Category Archives: Sarasota Places and Parks

Strolling Marina Jack

Luke may have been wearing the leash, but he was the one calling the shots.  As we were leaving Marina Jack, he walked Ella straight to the scent of burgers at O’Leary’s…twice.  He hit up both entrances. While strolling, we saw birds of two varieties.  Water birds:I think the bird above is a willet, and I know the bird below is a cormorant.And now for the second variety of bird: snow birds setting up camp for tonight’s Christmas Boat Parade of Lights.

Celery Fields at Sunset

Celery Fields has to be one of my new favorite spots.  I’ve visited in both the morning and afternoon, so it was time to check out the sunset.  No disappointments here, although the water was shockingly low since my last visit a month ago.

Still, there’s enough for the birds.

Above is a Limpkin wading; its nickname is the crying bird.  Being a novice birder, that’s the only way I’m absolutely positive this was a Limpkin.  It wouldn’t stop squawking, and the squawks were loud.

Below is a flock of Sandhill Cranes, which a park regular directed us too.  We had been to that spot earlier and didn’t see any, but he said to go back because they fly in about the same time each night.   It was right around sunset at 5:30; they were wading in the first pond along the trail off Palmer Avenue.

If you don’t see any birds in the water, just look up to the sky and the area’s ample power lines.  I think the first photo is a flock of glossy ibis…if anyone can tell me otherwise, please do.

And one more shot of sunset…

Seeing Pink at Celery Fields

From a pink pumpkin for Halloween to a flock of pink birds at Celery Fields,  the color that symbolizes happiness and is sometimes used to soothe prisoners has been a welcome theme this week.  This gorgeous pink bird was flying over our heads as we got out of the car at Celery Fields Friday morning.  The inexperienced birders my friend and I are, we looked at each other slightly confused and said, “Flamingo?”

The experienced birders are shuddering right now because it is not a flamingo; it’s a Roseate spoonbill.  I’ve seen them once before at Emerson Point Preserve, but it was one time and I couldn’t get nearly so close.  Celery Fields, which actually did produce celery from 1926 through 1995, is a bird’s haven and thus a birder’s mecca. Sarasota County is partnering with the Audubon Society to build a nature center to attract birdwatching tourists, and I was lucky enough to get the assignment.  Otherwise, I would have never known what a birding hot spot it is.

But I’m a part-time birder at best; true birders, they know about Celery Fields.  The first person we came across on the trail was quite a distance from us when he first appeared.  He was toting a bulky backpack of some sort, and we thought maybe he was homeless just leaving the woods.  It was early enough that the timing would have been right, but as he got closer, I could make out galoshes, a fold-up chair and a huge camera.  He immediately pointed us in the direction of spoonbills, storks, egrets and herons.

The tall bird that looks like a vulture from the neck up is a wood stork.  It’s an endangered species in the United States only found in the southeast—Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.

A Roseate Spoonbill surrounded by Great White Egrets…

And a male Redwinged Blackbird perched on the fence as we walked back to the car.

Great morning!  I’ll be headed back again, next time with my galoshes.

Stalling at Selby Gardens

Today’s assignment led me to Selby Gardens…not a bad week.  I couldn’t help but take the long way out to snap a few extra photos.

More photos on Spotted.

There goes the letterbox…

My Shave Avenue letterbox is missing.  But unlike several other letterboxes that have disappeared leaving me with questions of, Was it an animal? Park staff? An unscrupulous letterboxer collecting hand-carved stamps?, there’s no mystery left to solve in this case.  It rode away with the train it was planted on.  While sad for my fellow letterboxers, I’m happy for the Alta Vista neighborhood residents who have been trying for a year and a half to get the old boxcars removed.

Staying Cool

It’s been almost a week since I last blogged, and all I can say is, it’s summer.  To the rest of the country, summer is a good thing.  To Floridians, it’s damn hot!  But I did find a few ways to cool off this week—riding my bike early in the morning, walking Luke late at night, and a rainy-day pool party at my brothers’ new apartment.  Last night, it was listening to reggae with friends at O’Leary’s.       And it wasn’t just the people enjoying the cool respite of the evening.  We saw this yellow crowned night heron upon parking the car.And we followed this black Labrador from the entrance of Bayfront Park into O’Leary’s.  The owner was a few paces behind, and the Lab made sure of it, stopping to look back a tad impatiently every few steps.  John and I were both clearly impressed by the dog’s knowledge of the park, so his owner says to us with a grin, “If I could only get him to order a beer for me.”  Now, that’s a dog trick.

