Key Biscayne's Own Pancho the Duck

I'm sorry for the program interruption and for submitting y'all to the ugly mugs of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales (Dumb & Dumber) with schmattes on their head. Here instead I offer you a more pleasant vision for the eye, the Red Crested Porchard duck. This one is the local one who lives at Crandon Gardens in Key Biscayne, Florida. While an exotic duck, they are quite stunning especially in the spring when they get their breeding colors. This porchard is named Pancho. Pancho was named by Fabiola, one of our great local avian photographers. You'll find Pancho in the ponds seven days per week. There used to be some more red crested porchards at the pond, but they were eaten by the american crocodile who lives in the pond.

Pancho is probably the most photographed duck in Miami. Photographers from around the world go to Crandon for the exotic waterfowl and always manage to get a shot of Pancho in all of his glory. He charges commission now, or so I am told.

That's all for now. Ciao infidels.

Bahia Honda State Park - Florida Keys

Well infidels, it's the day after Memorial Day. The Miami Heat gave us a memorable game yesterday against Detroit. It actually did not rain as it usually does on Memorial Day (at least it didn't over Miami Lakes). So to start this work week, I offer you an image of Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. Bahia Honda is one of the few places in the Keys where they have sandy beaches. The beach there has been rated as one of the top beaches in the world.

I like taking images of the old bridge at Bahia Honda. However, for contrast, this image is taken from the old bridge towards the beach and the new bridge. I tweaked the image in photoshop to give it an artistic look. This place is definately a must on anyone's Florida Keys' holiday. And, for you nature folk, it is a major stopping ground for migrants. You'll find a bunch of warblers and other colorful songbirds here during the spring migration.

Ciao for now. Go Heat!

Memorial Day - 2006

My friends, please take a moment today in between your grilling and chilling and drinking to give thanks to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our Country. Think of those who chose to join the Continental Army in 1775 in the War of Independence. Those who joined the Union Army to help preserve the Union when things were at their worst. Think of those who served bravely in two World Wars, and those who served to fight communism and terrorism. I salute each and everyone of those soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in the cause of freedom. God bless you all!
I leave you now to ponder the words of Abraham Lincoln:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Un Viejo, Su Coche, y Un Batido de Mamey

I'm sure everyone who has been to or lives in Miami has experienced Un Batido de Mamey... [a mamay milkshake]. If you haven't, then you are missing out on a taste of heaven my friends. A mamey (aka sapote) is a fruit widely enjoyed by Cubans. It is eaten raw out of hand or typically made into milkshakes, smoothies and ice cream. The fruit's texture is creamy and sweet.

Most Cuban Cafeterias in Miami will make you a mamey milkshake, but they use frozen mamey. There is one place where you can have the mamey shake of a lifetime here in South Florida. It is of all places in a fruit stand/farmer's market called "Robert is Here". You can't miss it if you're traveling to the main entrance of Everglades National Park (or if unfortunately, you're traveling to the South Dade Correctional Institute). You take U.S. 1 or State Road 9336 to SW 344th Street, turn right through Florida City, past tomato and squash fields to "Robert Is Here" Fruit Stand. I like to stop there either when I'm on my way to the Glades or when I'm leaving the Glades. It's a fantastic old fashion fruit stand with a huge variety of tropical fruit, jams, jellies . . . you name it. But I stop there for the tropical milk shakes. They make them so thick you have to eat them with a spoon or you'll pull a muscle in your mouth trying to drink it with a straw. They have every tropical fruit imaginable: mamey, papaya, mango, and key lime, just to name a few.

On occasion when I pass through there on weekends, they have these old guys in thier real old antique cars like the old guy in the above image. Nice guy even posed for me.

So my friends, next time you're in South Florida make sure you visit the Everglades and on your way, stop by Robert is Here to have the mother of all mamey shakes. In fact, pick up a fresh mamey while you're there.

Ciao infidels.


More Crandon Park Memories

Here's a shot of crandon park beach shot last year at sunset....

Key Biscayne's Sandhill Cranes

One of the special places for me and other avian photographers in South Florida is Crandon Park, in Key Biscayne. Back when I was under five feet tall (a youngin), Crandon Park held the old Crandon Park Zoo. The zoo people built a better zoo without cages called Miami Metrozoo and left the southern area of Crandon Park abandoned.

Later in my high school years, Lot 2 at Crandon Park was the meeting point for all the high school kids to meet on weekends and on school days when we skipped school. (We only skipped school when we knew in advance that the day would be worthless....no tests and stuffs, only movies). Lot of memories there in my youth.

