## Introducing Our Birder Collection

Ever since we added our Trinidad & Tobago pictures to our website in August 2012, I’ve been torn about the proper place for some of these pictures. We added a couple of them, namely Trinidad Chevron Tarantula and White-necked Jacobin, to our regular collection. Not all of the others met the high fine-art standards of that collection. Still, many had value to a certain part of your audience, so I didn’t want to just abandon them. We’ve decided to recognize that we have two distinct market niches. Now we have started making some of these pictures available as part of our new Birders’ Collection. For now, you can reach them from our Birds Portfolio page. They will be marked with an orange border around the name, as shown below.

As you can see, I’ve already added a few birds to this list. I will continue to add birds from our Trinidad trip as I can since half the work was done in 2012. From there, we can add birds from Africa and even Antarctica, but that will be a longer process. If it becomes a problem for those searching our regular collection, we may have to remove these from our existing Birds Portfolio and make a separate portfolio for our Birder Collection. One would probably access it from the main menu. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, enjoy!

## Our New “Toughest” Canoe Trip

Four months ago I reported on what was at the time our toughest single-day canoe trip everblog. That was an eleven-mile trip in Lake Kissimmee State Park which, although not the longest day trip we had ever taken, was, because of the winds (17 to 24 knots), our toughest trip so far. That trip happened in early March. Less than a week after telling the story, we broke that and other records, maybe permanently.

Toward the end of June, Nancy decided to head back down to Flamingo, expecting the Saharan dust that was forecast to hit South Florida that weekend to create some spectacular sunsets. We were there a few days, but the dust must have passed us by. But we were up until after three o’clock one morning trying to capture a Gigapan of the Milky Way, and we did spend another full day in our canoe. This is that story.

## The Start

The day started out beautifully. It was sunny, and by the time we launched the canoe at the marina around 10 am, the temperature was in the upper 80’s and climbing. Winds had been calm but were starting to build slightly from the northeast. Nancy decided to head toward Lake Ingraham instead of Snake Bight, our typical haunt. In our small cooler, we had lunch and drinks. We each had our regular 1-quart water bottles. Nancy was going to bring the 1-gallon water jug from the van, but couldn’t find it. As we came out the channel around 10:30, we headed west.

## Lunch

After a leisurely 5 miles, we started our lunch break just before noon. As we got back underway, Nancy mentioned that she was starting to feel bad, but I convinced her to proceed west for just another hour. Looking back, that may have been a mistake. For the next leg, the temperature was in the low nineties and the wind was a steady six knots from behind us. Averaging about five knots, we made it to the entrance to the East Cape Canal at 1:40 pm. Nancy rejected my suggestion to check out the lake, so we headed back.

## The Return Trip

Before lunch, when the wind was light and off our quarter, I expected the return trip to take about 50% longer, but now that we were paddling directly into the wind, that estimate was starting to look a little optimistic. For the next hour, we went less than 2½ miles and decided to rest a few minutes just off the beach. Then the wind started to pick up. We rested again less than a mile later. I was already beginning to wear out. About ⅔ mile later, we stopped again, this time long enough to do a beach cleanup. By then the wind had increased to almost 15 knots. During the cleanup, I finish off my water bottle. Twenty minutes later, we got back in the canoe. The wind was still strong. We had trouble making headway and after less than ½ mile, we stop for another beach cleanup. Besides tired, I’m also feeling dehydrated. Nancy shared some of her water. After removing all of the lobster/crab trap lines on the beach, I was greatly relieved to discover that there were still drinks in the cooler. I finished them. More than fifty minutes after we arrived, we again left the beach. The canoe is now fully loaded with debris.

The wind is still about 15 knots, but I feel refreshed. Still, we only cover two miles in the next hour. Around 6:30 Nancy notices a feather floating by and wants to circle around to pick it up. We make one pass, but as I mentioned in the previous article (Our Latest (Toughest) Canoe Trip), winds above 15 knots begin to adversely affect our maneuverability. For one thing, they can make it very difficult to turn into the wind. We missed the feather, and I didn’t have enough energy for another pass so we head back to the beach for another rest. We still have 4½ miles to go and sunset is in less than two hours. I don’t rest long. But then after taking half an hour to travel just ¾ mile more, we rest again.

