This site is not just about food, but about my home state of Florida – and its many sights. So today, to change things up, here’s a photo page – some nice shots from in and around Palm Beach County. Want to share yours? Put their links in your comments so we can see them, or go to my Comment page and email them to me and I’ll post them here.
Palm trees and parrots
Our state tree is a sabal palm, but South Florida’s is the coconut palm. Look very closely on the fronds above and you might see the wild and loud Quaker parrots (they’re the same color as the fronds) that hang out in coconut trees and squawk their way around town in flocks. This tree was taken at the Oceanside Farmer’s Market on the Intracoastal Waterway in Lake Worth.
Pelicans always picturesque
Down here, we call them the aerial Beach Patrol – squads of brown pelicans can be seen daily, flying in formation up and down the shoreline, skimming the Intracoastal Waterway and Loxahatchee River, and scouting Lake Okeechobee.
Their wing spans are 6 and 7 feet across – they don’t look terribly aerodynamic until you see how graceful they are at simply gliding. They are, however photogenic and I believe at one time a newspaper editor here once put a moratorium on pelican “wild art” photos, since it seemed we had one a day.
They are apt at fishing and eat several pounds a day by diving head first on their prey and using their lower beak and pouch as a seine. But they’re not above hand-outs, of course, and eagerly wait on pilings at docks, and bob behind boats that even hint they might have extra bait to throw out.
Sadly, injured pelicans are frequent visitors to our many marine wildlife rescue facilities along Florida’s coastlines. They are often tangled in discarded fishing line, which traps them so they can’t fly or swim properly. Their legs and feet get hooked and infected. Save the pelicans! Never discard fishing line overboard – and pick up any you find that’s washed up on the shore. Discard it in a closed container so it doesn’t entangle birds at landfills, either.
Yellow heads mean mating mode
The pelicans are white-bellied when they’re young, and get darker feathers as they mature. Their head feathers turn yellow in winter – it’s their mating plumage. Another pelican moment: They don’t sit on their eggs, but stand on them instead, using the huge webs of their feet to warm them. They roost and nest in the mangroves and low trees primarily on spoil islands. Once endangered, their populations are healthy again, thanks to the banning of DDT pesticide, which created thin egg shells; and breeding and relocation programs.
The Heron and the Gator
Friend and amateur photographer Andy Spilos took this shot at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound right at the boat ramp. He said he was only shooting the great blue heron and didn’t notice the alligator in front of the bird until he saw the blown-up photo. Hard to tell if the gator had the chops to take on this size bird – though with gators, you never know.
A landmark for seafarers and landlubbers alike, the pre-Civil War Jupiter lighthouse overlooks Jupiter Inlet. Many a rum-runner relied on this light for safe passage.
It lights the way into one of the most treacherous inlets in South Florida. The narrow Jupiter Inlet intersects with the Loxahatchee River currents and Intracoastal Waterway and brings pause to even experienced boaters. Even on a calm day there are formidable waves tossing beween two rocky jetties. Smaller boats simply go south to the calmer, wider Port of Palm Beach.
The beam from the working lighthouse, restored completely in 2000, is visible up to 25 miles at sea. The lighthouse sits on a small hill surrounded by a waterfront park. A museum shop has a number of gift items – remember it at Christmastime if you’re looking for Florida-themed gifts.A small cafe is attached.
Tours of the lighthouse are given Tuesday-Sunday, and Wednesday nights it’s open for a “sunset” experience by reservation only.
Dressage and polo in Wellington
On a recent Sunday in Wellington at the International Polo Grounds as guests of the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, we took in a polo match. The Moet flowed, and the weather was extraordinary. During halftime, fancier horses high-stepped it around the field in a dressage exhibition. If you haven’t seen a polo match, it’s definitely worth a trip; the Sunday brunch they offer is recommended.
There’s a very special place in my heart for Lake Okeechobee. This sunset shot was taken during a bike ride along the lake’s rim on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST). Long before I was cycling along the Lake, or Lake O, as it’s commonly referred to, I was fishing it and camping on its banks. It’s gorgeous out there at sunset, especially in the winter months or during the full moon. It really saddens me that so many people in South Florida who live so close to the Lake have never even seen it.