Hurricane Andrew re-landscaped the park and it has since been turned into a fantastic get away. On the north side you have some great nature trails. The beaches are great. There are picnic areas and playgrounds for the kids and families. And they even restored the old carousel that used to run there when I was a young boy. The old zoo grounds were re-landscaped into what is called Crandon Gardens. With bike and walking trails, plants and ponds, it is a great place to chill or to simply ride you bike. For those with a penchant for avian photography, it is a great place to get shots of exotic waterfowl, geese, hawks, osprey, peafowl, turkeys, guine hens, migrating songbirds, and the family of sandhill cranes that have lived there for several years. I remember the cranes as youngsters. The father crane was eaten by the american crocodile that made one of the ponds its home. The oldest crane then took it upon himself to help raise the other cranes. There are 5-6 cranes there and they've all learned to fly. They've made south Florida their home and have become my favorite photo subject at the park. Here is one of the sandhills who posed for me close to sunset.

Ciao infidels. Wear your seatbelts; don't drink and drive, and use a lot of sun screen if you're outdoors. Looks like rain here in the Magic City.

Memorial Day Weekend - Time to Light Those Grills

Well friends, it's been another week and now is the start of the summer BBQ season which mandates that all men grill meats on Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day. The big three BBQ days. As this is Memorial Day weekend, with out luck here in South Florida, it will likely rain. But if it does not, then I will bring out the grill and cook some skirt steaks (marinated in mojo), chicken, corn on the cob; chorizzo (Argentinian ones of course), and of course drink a lot of beer.

And it's also time to hit the outdoors, the beaches here in Florida will be packed. (You won't see me there though). And to top it off, there will be basketball to watch. Go Heat!

So I leave you this week with a brown pelican enhanced by me in photoshop.

Ciao infidels!

The World Is Going to the Dogs

Happy Thursday. As you can see from this image I took a few years back in St. Augustine, Florida, the world has truly gone to the dogs. In the last week, some clown has decided to sell shirts of Sesame Street characters posing as gangstas and druggies. How profane. http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/7358/249/1600/9265193.jpg

I also read that pinko filmmaker Oliver Stone is going to make a one sided propoganda film about Hugo Chavez like he did with Fidel. Who's Ollie going to film next? Robert Mugabi? This moe-ron never met a despot he didn't like. But that's not all...

Now, I read that the sexy actress Cate Blanchett is being hired to portray Bob Dylan in an upcoming film.

This is like having Bruce Willis playing Tina Turner. Or having Madonna play Ringo Starr. Or having Angelina Jolie play Keith Richards (Mick Jagger would not be so far off. They share the same lips).

All I can say is that it's the end of times people. We're talking real fire and brimstone here! Dogs and cats sleeping together! End of the world stuff! Mass hysteria.

Repent infidels. This place has sure gone crazy and as the great Alan Jackson once said...

"Pour me somethin' tall an' strong, Make it a "Hurricane" before I go
insane. It's only half-past eight a.m. but I don't care. It's five o'clock


A Girl & Her Parrot

Most folks have an interesting relationship with their pets. This leads to such axioms such as "a boy & his dog"; "a woman and her cat"; "a nerd and his snake," etc. Since my photography takes me constantly to the beach to take photos of birds, beachscapes, and the ocean, I occassionally spot something you do not see everyday. I've always seen folks walking their dogs on the beach. But never have I seen someone walking their parrot on the beach. It made a fine subject for me so I used my large telephoto to capture this image and converted it to a watercolor. This was taken last June at Anna Maria Island in SW Florida. So here you have it infidels -- a Girl & Her Parrot . . .

Lighthouses & Cuban Fritas

Happy Tuesday. Today we will do a little Florida sightseeing by giving you a photo of the historic Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse in Jupiter, Florida. For those unfamiliar with Florida, it is on the northernmost edge of East Palm Beach County, right before the Martin County line.

Originally a civil war lighthouse, it has stood over one of the most treacherous inlets in Florida. Even the most experienced boat captain must watch himself when manuevering these waters.

While El Farito, or the Cape Florida lighthouse, is one of my favorites, the Jupiter Lighthouse is second on my list. Perhaps it is because I have a fondness for red brick colored lighthouses. Most of them are white, or black and white striped, or simply metal towers. The Pone Inlet light in Volusia County is also red. I like that one too and will feature it in a later post. The Jupiter light is endearing to me as an artist since it faces the inlet which allows for some interesting photographic compositions. This shot was taken from across the inlet from the boat docks.

My buddy Pete the Drummer, moved all the way to Jupiter from Miami Beach and really digs it out there. However, one cannot find Cuban Fritas in Jupiter. It would require him nearly 2 hours to find the nearest frita from the Jupiter Inlet.

