January 24, 2011
Yesterday Janet and I went to another park we’d never visited: Emerson Point Preserve, on Snead Island in Palmetto, about 30 minutes northeast of Sarasota. You probably know that the bird in the first photograph is an egret, and you may know that the third photograph is of the leaves of the sabal palmetto—also called the cabbage palm—which is native and abundant in this area. The tree in the second photograph is also native here but not as frequently seen. It is a gumbo limbo, and this one is growing in an ancient Indian mound, a shell midden that is the largest ancient Indian mound in the Tampa Bay area. The thin reddish-orange bark peels back from the trunk and branches, and when the sun shines through the peeling bark, the tree almost looks as if it is on fire.
I mention the shell mound for a reason. Archeologists have found that many Indian shell mounds have gumbo limbo trees in or near them, and they offer two theories to explain the association. One is that the trees favor the soil there, which is rich in calcium from the shells. The other is that ancient Amerindians intentionally planted gumbo limbo trees near the mounds as a crop tree. These ancient Indians, who lived around this mound in thatched huts between 800 and 1500 C.E. erected their temple on top of the mound. The gumbo limbo sap produces a kind of resin called copal, and the Indians may have burned copal as incense in their religious ceremonies. (Copal might be considered a young form of amber; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copal.)
January 17, 2011
Yesterday Janet and I went someplace new, new to us and relatively new as a park. Robinson Preserve, in Bradenton about 30 minutes northeast of Sarasota, is a series of salt marshes being restored. The park borders the gulf and has estuaries and ponds within it. Two of the small ponds are shown in the first photograph. We saw many different kinds of birds, one of which I’d never seen before. Hunting on the web, I discovered that it (see the second photograph) is a green-backed heron (Butorides virescens). It’s the smallest heron I’ve ever seen, not much more than a foot from tip of tail to end of beak. I think that what looks like flowers in the third photograph are really burst-open seed pods.
January 2, 2011
It’s Sunday, so it rained. I think it’s rained four Sundays in a row. But this time we only had sprinkles after Janet and I arrived at the Little Manatee River State Park. There were even a few moments of out-and-out sun. The first photograph shows the sky reflected off the surface of the water (the Little Manatee River) and the river bottom where trees blocked out the sun and cast shadows on the water. The second one shows a dead fern frond during a brief episode of sunshine. The third image appealed to me because—I apologize to those of you who know what real Japanese characters look like—the trees and shadows looked like Japanese calligraphy to me.