Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Flash Of Blue

Last weekend, I took the long way home from St. Augustine. I spent some time at Rodman Dam and lake exploring, and then I headed west into the adjoining Ocala National Forest. The road from the dam was a red dirt track through the woods ... one of many in the forest.

I had no schedule so as long as I was heading west most of the time, I was getting closer to home.
It was a cold, clear, and windy and I was really glad I had stopped in Palatka for a DDoughnuts large Turbo coffee before I got to the forest. I'd stop, get out, suck up all the photographs in an area and then jump back in the warm JEEP for sips of coffee on the way to the next stop.

That coffee and a Ziploc bag of Cheezits (get your own box) would be my total sustenance for the journey.
You don't stop and eat when there's so much to explore and photograph.

This philosophy may be why I am often alone on these adventures.

Before too long the dirt NF road (77) turned to an empty two lane asphalt road running through scrubby oak forest on either side. I was cruising along listening to a Harry Potter book on CD* when I saw a flash of blue in the grass on the side of the road.

I pulled to a stop.
Was that ...?
I put the JEEP in reverse and backed up ... no traffic ... so who cares?
The flash of blue was hopping from the scrubby forest edge to the road shoulder grass, and then back again, over and over.
Yes! A scrub jay!

I parked the JEEP on the shoulder and crept back towards the jay. It spotted me and retreated to a higher perch to check me out. I oozed closer, stopped, oozed a little closer, stopped, oozed ... until I was only a few feet away.

It was cold and windy and he was fluffed up with feathers blowing in the breeze. That famous scrub jay curiosity allowed me to shoot several pics and then he was gone ... back into the dense scrub below.

Scrub jays are a threatened species in Florida ... a remnant from the last ice age (when Florida was very arid) that is trying to hang on. After you leave Florida, you don't find scrub jays again until you are out west. When you read about fire dependent species, think of this beautiful bird. It takes periodic fires to provide the low brushy scrub habitat that this bird absolutely depends on.

They are a rare treat in Florida and this bird alone would have made my day, but there had already been much and there was more to come on this most excellent slow ride home.

For years, I have avoided the Harry Potter series even though my children absolutely devoured them ... over and over again. I was mentioning this to my perky pal Cindy one day a few weeks ago and she let me borrow the audio version of the first book.
Now I am hopelessly addicted.
One by one, she is loaning me each CD book.
I have to think of a thank you gift ... she likes pigs and food ...suggestions are welcome.


Thunder Dave said...

Hey man, Happy Belated Birthday!!!
I feel much younger at the moment, but my turns is coming soon! ;-)

Been bogged down with late night phone calls and transfer paperwork, to get ready to leave. The date got pushed back again, so I'm also getting a bit frustrated. I'll try to get caught up and possibly even blog again this weekend!

Dan said...

Great photo!

threecollie said...

I am amazed that scrub jays are found in Florida...I didn't know it. Great photos....and I too was dragged kicking and screaming into the Harry Potter thing, but enjoyed them once I started reading them.

dani813 said...

I just love our scrub jays. I wish people understood more about our Florida and the need to maintain ecosystems so we don't lose our little guys like this and countless others.

debbie said...

Welcome to the world of Harry Potter! We have all of the books on CD. The reader is wonderful, I'm amazed at his ability to change his voice with each character. Which book are you on right now?

swamp4me said...

Dear new Harry Potter convert, I have read all the books, seen all the movies (books are better) AND listened to all the books on CD - luckily my work truck has a CD player. Just can't resist a good vs. evil tale! Carry on.

Sharon said...

What a beautiful bird! Sounds like a fun trip, I would love to do something like that (with no kids in the car to say "What?? You're stopping to take a picture AGAIN!?") :)

As for what to get Cindy...bacon???


robin andrea said...

We do see Scrub Jays here all the time, everyday. I had no idea that they were an endangered species somewhere else. Your photo is quite beautiful. How lucky that you got to see one.

I'm one of those people who has never picked up a Harry Potter book or movie.

The Troll said...

My source seems to say that the Florida Scrub Jay is separate and distinct from their Western cousins. If so, perhaps PureFlorida could lead the charge to make this bold creature the official State Bird.

Our current State Bird is kinda lame. Nothing uniquely Florida about it.

Suze said...

It SHOULD be the state bird for Florida. Whenever I go to Lake Placid, FL, I always see scrub jays. Some of them will eat peanuts out of your hand. The ones I've seen are banded by the Archbold Biological Station. That is a unique place to visit. There was quite a building frenzy going on in Lake Placid for a few years, but the crashed housing market has stopped that - thank God.

lori said...

nice pictures. I've only seen the movies and i like them so far.
as for cindy I thought of RIBS mmmmm gooooood

Hurricane Teen said...

Ooooh a Scrub Jay?! *insert jealousy here*
I don't get out into scrubby fire-maintained areas enough to see them. Beautiful pictures.
As for your friend...she likes pigs and food...A nice side of bacon seems to fit both categories. Watch out, Chewie! (oooh that was evil)

Deb said...

A Florida scrub jay- Cool!

And, I've been thinking I should pick up one of the kids' Harry Potter books just to see what all the fuss is about.

Floridacracker said...

Okay, I forgot to mention that my pal Cindy is Jewish, so the bacon, rib advice might not fly ...
She may weigh in here :)

Can't wait for you to start blooging from Chiney.

Dan, Thanks! Great bird!

Our scrub jays are isolated in pockets of the correct habitat. It's sadly easy not to see them.

I agree. Perhaps a test should be administered before residency is granted.
In the meantime, I will continue to spread the word.

You said it ... that reader is amazing. I am in awe of his versatility. Glad to be part of the flock!

Will do. I really have no choice now. I'm hooked.

Oops ... no bacon!
I hear ya about stopping. My family has accepted that it's going to happen ... Dad is going to stop for any worthwhile photo op.
Alone ... I'm guilt free, so I do enjoy these photo trips when I know I'm not boring someone else.

When the first book came out, it didn't hook me right away and I never gave it another fair try...didn't even watch the movies, but now I'm watching the movie as I finish the book. I love the way this author has fired up youth pleasure reading around the globe. As a teacher, I owe her a debt of thanks.

I could not agree with you more on this issue. What were they thinking when they picked the mockingbird for OUR state bird?

Ditto on the jay for state bird.
I've never been to Archbold, but my brother has and it sounds wonderful.

Maybe beef ribs!
Glad you liked the pics!

She likes pigs not pork dude. Chewie is safe.
There once were scrub jays (1980's) along A1A ,south of Summer Haven, but I think they lost out to the condo's.

They are good lookin' and likeable. What a combo!
Give Potter a try, I'm glad I did.

LauraHinNJ said...

Beautiful bird!

Hey- I missed your b-day. Hope it was happy.

SophieMae said...

Scrub jays! NIIICE shots!I haven't seen one in a few years. Maybe this weekend in Pasco County...

Floridacracker said...

Thanks! It was fun!

Good luck on that quest!

thingfish23 said...

Funny - when I saw the photo I asked myself: "Is that a..." And, yep, it was! Nice job spotting it, Fc.

Yes, I am still alive.

Just catching up here!

thingfish23 said...

BTW - wait 'til you get to books 6 and 7. I read all the HP books in a row, and am really glad that I did. It's great stuff.