Very Bright Cat Tails

Couldn’t resist using this for Becky’s Bright Squares when I ran across it while perusing old files for spring photos. The back lighting of the seeds breaking free from cat tails really brightens things up.

A Bright Little Friend

Gray Catbird (Dumetella Carolinensis)

We had strolled around the Botanical Garden, walking out to the birding tower where wading birds were having breakfast in the shallow waters of the natural landscape. It was a good morning, and Jim had been very good-natured as I had taken lots of photos. Exercising this patience must have built up quite a hunger because he stated he was heading for the cafe for his coffee, scone and newspaper. More precisely, a chocolate chip scone. It has been eaten with no photographic evidence so you will just have to image picking up a slightly warm scone and biting into a tender biscuit with lots and lots of slightly soft rich dark chocolate. I’ll give you a minute to savor this moment.

We were savoring every bite, every crumb that we could retrieve from our shirt fronts, when we were joined by this little fellow who took a seat just to my left. It was a new bird to me but he seemed to know us or didn’t care who we were – he just wanted to let us know what he was expecting as our guest. Someone must have used the table before us because he very quickly swooped in, grabbed a crumb and flew away. But he returned and continued to communicate to us.

Jim is a very kind-hearted person and also loves feeding birds. Even though I reminded him that we aren’t suppose to feed wildlife in the garden, he put out an ever so tiny crumb of his half of the scone. This time the bird hopped onto the table, took a nibble and sat and looked at us. Could he be thinking that here were a couple of real suckers?

My Smithsonian Birds of Florida book says that this bird, “Often cocks tail upward and flicks from side to side.” Could we speculate what this behavior was communicating in this circumstance? In any case I’m thinking he is a “bright” little bird.

Linked to Becky’s Bright/Square challenge of the month.

A Tree Full of Surprises

Jim and I were strolling along the service path by the Deep Lake on a Tuesday early morning visit to the Naples Botanical Garden. I was watching for the sun and clouds to do their dance so an interesting illumination would fall on the palms across the lake or the grasses along the edge on our side.

Then I remembered to look up, toward the other side of the path where the more formal gardens are. Looking up means looking up into trees, but also looking up the side of a hill. Southern Florida is flat, so flat that the only hills are the Interstate overpasses – and a couple of hills in the Botanical Garden. They aren’t natural hills, however. A master plan for the Naples Botanical Garden was drawn up by a very talented team and construction on the first phase of the 170 acres future garden began in 2008 with the digging of Deep Lake and Lake Tupke. This resulted in 250,000 yards of fill for the sculpting of the site creating hills for water falls and raising the “formal” part out of the swampy Everglades landscape. That seems like a whole lot of fill, and I know that a couple of places are higher but not high enough to get my heart pumping as I walk to the highest elevations.

But that was a little (up-hill) digression. When I looked away from the lake I saw these orchids perfectly spotlighted by the morning sun. They are in a fairly large tree.

The tree is a Bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.) and obviously older than the garden, growing quite tall and sprawling along the incline of the hill that forms the Florida Garden. Trees in Florida are usually home to lots of plants – If you look closely you will see Resurrection Fern (looking quite dead) by the orchid and there is Spanish Moss hanging. I recently learned that Spanish Moss isn’t actually a moss, but is a bromeliad with tiny, yellow-green flowers in summer.

We were headed for the Florida Garden and when we reached the walk up onto the hill, I saw more of the orchids and realized that this was the end of Bottlebrush tree – you can see the red bloom. Probably the orchids were propagated in the orchid nursery and attached to the tree because I read that pollination of orchids in the wild is tricky if they aren’t native. We went about half way up the hill (not a high hill by hilly standards, maybe only considered a hill in really flat environments) and when I looked over at the tree I saw orchids planted all along a long horizontal trunk.

Even more surprising is that the trunk is supported by a very large rock. This is a landscape that doesn’t have an abundance of large rocks for landscapes so I would guess that this one was trucked in for this purpose. One of the missions of the Garden is conservation and preservation. I feel fortunate that this tree is growing and being preserved. Many of the old trees were lost in 2017 when Hurricane Erma hit Naples with wind gusts of up to 140 mph.

We are starting to think about going back to Michigan for the summer. This year I’m especially excited about going back because I will get to see and hug kids and grandkids for the first time in over a year. And I am really looking forward to having vaccinated friends over for supper and maybe cards and game playing. As I am thinking about these things, I am also thinking about all the things we will want to do a few more times before leaving Florida. I probably have three more visits to the Botanical Garden so I better make the most of my visit tomorrow morning.

Thanks for joining me.

Up Close from Florida

We drove to Florida last week-end, staying out one night and eating all our meals from our stash of food in our car. I was nervous about the drive but felt safe except when we had to purchase gasoline. We are taking the same safety precautions we took while in Michigan – except we can go outdoors and see friends from a distance.

Tuesday morning I was off to the Naples Botanical Garden – with a reservation for 8:00 am member early entry for me and my son & daughter-in-law. The humidity was really high with some light fog so there were beads of water along the edges of the flowers, along spider webs and large drops of water falling off trees. There were only a few members walking their dogs so my tripod didn’t get in anyone’s way as I focused on some of the flowers. This camellia caught my eye early in my walk, and I was excited to see a lot of buds so there will be more flowers on future visits.

I think I use up-close photography more often to show the beauty and personality of plants and critters than showcasing the minute details. But both are important to me and I am beginning to think about when it works better to take a few steps back for a more inclusive image.

I’m not a big bug lover (neither big on liking them nor liking big bugs) but close-ups sometimes gives me a greater appreciation for their complexity. I’m not sure the little critter below is a moth staying out late (9 in the morning) or a butterfly that looks a lot like a moth. Maybe one of you will educated me.

This last close-up is of rice, taken a year ago. The Botanical Garden grows rice in small paddies in the Asian Garden but also in big, round planters on the boardwalk through the lily garden. I have been trying for several years to capture their beauty and personality and this is the best so far. I will try some more this year. It is so nice to have such a photogenic place to go week after week, year after year. It definitely keeps my spirits up!

I am connecting this post with Becky’s “square-up” month that is just about to end. Kind of like a “last call-up.”

Patterns in Nature

When I saw that Cee was calling for photos showing “Patterns in Nature,” I was pulled in. My last visit to the Naples Botanical Garden was last March and some of my photos were focused on patterns. I was waiting for this opportunity to have some fun using photos from my last trips to the garden and from older files.