Tom Barrat Photography: Blog en-us Thomas Barrat (Tom Barrat Photography) Sun, 12 Sep 2021 15:59:00 GMT Sun, 12 Sep 2021 15:59:00 GMT Tom Barrat Photography: Blog 95 120 Pumpkin Carving Carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns is a popular Halloween tradition that originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland. Back then, however, jack-o'-lanterns were made out of turnips or potatoes; it wasn't until Irish immigrants arrived in America and discovered the pumpkin that a new Halloween ritual was born.

Unfortunately, carved pumpkins will only last about two weeks if they have adequate air circulation. The bigger the holes in the carving, the longer it will last. Otherwise, your pumpkin could rot within one week.

In the United States, pumpkins go hand in hand with the fall holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. An orange fruit harvested in October, this nutritious and versatile plant features flowers, seeds and flesh that are edible and rich in vitamins. Pumpkin is used to make soups, desserts and breads, and many Americans include pumpkin pie in their Thanksgiving meals.

Pumpkin Facts

  • Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. These plants are native to Central America and Mexico, but now grow on six continents.
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was in 2005 and weighed 2,020 pounds.
  • Pumpkins have been grown in North America for five thousand years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere.
  • In 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding “gros melons.” The name was translated into English as “pompions,” which has since evolved into the modern “pumpkin.”
  • Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron.
  • The heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,810 lb 8 oz and was presented by Chris Stevens at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minnesota, in October 2010.
  • Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.


(Tom Barrat Photography) carving facts halloween history pumpkins Mon, 29 Oct 2018 19:12:18 GMT
Decanting Wines  


Note:  Citing wine industry sources:

To decant or not to decant, that is the question! At its most basic to decant simply means to transfer the contents of a bottle of wine into a new vessel.  For this process to be most beneficial the decanter will be larger and have more surface area than the original bottle.

Okay, but why do this? Fundamentally, decanting serves two purposes: to separate a wine from any sediment that may have formed and to aerate a wine enhancing its aromas and flavors creating more vibrancy before serving. Decanting is most associated with the service of older wines but, conversely, younger wines can also benefit from this step.  At the core of the matter decanting allows the wine to come in more contact with oxygen.  Oxygen, during its initial contact with a wine can be very helpful,  enhancing a wine’s flavors and softening it. Think about the wine being “caught” in the bottle, tightly stoppered under cork and capsule, a sleeping genie. Decanting wakes the wine up, helps it snap to attention and introduce itself with vigor.

Older red wines naturally produce sediment as they age (white wines rarely do). The color pigments and tannins bond together and fall out of solution. Stirring up the sediment when pouring will cloud a wine’s appearance and can impart bitter flavors and a gritty texture. The sediment is harmless but it’s not pleasant to get this material in your glass or worse in your mouth. It’s safe to assume that a red wine will have accumulated sediment after five to ten years in the bottle and should be decanted.

Here’s how to do it well:

  1. Let the bottle upright for 24 hours or more before drinking, so the sediment can slide to the bottom of the bottle, making it easier to separate. This advice assumes that the bottle was stored properly, cork down or on its side. 
  2. Locate a decanter or other clean, clear vessel from which the wine can easily be poured into glasses. Decanters can be extremely elaborate or quite simple. The best models are dishwasher safe, easy to handle and to store.  A simple glass pitcher will work just fine.  
  3. Remove the wine’s capsule and cork; wipe the bottle neck clean.
  4. Pour the wine into the decanter slowly and steadily, without stopping; when you get to the bottom half of the bottle, pour even more slowly.
  5. Stop as soon as you see the sediment reach the neck of the bottle. Sediment isn’t always chunky and obvious; stop if the wine’s color becomes cloudy or if you see what looks like specks of dust in the neck.
  6. The wine is now ready to serve from the decanter. Discard the remaining ounce or two of sediment-filled liquid in the bottle.

































































































