Right turn


Instead of sailing south this year, we used our prerogative to change our minds and made a right turn.  There are a few more things we want to take care of before leaving the States for an extended period, so what’s another year?  




We staged in the northern Exumas to wait out the light west winds coming from the direction that we wanted to head.  We found an intimate paradise at Shroud Cay where there is a mangrove canal connecting the banks with the ocean side.  The becalmed ocean was like a beautiful mirage, only real.  A wonderful memory of the Bahamas to take with us as we prepared to depart.






Leaving at sunrise, we sailed below New Providence, crossed the Great Bahamas Banks overnight and the Gulf Stream the next day to arrive in West Palm Beach for cocktail hour.  






We discovered the Palm Beach Sailing Club as a place that welcomes visitors, a convenient location tucked in amongst the big boys to keep the dinghy and a car, and a friendly vibe that made us feel right at home.  








You heard that right ~ we bought a new/used car!  



Not quite the flair of the Golden Bullet, but at the same great price.








Our generator head burned out right before leaving the Bahamas after 8 years but only 1200 hours of use.  We typically run it every other day for charging (especially in winter months) and running our AC powered water maker.  The plan was to get it rewound in a shop in Ft. Lauderdale since our model had been phased out, until we learned that NextGen had a few original heads for sale.  They were to paint the head and then ship it our way… which ended up taking two extra weeks for some reason.







Three weeks in West Palm Beach was no hardship, other than the heat at anchor with no option to run the generator for air conditioning.  We got all of our errands taken care of and then some…  boat/car registrations, dentist and dermatology appointments, haircuts, shopping, family visits… plus excellent birding hikes and a few bonus snorkeling trips (more on that soon).


Florida has always delivered reliable and amazing birding opportunities along all of the many Great Florida Birding Trail sites.  I was exciting to explore those in the area and was not disappointed!  I discovered that we were on the northern edge of the Everglades and there were some top notch rookeries in the area, one that is so populated with birds that it is closed to the public for certain times of the year.


I’m getting some good telephoto results from my new Olympus camera, even though I’m limited to only using the back LCD screen for viewing now, making it difficult to locate distant subjects to focus on at times.  I have an electronic viewfinder that needs a firmware update on the camera to get it recognized.  




It’s been fun getting to know the gear, I love the image clarity and bokeh, and I am enjoying working in raw format with much more dynamic range to work with for post-processing.


Tri-colored heron



Brown anole molting




I found a few usual suspects and some colorful insects as well as some new (to me) birds.  


American alligator



Halloween pennant dragonfly



Red-winged blackbird



Regal darner dragonfly



Common gallinule



Gulf frittilary



Eastern lubber grasshopper




This juvenile red-shouldered hawk could be spotted all day by tracking its constant call… possibly a new fledgling getting used to new surroundings.











The Least Bittern was very camouflaged when I caught distant movement out of the corner of my eye as he was reed-walking.  I knew it was a new find, but wasn’t sure if it was a sora (rail family) or some type of heron.  He resembled a green heron, only was notably smaller in size and patterned differently once I could review the photos.  


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I dodged a few afternoon squalls on various days, once conveniently protected by an observation shed while I watched a female grackle enjoy a shower.





On another afternoon I waited out a squall and went walking just after, hoping to find birds motivated to some action as a result of the fresh shower.  My hunch paid off!  I found a great horned owl preening in a far tree, following the sound of a screeching bird drawing my attention that way (perhaps scolding the owl or warning others ~ check out those talons!).  


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As I took photos of his ablutions, I happened to look up to find another (wet) owl right in the tree above me, silent as can be.  I believe this is a juvenile great horned owl, being smaller and still a bit downy with lesser ears.  The sun was right behind him, but we spent some moments checking each other out (again ~ talons!) before he flew away with a barely detectable whoosh.














The sprinkles started again and were persisting so I decided to call it a day when I came across this pair of black-bellied whistling ducks.  They were also preening and were reasonably tolerant of me for a short while.  I’d seen these tall ducks only once before and noted their interesting white wing bars and high-pitched calls as they flew away.









© M&M 2016