Friday, May 15, 2015



On April 4, a new pair of gators showed up on Pepper Creek at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. They were very active making their way all around Osprey Island, and in the following weeks, from one end of the creek to the other. This video captures a bit of the experience of that first day's sightings as I piloted guests up and down the creek.



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Sunday, February 15, 2015



Two weeks ago, 2 Feb, out on Pepper Creek, I saw the first bloom of the season.

After that, I pointed it out to my riders on the return trips, and last week, as I did so, one of them turned to look at me as I spoke and said, "There's another one behind you!"

Sure enough!

And as we moved slowly through the passing point in the creek known to drivers as APM, we saw several new blooms.

We also saw a noticeable increase in the number of birds on the creek last week.

This is an exciting time of the year on Pepper Creek. In my limited time piloting boatloads of park guests up and down the creek, a little over a year now, I have seen that this is the time of year with the most to see on the creek, and for the next few months. At least as far as animals and blooms are concerned.

I mentioned this before: due to a weather front moving in, my duties were ended early last Monday, and I was ordered to come back with an empty boat, and was the only boat left on the creek, so I took the opportunity to stop and smell- or at least get photographs of- all the new blooms that I could.

As always, click on any given image to open a larger view. I hope you enjoy them!

1) The first bloom of the season on the Bottle Brush Tree right next to the block of concrete on the edge of the creek. Over the nest few weeks, the tree will be covered with them.

2) Boat Pilot Mark passing through the deepest and sunniest section of the creek on the north side of Osprey Island.

3) A small gator, about 4 feet, resting his head on the log on the north side of Osprey Island as seen in the image above.

4) A Great Blue Heron along the edge of Pepper Creek.

5) A pair of wood ducks in the brush on Pepper Creek.

6) Empty on my return run, I stayed on the west side of Osprey Island and grabbed this shot of an arm of the creek that continues north, showing the more natural condition of the creek in a section that was not dredged to fit the big boats.

7) Zooming up an un-dredged section of the creek shows a couple of turtles out on a log out of the traffic.

8) Earlier, on the east side of Osprey Island, a view of the Osprey nest.

9) One of the Osprey pair sits on a branch beside the 30 year old nest.

10) Coming into the APM passing point, on the right bank, some blooms have appeared among the trees.

11) Two of the blooms.

12) A bloom.

13) A little farther into the APM passing point, on the right, a second apparition.

14) A bloom.

15) Another area showing flowering plants on each side of the brush.

16) Blooms.

17) The other side.

18) A bunch of blooms.

19) Coming into the turn at the end of the APM Passing point, on the left side, two blooms about ten feet apart showed through.

20) The Red Bloom.

21) The Purple Bloom.

22) Back at the Visitors Center dock, a larger gator has taken his place on the raft.

See also a short video of the two gators from this day.



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Monday, January 19, 2015



Drove all day over at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park: tram, boat, tram tram tram, boat boat boat, tram. Have several good shots and things to share but have to get this up right away- very exciting!

On Pepper Creek, there are two islands, the second of which is named for one of the very large birds that has a very large and old nest on that island in the tallest tree in the park. It is called Osprey Island. The Osprey is a very elegant bird, with a 6 foot wingspan, and they mate for life. The current pair have been using this nest for 20 years that we know about. They usually return in early December, the male first, to repair and improve the nest. The female comes in about two weeks later and inspects his work. If she's happy, they get busy, if she's not, she gives him a 2DO list and comes back every day to check up on him. Once she's happy, they will raise one or two chicks for about 6 months, then take off, on seperate vacations until they come back and do it all over again next year.

Well, it's January already and no sign of the pair. I did spot an osprey high in a tree down near the western dock last week, and today, I again saw him in the same place as I piloted the boat down that last section of the creek. But next run, I didn't see him.

On the return run, my last of the day, I looked high up in that tree for him, but again, no sign- and then way ahead in the air I saw him flying over the creek as he passed from one side to the other. A moment later, he came into view again, and was heading toward the nest! I got very excited, hoping that he was indeed heading for the nest, and alerted my passengers that we may be here at a very special moment.

There is a point on the return trip where we get the best view of the nest on the creek, and as we made that turn, we all watched and though I didn't see any sign of the bird, one of the guests called out that he had caught a glimpse of his head sticking up above the nest. (Osprey nests are very deep.)

As we headed into the last turn that would take us away from Osprey Island, I paused the boat and zoomed my camera and clicked away, hoping my camera could do what my eyes no longer can, and again, one of the passengers assured me he had peaked out as I was clicking. I wouldn't know for sure until I got home and looked at the picture, and there he is!

The Osprey is in the nest!

4X crop to show clearly, though low rez, show the Osprey sitting atop the nest in the previous shot.

And here's a link to my Osprey Nest Highlights video from the end of last years nesting season:



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Nice to get some more work done, but even nicer to finally get to shoot this guy. He's been evading me for years- taking off the instant I push the shutter release. I think this time he must have thought I was just one of the 2x4's?



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Saturday, December 27, 2014



Best wishes for 2015!



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Friday, December 26, 2014


Merry Christmas!

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Sunday, December 07, 2014



At the end of the day, after the boat ride down Pepper Creek at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, grabbed this shot with a Great Blue Heron on the shore behind the bale of turtles on the raft.

