Last week we took a picnic lunch to Corkscrew Audubon Nature Preserve and enjoyed a nice long (for us) nature hike around the preserve.
We used to see Roseate Spoonbills more often, but haven't had good sightings this season until this early April walk. Maybe we just haven't been in the right place at the right time. On that hike we saw several.
These birds were in the garden area just outside the Audubon Visitor Center. I know that Cardinals are frequent backyard visitors for many, but they don't live in the Pacific Northwest and so they've never become routine birds for us. (Actually I can't imagine ever being anything but excited to spot them.) The two feeder birds on either side of the female Cardinal (top row) are Painted Buntings. They are certainly the most colorful bird I've ever seen (in person) .... and they are another bird that we never saw until we traveled outside of the Pacific Northwest.
The next pictures are from our March overnight trip to Redland and Homestead.
We visited Coral Castle, a feat of engineering that has been placed in the National Register of Historical Places. The structures in the Park were built by one man, Ed Leedskalnin.
An immigrant from Latvia, Ed was a small man, weighing only about 100 pounds at 5 feet tall. Without any help at all and using only simple tools, many homemade, he excavated, carved, and moved tons and tons of coral rock (which weighs 120 pounds per cubic foot) to create his coral castle.
To us, it seemed more like he created a kind of strange dream of a magical garden than a castle, but I guess they had to call it something.
Mr Leedskalnin was born in Latvia in 1887 and in 1913 was engaged to a woman ten years younger. On the eve of their wedding, she told him she didn't want to marry him because he was too old.
He soon immigrated to the United States and eventually, still broken-hearted about his lost love, began to construct the coral castle to honor her. Maybe he hoped she would eventually join him, but nobody knows for sure.
He eventually opened his Castle to the public .... (and he obviously wasn't modest about what he had done). When asked how he was able to move all of the heavy blocks he said it was because he understood the laws of weight and leverage.
He built all kinds of structures: thrones, beds, children's play structures, a bathtub, fountains, heart-shaped tables, rocking chairs that weighed 1000 pounds each but can be rocked by one person, a table in the shape of the State of Florida, a working sundial, and much more. These are just a very few of them. The picture on the right is me moving the 6,000 pound gate into the grounds. There aren't any gears or bearings -- it is perfectly balanced so that it can be turned by one person.
This sign was in the small upstairs apartment where Ed lived among bits and pieces of tools and ongoing experiments and very little in the way of creature comforts. It's probably not a coincidence that he spent his life alone .... but looking back at what he did (from a safe distance of many years), you've just got to love an eccentric genius! I think the last sentence of the sign means that it has been open to the public under the current ownership since 1953. We learned on our tour that during his lifetime Ed opened the area to the public on his own schedule (when he felt like it).
Although man-made marvels are fun and we always learn something, most of them (Ed's castle included) are a one-time-only affair.
But we never tire of nature here in Florida -- all of our favorite parks and sloughs are worth visiting time and time again. (And there are so many where we haven't been at all.) Finishing up this week's post with one more natural wonder from Corkscrew: I'll have more from there in another week.
Grateful that we have time and energy to explore the wonders -- and for digital cameras that allow me to take hundreds of pictures in order to get a few that are worth sharing!
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