Monthly Archives: February 2013

How to make a simple bird feeder in fifteen minutes

Make a simple bird feeder fast using an orange

Orange bird feeder

I am seeing and hearing so many wonderful birds lately here in North Florida! It got me thinking about bird feeders. I wanted to make a simple feeder that wouldn’t cost a lot of money but was also attractive and environmentally friendly.

I searched the internet for some tips and found a great idea on the National Audubon Society webpage.

For me, two of the big selling points of the citrus bird feeder are that it’s easy and it uses an orange, which looks right at home in my trees.

Here’s how to make a citrus bird feeder in just a few minutes. It’s really easy!

What you’ll need:

  1. An orange or grapefruit (I used a navel orange)
  2. Bird seed (I used a bag of wild bird seed from a grocery store)
  3. Twine, yarn, or some type of heavy string
  4. Knife
  5. Scissors
  6. Wooden skewer (can use a nail for this, too)
  7. Spoon (to scoop out the fruit)
  8. Plate or bowl (put the fruit here to enjoy eating it!)

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Watch manatees, eagles, other wildlife from home

Manatees, eagles and Florida wildlife webcams: watch live from home

It was one of those weekends. It was cold here (non-Floridians always laugh when I say I was cold at around 55 degrees). I had so much work to do inside and I didn’t get a chance to get out and enjoy nature.

This is as wild as it got for me.

Frog reflection

Frog reflection

While I am pretty sure this frog was not admiring its reflecting…more likely trying to get away from the lady with the camera…it made me think about watching wildlife. If I couldn’t get out and do it in person, I could do the next best thing.

Wildlife webcams

Live webcams can be a great way to get your nature fix if you can’t get out and do it yourself.

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Funny squirrels

Squirrels can be pretty funny

Squirrel 3 Rule of thirds

Squirrel humor

In North Florida, we are lucky to live among so many trees. We also live among many squirrels. Quite a few live in the tree outside my front door. They frequently chatter…I think it’s often directed at me. I am not sure what I do to get them so worked up. Getting the paper is a sure trigger for a squirrel tantrum.

I’ve seen squirrels do some pretty funny things, but of course this never happens if I have a camera. I wish I would have at least snapped a shot with my phone the time I was on the University of Florida campus and saw a squirrel munching on a discarded slice of pizza. If you have some great squirrel stories, I’d love to hear about them!

In the meantime…if you need to be reminded of how funny squirrels can be, check out these funny squirrel videos. The baby squirrel is just adorable! Send me some links if you have a great site in mind. But not the water skiing squirrel. Just kidding. I worked in tv news too long!


The turtle told me

Reflecting turtle

Reflecting turtle

Symbolism of turtles

The turtles in the pond at the Reitz Union at the University of Florida were so much fun to watch. As I was taking a few pictures, several other students came over to enjoy them, too. A few threw them some food. Looked like pieces of a Subway sandwich. The creatures on the UF campus are well-fed…especially the squirrels.

But I digress.

I loved this picture of a turtle and his reflection on the water. He was still for so long, basking in the sun. He looked so peaceful. I wanted to share it.

A small part of my ancestry is Native American…Cherokee I am told. I have always been fascinated with Native American folklore about animals, so I did some checking into turtle tales.

I found so many great websites about Native American turtle symbolism.

What a wise culture. One of the messages I took away is that some view the turtle as a symbol of Mother Earth. As I write this blog, I ruminate on her handiwork. But in order to do that, I have to move slowly in order to see and truly appreciate that work. Just like the turtle. The creature who moves unhurriedly through life, stopping to take in the sun on a gentle afternoon…inviting hurried humans to pause as well. I don’t often wait long enough to see my shadow. There are classes to attend, errands to run, children to care for, a bus to catch. But this afternoon, there was a turtle on a rock, in a pond, under the sun, in my lens. I thought I was the wise one, to find him and take his picture. I even waited for a while to see if he would do something remarkable.

But his serenity was the most remarkable thing.

In his stillness on that rock, that turtle reminds me that wisdom requires patience, an investment of all of our senses, time to think and therefore truly see.

Need ideas for a wild weekend? 4 fun spots to enjoy natural Florida

So…what are you doing this weekend? If you’re like me, there are pounds of laundry in your future. As a doctoral student, I also have some light reading to do…about 200 pages.