Hell, even in Fort Lauderdale, one cannot find a Cuban Frita. Only when I visit my mother in Westchester (S.W. Miami for you non-locals), can I enjoy a Cuban Frita at El Rey de las Fritas on Bird Road. Back in the days when I used to be a musician, myself and my fellow musicians, (Pete included), would end our rehearsals by heading out late in the evening to Las Palmas Restaurant on Calle Ocho to order some Cuban Fritas. They always seem to go down good with a Pineapple Soda or Beer. However, you'll still taste them for hours after you consumed them.

For those without a clue, the Cuban Frita is a spicy hamburger served on a hamburger bun made of Cuban Bread. I've seen many recipies for them, but none of them taste like the ones we enjoy in South Miami. Dunno the secret. I've tried to make them with a mix of ground beef and ground chorizo (with a lot of paprika). My version taste pretty good, but it's not quite there.

So for those like Pete, myself, and others of Cuban descent who have ventured far away from the frita capital of the world, we welcome your frita recipies. Post them here in care of Mr. Mike. To close my post, in the words of the immortal Oscar Wilde, "Work is the curse of the drinking classes.” Ciao infidels.


Little Estero Lagoon - Fort Myers Beach, Florida

One of my favorite locations to take photos of wading birds is Little Estero Lagoon on Fort Myers Beach. Most infidels would not even know of this place's existence. It is not on the map or tour books. But nature photographers from around the world will drive to the south side of Fort Myers Beach and park across the street from the Holiday Inn. They will put on their wading shoes and walk behind the hotel and find a nice shallow muddy lagoon. If you're there early am or late in the afternoon, you'll find egrets, herons, pelicans. if you're lucky, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, oystercatchers, and other sort of shorebirds. If you're there at the right time, you'll see the famed white morph reddish egret that frequents the lagoon. And if you're there like I was just before sunset in May, you may find a yellow crowned night heron, as you see depicted here, wading in the golden rays of the sun.

There's so much here in Florida to see. Just look around and you'll be amazed at the beauty God has blessed us with. We must do all we can to preserve this for all future generations so perhaps a photographer in May of 2067 may one day take a picture of YCNH in golden light and marvels that it looks like the photo taken by his grandfather in the days when people still shot with film.

Ciao infidels.


That is how I feel after visting 6 theme parks in 2 1/2 days. In any event, while waiting to be seated at Emeril's Orlando, Citywalk, I saw an image I could not resist...the sign of exhaustion...

North Beach - Fort DeSoto Park - St. Pete, Florida

One of the greatest spots for photography and simply hanging out at the beach is the North Beach at Fort DeSoto in St. Pete. In fact, the north beach has been rated as the number one beach in the USA. For those not interested in just hanging out at the beach, or camping or fishing, the north beach area especially the lagoon is world famous for its shore birds and wading birds and photographers from all over can be seen there wading in the mud to get some really cool avian photos. In Summer, with the typical Florida thunderstorms, you get some fantastic cloud formations which also provide for some great photo opportunities as well. Here's an image I took last summer at Fort DeSoto. For more information, you can click to the Pinellas County Park link here. See y'all there my fellow infidels. http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_Ft_DeSoto.htm

Digital Art - Ode to my Elementary School Art Teacher

It is amazing what digital technology has wrought. All my like I wanted to be able to draw and paint. Unfortunately, all my images looked like drawings from a pre-schooler.

It was 1977. I was in the 6th grade. And for an art project at schoo, I attempted to draw what was supposed to be the Beatles live on stage playing Sgt. Pepper. It was a piece of crap. But my art teacher liked it so much she entered it into the youth fair. (I have a feeling she had a fondness for me ever since I ran into her at a symphony concert featuring a famous Czech cellist, who was from her home country). She was amazed that an elementary school kid, and one of her students, would attend the symphony. Of course I was with my parents. But since then, she took a liking towards me. My art teacher was Czech and had escaped the communist government following the Soviet takeover of Prague. She came to america to teach art to a group of kids. A beautiful human being.

I don't know where she is today or if she is still living, but who would have guessed that 30 years later, a shmuck like me could create watercolors digitally on a computer. This image is a digital photo from the beach at Marco Island. After my post processing technique in photoshop, it looks like a watercolor painting. So now thanks to technology, an infidel like me can finally fulfill his wish of being able to paint a watercolor, albeit without brushes and watercolors, but with a digital camera and a mouse.

So Ms. Bader, whereever you may be, this watercolor is for you. Somehow you saw artistic talent in a young boy that he would not know existed until he discovered digital photography and photoshop 30 years later.

St. Augustine Sunrise by the Dock of the Bay

One of my favorite locations in the State of Florida is St. Augustine. There's so many photo ops in this old City. Whether historical, the lighthouse, the wildlife at the Alligator Farm and the scenes by the bay or the beach.

This scene was shot behind the lighthouse, by the dock of the bay.

I got eaten by no-see-ums to get this shot.

Later infidels.

