Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guavaween 2008 in Ybor City

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We had a blast at the Guavaween celebration in Ybor City.

There were several sound stages.

Beads were thrown from parade floats and balconies. I love the wrought iron balconies. This is in the historic district of Ybor City in Tampa, Florida.

There were some amazing costumes. I can't figure out how this guy was able fit in the cart. Then he had to drive it backwards.

Our friend had a creative spider costume.

A ghoul on stilts walks through the crowd passing an elaborate wrought iron gate.

See more photos from Guavaween 2008

The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City

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We went to the original Columbia Restaurant for lunch. It was founded in 1905 in the historic district of Ybor City in Tampa, Florida. It is the oldest restaurant in Florida.

The menu features Spanish and Cuban cuisine. Their signature dish is paella. It was awesome!

There are several dining rooms with unique decor.

The exterior of the building is surrounded by an architectural arcade with twisted pillars.

The exterior walls are covered with painted tiles.

I highly recommend a visit if you are in Tampa.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg

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It was an hour before sunset when we got to Weedon Island Preserve. It is supposed to be a great place for bird watching. I thought we might be able to see birds coming in to roost for the evening. Some of the features in the preserve are boardwalks through mangrove marshes, canoe trails, hiking trails, and a large observation tower. We parked by the Center, and wandered around looking for a map of the trails. We found a map and a visitor guide. There were several trail heads, but it was a guess as to where any of them led. After studying the map we saw that the walking trails were all less than a mile long, and we would probably be able to get back to the car by sunset no matter which direction we roamed. So, we set out to find the observation tower to look the place over.

We walked along what seemed like endless boardwalks. The place was very quiet and I started to get the creeps. It's almost Halloween and the boardwalks seemed like a good setting for an episode of "The Twilight Zone." I didn't want to get lost in the dark along neverending boardwalks. I felt relieved to see other people and started asking passers by where the tower was. No one seemed to know and the usual response was "I think it's somewhere over there." We continued on and found some observation platforms off the main path.

Here's a photo of what we saw at one of the observation platforms. There was a large open area of water. White herons were wading through shallow water. A flock of big white birds flew into the mangrove marsh. We watched fish in the water and enjoyed the quiet setting.

Back on the boardwalk we saw creepy little things scurrying around. I brust out, "Eeeioo, what are those things?" They were crabs. It was hard to get a photo, because they were quick about getting away from people with cameras. We stopped, listened, and moved very slowly to get this photo. We continued to walk quietly and listen. That's when we started to see other wildlife in the tangled mangrove roots. There were birds, a racoon, a rabbit, and gaudy spiders that looked like they were decked out for Halloween.

This spider looks like it's wearing a tiki mask. Alfonze put his camera in macro mode and got so close to the spider that I was afraid it would jump out and bite him. The spider never moved at all.

A picnic area at the end of the Bay Boardwalk trail.

Open flatwoods area. I was surprised to learn that cabbage palms are more closely related to grass than trees. This open area is full of cabbage palm fronds growing low on the ground.

We never did find the observation tower, because the boardwalk to the tower is closed for repairs. Once it ceased to be the object of our search we were able to discover the beauty of the landscape and experience seeing wildlife up close.

More photos of our visit to Weeden Island Preserve.


Directions from Tampa
Drive across the Gandy Bridge and turn left at San Martin Blvd. Keep a close eye out for it as soon as you're on the St. Petersburg side of the bridge. We missed it and had to turn around.

Preserve Hours: Daily, 7am - Sunset
Center Hours: Wednesday - Sunday 10am-4pm (closed Monday, Tuesday, and holidays)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Birds at Fort DeSoto Park in October

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We went to the beach at Fort Desoto Park late in the afternoon. There weren't many people, but there were a lot of birds. I like the natural setting here. There's always something new to discover.

The big birds with the orange and black beaks were an unusual sight. They're called black skimmers. Florida is their winter habitat. The smaller birds with the black crest on their heads are sandwich terns. They develop lighter feathers on their heads in the winter. They look funny, as if they're balding.

Here are some black skimmers doing their thing - skimming across the water. It was interesting watching them in flight. I approached the flock slowly to get a closer look at the birds without startling them into flying away. If I got too close to one of the black skimmers it would open up its wings and glide sideways while keeping an eye on me.

It was a windy day and sand was drifting around. This sand dollar is on sand that looks like fluffy popcorn. The fluffy areas are dry windblown sand stuck to wet sand near the shore.

Rays of light and long shadows just before sunset. I set out to go for a walk.

Pelican and sea gull silhouettes. The pelican is about to dive into the water.

More photos of Fort DeSoto Park in October.