Saturday, December 21, 2013

Largo Central Nature Preserve, Largo's Best Kept Secret

Have time for a a quick walk between games on a Sunday afternoon around a storm retention pond?  The same place where they treat your storm water with alum? Sounds yucky, I know, but this nature hideaway is a photographer and nature lover's dream. And there is almost nobody at the park when we have been there.

To get there: off East Bay Drive, turn south onto a small drive on Highland.  Their is a more visible park sign at the entrance. Continue driving the small road until you find a parking lot with a picnic shelter and some covered public information kiosks. Along the way you might find bicyclists on an adjacent path. There are also kayakers and fishermen.

Every time I have been at Largo Central, I have seen a limpkin, a yellow crowned night heron, an ibis, an egret, a cormorant, and that is just around the retention pond. What is the attraction? One side of the boardwalk has the central body of water where birds can find aquatic life for food,  The other side has trees and shrubs that are perfect nesting and resting places. Usually the night heron is harder to spot as he is in the bushes.
Double-Crested Cormorant on the boardwalk

Yellow Crested Night Heron almost hidden

Ask any golfer at East Bay Golf Course if they have ever seen the huge alligator, and the great blue herons, roseate spooonbills, mallards, limpkins,and great white egrets along the canal that borders East Bay GC to the east and Largo Central to the west? Spotting occasional wildlife makes the golfing experience memorable!


But if you're not a golfer, turn left when exiting the pond area and follow the canal beside the golf course. Continue along the south side of the park. Both areas are home to the alligators, which I have not seen, and the roseate spoonbills, and great blue herons.

Great Blue Heron in the bushes

Pair of Mallards

Little Blue Heron hunting for food along the shore
 There is an observation deck at the SE corner of the park, where you can watch trees full of woodpeckers of different varieties or the great white egret on the canal beside some private homes. The egret should have a nice breeding plumage in the winter.

Great White Egret in breeding plumage

There are also birds around Long Bayou which is on the western edge of the park. Near there we saw some fishermen looking to catch some bass.

The forested interior of the park has a Pileated Woodpecker and a wild peacock roaming the area. You will not miss the hour or more that you spend at this park and your life will be so enriched.  

resident peacock

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Weedon Island for Fishing, Kayaking or Canoeing, and Nature

We brought the water, sunscreen, and bug spray, but we only needed the water. December does not seem to be too buggy except for the boy scout trails along the lake to the north in the early morning or late evening.There is water available at a fountain at the Cultural and Natural History Center, but they only had soft drinks in the vending machines, the day we were there.

The fishing on Weeden Island must be great.  We spent less than an hour talking to the fisherman at the pier and one young man caught 2 fish in that time. There was a manatee swimming around.

Adis Begic and Yellow Skipjack
Adis Begic & Sheepshead

Fiddler Crabs in a Bait Bucket 
I finally got a good picture of  the black crabs in a forest of mangroves near the pier. I  also found them on the roots of the mangrove trees near the observation area, but they were harder to spot as the area was dark. As I understand it, there are three types of crabs on Weedon Island. The black crabs are in the trees, the fiddler crabs on on the land, and the blue crabs are in the water.
Black Crabs by the Pier

There is a short boardwalk from the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Historical Center to the 45 ft observation Tower that takes you around thickly bunched mangroves in a swamp. There are three different types of mangroves, red, white and black, planted in and around the trenches and resulting mounds that were dug years ago to help eradicate mosquitoes. 

We saw an osprey on an old telephone pole near the tower. He was perched  there a long time observing the valley below him.

Osprey near the Observation Tower

The Observation Tower is 45 ft or three stories high, so high you can feel the rush of wind at the top. From there you have a good view of the pier, the multicolored Duke Energy towers, the boardwalk where you came from, and some of the kayaks and canoes in the water.

Weedon Island Boardwalk and Observation Tower
Duke Energy Towers
The canoe and kayak launch is beside the pier. As there is very little parking  there, most groups drop  off their passengers and boats at  the pier and park at the overflow lot at the Cultural and Natural History Center. Some kayakers raved to us about the trip through the mangrove tunnels.

Kayaks by the Weedon Island pier

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Trees & Traditions, Christmas at Heritage Village

Antique Toys on display at the Visitor's Center

On December 7, 2013 from 10:00 - 2:00, Heritage Village in Largo, Florida will celebrate Christmas with lectures, music, crafts, vendors, and a visit from Santa. A $2 donation is suggested. Most of the houses are open and decorated for Christmas.Some of the special activities include:

Safety Harbor Church

Safety Harbor Church decorated for Christmas
11:00-12:00 Hands of Praise Choir from Anona Church will sing (and sign) Christmas carols.

12:00-1:00   Bell Choir from The Lutheran Church

2:00-3:00     Cory Adams presents "The History of Christmas Ornaments from the 1850's to the 1950's,". Vintage ornaments will also be for sale.

Plant Sumner House

Santa will be greeting children and will read aloud some letters sent to him. Children's games will be played outside of the building.

Williams Park Bandstand

2:00-3:00   The Salvation Army Band will be playing Christmas music.

Sulphur Springs Depot

Natissa lecturers about Christmas in the 1940's

The Miniature Train Collectors will set up a large Train Display that will running all day. 

