very large SUV piloted by your 17-year-old daughter, who keeps on squealing in fear every time a bug flies in through the open windows (which is constantly).... But yeah, we made it!  My daughter is a good driver :)

Female anhinga. I like their two-tone coloring!

This Great Blue Heron thought he was the toll taker or something...

Osprey enjoying a fish dinner atop a power pole

Yes, I know, another Great Blue Heron!

Aaaaand another osprey enjoying a fish dinner atop a power pole!

I think those might be American Coot juveniles


Hmmm, now what could this be?!

Baby Common Moorhen

Moon Flowers

Yet another osprey eating its fish atop a power pole!

OK so this was the most interesting sight ever and we couldn't see too well AND we had cars really sticking to our bumper and that were getting very impatient with us... see the black thing?  This is a very large, very thick black snake that the heron had just pulled out of the water.

Aargh, you can't really tell but here?  he's in the process of swallowing it whole!  It might have been a Cottonmouth. (poisonous and its bite can be fatal).
Here is the movie but 2 warnings: you really can't see much because of the branches in the way and also I use a profanity.

One of the canals

I couldn't decide if those were the alligator's nostrils or its eyes (and he's sleeping)... but I just realized that I'm looking at the alligator's head from behind!  So those are his eyes but  the back of them, and the part at the top is its snout.

White ibis (juvenile)
Double-Created Cormorants (immature)

Oooh, a Great Blue Heron AND an Anhinga in the same picture!

You know what this post needs more of?  Great Blue Herons.

I don't know what this bird is. It's driving me nuts.

Glossy Ibis

American Coot

Rainstorm on the horizon

Black-necked Stilt

and its baby

Water Lettuce

This is hard to see but my daughter had spotted a tiny thing sticking out of the water and moving slowly and she thought it was an alligator's nostril. I was guessing a turtle, until it approached some grass and I decided that it was a snake.  We couldn't see if come out of the water (I was hoping it would climb up that dead tree) but I took a picture at random, thinking that I would look at it on the laptop back home to see if I could see the snake.  Well, I can!  This is an enlarged screenshot of the actual original picture so the quality if very bad because the snake was actually quite far away from us.  Its head is near the tree limb. It looks like a Brown Water Snake. My Audubon guide states "Caution, bites readily".  All ready, then.

If you liked my pictures (thank you), you'll LOVE this lady's pictures of Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (the name of the blog is CatAndTurtle). I just found her blog while looking for the name of a bird that I had seen at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and she so happened to have been there last month. Her pictures are pretty amazing... of course her camera might just be wayyyyyy fancier than mine.  I really have camera envy now :)


  1. LOVE all your nature and wildlife photos and the video! Thank you for sharing them with us! That was very nice of you to pick up all the trash near the fishing pond!

    Your garden is coming along very nicely, too, for the most part, even with the heat. Hope your mint plant recovers!

    1. Thanks, Bless, I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures! And yes, I'm glad I brought the trash bag along, there's nothing more irritating than finding a beautiful spot and then trash all over the place. Honestly, I partly blame the forest service because if you are going to provide picnic tables, there should be trash cans or signs reminding people to take their trash with them. But there'll always been idiots who think nothing of leaving trash all over the place, and fishermen should know better. Grrrr.

  2. Wow, Nathalie -- you really took some great photos. I am always amazed by the variety of Florida wildlife, particularly birds. We really need to drive a little further south and take advantage of the birding routes.

    I do the same thing re: picking up litter. We don't always head right back to the same place, so I've been trying to keep a small grocery bag in the car for these occasions. Even on the tidiest trails I will usually find a candy bar wrapper or beer can or something. Litter drives me bonkers. Especially seeing people throw things from their car. Instant rage!!

    That snake skeleton you found is HUGE. I bet it's from a snake someone dumped and wasn't a Florida native. I don't think we have many native snakes that get that big, do you? Maybe the black rat snake.

    1. I used to think that Florida was really undeserving of its name because I didn't feel that there actually were many flowers in Florida at all, save for the ones people grow in their yard. But since I've started paying more attention to nature, I've discovered so many flowers! They might not be the showy tropical flowers that the name "Florida" might seem to imply (well, at least to me) but every time I get my camera out, I seem to capture some new flower that I have never noticed before! I was telling my daughter that story yesterday and she readily agreed with the "there aren't many flowers in Florida after all" bit but when I started pointing out flowers to her, she was amazed. She's much more interested in nature as a result of both our Lake Apopka Wildlife Drives, and that makes me happy :)

      Good for you to pick things up regularly, even candy wrappers! Back when I walked to the library I would carry a plastic bag but that was to bring back any Coke bottles that I found, LOL. There is a lot of trash along the road (SR 50) so I told myself that one day I'd bring a large trashbag and gloves, but I never did it (well, I stopped walking to the library, for one!). Even yesterday at the Wildlife Drive, we saw a child's plastic ball in the water. Last week we had seen a car tire (and I kept on thinking that maybe someone had driven in the canal because how would a tire end up in there?!).

      The skeleton was only about 20 yards or so from the pond so I'm thinking it would have been a large water snake (the one that the heron was gulping down yesterday was HUGE. Seriously, it was as thick of my arm and I have fat arms!). Rattlesnakes get pretty large too but I don't see a rattle. Or a skull for that matter. Snakes do have skulls, right? Hopefully we don't have anacondas or pythons this "far" North but that skeleton would be for a baby anaconda or python, then.

      I'm sure there are tons of birding places to visit near you. This person's blog lists several birding hot spots in your area:

  3. You're right about the flowers -- they aren't necessarily the showy blooms you expect from the name, although they do kind of pop out among all the green, so there is that. Who knows what those early explorers were thinking of 500 years ago. ;)

    I didn't think about water snakes, just basing the size off of our pythons, which admittedly are one of the smallest of their kind. Ugh. I have great respect for snakes and appreciate what they do in the world, but I think I would have been a little freaked out to encounter whatever inhabited that skeleton before it died!!

    Thanks for the link! Maybe we'll go out one of these weekends and I'll have pictures to share.

  4. Doe (a deer, a female deer!)..(snort)

    What a wonderful day with two (count them) two expeditions. It's like you're on vacation. Beautiful photos, again; and it is amazing that you can go to these same places and find different things to photograph.

    1. I'm just as amazed as you are... goes to show you how much you miss if you don't pay close attention, eh? I first realized that when I was looking at my "grass" in my backyard and noticed how colorful all the little weeds were. Basically our whole backyard is a carpet of chickweed and when you look closely there are tons of tiny white star-shaped flowers. I had never noticed that before. It's quite pretty, even though they are invasive weeds!

      I've been really enjoying my expeditions and love every single blue heron that I got to see, which was a lot.

      Do you ever go on walks around where you live?

  5. No. That is the pity of it. I don't go for walks, unless my young grandchildren are visiting. Then we are taking nature walks and purposely looking for nature. I find that I have to schedule walks into my "to-do" list.... yet another demand on my time.

    1. Kind of like me with scrapbooking :)


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