Private Moments in a Public Space

Spanish moss and the Live Oak leaves glistened in the afternoon, son.

I’ve never been a beach kind of guy. I prefer the fields, hills, and forests. When we winter in Fernandina Beach, Florida, on Amelia Island, I head to Egans Creek Greenway for peace of mind. That’s a bit ironic since our rented condo is on the beach facing the Atlantic Ocean.

I enjoy watching dolphins swim by and the many birds of prey, shorebirds, and other avian species plying the ocean waters. I also delight in the lovely sunrises, though they have been few and far between this year. I’m not complaining. We’ve had plenty of clear blue skies and above-average temperatures in the two weeks we have been here.

The warmth and fair weather have allowed me to spend enjoyable hours on the Egans Creek Greenway. The Greenway is a preserved wildlife area sandwiched between two busy east-west roadways, including the northernmost section of Florida’s noted A1A Coastal Highway. It’s my sacred place, though it is hardly quiet.

Egans Creek Greenway is a place to discover all of nature’s wonders. Visitors can find alligators, Ospreys, butterflies, river otters, and much more in, on, and among the waters, marshes, and greenery. Opened at the turn of the millennium in 2000, the Greenway is an undeveloped park for conservation and passive recreational use.

Egans Creek runs north through the far northeastern section of this barrier island. Housing developments and commercial buildings like hotels constantly push at the edges, even though the area is designated a preserve. The Greenway is managed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which has its headquarters adjacent at the north end of the marsh.

The Greenway consists of over 300 acres of protected lands, which include slivers of marine woodlands, wetland bushes, and a sizeable briny marsh. Trails for walking, running, biking, and birding wind throughout the Greenway. Maps are available at the Greenway’s entrances, and benches are dotted along the grass-covered paths.

A path in Egans Creek Greenway.

In the dozen years we have been coming here, I have found the Greenway my place to relax, explore, and rest. Its location forces me to focus on what is right in front of me and always watch for surprises. Last year a Northern Harrier swooped low across the marsh. Roseate Spoonbills make rare appearances.

I especially enjoy the creativity it affords me if I only take the time to see it. The stark contrasts of crimson buds of red maple trees against the shiny green leaves of Live Oaks create a festive feel. Or the orange and black of a lone Monarch butterfly settling on a barren stalk keeps me mentally alert and spiritually alive.

Please click on the photos to enlarge them.

An added enjoyment is meeting new people on the Greenway. Some stop to talk or inquire about what I am seeing. Others just run or bike right on by. Rowdy teenagers occasionally pitch a stick at a sunbathing alligator or spook birds with their boisterous talk.

Nevertheless, these experiences allow me to tune out the human-induced noises that permeate our lives. In the case of the Greenway, commercial jetliners approaching Jacksonville International Airport 30 minutes away buzz overhead. So do smaller planes taking off and landing from the local airport two miles southeast of the Greenway. And then there are the military helicopters flying up and down the beach from Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville.

Sirens wail away, responding to the next emergency. Trucks, motorcycles, and cars hum along the adjacent streets. Train engine horns from tracks along the riverfront invade the Greenway’s peace and tranquility.

Despite those acoustic interferences, I still find the Greenway a respite, a private sanctuary in a very public place. I accept that I cannot change those annoyances. I can concentrate on solitude and enjoyment in whatever I find each time I walk the Greenway.

Egans Creek.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2023

Full Moon Rising

January’s Full Wolf Moon rose over the Atlantic Ocean about 15 minutes before sunset last evening, January 6, 2023. That made it rather difficult to find on the horizon. The moon easily blended with the pale pink background of the Belt of Venus.

I had my cameras ready, and my wife spotted it first. I aimed my 35 mm camera on the tripod and snapped away. I also used my point-and-shoot camera with a 1,725 mm lens when fully extended. I concentrated on holding it still enough to keep the photos from blurring. In addition, I took a few pictures with my iPhone.

The following photos show the sequence of the full moon rising. Please click on the images to enlarge them.

5:25 p.m. EST.

The photo above was my first shot once we spotted the moon. A large bird hovered over the ocean and appeared at about 11 o’clock on the moon’s face. The red object at the far right is a bouy that helps mark the channel into the St. Mary’s River that serves as the state line between northeast Florida and southeast Georgia.

5:27 p.m. EST.

The moon became more evident in just two minutes as it rose slightly above the ocean.

5:29 p.m. EST.

This photograph provides the view from our third-floor condo. Note the freighter on the horizon in the upper right-hand section of the photo.

5:38 p.m. EST.

Nine minutes later, the moon hung unmistakeably above the Atlantic.

5:51 p.m. EST.

