Fort Miffin

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Fort Mifflin, originally called Fort Island Battery and also known as Mud Island Fort, was commissioned in 1771 and sits on Mud Island on the Delaware River near Philadelphia International Airport. During the American Revolutionary War, the British Army bombarded and captured the fort as part of their conquest of Philadelphia in autumn 1777. The United States Army began to rebuild the fort in 1794 and continued to garrison and build on the site through the 19th century. It housed prisoners during the American Civil War. I flew over the fort on approach to PHL where I connected for my return flight to Boston bringing my ten day vacation to a close.

Biscayne NP

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Apart from the Visitor Center, Biscayne National Park’s 172,971 acres are only accessible by boat. On New Years Day, 1966, the schooner Mandalay ran aground on Long Reef within the park’s boundaries and that is the snorkeling destination I will explore today followed by a brief visit to the Island of Boca Chita. The following images represent my first attempts at underwater photography and were taken with a very inexpensive camera which is to say they are not up to my normal standards.

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I don’t have a lot of experience snorkeling but it is hard for me to imagine a more enjoyable site. I was surrounded by huge numbers of fish of seemingly infinite variety and could have easily spent the entire day in the water except for that small matter of the setting sun. On the way back into port I was able to frame some para-sailers against the Rickenbacker Causeway and the Miami skyline for an interesting photo.

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Corkscrew Swamp

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My bucket list includes visiting all 59 US National Parks and my trip to Florida was motivated by a desire to add two more, bringing my current total to 22. Florida in the spring is THE time for bird photography and the reason you have been treated to (or tortured by) so many avian portraits in recent days. My visit to Corkscrew Swamp today should be the last for bird photography for some time. I had good luck on the trail and stayed until the light got harsh before driving to Miami Beach.

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Venice

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I arrived early in Venice, FL this morning at a rookery that I discovered while researching this trip on the internet.  It proved to be every bit as magical as I had hoped.  Several nests contained fledglings and I watched for hours as parents tended to their new borns.

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At noon I departed for Cape Coral, a preferred nesting destination for the Burrowing Owl. Although the burrows can be found all over the place, it is harder to find ones that are occupied, have a high mound and a photogenic backdrop. My searching paid off and I found this attractive pair who cooperated just long enough for me to take this picture. It is good birding etiquette to spend no more than a minute or two in proximity to nests so as not to disturb the occupants. With the shot I was looking for in the bag, I headed for Fort Myers Beach to enjoy the sunset and to have dinner.

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Flamingo

Within the Everglades National Park is the tiny town of Flamingo.  All manner of birds and critters can be found near here with the notable exception of flamingos.  I spent the entire day within the boundaries of the park taking short hikes at every point of interest along the main road between the entrance and Flamingo.

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Everglades NP

I returned to Key West from Dry Tortuga by mid day and drove directly to the Everglades where I arrived in time to take advantage of evening light.  Here is just a small sampling of the wildlife I encountered.

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Dry Tortuga NP

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I learned an important lesson last night about tent camping; it is no fun in hot places. To date, I have always camped in cold climates were staying warm is just a matter of having the right gear. Once you are naked, however, there is no getting cooler when night time temperatures are in the high 70s. Lack of a restful night’s sleep did little to diminish my enjoyment today as I flew by seaplane to the Dry Tortuga National Park located 68 miles west of Key West. The land based portion of the park is on seven tiny islands, the largest of which is home to Fort Jefferson.

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Fort Jefferson is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere and is composed of more than 16 million bricks. It was built to defend the Gulf Coast but never fully completed or used for that purpose.

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Beyond the foot print of the fort, only birds are permitted. Most were too far away to photograph but I did manage a nice in-flight photo of this little fellow.

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The flights to and from the national park were equally interesting. Flying below 500 feet it was easy to spot sea turtles, dolphins, ship wrecks and the amazing undersea sand dunes which are characteristic to this area of the Gulf of Mexico.

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Key West

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I made good use of the drive from Fort Lauderdale to Key West stopping frequently when I spotted an opportunity to photograph interesting wildlife. The four hour journey took twice as long but I was rewarded with a great collection of images. I arrived in time to set up my tent before sunset and enjoyed a nice dinner in town.

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On to Florida

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My flight today from California to Florida flew directly over Yosemite affording me an exceptional view of the entire valley. As luck would have it my cameras (all four that I had with me) were in the overhead compartment and I was not able to gain access to them in time. Instead, I had to settle for this aerial view of a city which I found interesting.