Fourth of July Fireworks at Bayfront Park

Fourth of July in Sarasota is one of those times when having a car is over-rated, so John and I left the new car in the driveway and rode our bikes over to Bayfront Park.  The city closes the bayfront section of U.S. 41 from Orange Avenue all the way around to Gulfstream Avenue for the fireworks, so even with the huge crowd, it’s easy to find a spot to stop and watch.  We left our house at ten to nine and didn’t miss so much as a bottle rocket.  We stopped twice on 41 to ooh and aah and watched the finale from inside the park.  It was so loud I could feel the pounding in my chest—impressive display!

Happy Fourth of July!

The Bees are Back in Town

The sun finally decided to shine again, and it wasn’t just Luke scratching at the door to get outside.  Debby has been a downer for days, so it felt good to take a nice, long walk today. Phillippi Estate Park was the easy choice because today was the last farmer’s market of the season…except last week was.  Debby Downer strikes again.My disappointment was quickly assuaged at the next sign.The bees are back!  When the hive disappeared last year, I thought it might have been removed, but apparently not because the bees are back buzzing and swarming the same tree along the hammock trail.  The hive is high enough to provide swatting- and fear-free viewing.  Walk quietly and listen for the buzzing, but you can’t miss the tree.  It’s marked with yellow caution tape.

Breakfast at Rye Preserve

I planned breakfast with Cooper at Lake Manatee State Park but am thrilled to have ended up at Rye Preserve instead.  As far as nature walks go in Florida, this is a good one and a new one to us.  The 125 acres located in Manatee County off of State Road 64 offers five walking trails, the remnants of a post Civil War era settlement, and people, dogs and horses are all welcomed visitors.  Coming off a sun-blazed trail, it was a treat to take off our shoes and stomp through the cool water of the creek.  On our way back to the car, Cooper caught the tail of a skink.  The rest of it got away. That detachable tail—what a defense mechanism!  It looked like a baby snake wriggling through the weeds.  The spasms lasted so long that we finally got bored and walked away.

I’ve seen a lizard lose its tail more than once…when your method of catching them is to stand on a chair tossing baskets and hats at them as if it was a carnival ring toss game, a tail is bound to come loose. But the lizard tails have nothing on skinks!  Really hoping not to see any more of those slimy skinks but looking forward to my next trip to Rye Preserve.Not our skink tail…YouTube’s:

Five Places to Celebrate National Garden Week

Stop and smell the roses, literally, it’s National Garden Week.  Plant some seeds, visit a local garden, or simply appreciate the flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables around you.  If you’re local to the Sarasota/Manatee area, here are a few places to visit this week:

The Manatee River Garden Club

The club is hosting an open house on Tuesday.  At 10 a.m., Mayor Wayne Poston will proclaim the week National Garden Week, and members will be offering tours of the grounds including a beach-themed garden.  At 1 p.m., there is a workshop on floral design.  It costs $20, but you get to bring home your work.

Mable Ringling’s Rose Garden

Bring a picnic and stop to smell over 1,200 roses.  Admission to the art museum is free on Mondays, but the grounds are always free.  Take five minutes or five hours to wander under the banyan trees and stare out at Sarasota Bay.Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

It’s well worth the $17 admission.  I’ve visited and blogged about the gardens on more than one occasion, but here’s something about Selby I didn’t know until today: they offer yoga classes on Monday mornings.  At $55 for members and $75 for non-members, it’s a lot pricier than on Siesta Key Beach where yoga is free four mornings a week, but it sounds positively dreamy to inhale floral scents on the upswing of a sun salute.

The Garden Room at Shoogie Boogies

Barring a rainy day, this is the cafe for all occasions.  Stare at your boyfriend under the stars, have lunch with your best friend or bring your little girl for a tea party.  Shoogie Boogies covers the gamut, and it truly is a garden room.  Outside, succulents line the entry wall; flowers bloom in an old-fashioned claw tub; and the brick patio is uneven due to the roots of a 20-30 year-old tree that shades the whole far end of the seating area.The Sarasota Garden Club

In my experience, you can stop by any day of the week, but Fridays are encouraged.  Members are on hand until noon to answer questions in the butterfly garden, identify mystery clippings and offer gardening advice.  The garden club is located by G.Wiz and the Van Wezel where the recreational trail runs along the bay.  It’s one of my favorite quiet spots to walk Luke.  I had walked through the butterfly garden outside the club several times, but the flaming red and orange tree flowering next to their building drew me inside.  The volunteer was so nice that not only did she identify the tree as a Royal Poinciana, she gave me a tour right there on the spot.  They have a pretty elaborate indoor garden with a bridge and water features.  People get married there…a bride could only look more beautiful standing in front of this tree.