## The Final Push

Now it is only an hour before sunset. Nancy is too quiet. There will be no more stops. The winds are back down to ten knots out of the east, though, and dropping. The sun sets at 8:17. I’m running on fumes. We have headlamps in our dry bags, but at that point, I thought we were closer to the harbor than we actually were so we don’t pull out the lights. We keep paddling. And paddling. As we round the last point into the marina, it is dark, and there is a giant splash just off our port quarter. It must have been that large crocodile, but I was just too tired to jump. We kept paddling. We got to the dock at 9 pm. The winds were still six knots. We were met by a park ranger. He helped remove the trash. I wasn’t much of a conversationalist, but fortunately, Nancy did our talking. We managed to remove and stow the gear, but it took everything I had to get the canoe back on top of the van. The next morning, we slept in.

## Conclusions

All total, we canoed just over 20 miles (shattering the old one-day record). The winds weren’t as perilous as they got on the Lake Kissimmee State Park trip, but they did become quite a challenge. Although we didn’t get to look around much, I was glad that we finally made the trip to Lake Ingraham. I was really glad when it was over. I felt obligated to tell this story only because it changed some of the claims I made in the original story so soon after the first story was published. We probably won’t need to update this story again for a long, long time.

In May we visited Brian Piccolo Sports Park in Cooper City in the early morning with our friend, Brian Rapoza, to get burrowing owl pictures.

Brian is an old friend who we first introduced in 2012blog and later contributed to Why You Haven’t Seen Any Painted Buntings.

While there, Nancy got a few pictures. This is the one she likes best.

For more information, you can go to our Burrowing Owls page. If you hurry, you can have Print #1 either on fine art paper or canvas up to at least 23″ by 35″. Soon we will be making a few prints for our next art festival, which is still scheduled for Odessa in early Decemberannounced.

## An Apology And Activity Update

Some of you have been flooded with “new blog post” announcements just this week. Some of these had unintelligible titles, but all of them lead to “file not found” messages. I’m sorry to bother you like that. Among other things, I’ve been working on deferred maintenance on our website and blog this extended off-season. Some of the changes didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated. Most of the errant blog notices were created while I was online with our web hosting provider trying to identify and correct the problems. The good news is we fixed virtually all of the problems. And I’ll know to shut down my notification services before sending fake posts (or even calling my host provider).

Most of the changes were behind-the-scenes stuff that you might not even notice, like bringing the website and post up to ever-evolving standards, making our information easier to find to Google, et al, and so forth. For what it’s worth, our site is now secure. In fact, it was that change, which should have been straight forward, that caused many of the problems. Oops!

I haven’t quite gotten to my list of Nancy’s new pictures to show you but hope to have something by the end of the month. Most of the certificates of authenticity I had promised have been sent out, although there is more to do still. And I have plenty of new ideas to check out – printing on rocks, a new angle on gallery-wrap moulding, printing on aluminummentioned, continuing my weird-wood seriesintro, maybe even a discussion of hanging hardware. My midnight rainbowdiscussed may have to wait a little longer. Stay tuned and stay safe.

## We May Not Have To Trade In Our New Canoe After All

As I mentioned in the discussion on our page for Royal Terns, I managed to flip our new canoe shortly after Nancy got that shot. Although I believe that was the first time I’ve ever done that to Nancy, it really damaged her confidence. She has been more hesitant about our canoeing adventures ever since. She has even been considering trading in our new canoe for another model. It might be too early to tell, but that may have all changed after our last trip out of Lake Kissimmee State Park.

### Our New Canoe

We bought the Kevlar Flex-core Wenonah Escape, a 17½-ft, 53-pound canoe, because our old 75-pound, 17-ft, aluminum Grumman seemed to be getting heavier every time we used it. We got that canoe less than six months before our Cedar Key trip and had used it only about eight times. But we had already noticed that although our new canoe was faster in calm conditions, without the small keel of the Grumman, it was much more sensitive to weather conditions. Especially in a crosswind, the weight distribution of our gear was now critical; too much weight aft and the wind would tend to turn the vessel away from the wind, and having the center of gravity too far forward would turn the canoe into the wind.

### The Cedar Key Trip

We were in Cedar Key for the 53rd Annual Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, but decided to stay around for a few days to explore. When we began the canoe trip that morning, it was a beautiful, sunny day. The winds remained about 5 knots throughout most of the day. Our first stop was on the first island, Atsena Otie Key, about a mile south, to get pictures of downtown Cedar Key. Then we were off to Seahorse Key, a couple of miles further to the southwest, to get lighthouse pictures and such. The “Royal Terns” was one of Nancy’s last photos, taken just before 5 pm. The wind started to pick up as we headed back to Cedar Key. By the time we passed Grassy Key (about 2/3 of the way back), winds were approaching 15 knots and we were in the trough of a chop that was higher than one foot. As the wind was picking up, I was spending more and more effort maintaining our course and less force was devoted to making forward progress. I was wearing out, so decided that I needed to shift some weight forward. That’s when I made some critical errors in judgment. Without alerting Nancy, I raised up just enough to lift a gear bag over the next thwart. But that was too much. I clearly overestimated the stability of the canoe and the seriousness of our situation. We flipped.

