Monthly Archives: May 2011

Clearwater Library “Visiting Small-Town Florida, Third Edition” Signing and Slide show

“Visiting Small-Town Florida, Third Edition” book signing and slide presentation at the Clearwater Public Library, Tuesday, June 7, 2:00 PM.

Historic Palace Saloon, Fernandina Beach

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“Visiting Small-Town Florida, Third Edition” Book Signing

“Visiting Small-Town Florida, Third Edition” book signing at Inkwood Books in south Tampa, Thursday, May 26, 7 PM.

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59th Florida Folk Festival, May 27 – 29, White Springs

The Florida Folk Festival, the state’s largest and oldest (and one of America’s largest and oldest) folk festivals takes place Memorial Day weekend at the 250-acre Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center in White Springs. As it has since 1953, folk music is the festival’s focus; and this year’s headliners are Grammy-winner John Anderson and Quincy, Florida native Billy Dean—plus a dozen more musicians and bands will be performing throughout the three-day event. In addition to music the festival features local-culture crafts displays and demonstrations, plus superb Florida and Southern cuisine.

A bit of Stephen Foster trivia (excepted from Visiting Small-Town Florida, Third Edition): In 1935, the Florida state legislature chose Stephen Foster’s melody “Old Folks at Home,” better known as “Way Down Upon the Suwannee River,” as the official state song. Ironically, Foster never once set foot in the state of Florida, much less on the banks of the Suwannee. (It’s likely that, except for a single trip to New Orleans, Foster never ventured south of Cincinnati, Ohio.) In his original draft of the song, which was ultimately published in 1851, he had written, “Way down upon the Pee Dee River,” but it just didn’t ring true for him. (The Pee Dee River is in South Carolina, and he had never been there either.) With the aid of an atlas and the assistance of his brother, Morrison, Stephen tried inserting a variety of river names into his song, including Yazoo. None sounded right until he hit on Suwannee.

Bruce Hunt

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More kayaking, more pictures, Sanibel and Captiva

I took the kayak out again, early this morning. This time I launched from the docks across from my front porch at the Castaways Cottages, next to Blind Pass (which separates Captiva from Sanibel). I skirted along the edge of Runyon Key then out the channel to Wulfert Flats. I think I can safely declare that the osprey has indeed made its comeback, at least here—there were dozens, some perched and some diving for fish. I also saw white ibis’, snowy egrets, blue herons, and of course pelicans. I even saw a manatee stick its bulbous snout out of the water briefly. Photos below of: Castaways Cottages, osprey, blue heron.

Bruce Hunt

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Kayaking Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island

I spent this morning kayaking the winding water trails and lagoons at the western end of Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, on Sanibel Island. Once on the water I did not see another human being for the entire paddle—it seemed almost primeval. It was, however, lively. Fish were jumping all around me. Most, I believe, were sea trout, but some had a black dot on the tail, which means redfish. I had stuffed my little Canon G12 point-and-shoot in the dry bag (not wanting to risk dropping my 5D in the water), just in case, and it paid off—got one quick snap of an osprey (see below) searching for breakfast from his dead-limb perch. Ospreys have been on the Florida Fish and Wildlife’s “Species of Special Concern” list for quite some time, but populations here are reportedly on the increase. Their common name is fish hawk, because that’s almost all they eat. I read an interesting bit of trivia about them that speaks to their intelligence and adaptability. Right after they snatch a fish out of the water, they spin it around between their claws so that the fish’s head faces forward for aerodynamic advantage (or maybe they just want the fish to see where it is going).

So what the heck is a Ding Darling? It’s not a “what”. It’s a “who”.

(Excerpted from Visiting Small-Town Florida, Third Edition): The Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is named after political cartoonist Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling. Darling won a Pulitzer Prize in 1924 and 1943, and later was head of the U.S. Biological Survey. He was also founder of the National Wildlife Foundation. Darling spent his winters on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and championed the cause of conservation and wildlife preservation here, long before it was fashionable. As far back as the 1920s, Darling’s cartoons reflected his concerns about conservation. It was his efforts that led to Sanibel and Captiva being declared wildlife sanctuaries by the State of Florida in 1948.

Bruce Hunt

Postscript, May 17, 2011: I discussed the jumping fish in Ding Darling, the other night, with a fishing-expert friend, Michael Poole, and he tells me that, “Redfish don’t jump.” It’s most likely that most of the fish I saw were mullet. The black dot on the tail of a few that I saw remains a mystery, however–if anyone can identify it, please let mew know. My curiosity is piqued.  Bruce Hunt

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