Green Cay Wetlands - Delray Beach, Florida

One of the newest places for birders and avian photographers in South Florida is the Green Cay Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida. It's east of the Florida Turnpike on Hagen Ranch Road, just about a mile or so from Atlantic Avenue.

They have a mile long boardwalk and a large population of wading birds. As you can see from this image, during the mornings, the egrets and herons line up on the flight deck to catch their morning breakfast. I count 13 waders in this shot.

You do have to put up with the retired old folks over there however. I was in the middle of composing a shot of a bird, when the old woman speed walking scared it away. Best time to shoot here is early morning and late afternoon. If you're lucky you may run into an American Kestral over there. Last year there were huge stilt families. I've not seen them since Wilma.

One of the friendly species I found there was this black crowned night heron.

Hopefully I'll run into you folks out there. You'll likely see a lot of photographers. If you're not a photographer and just passing through, please be cognizant and courteous to the artists. You can find more information here:

Hasta la vista Infidels.

In the Hands of the Creator

As you can see from my blog, I shoot photographs of nature, avian subjects, places and things. And yes, I sometimes take photographs of people. I like taking environmental shots of people especially --- artists.

Here is a shot of the hands of fames Cuban Sculptor, Tony Lopez, in his Miami studio working on his latest work of art.

This was shot before I went digital and is one of my favorites which hands in my Fort Lauderdale office. If you ever find youself in the fashion district in Miami, you should stop by and check out Tony's studio. It's been in the same place since the late 1950's. You can't miss it. On the corner of NW 36 Street and NW 2nd Avenue.

Happy Mother's Day

The one thing everyone in the world has in common is that our mothers and their mothers are all mothers. We would not be here without them. So let's raise our Sunday morning cocktails and say "cheers" to all the mothers out there.

Happy Mother's Day.

As you can see from this image, even the owls of Marco Island celebrate Mother's Day too.

Now it's time to clean the grill and chill the beer.


Sailboat Coming into Amelia Island Harbor

Well it's Saturday my fellow infidels. And so I've decided to present to you an image of the ocean. I can never be too far from the ocean without going totally nuts. Knowing that the ocean is near me is a calming experience. I've been to the mountains and to the big cities and capitals. I've seen the great rivers. But they do nothing for me like a patch of ocean does. The smells and sounds of the ocean are heaven to me. The shore birds on the beach are the angels. I was born with the ocean in my blood. (It is full of saline, so maybe it's true).

Both my parents lived near the ocean. And so have I for over 40 years. Perhaps one of the greatest sensations is sailing on the ocean. When all you hear is the sound of the boat on the waters and the breeze. No motor. No fumes. Truly a zen moment if I say so myself.

So I close my post with my favorite lyrics from Everybody's Talkin . . . I think that these lyrics explain my love for the ocean and probably yours too.

"I'm going where the sun keeps shining
Thru' the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes
Backing off of the North East wind
Sailing on summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone"

Have a good cocktail this weekend and don't forget your moms.

PS: An image from the candy store perhaps?


Friday's Owl - A Real Hooter

Well my fellow infidels, it's Friday and the end of Owl week at PPB. I close off the set with another burrowing owl from Marco Island, Florida.

It's been an interesting week, I turned a year older, an alligator attacked and killed a woman on dry land in Broward County, Hugo Chavez saying his friend Fidel Castro was "Christian in the social aspect," you have crazy Mo in Iran getting way happy, Keith Richards falling out of a tree and getting brain surgery; dogs and cats are sleeping together; End of the world stuff.

Makes you simply want to have a drink, don't you think?

Here's my favorite drink du jour:
The Bay Breeze:

2 1/2 oz - Mandarin Vodka
4 oz - Pineapple Juice
1 oz - Cranberry Juice

Serve it on the rocks with an orange wedge.
Finish Drink and repeat the above steps to your desire.

Note: some folks prefer to make it in equal proportions. Play around with it and keep drinking them until you find the formula that works best for you.

If you have small children who ask you what you are drinking, simply say what I say, "it's medicine my boy."

Have a great weekend people.

A Pirate Looks Back at 41 Years

Today is May 11. Forty-one years ago, a child was born in Coral Gables to immigrant parents. The mother from Cuba and the father from Uruguay, who through fate met in a small city called Miami, Florida. Coral Gables is a small city adjacent to Miami in a County which was then called Dade.

May 11 is an interesting day. For on this day, two notable artists were also born on this date: Salvador Dali the surrealist Spanish artist and Irving Berlin, a Russian immigrant who would become one of our greatest composers of such songs as “White Christmas” and “God Bless America.”