So how should we have handled these conditions? There’s always more than one way to skin a cat, but I should have first told Nancy what I was about to do. Instead of staying in the trough, we could have let the wind help us to a downwind heading (which is much more stable). Then Nancy could have stabilized the canoe with her paddle while I made the necessary ballast adjustments. And although I tended to attribute my lack of judgment to a lack of familiarity with our new canoe, I can’t guarantee the Grumman would have survived the original operation either.

Most of our gear was in dry bags but Nancy hadn’t put away her best camera and lens before we started the crossing. From the water, we righted the canoe, rounded up and returned most of our gear to the canoe, and from inside the waterlogged canoe, paddled or swam to shallower water west of Atsena Otie Key. There we could stand up and touch bottom, bail out the canoe, and continue to the Cedar Key harbor. From there, we immediately called Canon to see how best we could preserve the equipment. They said we didn’t need to do anything except mail it to them so they could take care of it. But they couldn’t. We had to buy a new Canon EOS 7D body and 100-400mm zoom lens. Oww.

### Lake Kissimmee State Park

At Lake Kissimmee State Parkofficial website, there is the Buster Island Loop Paddling Trail, which winds over eleven miles. Nancy has brought her school camping club here before and they have canoed this trail. We planned to follow our traditional routine of launching just west of the bridge to the cow camp, heading west along Zipprer Canal into Lake Rosalie, then south to Rosalie Creek, where we paddle to Tiger Lake, then east-northeast to Tiger Creek.

For what it’s worth, on an earlier trip with Nancy’s school camping club, it was at a spot on Tiger Creek, just before you get to Lake Kissimmee, on a decent beach before the line of trees on the right (south) side that parallels the Lake Kissimmee shore, that they found the subject model for Barred Owl.

Tiger Creek leads to Lake Kissimmee, and then it’s a shorter paddle northwest to the east entrance to the Zipprer Canal. From there, the journey ends at the State Park Marina, just a short hike around the water structure from the starting point.

#### The Trip

This trip started normal enough. It was mostly sunny at first and windy, but we didn’t feel the wind below the banks, and especially in the tree-lined sections of Zipprer Canal. Lake Rosalie was another story. By then, the wind was seventeen to twenty-four knots out of the southwest, which means its fetch was essentially the whole length of the lake. As we entered the lake we were paddling directly into waves of at least 1½ feet. We were paddling full speed ahead and Nancy was really getting pounded riding up (and down) in the bow. (Where I came from, you’d have to pay at least a quarter to get this much excitement). It was Nancy’s understanding that we should be hugging the shoreline where it would be flatter, a misconception apparently held by many people. It is only flatter near the windward shore, where there is no fetch, or distance the wind has blown over the water to build up the waves. On the leeward (away from the wind) side where we were, there is no relief; the waves are as high as they are going to get.

##### Protocol

Whether in the front or the back, a straight stroke along the side of the canoe will tend to turn the canoe away from that side. Normally, the two paddlers would be stroking on opposite sides of the canoe – one on port and one on starboard (right as you face forward) to cancel out their individual turning forces. You should change sides on a regular, but not too frequent basis. When one needs to change sides, they call out so both paddlers change sides together. The weaker paddler (or the photographer if they are not the same person) would usually be in the bow. The stern paddler is normally responsible for course corrections and casual maneuvering. S/he does this by adding a little side flip or “J” to their stroke as necessary. If the strength of the paddlers is the same, few “J”s would be necessary. In other circumstances, they may be required on every stroke. Tight curves, as found in many creeks in Florida (like the two mentioned below, for example), require turning effort from both paddlers. Nancy taught canoeing in her previous day-job. She knows more strokes than I do and is very good.

Since we’ve owned this new canoe, I’ve had to make modifications to the standard tandem canoeing protocol/etiquette. As a crosswind picks up, I’ve started making sure the stern paddler (which is I) is stroking on the lee side (or on the same side as the wind is trying to blow the bow) to better counteract that force. When the wind is really strong, I ask the bow paddler (Nancy) to shift so that we are both on that side.

