Slow Speed

slowspeed2

Heron in the Mangroves

This is one more beautiful shot of a heron in Old Tampa Bay and this concludes my series on Tampa. I have been travelling to Salt Lake City and there will be more travel blogs to come. Like the heron, I am moving at slow speed. Perhaps it’s the incessant heat in Houston? The rain came last night but it feels like it has crept up to 100 degrees again. The humidity makes it feel like 10 degrees more. When I arrived in Salt Lake City I was cold (even though it was in the mid 90s) – no humidity, though.

Just looking at these lovely Koi carp in the grounds of our hotel in Tampa makes me feel peaceful. My dentist has a beautiful aquarium in the waiting room and each room is decorated like the Tropics – I love going to the dentist now. 🐬

Koi

Koi

Ybor City, Tampa

Ybor City State Museum

Ybor City State Museum

Before we visited Tampa, I had no idea that it had a historical area of such significance. From the periphery, Tampa looks like many other modern cities in Florida, with the exception of Miami and its wonderful Art Deco buildings. Ybor city was named for Vincente Martinez Ybor, an entrepreneur who had moved his cigar business from Cuba to Key West.

Mural with Vincente Martinez Ybor

Mural with Vincente Martinez Ybor

That hadn’t been entirely successful so he decided to settle in Tampa in the 1880s. The cigar workers were skilled so many of them came from Cuba and Spain, followed by an influx firstly of Italians, then Eastern European Jews, Germans and Chinese, many of the next stage immigrants serviced the city with restaurants and other industries.

Columbia Restaurant

Columbia Restaurant

cigarshop

Cigar Shop

It was an eclectic mix that was stable because each ethnicity had their own social club with welfare and benefits. Additionally, the work was plentiful and well paid. Each worker had their own little Casita, some of which are preserved, others have been renovated. The docent at the Ybor Museum told us that they used Ybor City’s welfare system as a template when they set up Medicare and Social Security in the 40s. That fascinated me more than anything else.

Streetcar in Ybor City

Streetcar in Ybor City

Ybor City reached its zenith at the beginning of the 1900s but cigar making started to decline after the Great Depression and World War II. Surprisingly, many of the original buildings remain with their exotic tile work. Artists started to flock to Ybor in recent times and it is being renovated block by block. It is a peaceful little oasis in a busy modern city with lovely tram cars. There are free range chickens on every porch because they outlawed harming chickens to stop cock fighting. You can read more of this in the The Chicken Murder. I noticed with a chuckle that you can have an event or a wedding in the garden of the Museum , but just look out for hungry hawks…
spanish street posters2

Big Cat Rescue, Tampa

Tiger eating his breakfast Big Cat Rescue

Tiger eating his breakfast
Big Cat Rescue

Our recent short vacation to Tampa had been long wished for because of the proximity to a large cat sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue. For many years we have been watching their funny and sometimes poignant Youtube videos and sponsoring their cats. Basically they rescue large cats such as tigers and lions that have sometimes been abused, are circus cats or kept by inappropriate owners. Many of the US states have introduced new legislation to prevent any Tom, Dick or Harry from buying a tiger cub. Unless current owners are able to provide a safe, specifically fenced, environment then they must give their animal up. There are many sanctuaries all over America but it is very expensive to feed and house these large animals.

“Hurry Up!”

Big Cat Rescue is one of the more successful sanctuaries by taking advantage of social media to promote their sanctuary and reform of the law. Although it wasn’t Nirvana, the animals have reasonably sized habitats with rotation into a larger vacation area with water and trees. The caretakers obviously love the animals and take great care of them, attending to all of their medical and holistic needs. It is situated just north of Tampa on a large tract of land but it is not a zoo. You can pay for a short visit at certain times and they do have educational tours. We decided to pay for a feeding tour where we could get up close and personal with some of the cats.

