Monday, March 12, 2018

Baby cranes!!

It was lunchtime when Ralph and I drove down the dirt driveway to our Groveland homestead after being away for a week. We regularly go back and forth to New Smyrna Beach and each time we return I'm eager to see what surprises await me.

This time the surprises were exceptional!

A pair of adult sandhill cranes and their two chicks were right next to our garage as we pulled in.  Instead of getting out and unloading the car as I usually do, I grabbed my camera and began taking pictures.

Below are some of the many shots I took of the new sandhill crane family.


Sandhill cranes lay one or two eggs in a nest of twigs and reeds that both parents build in a protected spot. Once the eggs are laid, the parents take turns incubating them for 32 days.

Sandhill crane parents take turns incubating eggs

Despite their attentive care, only one egg often hatches and even if two chicks emerge from the eggs, there's a good chance that only one baby bird will survive to adulthood.  By the look of how well both of these chicks are learning to find food, I'm hopeful that each bird will make it to maturity.

A new family of sandhill cranes!
Mom, Dad and two chicks

Feeding baby

A sandhill crane's diet consists of grains, berries, seeds, insects, worms, mice, small birds, snakes, lizards, and frogs.

The  chicks rest in the weeds after the tiring work of trailing their parents

Baby cranes stay with their parents for 10 months after hatching but it takes two years before they are sexually mature and ready to mate. During their juvenile stage, they socialize with other young cranes in order to find a mate. Once mates are chosen, sandhill cranes are monogamous and stay together for life.

Walking by a stand of Hawaiian Gold Clumping Bamboo

The spider may be a mere snack to an adult sandhill crane
but it's a huge mouthful  for a baby to swallow 

Baby cranes grow up quickly.  Over the years, we've been fortunate to watch many crane chicks go from fluffy, wobbly newborns to gawky adolescents to grown up birds.  The chicks that greeted us upon our return to Groveland are very young, less than a week old.

Two babies.  Two parents.
Learning to live.
Learning to love.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Family time

As the years go by, it becomes more and more difficult to get everyone together for our annual family reunion.

There are schedules to coordinate. School. Work. Personal commitments. There's travel to arrange from homes far away.  And then there's health. Who's coughing, has a fever or experiencing a general feeling of malaise.  Yet, despite all the obstacles and last minute changes of plans, our family managed once again to gather together for a week-long reunion at our Groveland homestead.

All of us together in one place

This year's gathering included more activities than expected considering how many of us had colds that prevented us from getting as much sleep or energy as we would have liked.

As usual, the lake and pool were a huge draw. Countless hours were spent in and around water with our grandchildren especially enjoying the fun of playing with cousins they seldom have a chance to see.

Bathing suits are unnecessary at our secluded homestead

Atom adding finishing touches to the drip castle he and his cousins
built by the lake

A fine stack of sand balls
Our kids used to make these when they were little
Now our grandchildren make them too!

Timmy played so much with his nieces and nephew during
the week we were all together.  He's so good with kids!

Little squirts (Trillian and Ella) having fun in the pool

Cousins with goggles
Atom, Maya, Ella, Trillian

After many years without a boat to ski behind, Ralph, Tim and Amber were able to once again go waterskiing behind Ralph's new (to him) Mitzi Skiff with the grandkids eagerly along for the ride. Thanks to Amber and Scott, who bought a huge raft, the kids were also able to enjoy the speed and excitement of being pulled along behind the boat.

Ralph hasn't forgotten how to slalom and trick ski.
Neither have Timmy or Amber

Fast and fun rides on Hour Lake

While motoring around the lake was fun for many members of our family, my personal preference leans more toward quieter activities like the walk Jenny, Timmy and I took at the Sarah Maude Mason Nature Preserve in Howey-in-the-Hills.

Timmy takes the 'high' way along the brand new boardwalk though a cypress swamp 

Taking in the view at the observation tower overlooking Lake Harris

Late afternoon light and no bugs to bother us on our walk through the preserve

Jenny and I also took off on Saturday morning to visit Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive in the hope of photographing some birds and animals. We weren't disappointed!

Jenny photographing one of the many alligators we saw

So many gators!

Of all the waterbirds we saw,
we both liked the blue-winged teal ducks best

Here a coot, there a coot, everywhere a coot-coot-coot!

Simplify..simplify..spread your wings and simply fly!

Back home people took turns preparing meals, washing dishes and picking up toys and towels scattered about. Games were played, balls were juggled, birds were fed, trees were climbed and people went off on explores around the yard and gardens.

Maya and Ella fascinated by a centipede
or is it a millipede...?

Our native green anoles were of much interest to all the grandchildren
but especially to Maya and Ella, who live in MA where lizards are uncommon

Much time was spent jumping on the trampoline and climbing trees.  The rope swing got a good workout too.

Ella jumping

Unfortunately, the mulberries were about a week away from being ripe during our
family-together-time, but the trees were still great for climbing, as Maya demonstrates.

After playing with some of Jenny's old My Little Ponies,
Ella and Maya paint ceramic sculptures Jenny also found in the attic

Never too young or old to ride on the ropeswing

Playing hide-and-seek with Pinky Dog

While there were some things we didn't do together this year like check out Clermont thrift shops or do a group shop at Publix, new activities were added to fill the gap.  One afternoon while Ralph and I were out of town taking care of business, Jenny, Brett, Maya and Ella visited Rock Springs with Amber, Atom and Trillian.  Wish I could have been there too but I'm glad they got to experience the springs.

Whenever we all get together, there never seems to be enough time to do all the things we'd like to do.  But really, the pleasure is in being together whether it's at home, around town doing things together or just hanging out as a family.

Once upon a time it was just Ralph and me.  Then there were six of us - four children and two parents.  Now, after 47 years of marriage our family has expanded to include two wonderful son-in-laws and four amazing grandchildren.  If the essence of life is love, our cup overfloweth.