In Pursuit of Pitcher Plants 2017

We decided to take a week-end trip to the Panhandle to see if we could find Pitcher Plants. We were not disappointed! [Gallery] Here I am standing along Highway 65 in the Apalachicola National Forest


Those are Trumpet-Leaf Pitcher Plants that grew and bloomed between pretty severe mowing and spraying (see below). Here’s a closeup of the flower and insect-trapping pitcher…

Next we drove to Wright Lake and took a long hike. We were surprised to see Lupines blooming under the pine trees…


There were many burned patches in various states of recovery. In one we found this interesting flower. It starts out all white and then “burns up” with purple (or perhaps the other way round?). Adapted to follow fire into cleared areas I think.


There were little clusters of pitcher plants here and there, and then we found this large group in a damp semi-open area…

The next day we went back for a second look along Highway 65 and bumped into Tim (not his real name) who is somewhat of an expert on carnivorous plants. He helped us find these beautiful Purple Pitcher Plant blooms…

Unfortunately whatever entity maintains that bit of highway is very aggressive with spraying herbicides to keep the growth down. There were dried up and dead pitcher plants in abundance. <frown> Tim said he had been coming to the area since 1971 and there used to be magnificent spring displays along this road. The flowers above were down in the bushes beyond the spraying.

After that we poked around a bit back in the woods but didn’t find any more pitchers. I did find another type of carnivorous plant, the Sundew

There were thousands in a “borrow pit” area. No chlorophyll but lots of little hairs each with a drop of sticky glue. You can see the remains of a few ants if you look close. There was also this strange plant, I have no idea what it is…


Looks like a cross between a fern and a sundew!

A week later we visited Buck Island Pond and saw a third species, the Hooded Pitcher Plant

There are more photos of a fourth species, the White-Top Pitcher Plant, I took in 2013 in a separate gallery.



Birds of Sweetwater Wetlands 2017

It doesn’t get better than this! Recent outing to the Sweetwater Wetlands Park was packed with birds, including the Limpkin above. (I saw more limpkin in one hour than I’ve seen elsewhere in my entire life!) [Gallery]

Here’s a stunning Anhinga drying his wings. (I think this is a young male just molting into adult plumage.)


There were many Blue-Winged Teal on their way north mixed in with the local gallinules.

And the real surprise, a pair of American Bittern! (It’s only one of the most cryptic birds in North America.)

There were about a dozen Sandhill Cranes moving about and trumpeting.

Many male Red-Winged Blackbirds were out defending their territories.

And finally one of my favorites, a Pied-Billed Grebe having a stretch.

Go to the entire gallery for more!

Everglades (Sail) Kayak Trip 2017

Everglades time again! This year I went for five days/four nights with my sister Diana Pray from LA. We did a lazy double figure eight route around northeastern Whitewater Bay and the Gulf. [Gallery] With the exception of a few distant motorboats we were completely alone for four days, quite remarkable!


The wind was southerly the entire trip, so the first day we started out sailing almost all the way to the Roberts River Chickee.


I brought along a 360° panoramic camera and took some impressive shots! Here we are on our own little planet.


The next day we took The Cut-Off over to the North River and ate lunch on the Watson River Chickee. Then we got lost in The Labyrinth on our way to the Shark River.

Surprisingly we ended up on what I call “Dad’s Creek” where my father and I dumped the canoe in 2005. This set us up for a very pleasant twilight excursion up stream to the Shark River Chickee.

The next day the water was like glass as we headed into one of the northern channels of the Shark River to set up our boomerang out to the Gulf of Mexico. [The river reverses flow twice a day, down with the outgoing tide and up with the high tide. So if you time it right you can ride the current both ways! I call the upstream flow the “Everglades Escalator!“]

This trip was remarkable for how many sea creatures we saw! We watched dolphins feeding/cavorting at least ten times, including their habit of laying on their side in the shallows and splashing fish onto the shore.

We saw a Manatee come up for air and then swim under us in the Labyrinth. But the highlight was returning up the Shark River where we were in the middle of a group of Sea Turtles (maybe ten!) who would popup randomly for air and be gone in a second. [It reminded me of whack-a-mole!] One actually ran into Diana’s kayak!! The heads were huge so I think the were Loggerheads.

We got back to the Watson River Chickee at dusk, promptly ate and went to bed. The next morning we were greeted by dolphins feeding a few feet away!

The next day was a leisurely float down the eastern side of Whitewater Bay.

We got to the Lane Bay Chickee well before dark and had some time to relax and swim. The breeze finally kept the bugs off <smile>.


The next day we worked our way down through the maze of Hells Bay.

Back on Whitewater Bay we encountered a 10-15 mph headwind. It was a bit of a slog but so much better than a canoe!

A quick return trip across Coot Bay finished our most excellent adventure!