But what about a little adventure? If you’re in Florida, there is always something to do that involves fresh air and natural beauty. There are so many amazing places to visit. I can think of dozens of destinations, but who has time for that? So…

Here are 4 fun spots in north/northeast Florida to consider checking out:

1. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park-In Micanopy, about ten miles south of Gainesville.

This is one of those places you have to visit if you are in the area. For many people, it’s just that stretch on I-75 between Micanopy and Gainesville with no billboards. Are they missing something wonderful!

More than 22,000 acres to enjoy cycling, walking, wildlife viewing, and so much more. There’s a 50 foot observation tower to get a bird’s-eye view and cell phone tour stops.

The park also offers some unique special events including Stargazing (which is 2-9-13), family birding and wildlife walk on the boardwalk (in March.) Check the link for details!

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Chasing birds

Bird in tree

My visit to Kanapaha Botancial Gardens had already been all I had hoped.

The weather was beautiful, the surroundings peaceful and inspirational. I was enjoying the flowering trees when I heard a bird song in the distance. I walked along the path and came to a quiet pond surrounded by trees and vegetation. I heard some rustling and saw a small bird feeder. I settled on the ground in a spot with a good view of the trees and the feeder and waited. A few birds darted in and out of the trees to sample the offerings in the feeder. I slowly moved a little closer and held my camera at the ready.

Sampling the feeder offerings

Sampling the feeder offerings

Then I saw it.

A bright spot of red among some twisted branches. A proud cardinal was moving from tree to tree, branch to branch. I tried to take a few shots, but he was too quick for this amateur. As soon as I thought he was settled for a moment, he changed his mind. I laughed.

“This little is fellow is teasing me,” I thought to myself.

Two friendly ladies with a dog walked by. They stopped to see what I was enjoying so much. I told them about the elusive cardinal. “Are you a professional photographer?” one of them asked. “No, just for fun” I replied. It was fun. I felt like a little girl. Just me, this magnificent creature, and the occasional passerby. I stood closer to the trees, as still as I could.

“Come on, little fellow. Just a shot.”

Finally, he perched himself at the top of a branch overlooking the water. He was almost posing for me. When I looked at the shot later that day, I was captivated. Not by my photography…by the subject. It was almost as if he was looking out into the distance, having a moment of reflection himself. I look at that picture all the time and think about the dignity of creatures great and small….about the moments in our lives that sometimes only we can appreciate because we can’t articulate how profound we are touched by something that seems so simple, so ordinary.

Cardinal reflecting

Cardinal reflecting

I spent the rest of that day chasing a few other birds, but this handsome fellow stays with me.

Lost in the gardens


I recently had the chance to visit the peaceful and beautiful Kanapaha Botantical Gardens in Gainesville, Florida. The North Florida Botanical Society maintains and operates the gardens…a labor of love to be sure.

I was alone with just my camera. It was one of those perfect Florida afternoons. I was looking forward to some relaxation and quiet contemplation. I picked up a map as I frequently get lost everywhere I go, but I decided just to wander a bit without purpose. I came upon the majestic wedding oak. On this day, the oak was living up to its name. White chairs adorned with flowers were arranged under the tree, waiting for the wedding party. They hadn’t arrived yet, but I could imagine how lovely a scene it would be in a few hours. I sat on the ground taking it in for a few minutes, remembering my own wedding day.

The majestic wedding oak

The majestic wedding oak

Wedding day

Wedding day

As I continued on, I was struck by the site of graceful magnolia trees. So many delicate pinkish flowers were reaching into the vivid blue sky. I lay on the ground, pointing my lens towards the sky, lost in the moment. I soon noticed an older couple watching me take pictures. I laughed to myself…they must have thought I was a bit crazy! I wondered if they had seen the wedding chairs…what they might have said to each other about the scene.

Saucer magnolia under the blue sky

Saucer magnolia under the blue sky

More splendid flowers were waiting for me in the peaceful azalea-camellia garden. I watched a little bee go about his work and a black cat enjoying a nap in the leaves. A gentle breeze moved through the trees and the sun cast a beautiful light on the flowers. As I snapped a few pictures, I thought about how long it had been since I really took in the beauty around me. Really enjoyed the simple gifts that are in abundance in Florida.

I wondered if the wedding party had arrived, but I was distracted by the bird songs coming from somewhere nearby. I followed the sound…and found so much more to enjoy. But that’s a story…and some photos…for another time.

Camellia in the sun

Camellia in the sun