Harris School

Doll Collectors will have a display of vintage doll houses with miniature dolls and furniture. Some are originals, while others are hand crafted more recently.

Christmas Market Place

7 vendors will sell Christmas themed merchandise.

McMullen House

McMullen House in the center for sewing crafts including quilting, crewel, embroidery, rug hooking, weaving, etc. Each room has a Christmas tree covered with needlecraft.

Angel ornament

Cardinal Quiilted Ornament

Tree with Handmade Ornaments
Quilted Horse Ornament

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Florida Botanical Garden in December

There is a Holiday Lights in the gardens held nightly from November 29, 2013 - January 1, 2014 from 5:30-9:30 pm. Admission is $2 per person with children 12 & under are admitted free. Follow the lighted trail to visit Santa Claus at night, watch all of the large train sets run around a village with houses, people, a train station, etc. Refreshments are served. The 700,000 colorful twinkling lighted displays are shaped like hummingbirds, palm trees, a turtle, a butterfly, along with the traditional decorated Christmas tree and snowflakes. There is a 30 ft swan and a 7 ft high gingerbread house.

The entertainment is different every evening. There is Dan Brown, juggler, Noah Royak, stilt walker, Jerry Chase at keyboards, Kerri Kaiser, vocalist, Christian Service Center Singers, Shazadi & Jewels of the Desert Dancers, Savoy South Dance Hall Swing Dancers, Morning Song, hammered dulcimer and flute, St Andrews Pipe and Drums, John Law plays jazz, Bert & his Celtic Music, and Karina's School of Hawaiian and Belly Dancing.

There is also a Plant Sale on Sunday, December 8, from 10 am-4 pm. You can buy a selection of  tropical plants like orchids, citrus trees, bamboo, and herbs, begonias, etc. There are 45 venders, the Florida Garden gift shop will be open, and there is free entrance and parking.

On Sunday December 29, there is a Christmas dog parade starting at 1 pm.  You can exercise your energetic dog at the Walsingham  dog park, put on you & your dog's costumes, then bring him across the street to participate in the parade.

However, do not limit your visit to the Botanical garden to these events.The foliage in Pinellas County this year is lush as it has escaped the drying winds, frosts, and lack of moisture of previous years. You will be amazed at all of the perfect flowers in bloom and the tropical vegetation at the Florida Botanical Garden in December.

Knockout Roses: in pink and red, yawn, but this is December. Where up North is there roses this time of year?

Floribunda or continuously blooming roses: In the Wedding Garden area there is the buttery, golden yellow Julia Child which has a licorice scent, the smokey lavender, Cinco de Maya floribunda which has an mild apple scent, Tuscan Sun floribunda which has a spicy scent, & 4 inch wide flowers with tones of apricot, burnt umber, & rose, There is also White Iceberg and Pink Iceberg floribunda.

Julia Child
Cinco De  Mayo
Tuscan Gold
Grandiflora roses: the luscious Cherry Parfait grandiflora has dark foliage and creamy white blooms outlined in red,  and the deep gold, brushed orange Gold Medal Grandiflora with a mild fruit and spice odor and 5-6 inch flowers.

Cherry Parfait
 Hybrid Tea and Groundcover Roses: The deep, velvety red Mr. Lincoln is a hybrid tea rose has a strong damask fragrance. Sweet Drift is a groundcover rose.

Mr Lincoln
 Climbing roses: feature the 12-14 ft high, dark, velvety red Don Juan with a strong rose fragrance and 4-5 inch flowers. Catherine Nelson is a bold pink climber similar in size and height to Don Juan with a lighter fragrance. It was discovered by Mark Nelson and named after his mother. It is produced by Nelson's Florida Roses, a wholesale nursery committed to growing roses for warmer climates like Florida.

Don Juan

Catherine Nelson

Hibiscus: the flowers are especially nice this time of year. There is the Standard Hibiscus, the Tahitian Prince of Fire, the Queen of Dreams, and the yellow Hula Girl, Early Time and Double Orange Hibiscus.

Prince of Fire
Queen of Dreams
Standard Hibiscus

Hula Girl

 The Plants: the Bolero Ti Plant, Cigar Plant, the Hummingbird Plant, the Gold Finger Plant, the Purple Tahitian Hat Plant, Buddha Belly Plant,

Cigar Plant

The Vines: the Blue Sky Vine, the Yellow Butterfly Pea Vine, the Blue Pea Vine, lavender Rubber Vine.

Bluje Sky Vine
Yellow Butterfly Pea Vine

The Bushes: Yellow Bush Allamanda, Red Chenille Bush, New Zealand Tea Bush.

Yellow Bush Allamanda

Chenille Bush
New Zealand Tea Bush

The Shrubs: White Tropical Dogwood, Pink Tropical Dogwood

Other plants: Firecracker, Flaming Glory Bower, Red Passion Flower, Lady Margaret Passion Flower, Showy Medinilla, Yellow Jacobinia, Yellow Majesty Salva, Maui Red Ixori, Yellow Thyrallis, Dwarf's Princess Flower, Quail Grass.

Yellow Jacobina
Showy Medinilla
Red Passionflower

Dwarf's Princess Flower