While during the boat ride, I had three special sightings on the creek today...



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Wednesday, December 03, 2014



Taken with my old beloved Oly C-740 UZ back in September 2007, the first three shots are of the first time I ever saw one of these- and in the wild. At first, all I could see was the front of the head and the neck fading away into the murky water. Totally freaked me out! Strangest looking thing ever! It was quite a while before its shell became visible and I saw it was simply some very strange sort of turtle. These pictures show more than the naked eye could see "live".

Last Tuesday, the one pictured below was swimming behind the boat as we pulled out of the Visitors Center Dock at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Strange beasts.



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Tuesday, December 02, 2014





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Wednesday, November 26, 2014



Last Saturday had a very exciting moment on Pepper Creek.

We have four kinds of turtles on the creek. Two hard shells, the soft shell and the Florida or Alligator Snapper. There is a very large on in our creek, but he is very rarely seen- I have seen it once in over ten years on the creek- as it tends to lay on the bottom and lure fish into its very large mouth with an appendage on its tongue that resembles a worm. Fish swim in, they don't swim out!

This past Saturday, the boat schedule got all messed up due to rain, but it cleared and I happened to be there and I jumped in. I was given the 1 pm boat. Well, a bit past the halfway mark, we were slowly making our way (as I do) through the "deepest and sunniest part of the creek, where the gators and turtles like to hang out..." when a lady in one of the seats just in front of me leans over the railing and says, "There is one of them now," and I look and there, clearly visible through the 3 feet of clear, though tinted, water was the turtle- the huge alligator snapper that lives in our creek, that I have seen once in ten years, and then only as a quickly vanishing blur in passing.

I knew not to make any changes in the boat lest I scare him away, but I did announce it, and the all the passengers were trying to catch a view, to little avail, already past, but given I was the only boat on the water at the time, and the general free-form nature of the day, and having the time per the run schedule, once I was clear of the beast, I slowed the boat to a stop, with some tight maneuvers, got it turned around and keeping the passengers fully informed, and excited, very slowly headed back to the point where this magnificent creature had been spotted.

And we saw him! I had every one up and on the left side of the boat, quite distinct tilt to that side, and several photographers got shots, including myself, nothing for Nat Geo, but something anyway. He did move a bit as we passed, apparently alerted by such a disturbance so close to the previous, even though I had cut the motor and we were simply drifting, but just slightly, and most, if not all of us, got a good sighting of him. It was all very exciting and we were all chatting about it the rest of the trip. I continued on my new course, went around the back side of the island and into the dock.

On the return trip, I did again vary the route, but to no effect, he was gone. Having traversed the area at a very slow speed, I resumed normal speed as I entered the narrower main run of the creek leaving Osprey Island- and then a young boy on my left gave a shout out and there he was, but alas too late to do anything other than note his presence.

Very exciting!



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Sunday, November 23, 2014



Alert!!! Cnet is NO LONGER a safe download site! Their OWN installer loads malware with their knowledge and no overt warning or choice! Google .

Wednesday, November 19, 2014



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Thursday, November 13, 2014


Had to go early to Old Homosassa this morning. While there, I decided to drive around a bit, and suddenly came upon a pull-out and a gate at the side of the road. Turned out to be the entrance to a small piece of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Spent a few quiet peaceful moments there.




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Tuesday, November 11, 2014



Car died at the corner the other day. Got out to push it off the road, as I walked to the back, noticed the view.

Always have the camera!

Thursday, October 02, 2014



My yard from the street. Recent trimming by the county left the east side of the driveway pretty bare. Nothing major was growing there- don't know why, everywhere else I get trees and big bushes, but nothing but grasses on the east side.

I trimmed up some after the sloppy job the county contractor did, and discovered a pretty decent Sabal Palm growing on the west side. Going to cut that big bush/tree down to expose it more and feature it. Then I noticed a tiny baby palm just starting there at the bottom left just in front of that tree thing. Figured I would give it a shot to transplant it to the empty east side...

Dang thing was way deeper than I expected! Only about half way down at this point. Finally got to the bottom and felt a solid ball ending it- with some respectable roots coming out of it. Did my best to keep those as much as I could, but had to cut some of them.

Here it is, finally extracted from the ground. That ball of "dirt" is actually just a dirt coated ball that is the "heart of palm" of this baby!

Here it is, planted deep in its new location, on the east side of the drive, exactly matching the location of the newly exposed palm on the west side. If it takes, it will be glorious! Check in next year!

Victory! Honest dirt and sweat. Was only 95, but humid.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014



[Note: as always, you can right click and "open in new tab" to see a larger version of any image.]

Over the last week or two, the Wood Ducks have started returning to Pepper Creek and the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Last Thursday, I was shooting in the park and found a bunch of new arrivals swimming in the spring waters down near the deer habitat.

And on the ride back up Pepper Creek, spotted a few swimming about near Osprey Island.

This fellow kept quacking at me, enough so, that even in the picture his mouth is open!

Yesterday, as I was driving back with an empty boat, I managed to grab a few more shots including some close ups.

In the last turn before the Visitors Center, I was struck by this Snowy White Egret sitting high up in the shrubbery.

In the creek beneath him, a Blue Heron (as opposed to a Great Blue Heron) was picking away.

After my day was done, I visited with Gail in the office, and we played dueling cameras.



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