Now the child born in Coral Gables on that day in 1965 was born in a different time and era; the mid-sixties. The Beatles just recorded the album “HELP!” and were two years away from Sgt. Pepper. The hippies were not hip yet. LBJ was president, and this child’s parents were unemployed. In the previous five years, the mother had used every effort to bring her entire family from Cuba, many of them staying in her house. Fortunately, just before May 11, 1965, the mother’s parents finally reached America from Spain, after having managed an escape visa from communist Cuba.

During this era, much of the natural world of South Florida had not yet been bulldozed over. One could see Biscayne Bay from US-1 and Brickell Avenue in those days. Try looking for it now. I-95 had yet to be connected from Miami to Palm Beach. Men had yet reached the moon.

That child as you can probably guess, was me. I have little memories of the 1960’s except for a few. I remember the moon landing. I remember my mother playing the piano. I remember Eisenhower’s funeral and I can recall my fourth birthday party. My fourth birthday party is notable because I jumped into my backyard pool wearing the nice birthday outfit my parents bought me.

My memories really lie more in the 1970’s. I remember that as a 7 year old, the current age of my son, I used to walk by myself to the corner store to buy packs of Topps baseball cards for ten cents each. My abuelo would give me one dollar and I would buy ten packs of the 1972 series cards. Stick as much gum and my mouth and hope to get cards of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1971 World Series Champions. My favorite players were Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. I don’t know why I took a liking to the Pirates, but they remained my team until the Marlins finally came to town. I would always check the TV listings to see if the Pirates were playing. Back in those days, since we did not have a local team, we had Atlanta Braves baseball. So I would watch that each day and would listen to the Braves games on the radio, WKAT back then. I liked the Braves in those days because they were perennial third place teams behind the Dodgers and Reds which I hated. I also hated the Phillies. Any team that gave the Pirates trouble, I hated them.

I also remember discovering the Beatles in the 1970’s. A friend turned me on to them when I was in Elementary School. I then turned all my friends on to the Beatles. Hell, we were the only sixth grade class with Beatle song sing-a-longs during lunch. I once pissed off the music teacher because I started playing on her piano “I am the Walrus” and went into the chorus, “I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the Walrus….” She did not find it too amusing.

My city has changed throughout the years. All the green spaces replaced by high density condos and shopping malls. Although, if you look, sometimes even in the City, you can see what I saw in the above image at Key Biscayne, Florida. There is beauty all around us. You simply have to look for it. Yes, even in what we call progress, we can find natural beauty.

But is it progress that we cannot let our kids play in our front yard unsupervised? I used to be able to do play in my yard or a friend’s yard. I used to walk to school by myself or the corner drugstore at age 10. The truth is that we were all safe. Kids were not getting murdered, molested, or shot like they are today. We read books. We played with our friends in those days. We went out on Halloween by ourselves. Those days are long gone.

Now it all seems that the innocence of youth is all but gone at such an early age. What future lies for our children is scary.

As for me, I find my solace in nature. I find peace of mind in the Everglades and in our natural environment, or at least, what remains of it. Another place that I find peace is near the ocean. No matter how bad things are, put me in front of the ocean, and my ailments are cured.

So, as I do each year, I spend the mornings of my birthday out taking photos of nature. I’m back from my morning shoot and have to go thorough some 300 images of egrets, herons, and other interesting critters from this morning.

It’s been an interesting run thus far. Let’s see how things are ten years from now.

I close off this essay with another Owl image since it is Owl Week at PPG.


Another Owl for Owl Week at PPB

Well the discovery channel has Shark Week, which I watch religiously like the Godfather marathon. So here at PPB, I've decided in the spirit of Festivus, to celebrate the week upon which May 11 falls, "Owl Week."

So here you have it . . . a great horned owl in flight over Osceola County, Florida.

This was was taken during my instructional photo tour with noted avian photographer Jim Neiger.

So Happy Owl Week people!

Burrowing owls hold up construction of building at Boca Raton High

It must be owl week. First the movie "Hoot" opens. Then I have a successful photo shoot on the west coast of Florida with the little burrowing owls, and now this article in the Sun Sentinel about them holding up school construction. Also, I did not know that Broward and Palm Beach had so many of them. I've only seen them in Collier and Lee County.

Interestingly enough, the article also states:
"Under the terms of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to harm a burrowing owl, its nest or its eggs. State law requires a permit to build on owl grounds and forbids disturbing burrows while they house chicks or eggs, most likely from Feb. 15 to July 10.The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission classifies the owls -- numbering about 2,500 according to the most recent official survey six years ago -- as a species of special concern. That means they have a high vulnerability to factors that may lead to their becoming a threatened species if they are left without protection or management. The smallish ground-dwellers originally made their homes in grasslands and fields. As the state has developed, they've made their way to airports, ball fields and land cleared for construction. Palm Beach County is ranked third in the state for burrowing owl population, trailing only Lee and Broward counties, said Ricardo Zambrano, a commission biologist."

