Off again to Florida for prospects of warmer weather - this time to Jensen Beach. This town is on the south end of South Hutchinson Island which is a barrier island just east of Fort Pierce. We've been to the island three time before when we had some very generous access to a wonderful condo on the north end. We had such fond memories of our stays there; and while it is a bit farther than some of our Florida destinations, we decided it was worth it. As has been the case with many of our recent trips, we located a residence, this time a whole house, where we could isolate to the extent we felt was necessary and do many of our meals in rather than out. In fact, we prepared every breakfast except one (when we went to the Original Pancake House) and all of our evening meals were done in or on the nice gas grill. Since we were roaming around and shooting a lot, it was easier to get our lunch meals out. The house was very nice and in a gated community, right on the water only a few yards from the Indian River, which is also part of the Intercoastal Waterway. We had a great time, hopefully visually evidenced by the following pictures, but really did spend a lot of time on our concrete deck overlooking the water and simply relaxing - something we aren't really accustomed to.
It was early in our trip (actually, the night we arrived) that we had to make a trip to the mainland for some groceries. On our first trip across the causeway, we noticed Magnificent Frigate birds soaring over the river - a good sign of things to come. In fact, over the next several days, we saw lots of these truly "magnificent" birds and got several decent shots but hope to encounter them again in other settings. They fly so high it is really tough to get good shots of anything other than their underside, but hopefully these will give you an idea of their size, shape, and variations. According to what we have been able to learn, Image 1-1 is a male, Image 1-2 a female and Image 1-3 is likely immature.
I wish Image 1-4 (a field of cabbage) looked as interesting in this drone shot as it did when glimpsed from our trip down the road. This shot comes from a location near one of our interior destinations (Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park), and it always surprises us how much agriculture there is in non-coastal parts of Florida. We went there on one of our prior trips and had a wonderful time with lots of wildlife, mainly birds; but on this trip we were nearly shut out. It ended up being a very long day with 200+ miles driven and hardly a sighting worthy of getting out the camera. Were it not for our inability to see what was in this field from the road due to high brush, we probably wouldn't have this picture. We went back because it appeared the entire field was BLUE! The drone was the only way to see it and it was blue...cabbage. By the way, across the road from this field, was another field full of broccoli!
Image 1-5 is our home away from home on this trip and if you look closely you will see us lounging on the concrete deck next to the canal - our favorite spot on this trip. A main attraction (and occasionally a bit of an irritant) was a barge-borne crane which spent a lot of time in our little canal placing pilings for more (or replacement) docks. By our estimate, they placed three sets of pilings for new docks while we were there, and we did get some videos from the drone of these "men at work." It was really fascinating.
Surf's Up, Image 1-6 is down at Jensen Beach (the actual beach) and while the waves were not massive (and it was a bit chilly) it did not deter these dedicated surfers from their sport. We watched for a while and saw many get up for short runs and noted with interest that many, if not most, were a bit older than your typical surfer you might see in southern California. Image 1-7 is a view from the top of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, and Image 1-8 is a view of the lighthouse itself which is about an hour south of our location. We had stopped there many years ago but did not tour the grounds or facilities. This time we went all out and had a great time in the museum and around the grounds learning a great deal about the development of this area.
We did encounter a few Sandhill Cranes (Images 1-9 and 1-10) on this trip and most of those we were able to photograph were in town as is often the case. We've never failed to find them in/around Fort Pierce. Our real treat, which I can't share visually, was a flock of a few hundred taking off from and then landing in another of those fields - actually very near the cabbage field shown in Image 1-4. A sad note on this trip is that we witnessed a small group of them morning the death of a comrade on the side of the road - obviously hit by a vehicle during rush hour. There are signs everywhere announcing the location where the cranes will be encountered; but if you ever drive around Sandhills, you will quickly learn they have no "traffic sense" about them and will just wander out into the road without regard to traffic. It reminded me of our many encounters with bison out west, particularly in Yellowstone, but I'm sure the physical encounter with a bison would be very different from an encounter with a Sandhill Crane.
Images 1-11 and 1-12 are a couple of shots we made while on a beautiful boardwalk that runs along the St Lucie River, which we accessed via a fantastic Veterans Memorial Park the city had erected and was doing a beautiful job of maintaining. And, last but not least, 1-13 is a drone shot from just above our deck area showing the view looking mostly south. It's quite a canal system and obviously increases the number of homes that can have waterfront access, docks, and access to the river and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. Certainly not a lot of lawns to mow and I don't think yard work is high on the list of priorities of those who live in this little community.
As I'm sure you've gathered, this was not the same photographic expose we usually offer in these posts but a bit more of a documentary of our exploits on this trip. It really was nice just relaxing and hanging out together without the pressure of being out every day at sunrise and sunset trying to catch the best light. One of our highlights, and a recommendation for anyone who gets to this area, is to visit the Elliott Museum which is also on Hutchinson Island. It is a beautiful (and relatively new) facility and you might be inclined to believe it is all about automobiles. But, it is so much more and continues to expand and evolve with lots of other exhibits and history about this very interesting area. We were a little short on time so only spent an hour or so there but will certainly go back for a longer visit if/when we get back to this area. Here's a link to the website if you want to check it out.