##### Lake Rosalie

At first, we are paddling directly into the wind. Our next waypoint, the next creek entrance, hidden in the tall grass, is about 45° off the port (left) bow. The problem is, under our current wind conditions I soon discovered that if I let the bow get over 30° off the wind, then even with both of us paddling hard from the leeward side or even using one of the turning strokes, it takes quite a while (and a lull in the wind) to bring the bow back on course. Paddling in the trough of an occasional 2-foot chop isn’t something I was going to let happen. As we got into the middle of the lake (and the bearing to our waypoint approached the beam), the waves are slightly smaller and the wind shows signs of weakening (at least part of the time). We changed course so the wind came from about 30° off the starboard bow, which is as far off the wind as I felt we could reliably recover from. Then we eased off on the power a bit (when not recovering from a gust) and let our leeway (the sideways direction and speed that the wind is impacting us) make up the difference in course angle. We eventually find and enter Rosalie Creek.

Rosalie Creek is narrow, winding, picturesque, and protected for the most part. Nancy is able to photograph. There is some current, which makes station-keeping a little more difficult, especially since I’m already tired. We enjoy the view and the rest, and then we enter Tiger Lake.

##### Tiger Lake and Lake Kissimmee

As we enter Tiger Lake, we see an osprey catch a fish. Then an eagle tries to take the fish. We watched a remarkable aerial display that lasted at least five minutes. The osprey had a tighter turning radius but the eagle was never far behind. Finally, the osprey dropped the fish. Maybe it decided that it was expending more calories defending the fish than it would have gained from eating it. The eagle made a low pass looking for the fish, but unsuccessful, it flew off, as did the osprey in the opposite direction. Just a few minutes later the osprey flew by again and grabbed another fish (without interruption).

Although not quite as strong, the wind is still alive and well. But we are a little more rested. From Tiger Lake, our next waypoint, Tiger Creek, is close to directly downwind. The wind is now helping with our speed. But the waves, which are growing as we cross the lake, are trying to broach the canoe (turn it sideways to the wind, possibly burying the bow in a wave or capsizing the boat when it gets in the trough). This takes heavy corrective paddling from the stern paddler as every wave goes by until we reach Tiger Creek.

Tiger Creek is wider than Rosalie but still serpentine. Again, Nancy is taking pictures (including close-ups of a snail kite eating lunch).

In Lake Kissimmee, our intended track was to the northwest just off the windward shore of the lake, and the lake was full of water plants so the waves aren’t too bad. The wind had even started subsiding. We found our way to the canal entrance and then to the marina. Although we were completely bushed, we did manage to get the canoe secured back on top of the van right at sunset.

## Conclusions

This wasn’t our longest paddle. We’ve done more than fifteen miles on a day trip on more than one occasion. The most recent time was around Snake Bight east of Flamingo (which is at the end of the road in Everglades National Park). And even though almost half of that trip was through water about two inches shallower than the canoe with a thick muddy bottom, the weather was mild and the trip wasn’t as tough as this one. (Interestingly enough, on our last trip to Flamingo, Nancy mentioned canoeing to Ingraham Lake, which is at least ten miles west of Flamingo. Now that would be quite a day trip for us.)

But more importantly, the wind and waves were worse on this trip than on the Cedar Key trip that caused us to capsize. I’m hoping that was enough to rebuild Nancy’s confidence. Stay tuned.

## Subsequent Screech Owl Stories

Since the nesting screech owls left us (see Our Screech Owl Image – The Rest Of The Story, which is about the subject owl family in our image “Mother Screech Owl with Fledgling” (a link to that page is in the article)), we’ve had a few noteworthy encounters with our local screech owls. In the most recent, we may have saved a life, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

## In Our Neighbor’s Yard

A few years ago, we were outside with our good friend and former wild bird rehabilitator April Kirkendoll (whom we last mentioned in Nancy’s Photos Are In Book About Bees), when we heard the blue jays squawking in a neighbor’s mango tree. That usually means there is a snake or hawk in the vicinity, so we walked across the street to investigate. As we peered through their chain-link fence, we saw a screech owl fall out of a tree onto the ground. April hopped over the 6-ft fence, retrieved the bird, handed it to Nancy, and then hopped back over the fence. As she inspected the owl, April lifted one wing and then pointed out a large dark area of skin. “This bird has been poisoned!” Apparently, the owl had caught a poisoned rat (or mouse), possibly still alive, but weakened. The poison works by thinning the rat’s blood so much that it ultimately dies from internal hemorrhaging. Whatever eats the rat could suffer the same fate. We buried the owl in the garden.