Read the entire article here:

Hoot - The Owls of Marco Island

This past weekend the movie "hoot" opened up which was produced by Jimmy Buffett which features burrowing owls. The movie also includes a soundtrack featuring new parrothead music from Jimmy Himself.

Since I rarely go the movies, (I've been to 4 movies in 8 years, and 3 of them were Star Wars related), I decided to have a date with some real burrowing owls which can be found on Marco Island, on Florida's Southwest Coast.

While sustaining a direct hit from Wilma from last year, the burrowing owl nests are thriving on the Island.

Hopefully they won't be pushed out by developers as envisioned by the plot of the "hoot" movie so we can continue to enjoy and photograph these adorable creatures.


Tigertail Beach - Marco Island, Florida

Having been out in the field shooting the last few days provided me with much relief especially since I have not read a newspaper or watched television, or surfed the net. Well, now that I am catching up on developments in the news, I have been delighted to see that Senator Nelson’s bill has garnered vital support in the house especially from U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Mario Díaz-Balart, Clay Shaw, and Mark Foley, as well as others in Congress from both parties. See my earlier post on these latest developments. http://mpancier.blogspot.com/2006/05/14-join-nelson-bid-to-bar-cuban-oil.html#links

This brings me to my commentary for the week.

The photo posted is one I took last Saturday at Tigertail Beach, in Marco Island, Florida. This beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the state. It is known for its white sands, it’s clear aquamarine waters, and abundant shore bird populations.

Now imagine what this image would look like if it were tarnished with globs of oil and other refuse. The image would not be as serene would it.

Florida’s business is tourism. Tourism means dollars and jobs to our state. Moreover, the beauty of our beaches must be preserved at all costs especially from opportunists who are using the current gas price situation as an excuse to drill off of our Florida coast. Many of those who propose drilling off the Florida coast are from somewhere else. Those Floridians who favor drilling off of our coast are simply a bunch short sighted, narrow minded selfish dolts. (I use the word dolt because it is much nicer than the “p” word I am actually thinking of).

Everyone is crying about the price of gas. Well, my answer is you reap what you sow. Who told you to buy gas guzzling SUV’s? The President is correct to say that we are a nation “addicted to oil.” But just like the other addiction that this country has, to illegal narcotics, the solution is not found in simply going after the pushers. You must stop the demand. It’s simple economics people. So long as there is demand for drugs, there will be drugs. So long as there is demand for oil, the price will get higher.

All the pundits were warned years ago that they need to conserve. They ignored the pleas. The same pundits were warned about a lack of refineries. Those warnings were ignored. Hopefully people will heed the call today and look to the long term. Conserve people. Hell, I drive a PT Cruiser and have driven one since they first came out in 2000. I get great gas mileage.

We can drill in ANWR and perhaps there will be fuel there. However, with no refining capacity, we will do as we have always done with much of the Alaskan oil, export it. Does not solve our domestic issue does it. Drilling off of the Florida coast will not solve the problem. Only conservation and alternative fuels will my friends. Oil is a finite resource. And frankly, I’ll be damned before I let my coastline get ruined so you scoundrels can drive your SUV’s and Hummers.

We still are doing quite well when compared to Europe and what they pay. So count your blessings people.

As I’ve said before. If people in other states want drilling off of their coasts, then so be it. But here in Florida, the vast majority of the people don’t want it. Moreover, we must preserve our pristine coastline at all costs. This beach must be protected so hopefully our children can enjoy the same visage that I present to you in this image.

Naples Pier At Sunset

I'm back after two days of shooting in the Everglades, Marco, and Naples.

Here's the Naples pier at Sunset.

And Now For Something Completely Different - A Great Blue Heron

I'm going to take a break from commentary, if you can believe it. I get all riled up and can't shut up sometimes. So back to nature photography. I am giving you today an image of a great blue heron taken in Manatee Bay near Bradenton Beach, Florida. For those of you unfamiliar with Florida, it is on the West Coast just south of St. Pete. Some of the most beautiful beaches are in this area, and a plethora of avian subjects as well.


El Máximo Líder

In yesterday's post about Pedro El Carpintero, http://mpancier.blogspot.com/2006/05/pedros-escape-from-cuban-prison.html#links, I made reference to El Máximo Líder. You know who I'm talking about right? The Cretin of the Carribean? Little Joe Jr.? The anal pustile of the Americas? Hugo Chavez' butt pirate? In any event, after some discussions with Pedro El Carpintero, I decided to show y'all an image of the beast that I managed to take many years ago when the beast entered US Territory to speak at the United Nations in New York. Thanks to a good telephoto lens, I managed to capture his ugly mug.

So here it is my friends, El Máximo Líder in all of his glory.