The ashes of previous residents are buried here

The ashes of previous residents are buried here

When you look at my photographs, you may think that their cage area is very small but this is just the feeding area. This small compartment allows the staff to look closely at the animals, watch their appetite and any problems with chewing. Many of them are very old and get supplements or medication for arthritis and the like. Teddy and I were so excited to see them at last! So many years of laughing at their silly antics, shedding a tear as a favorite old cat dies or cheering as they release a local bobcat into the wild. It was everything we hoped for and a little more. We were alone on the tour because it is low season and got very close the big cats.

"I want some!"

“I want some!”

I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t take notes of who was who and I might not even have the species correct. White or cream tigers are a mutation, bred for their looks. The same thing happens with ‘domestic’ Bengal cats. They are half wild and not appropriate for a regular household. I can’t see any reason why you would have to buy a cat at all – just rescue one, unless you need a specific breed for allergies.

This is not a natural mutation, this tiger is the result of selective breeding

This is not a natural mutation, this tiger is the result of selective breeding

Bobcat with orange ball

Bobcat with orange ball

The old cats who have always lived in captivity, sometimes in very small cages, are now in their forever home but they also have local bobcats brought to them who have been injured or orphaned (usually in a car accident). If it is possible, they are always released back into the wild. They also socialize small domestic kittens in a separate area which then are housed by the local charity. Below is Sabre, an elderly black Asian leopard. Here he is chillin’ in his pad. We watched him eat a large piece of meat quickly because he was so excited to get his breakfast. I think we all knew what was going to happen. Sabre looked as though he had bitten off more than he could chew and retreated back into his enclosure. Then he burped, threw up the meat and then proceeded to eat it again. Hilarious! Just like our little cats.

chillin

Sabre, the black leopard, chillin’

You don’t have to go all the way to Tampa to enjoy them – just browse the Youtube videos.

Do Big Cats like Boxes?
Do Big Cats Purr?
Funny Crazy BIG CAT SOUNDS!

Water and light

Old Tampa Bay

Old Tampa Bay

Morning view from the Grand Hyatt in Tampa of the old bay. There is something about sunshine, water and palm trees that makes us all feel good. There is a manatee viewing point beside a power plant just down the coast from Tampa. Off we went, excitedly, only to find it is closed in low season. It is weird to think that summer is low season anywhere! So no manatees but we drove down to a lovely marina near Apollo Beach and spotted an osprey in her nest in a palm tree. It seems such a short time ago that ospreys were endangered and now you can see them almost everywhere. That makes my heart sing.

Osprey in her palm tree nest

Osprey in her palm tree nest

The marina was small and less grand than many. We had a lovely lunch in the Circles Waterfront Restaurant looking out at this lovely vista, below.

marina

I was fascinated by this boat ‘car park’ at Land’s End Marina. There are also boats at the forefront in dry dock. How many thousands of dollars are parked there, I wonder? 🙂

boat car park

The beauty of darkness

Mangroves as light falls, Old Tampa Bay

Looking through the mangroves as light falls, Old Tampa Bay

I rarely see the dark. Off to bed while there is still light in the sky and awake into sunshine. We arrived in Tampa in the afternoon and by the time we toured the hotel and had dinner, suddenly it was dusk and then darkness. It was so exciting walking through the mangroves, wondering what eyes were looking at us and hearing the chirrup of many insects and night birds.

Doesn’t this look like a giant tarantula, below? It is really a spider crab and once I had my eyes focused they were everywhere. Wouldn’t it be fun to go there at Halloween?

Is it a tarantula hiding in the mangroves?

Is it a tarantula?

At one point the darkening sky turned green. It was eerily beautiful.
green light

It contrasted so beautifully with the pink sunset just before.

pink sunset

More wonderful photos and stories from Tampa to come.

Birds and vodka…

Yellow crested night heron, Tampa FL

Yellow crested night heron, Tampa FL

As I mentioned in a previous post, The Chicken Murder…, Teddy and I went on a hastily arranged trip to Tampa before he started his new job. Once again, air miles paid for the flights and I booked the hotel via Hotwire. My, ‘don’t know which hotel until you book’ worked so well in Charleston, that I thought I would try again. Wow! This one was even better. We were in the Grand Hyatt, on Old Tampa Bay, with a private beach, mangrove, nature walk with an amazing view across to the bridges. As I arrived to check in at the desk, the British receptionist asked me if I would like to upgrade to a sea view for $15 per night. That seemed like an excellent deal and we just gasped when we walked into our corner room on the 8th floor with floor to ceiling windows looking over the bay.

