Swans on Lake Eola

While attending the 2017 and 2018 Women’s rallies in Orlando, I admired the swans and the swan boats on Lake Eola. The events inspired me to form a women’s action network in our senior community. The swans inspired me to name the group, SWANS (Solivita Women’s Action Network).

Then at the 2018 March for Our Lives rally for gun safety, I took these photos. A bus was hired by a school safety/anti-assault rifle group that one of our SWANS started. That made it possible for 56 people from Solivita to attend the rally and march.

Lake Eola and the rainbow amphitheater (photo by Virginia Allain)
Lake Eola. Note the rainbow amphitheater that was painted after the Pulse Nightclub shootings. (photo by Virginia Allain)

It was a sunny day in Orlando and as you see above, people were enjoying the park, taking photos, and soaking up the sunshine. At the same time, thousands of people gathered at the other end of the park to hear speakers talk about school safety and placing controls on assault rifles. It was just a short time after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 13, 2018.

swans at lake eola, Orlando photo by Virginia Allain
Swans and fountain at Lake Eola, Orlando (photo by Virginia Allain)
Swans at Lake Eola, Orlando (photo by Virginia Allain))
Swans at Lake Eola, Orlando with the city skyline in the background. (photo by Virginia Allain)

The swans were lovely, there were palm trees, and the sun was shining. For contrast, I hope the next picture shocks you. I hope this earnest student and her creative sign make you think about what steps are needed to provide more gun safety and prevent future mass shootings, not just in Florida schools, but all across our country in public places like concerts and nightclubs and other places that people gather.

You can read more about that day and see my rally photos here.

march for our lives gun safety
A sign that cries out for change. Orlando rally 2018 – March for Our Lives. (photo by Virginia Allain)

Mardi Gras Golf Cart Parade

It’s fun each February to see how the people in our retirement community decorate their golf carts for Mardi Gras. There’s even a parade and people wear costumes and masks and have fun tossing bead necklaces to the crowd.

This year the parade was early. That means there’s still time for you to steal some of their ideas for decorating your own cart. You see a lot of purple, gold and green, so try to work that into your decorating. Click the link to see ones from previous years and tips on how to decorate a golf cart for Mardi Gras.


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They did a great job on this mask for a golf cart. Really fits the Mardi Gras theme. 


Lots of Gators

It’s not uncommon for us to see an alligator cruising down the middle of the small lake behind our house. Well, really it’s a retention pond for all that rain that Florida gets, but I think “lake” sounds nicer. When we have visitors, we hope that the resident alligator will show himself for their benefit. What’s the use of traveling all the way to Florida if you don’t get to see an alligator at least once.

Our visitor this week was escaping the chill temperatures in Missouri. Maybe he would have been satisfied with just Florida sunshine and dinner on the lanai. He hit it lucky though, getting sunshine, 80 degree days, and THREE alligators. First we saw one, just barely showing its head above water. Then we spotted the second one further down the lake. A short while later, the two of them looked quite cosy resting on the shore across the lake. I took my camera with its 20X zoom down to my neighbor’s yard to get a closer photo of the pair. They appeared to be at least 6-8 feet in length. It’s hard to judge.

While looking for a good angle, I noticed a small alligator just a stone’s throw away from me on my side of the lake.  Quickly I snapped a picture of it, then tried getting a little closer. Splash! He hit the water running and was gone in no time. Oh, well, I still had the two larger gators to capture. With the zoom, I could see them pretty well and took several shots. Here are the three alligators that were in our lake:


Limpkins are an odd sort of swamp bird in Florida. They walk with a rather halting gait which led them to be named limpkins. They’re a good sized bird but not flashy like the egret and blue heron.

Limpkins are brown with white spots and have a call that will wake you right up at 5:30 from a sound sleep. Here are photos that I took in my backyard this morning.

In this series of photos, you see the limpkin wading in the lake, dunking for a mussel, carrying the mussel back to shore, then putting it down to break it open.

Dance of the Cranes

Yesterday I saw the sandhill cranes dancing. It was right in my backyard and a family of cranes came poking along. Their focus was on extracting grubs from the ground, so they poked and poked with those long beaks into the St. Augustine grass. Then one of them noticed me in the screen room. He, or she approached the screen, looking fixedly at me. Probably someone has been feeding them grain, which you aren’t supposed to do. Anyway I feared it would poke at the screen, so I moved away abruptly.

At that point, the crane turned and flapped his wings. Another crane in the group responded with a wing flap and a hop. They both hopped and flapped for several minutes and then the young cranes joined in. These were the cute twin cranes from the spring, but now almost indestinguishable from the adult cranes. The four of them postured, hopped, flapped their wings and ducked their heads at each other with open beaks. Quite a display.

I wish I’d had a movie camera at hand. Since they kept up their dancing  for awhile, I hastened in for my camera which was just inside. When I came back out, they had settled down and returned to grass poking. As I stepped outside the screen room to take a better picture of the group, they noticed me again. Two of them gave a token hop and wing flap which I captured on camera. That was the end of the show.

I’m not sure if the activity was from being startled by my original abrupt movement or what. Previously I’d thought the dance was supposed to be a crane courtship activity. Since this was a family group of four cranes, that didn’t fit unless the young cranes were just practicing in response to their parents’ behavior.  Anyway I felt quite priviledged to have seen it.

dancing sand hill cranes
Florida Sandhill Cranes Dancing

Wild Turkey

Solivita, FloridaSomeone needs to tell the turkeys in my neighborhood that it’s almost Thanksgiving. They had better make themselves scarce. As you can see, it’s well-fed and would make a nice holiday meal.

Of course, with frozen turkey on sale at Wal-Mart for 89 cents a pound, it’s hardly worth trying to capture one of these wild ones. Just think of trying to get all those feathers off.

I made several Squidoo lenses for the holiday. One is called An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving and the other is It’s Turkey Day.