As you can see, he tries to hide his ugliness by wearing a suit of leaves rather than his standard fatigues. But not even the fine plumage of a bald eagle can hide the evil he embodies. History will not absolve him; it will indict him among the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and the other assassins of the last century. He will have his place in the seventh circle where he will have to endure all of his victims crapping on him for all eternity.

Hunt Begins in Cuba for Rare Woodpecker

Posted on Mon, May. 01, 2006

Hunt begins in Cuba for rare woodpecker
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
HAVANA - Cuban ornithologists have received permission to search for the long-lost ivory-billed woodpecker in heavily wooded areas of the island that have been off-limits even to scientists since Fidel Castro seized power here almost 50 years ago. Backed by a grant from Birdlife International, a British conservation group, the search began in the pine forests of the Sierra Maestra mountains of eastern Cuba last week.

"I believe the bird is here," said Arturo Kirkconnell, co-author of the Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba and one of the island's top researchers. "We have a chance now to go to areas never visited before. The habitat is ideal, and there has been no evidence that the woodpecker is not there."

The reason that some remote areas of Guantanamo province, in the eastern end of the island, and in Pinar del Rio, to the west of Havana, are now open for scientific exploration are not exactly clear, even to the scientists involved.

Outsiders familiar with the project suggest the reasons for earlier prohibitions may be a combination of state security and bureaucratic whimsy.

"The Sierra Maestra has variously been shut off over the past three or four years," said David Wege, Caribbean program manager for Birdlife International. "From outside a closed administration, it's rather a fickle thing."

The launch of a hunt for the ivory-billed woodpecker here comes two years after the giant bird, believed to be extinct in the United States for some 60 years, was rediscovered in Arkansas. That news, announced by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in April 2005, triggered a continuing scouring of 50,000 acres of cypress forest and a wave of international publicity.

In Cuba, where the struggle for the necessities of daily life is paramount, a mission to find a reclusive bird, no matter how colorful, is unlikely to generate as much excitement.
But verifying the existence of the woodpecker could prove to be a feather in the cap of a nation hoping to improve its world standing in the area of environmental protection.

"There is huge potential for the bird to be there, in vast forests that are poorly known," said Wege. "That's why we're putting money in there."

Eduardo Inigo-Elias, an ornithologist at Cornell University, which is heading the Arkansas search, said Cuba has less acreage suitable for the woodpecker than does the United States. Still, said Inigo-Elias, "Cuba does have 600 protected areas, and we are happy they are looking for it.

"I hope one day they will communicate to the world, `We've got it!'"

Once common in old growth forests of the southern United States and Cuba, the ivory-billed woodpecker has a spectacular 30-inch wingspan, a red top-knot and a mystique that has made it the Holy Grail of birders. The last universally accepted photograph of the bird was taken in Cuba in 1948.

But since then, the bird reportedly has been sighted by experts many times, in the United States and Cuba. The last reliable sighting in Cuba was made in Guantanamo province in 1986 by Lester Short, then chairman of ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

But Kirkconnell, 46, a curator at Cuba's National Museum of Natural History, is certain that he has heard the woodpecker's distinctive double-knock, most recently in 1999 in Pinar del Rio. He also said he has collected reliable reports of woodpecker sightings from forest guards in the Sierra Maestra mountains in eastern Cuba.

"I have been searching for rare birds all my life," said Kirkconnell, a woodpecker specialist who is often in the field leading groups of birders from Britain and Canada. "We now have the permission, along with the funding and transportation, for a thorough hunt in areas never explored. So we are hopeful."

Ed. In my opinion, it is a futile search. They'll never find the bird in the Sierra Maestra. They need to look in Havana. Reports show that they have been sited in the "El Combinado del Este Prison" in Havana. Castro has them locked up in his gulags for Crimes Against the Revolution; for being agents of the Miami Mafia and the American Government, and for crapping on statues of Che and Fidel. It is well known that taking a crap on the statue of the leaders of Cuban Revolution is punishable by death or life imprisonment, or being forced to listen to Castro speeches 24/7, a fate worse than death I am told.

No Commentary Today - Just a Double Crested Cormorant

Save the Everglades so we can continue to take pictures like these.

Shot at Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park.

Tech Specs:

EOS 1D Mark II
Canon 17-40L
1/400 sec
ISO 400

Too Much to Swallow

Today, May 1, 2006, “immigrants around the country are expected to stay home to protest what they consider unfair immigration laws during "The Great American Boycott,” so read today’s Sun Sentinel. What it is called in other circles is “anti-gringo” boycott of 2006. In my book, it’s “Ingrate Day.” Ingrate Liberation Day. Most say that May 1, or May Day is the day of the worker, or Labor Day. Well, it is in some, but it is most identified with those countries who favor the hammer and sickle and the policies of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Castro, et al. May Day is that wonderful day in all this communist countries where the slave labor (for in those Countries, you work at the whim of the state), is forced to see parades of weapons, missiles, tanks, and placards saying “down with Yankee imperialism.” The only thing akin to “Yankee imperialism” my friends is when George Steinbrenner gets a little way happy buying up ball players from other less wealthy teams. But I digress.