With the sun now set, the full moon dominated the eastern sky.

Watching the moon rise over the ocean is always a treat. The unobstructed view gives viewers the opportunity to fully appreciate the spectacular sequence and beauty of another rising full moon.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2023

First Florida Sunrise

Each winter, save 2021 due to the pandemic, my wife and I escape Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley for warmer climes. We head to Amelia Island, Florida. If you are familiar with Florida’s geography, you know that Amelia Island is northeast of Jacksonville. It’s the northernmost barrier island in Florida. The St. Mary’s River separates Florida from Georgia, so it’s not consistently balmy like Miami or Naples.

We stay in a rented condo complex only yards away from the Atlantic Ocean. On days when the weather is nice, it’s a great location. When the weather turns less than desirable, it can be downright cold. Nevertheless, the island and surrounding areas offer plenty of outdoor amenities like birding, hiking, and photography for me to enjoy.

Since we face east, I relish the many beautiful sunrises. However, the results are often somewhat foggy if a cold front stalls offshore. When we arrived on New Year’s Day, the temperature hit 75, and the sky was mostly sunny. By morning, we were fogged in. Still, I took the photo above as our first Florida sunrise in 2023.

The next day proved much better.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2023

A Hidden Treasure

I wouldn’t have seen this hidden treasure if it hadn’t been for another photographer. My wife, some friends of ours, and I were driving into Ft. Clinch State Park at the north end of Amelia Island, Florida, when we noticed a woman with a huge lens on a tripod aimed at a tree.

That could mean only one thing: she was photographing a bird. I parked and exited the van, eager to know what her subject was. She had me look through her long lens. This beautiful Great Horned Owl stared back at me.

I quickly pointed my camera at this beautiful bird and carefully snapped away. I quietly thanked the woman for graciously sharing her find with me. Thanks to her, I was also able to view this superb owl resting in the fork of a live oak tree.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2022

Doing the Right Whale Thing

I was sitting one recent morning at my desk that faces the Atlantic Ocean when I noticed a sailboat passing by at least a half-mile offshore. When I went to take a photo of it, I spotted something else in the water. I snapped a picture, ensuring I got both the boat and the unknown object in the frame.

I switched to my binoculars and couldn’t believe my eyes. The long dark object appeared to be a whale. The morning sunshine reflected off of its face. I had never seen a Right Whale before, but I was pretty sure that’s what it was. I took a couple more shots and then Googled the phone number to report the sighting.

Earlier, I had noticed a red and white airplane circling over the ocean just to the north of our rented condo. As I found the number, I put two and two together. Because they are an endangered species, most Right Whales are tracked by various science organizations, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I figured the plane must have been verifying the whale’s presence.

Because Right Whales are protected, the public is asked to notify authorities of any sightings. Right Whales migrate more than 1,000 miles south from the Canadian and New England coasts to warmer waters off the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida’s east coast. It is there that they calf their young.

Scientists estimate that less than 400 Right Whales still exist. Protecting them and their young is critical to the whale’s survival. Consequently, the requests to report their sightings.

My call went to voicemail at the North Atlantic Right Whale Project, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission division. It wasn’t long before I received a call back from one of their agents asking when and where I had seen the whale. When I told the person that a red and white plane had drawn my attention, enabling me to spot the whale, I was told it was one of the project’s aircraft.

The agent told me that what I saw was actually a mother and her calf and asked me to send my photos to them to help support the plane’s sighting. I gladly cooperated.

I looked closer at my photos. I could see two separate facial reflections, one large and another much smaller. I was ecstatic. The images aren’t top quality since the whales were a half-mile from me. I was glad for the sighting and more than happy to help identify this Right Whale mother and her baby.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2022

January’s Full Wolf Moon

A pictorial series of the moon’s rising above the Atlantic Ocean.

January’s Full Wolf Moon rises into the Belt of Venus at sunset on January 17, 2022, at Fernandina Beach, Florida. I took this photo from the porch of our rented condo.

I was hoping to photograph January’s Full Wolf Moon as it rose above the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean. However, the timing would occur before sunset, making the moon hard to see. I gave it a try anyhow.

Fortunately, a cargo ship was moored offshore, and I hoped it would provide a bit of perspective once the moon came into view. What happened was even better than I could have imagined.

In the slideshow below, you will see a sequence of photos showing the rising moon, first very faintly right behind the freighter. Then as the moon arched higher into the evening sky, the ship provided a perfect marker on the very calm ocean waters. (Please click the right arrow to move to the next photo.)

@ Bruce Stambaugh 2022

Sunrise, Sunset

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, Fernandina Beach, FL.