## Nancy, The Rehabilitator

This last January, our next-door neighbor brought us a screech owl that he picked up at the corner 7-11 (see post on our Bee Happy Graphics Facebook page – that photograph was taken by another non-photographer good friend, Isabella Baldovino). That owl had knocked itself unconscious by flying into one of the 7-11 windows. After consulting with April, we monitored it all day, but it was ready to release that evening.

## An Owl Returns To Our Nest Box

A few weeks ago, we were excited to notice an owl face looking out the opening of our nest box. Nancy noticed a resemblance to the owl she released in January. She saw the owl several days in a row, and then it disappeared briefly, then came back, and so on. After one absence lasted at least a couple of days, Nancy decided to check the nest box. From the side door, she saw the owl was still there. She was able to pick it up and noticed two eggs. The owl was very lethargic. It didn’t squawk, attack, or even defend its nest. In fact, it would barely open its eyes. We could easily feel the ridge of the breast bone.

Nancy put the owl back in the box and consulted our expert. Together, they theorized that the mate, which we had not seen, may have been poisoned, but before disappearing permanently, brought the poisoned meal to the mother. We tried force-feeding the mother a small piece of raw chicken, but she wasn’t having any of that. We later brought a small dish of wax worm larvae and chicken pieces and placed it in the nest. The next morning, the food was gone. the next dish with larger portions met the same fate. At this point, the owl was a little more lively. We gave her another dish of food. The next morning, the food and the owl were both gone. We left another dish of food, hoping she would return, but the next morning the food was still there, and she was still gone. April had warned us that without the male, she might abandon the nest to save herself. We haven’t seen her since.

Screech owls lay their first three eggs a day apart, but then begin to slow down a bitRef 1. Although their average clutch size is four eggs, they have been known to have as many as six. April told us that the mother doesn’t start incubating until they are all laid so that they all hatch about the same time.

The second day after the mother disappeared, I estimated that the oldest egg must be four days old. We decided we’d better do something about those eggs soon. We called the rehab centers in our area but had to leave messages. They never got back to us. April sent us one link for building an inexpensive incubator (“The \$3, 30-Minute Egg Incubator”), but I’m sure there are others online. After reviewing those instructions, we started scrounging up materials. We started with an old heating pad and eventually wound up with the rig shown info Figure 3 below. I learned a few things in the process:

I set it up in the shop so it wouldn’t affect or be affected by the air conditioner. In hindsight, the air-conditioned environment would have been more stable. I started with just the heating pad, which had three settings: just a little low, too high, and way too high. While it was on the medium setting I tried adding layers of towel as insulation, with marginal success. Then I put it on low and added an incandescent light for fine-tuning. These parts were just lying on our shop table. I would change the distance from the bulb to the egg to change the temperature. I was using a neighbor’s (the one who took the picture in Figure 1) old-fashioned oral thermometer and began checking the temperature every five minutes, increasing the time as the temperature stabilized in the target range (99°Ref 2 ±1°).

Turns out the heating pad was a bad idea. After some initial luck, the temperature would swing from one end of its range to the other (and beyond). I concluded that for consistency, the placement of the thermometer was crucial. The problem was that the temperature gradient created by the heating pad was too great; the surface of the pad might be over 100 degrees, but one millimeter away would be substantially less.

I unplugged the heating pad and got a box to control the hot air from the lightbulb. Using the box, the distance between egg and bulb wasn’t as critical to the temperature as the height of the open edge of the box, which could be adjusted as needed. And the bulb-heated air temperature was much more consistent throughout the chamber and more important, throughout the egg. I got to the point where I was rotating the egg 1/3 of a revolution four times a day, and would only check the temperature twice between rotations (and none at night).

### The End Of The Story?

Alas, after three days on the incubator, tragedy struck. I won’t go into details but would like to warn you to make sure your box is well supported. Although it was probably too early to tell, candling the remains of the last egg did not reveal any signs of development.

Nonetheless, we are going to declare this experience a success. Most likely, we saved the mother screech owl from certain death. It is even possible that after a year or so, she will have recovered, found another mate, and could even return to the nest box to raise another family. As for the eggs, the cards were stacked against them from the beginning. According to the Barn Owl Box Company (Ref 1), even under normal conditions, only half of all screech owl eggs hatch (compared to over 80% for some owl species). But these weren’t normal conditions. And what about the father, and this recurring poisoning theme? That is up to all of us. Nancy and I, and many of our friends, are trying to do our part. Are you?

Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, leave them below.