(Tom Barrat Photography) decanter decanting red wine Thu, 11 Oct 2018 19:58:19 GMT
Brightline High-Speed Train 5DM43710e5DM43710eWest Palm Beach station, with parking garage across the street. Image taken July 14, 2018. 5DM43725es5DM43725esWest Palm Beach station taken on July 14, 2018. 5DM43593e5DM43593eBrightline Miami. 5DM48068e5DM48068e The Brightline high-speed train service began earlier this year, 2018, with service between West Palm Beach, Florida and Ft. Lauderdale, and recently expanded service to Miami.  I have taken it, and can report that it is a wonderful experience.  Parking is right across the street from the train station at West Palm Beach, and the station is modern, with good lighting, and very safe and clean.


I took the Select service, which is like Business Class, and it has it's own waiting area, with snacks and beverages.


The trains run on time, and the staff knowledgeable and efficient.  I super alternative to driving, I did the run from WPB to Miami yesterday, leaving at 1:00 on the dot, and arriving at 12:17.  There was a brief stop in Ft. Lauderdale.  It seemed like about 4 minutes.


Please check out my gallery of train, and station photos on my website at:


Below is more background on the company, and future plans:


Brightline is an express intercity higher-speed rail system in Florida, United States. Developed and operated by All Aboard Florida, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries (FECI),[3] Brightline is the United State's only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railroad[4] and its first since 1983 (when the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad discontinued the Rio Grande Zephyr).[5]

Brightline's service runs between Miami and West Palm Beach with a single intermediate stop at Fort Lauderdale. The Fort Lauderdale–West Palm Beach segment opened on January 13, 2018, followed by Fort Lauderdale–Miami on May 19.[6] An extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando via Cocoa is scheduled to open in 2021, and more extensions are planned.

Brightline's diesel–electric locomotive-hauled trains run alongside freight trains in a shared-use corridor that was upgraded from a pre-existing Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) freight train corridor. The future West Palm Beach–Cocoa segment will be constructed in a similar fashion, while 40 mi (64 km) of new track will be constructed in the State Road 528 corridor for the remainder of the extension, between Cocoa and Orlando International Airport.

When its planned 125 mph (201 km/h) service is implemented, Brightline will be the fastest passenger train service in North America outside of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and will be tied for second-fastest overall behind Amtrak's Acela Express.


(Tom Barrat Photography) Beach Brightline commuter Florida Ft. high-speed Lauderdale Miami modern new Palm train West Sun, 15 Jul 2018 19:54:43 GMT
SEA TURTLE RELEASE AT LMC! (7-12-18) I attended the release of two loggerhead turtles yesterday, done by the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida.  Here are a few of the photos I took .  It felt pretty special to see a healthy turtle going back into the ocean.


Below is the text of their release information.  Another turtle is scheduled for release next week. 5DM43565ec5DM43565ecEloise saw my camera and came over to have her picture taken.

Nice flipper pose.
7DM20421e7DM20421eA group of children have a front row seat on the sand, each with handmade signs. Pretty cute. 7DM20439e7DM20439e 7DM20452e7DM20452eOkay! Ready.



Who: Loggerhead Marinelife Center of Juno Beach

What: It is with a great sense of pride and gratitude that we inform you about Skerry and Eloise‘s return to the ocean after successful rehabilitation at our Sea Turtle Hospital at Loggerhead Marinelife Center. We will release Skerry and Eloise off Juno Beach adjacent to our facility.

Skerry is a sub-adult loggerhead that was found in the St. Lucie Power Plant Intake Canal. The initial blood-work showed anemia and slight hypoglycemia. There were old boat propeller wounds that are healing on the carapace, neck and near the tail. Hospital staff administered fluids, antibiotics and iron. Initial radiographs did not show anything of concern internally.

Eloise was found floating off Ft. Pierce and was taken ashore by concerned citizens. The turtle was lethargic, debilitated, and covered with barnacles and leeches. Blood work revealed anemia, hypoglycemia, hypocalcemia, and a lack of white blood cells. Radiographs indicated that the turtle was impacted with a large amount of crab shells and other debris. The turtle was put on parenteral nutrition as well as antibiotics, fluids, and supplements and was monitored very closely.