After the Storm

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It rained last night like their was no tomorrow. Fortunately our tent proved to be a match for the storm and we remained dry if slightly rattled by the lightning and thunder. Our reward was a moody sky at morning light which made for some fine photography from Tunnel View.

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Kyle’s strep throat grew worse throughout the morning and after breakfast he elected to sleep in the car while I made the hike to Vernal Falls. I found some nice off trail paths which opened up on nice views of the falls.

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We left Yosemite at noon for our return to Santa Clara where we were joined by Kyle’s new girlfriend Karina for a very nice Mexican dinner on Santana Row. She was kind enough to capture an image of father and son to commemorate our long weekend adventure.

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El Capitan

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I was up before the sun for some morning light photography. Kyle, having pulled several late nighters cramming for exams, was content to sleep in. Morning light favors the eastern exposure of El Capitan so I hunted for a spot on the Merced River that would provide a nice reflection. I found several nice shooting locations and settled on the one pictured here as my favorite. During my location scouting I encountered a very healthy looking coyote which remained focused on finding breakfast even as I stalked him for a photo.

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When I returned to the tent several hours later, Kyle was still sleeping (we later learned that he was suffering from strep throat). We grabbed a quick breakfast and made a tour of the valley floor including a quick jaunt up to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls.

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Yosemite

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This is my fifth visit to Yosemite and the panoramic vista from Tunnel View never ceases to inspire me. For a new perspective, Kyle and I made the 2.6 mile roundtrip hike from Tunnel View to Inspiration Point, a 1000 ft. gain in elevation. If truth be told, the view from the top is not all that inspirational compared to one that can be found about a third the way up the trail. We have since learned that the original Inspiration Point has been renamed to Old Inspiration Point and the place we discovered along the path has now been deemed, justifiably, the new Inspiration Point. When we returned from our hike we drove to Curry Village in the valley and checked into our accommodations for the next two nights, the platform tent pictured below.

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Once situated, we ventured out for more exploration and stopped at Valley View for a nice evening light scene. We arrived at the Yosemite Lodge just in time to have dinner before the restaurant closed which was fortunate as both of us had worked up quite an appetite.

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Kyle’s New Digs

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I flew from Boston to San Francisco today where I rented a car and drove to Santa Clara to visit Kyle for an extended weekend. Pictured here is the student housing complex which he moved into at the beginning of the semester. His two bedroom apartment, which he shares with one other student, is quite an upgrade from the tiny dorm room he moved into as a freshman. Below is a photo of the Santa Clara Mission Church, the iconic center of campus.

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Our plan is to head for Yosemite National Park in the morning and I am really looking forward to sharing the experience with Kyle who is now the same age I was when I first visited. My desire to visit all of the US National Parks was no doubt kindled when I first gazed upon Yosemite valley from Tunnel View.  Profoundly beautiful is the only way I can describe it.

Frankly Speaking

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I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Frank Wilson, General Manager for the Defense and Security Business Unit at iRobot for two and a half years. He has been a great partner in crime and his departure will be a huge loss for the company.  This evening we celebrated his contributions while roasting him at every turn.  An inspirational leader with bold vision and an intense desire to satisfy customers, he has a gift for building engagement and motivating people in a culture free of blame and focussed on the future.  Frank is also a pilot and co-owner of a plane. He agreed to take me up for a ride until I asked if we could remove a door to facilitate my aerial photography.

I will be on the road for the remainder of the month, leaving tomorrow for a long weekend in California with Kyle followed by a week-long tour of Florida’s national parks.  As such, I will probably not be in a position to update the blog again until the first days of April.  At that time, I hope to share my first attempts at underwater photography plus a plethora of landscapes and wildlife.

 

Thin Ice

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What can I say? I am a sucker for a meandering stream. I passed this scene as I was returning from meetings in Watertown. The fact that I was wearing dress shoes was not a consideration as I trudged through the snow in search of an unobscured view of this partially thawed lowland area. Regrettably, no such vantage point was to be found and I had to settle for a distracting foreground and pair of cold feet. While on the subject of thawing ice, here are two crops of the same image, a picture of the edge of  block of ice (an ice damn that fell from our roof) which is being thinned everyday by an ever present and intense sun.

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Free Loader

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I did not appreciate finding this insect in the duffle bag I am using to pack my camping gear for my upcoming trip to California and Florida. I am not one to squash bugs (mosquitos being a notable exception) but have no compunction whatsoever about ejecting them from the house, even if it is cold outside. Once I photographed him on the ice where he landed (this thing flies), I moved him to the warmer grass which is now exposed over the area where our septic tank is buried.