Notwithstanding the origins of May 1, wherein 1884, the Federation of Trades and Labor Unions in the United States demanded an eight hour work day and wanted this change to take place on May 1, 1886. A general strike ensued which led to the Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago, Illinois. Eventually, the eight hour work day became a reality as did many labor laws which were enacted as part of the New Deal legislation, namely, the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. I know these laws well, because enforcing them is what I do for a living.

Unlike those who like to sing The Internationale on May 1, we here like to sing the National Anthem and prefer to celebrate Labor Day in September. According to the United States Department of Labor Website,

“The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.
In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.”

Well today is Ingrate Day for those who blame the ills of the world on the United States, yet would go through hoops to live here. What irks me is the thought of all these agent provocateurs, such as International Answer, La MeCha, and other fringe groups of leftists, communists, socialists, proudly wearing their Che t-shirts, and who would proudly exclaim, “viva fidel” or “viva chavez” while in the same breath exclaiming “impeach bush” and “down with the gringo Yankee imperialism.” I can expect that drech from castro and his minions, but it goes on here in America. Well, it’s a free country and they have every right to march and act like the “come mierdas” that they are. And yes, pardon my Cuban, but they are “come mierdas.” Part of the moral relativist cabal. Part of the “end justifies the means” crowd. The same crown that burns the American flag, yet touts the flag of their origin as being their preeminent flag.

My parents came here the old fashion way: they followed the law. My mom was granted political asylum. Although she had arrived here in 1958, when things in Cuba went to hell and a hand-basket on New Years Day 1959, she had no choice but to remain. Her getting asylum wasn’t easy. It took a letter she herself wrote to Mamie Eisenhower that got the INS to deliver the paperwork so she could stay. My grandparents left Cuba and arrived through Spain (after living in Madrid with no money for nearly a year). My mother spent years getting her parents (my grandparents), he siblings all our of Cuba. They all lived in my parent’s modest house until they could be relocated.

My father did not leave his country, Uruguay, because of political reasons. He left because he wanted to make a better life for himself. He did it the old fashion way. He applied for residency and was granted it. They ultimately became proud US Citizens, the old fashion way; by earning it. My parents worked and paid taxes.

That is how everyone should receive legal residency – by following the law. But there those, whom I shall call ingrates, that do not feel that the laws are just; that they have a natural right to march into the territory of the United States and receive all of the privileges that are entitled to legal residents. There are some really radical extremists that feel that the Southwestern United States should be returned to Mexico. With that mentality, let’s everyone return the entire American Continent to the indigenous peoples and let’s go back to Europe. It’s a moronic position.

In any event, while I strongly sympathize with those who come here for economic purposes, they need to do it the right way. Follow the law. For those who come here seeking political asylum, they should be granted fair asylum hearings.

I do not favor making illegal aliens felons or building a wall. Building walls went the way of the Berlin Wall. The solution is free and equal trade between us and our neighbors. Assist these economies so that everything they seek here, can be found right at home. Most of the illegals come here, earn money, do not pay taxes, and send the money back home anyway. It is that money which feeds many of the economies down South. Yet, many choose to spit on this land rather than praise it.

As for me, notwithstanding my Spanish and Cuban origin and ancestry, I was born in Florida. My flag is old glory. I respect the flag of a free Cuba, because it is where my family came from, but it is not my flag. My national anthem is the American National Anthem, just as it was taught to me in grade school. Even though I like the words of America the Beautiful better, it is still my National Anthem. The Cuban national anthem is not my anthem even though the cause of a free Cuba is strong in my heart. I respect it, but I do not have any loyalty to it, unlike others who were born there. But one thing that keeps us as a group united here in South Florida is our love for the United States. We give thanks to the United States for giving us an opportunity to make a life for ourselves. We give thanks to the United States for giving us liberty. To those marching today, perhaps you should show some humility and give thanks too, rather than being an ingrate. And rather than burn the flag, raise it up high with the respect it deserves. And for you folks with the Che shirts, use it for what it's actually good for, wrapping fish.

Take this Brother, May it Serve you Well

America the Beautiful - 1913

O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America! God shed his grace on thee And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self the country loved
And mercy more than life!

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!

America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!

America ! America !
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man's avail
Men lavished precious life !

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

Photo: Bald Eagle, Vierra Wetlands, Brevard County, Florida (c) 2005 by Michael A. Pancier