My wife and I are on our winter vacation on Florida’s Amelia Island northeast of Jacksonville. We try to retreat here during winter’s coldest time. Though it’s not balmy here like southern Florida, we don’t have all that snow folks do up north right now.

There are a great many things to like about Amelia Island. The sunrises and sunsets top my list, closely followed by the wildlife, especially the many species of birds.

Our rented condo is right on Main Beach in Fernandina Beach. Unless it’s cloudy, sunrises are a daily treat. No two are alike.

We don’t have far to go for sunsets either. We drive to various spots along the Amelia River that afford marvelous views of the setting sun. Of course, not every evening offers up a golden sky, but we have seen many glorious sunsets in our several visits to this unique isle.

I enjoy photographing as many sunrises and sunsets as possible. I love sharing them with you all the more.

Sunset on the Amelia River, Fernandina Beach, FL.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2022

Everyone needs a sanctuary


Everyone needs a sanctuary. Recent research shows that connecting with nature helps humans in multiple ways.

Nature helps heal, soothe, and restore individuals from pain, stress, and depression. We all need a place to escape, if only temporality, from the pressures and madness of the world.

When my wife and I winter in Florida, we are fortunate to have just such a place. Egans Creek Greenway is the first spot I visit after my wife and I get settled into our rental.

Egans Creek Greenway is an island inside an island. Covering more than 300 acres, the greenway is a city-run park on the north end of the 13-mile long Amelia Island, a barrier island northeast of Jacksonville.

The greenway is not your typical sanctuary, but it’s mine for many reasons. I get needed exercise walking its grassy trails. A variety of wildlife is in abundance. I can practice my photography hobby shooting landscapes and nature’s flora and fauna.

Please click on the photos to enlarge them.

Egans Creek winds its way through the two main sections of the greenway. A saltmarsh dominates the northern half. It teems with wading birds, birds of prey, songbirds, furry mammals, and intriguing reptiles. The Atlantic Ocean tides keep its waters brackish.

The southern section is part maritime forest and part freshwater ecosystem. The creek runs along the eastern side while a grid of manmade ditches from previous farming attempts crisscrosses elsewhere.

Mixed vegetation creates a habitat for a wide variety of creatures. Pileated woodpeckers fly their noisy flight high above momma alligator and her baby brood while a barred owl hoots from a branch of a giant live oak tree.

Scores of yellow-rumped warblers dart from the underbrush to palm trees, chip-chipping all the way. A red-shouldered hawk watches for lunch from high on a dead snag. A freshly hatched monarch butterfly flaps its damp wings on a Florida holly bush.

A reunion of soft-shelled turtles suns on the steep banks of the creek. A honeybee gorges on a clump of newly blossomed marsh-pink.

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Where the creek runs along the west side of the greenway, an osprey hovers before diving for an unsuspecting fish. In the process, large shorebirds are flushed. A great egret, wood stork, and a beautiful roseate spoonbill all take flight.

I am not alone in appreciating this preserve. Students stroll through on their way home from school. Seniors ride bicycles or walk in the sunshine of gorgeous days. Middle-aged joggers hustle by. This passive recreation is part of the park’s plan.

Strangely, concentration is essential to appreciate all the greenway has to offer. Surrounded by streets, houses, and businesses, the greenway is a quarter of a mile from the ocean. Horns, sirens, and roaring engines compete with the clacking call of the clapper rails.

So, too, to do the helicopters flying back and forth to the Mayport Naval Station 20 miles to the south. Commercial airliners, private jets, and noisy single-engine planes fill the air space overhead as they approach the local airport and Jacksonville International.

Besides a sanctuary, the greenway serves as an outdoor classroom. People stop to ask what I’m looking at or to tell me of a bird they saw. I love their smiles when they spot the eastern bluebirds devouring cedar berries.

I enjoy the greenway all the more when others accompany me. Multiple pairs of eyes and ears trump singular old ones. We help each other find and admire all the greenway’s splendor.

I am grateful for this island sanctuary, and that it reinforces the scientific evidence about nature.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020

Orange on Yellow


Here’s some color to brighten any winter dullness that might be fogging your mind as January comes to an end. I spotted this Gulf Fritillary butterfly on Egans Creek Greenway in Fernandina Beach, Florida, where we spend our snowbirding days.

“Orange on Yellow” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020

Dappled Sunset


I had given up on this sunset. In fact, I was already heading back to my car from the dock when the sky suddenly changed. I hustled back onto the dock to get a few shots before the sky called it a night. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when an older man with a barking dog cruised into view in a dingy. Their presence added a human element to this painting-like scene.

Rather than wax poetic about all of the aspects and details of the photo, I’ll simply let you enjoy it from your own perspective.

“Dappled Sunset” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2020

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