Grand Hyatt Tampa

Grand Hyatt Tampa

The mangroves were calling us, so as soon as we had showered off we went. Just before we reached the mangroves, an older couple from the North called us to tell us that there were FIVE nests of yellow crowned night herons in the tree above us! They noticed the cameras and thought we might be bird-watchers. It was so exciting to see a new bird (to us) and so many in a tree. They were very high up so my first shot has been cropped and not quite as sharp as I would have liked. Little did I know that when we walked back to the hotel, we would see others just chilling beside the tourists at the pool, at their own little pond. Completely fearless…
yellow crested2
After that, we went to investigate the roof-top bar and restaurant. What a treat, sipping on vodka looking at ospreys and roseate spoonbills diving for fish, with the sun beginning to set. After another two vodkas, we asked for the bill and then realized we were at the Grand Hyatt – 40 bucks for 4 drinks!!! At least the free snacks meant we ate less at the Plebeian bar downstairs… Just before bed I took this lovely shot just before sunset.
dusk birds
It was blissfully quiet in our oasis with the buildings at the other end of the peninsula in the distance. We left the curtains open all night and watched night fisherman with tiny lights.

The Chicken Murder…

Feral chickens in Ybor

Feral chickens in Ybor

It’s Friday, the global market is falling apart so let’s have a laugh and get down to basics. As soon as Teddy got his job offer, I raced to the internet to book a short trip before he started work. It had to be somewhere hot, not raining and preferably with wildlife – so Tampa it was. In the next week I will give you a step-by-step tour but I just want to share this story.

We went to the old town of Ybor in the center of Tampa to look at the architecture and museum. I noticed all the chickens on porches of houses and businesses. It reminded me of Key West where you are not permitted to harm them. After we spoke to the museum ranger, she confirmed that it was much the same in Ybor. When the Cuban immigrants moved here they brought the practice of cock-fighting, so they banned any mistreatment of the chickens. Now they are feral, like pigeons, but much prettier.

The ranger went on to tell us that she was leading a party of museum guests (including children) when they heard a blood-curdling scream from outside. They all ran out to see a red tailed hawk blissfully eating his lunch (a young chicken) in the tree with blood dripping down into the courtyard. The city folks were traumatized but I almost fell on the floor laughing. It would have been a perfect opportunity to show that chicken nuggets don’t come that way and that the cute little baby hawks need to be fed, too.

On a more serious note, I am quite knowledgeable about animal husbandry both from living on a farm, having grandparents who were farmers and working in animal sanctuaries. I rarely eat meat and always try to eat happy meat. In Scotland, our butcher used to accompany all his animals to the slaughterhouse and then brought them back. On the chalkboard would be listed which animal you were eating today. This is why you should give thanks for every animal that has died to feed you. It was much the same in Egypt. One day you are living on the farm, next day you go for a little trip, someone chooses you and snap you are in chicken heaven. That is a much better life than most first world chickens.

Since I took such delight in the chicken murder, the ranger took us aside and told us about her sister in New York who is a teacher. They had a biology project where they children cared for a caterpillar that pupated and finally emerged as a beautiful butterfly. The children were so excited to gather in the playground to release the butterflies. As soon as they did, a flock of blue jays came and ate every single butterfly! Can you believe that they got counselors in? What the heck is wrong with parents today – you should tell your children where there dinner comes from and then there might be more vegetarians around. Again, it was a perfect opportunity to show pictures of fluffy little baby blue jays that also needed fed…

Teddy and I did wonder if the blue jays gathered at the school every year for the lovely buffet lunch that was provided by the kind children. 😉 HAPPY FRIDAY!!! Stop worrying about your stocks and shares, you could have been born a chicken – LOL!