The turtles will be prepared for release from LMC starting at 10:00 a.m. A history of the turtle’s journey and final preparations will be conveyed to visitors by one of LMC’s education docents, with a procession to the beach for the release to follow.

When: Thursday, July 12 at 10:30 a.m.; Pre-release procedures starting at 10:00 a.m.

(Tom Barrat Photography) beach florida juno loggerhead ocean release turtle Fri, 13 Jul 2018 19:52:56 GMT
Sea Turtle Nesting Nesting, Incubation and Emergence
Very little is known about why sea turtles nest on some beaches and not on others. In Florida, loggerheads nest by the thousands on the central east coast, while identical looking beaches to the north see far fewer loggerheads.  I live on Singer Island, Florida just north of Palm Beach, and we see a lot of turtles on our beach during the summer months.

This nesting distribution may reflect conditions that existed centuries ago, when temperature, beach profiles or the lack of predation made some areas preferable to sea turtles. Today, humans are affecting the places where sea turtles nest. Beach erosion caused by coastal armoring and navigational inlets, artificial lighting and beach renourishment are all impacting once pristine beaches. These changes will likely have lasting effects on future nesting patterns. The more we understand about how, where and when sea turtles nest, the better we will be able to protect their nesting habitat.

Beach Selection
Most females return faithfully to the same beach each time they are ready to nest. Not only do they appear on the same beach, they often emerge within a few hundred yards of where they last nested.

Nesting Behavior
Only the females nest, and it occurs most often at night. The female crawls out of the ocean, pausing frequently as if carefully scoping out her spot. Sometimes she will crawl out of the ocean, but for unknown reasons decide not to nest. This is a “false crawl,” and it can happen naturally or be caused by artificial lighting or the presence of people on the beach. Most females nest at least twice during the nesting season, although individuals of some species may nest only once and others more than ten times. Sea turtles are generally slow and awkward on land, and nesting is exhausting work.

Constructing the Nest
The female turtle crawls to a dry part of the beach and begins to fling away loose sand with her flippers. She then constructs a “body pit” by digging with her flippers and rotating her body. After the body pit is complete, she digs an egg cavity using her cupped rear flippers as shovels. The egg cavity is shaped roughly like a tear drop and is usually tilted slightly.

Laying and Burying the Eggs
When the turtle has finished digging the egg chamber, she begins to lay eggs. Two or three eggs drop out at a time, with mucus being secreted throughout egg-laying. The average size of a clutch ranges from about 80 to 120 eggs, depending on the species. Because the eggs are flexible, they do not break as they fall into the chamber. This flexibility also allows both the female and the nest to hold more eggs. Nesting sea turtles appear to shed tears, but the turtle is just secreting salt that accumulates in her body. Many people believe that while laying her eggs a sea turtles goes into a trance from which she can not be disturbed.

This is not entirely true. A sea turtle is least likely to abandon nesting when she is laying her eggs, but some turtles will abort the process if they are harassed or feel they are in danger. For this reason, it is important that sea turtles are never disturbed during nesting. Once all the eggs are in the chamber, the mother turtle uses her rear flippers to push sand over the top of the egg cavity. Gradually, she packs the sand down over the top and then begins using her front flippers to refill the body pit and disguise the nest. By throwing sand in all directions, it is much harder for predators to find the eggs. After the nest is thoroughly concealed, the female crawls back to the sea to rest before nesting again later that season or before beginning her migration back to her feeding ground. Once a female has left her nest, she never returns to tend it.

Incubation takes about 60 days, but since the temperature of the sand governs the speed at which the embryos develop, the hatching period can cover a broad range. Essentially, the hotter the sand surrounding the nest, the faster the embryos will develop. Cooler sand has a tendency to produce more males, with warmer sand producing a higher ratio of females.

Emerging from the Nest
Unlike baby alligators, which are liberated from their nest by their mother, sea turtle hatchlings must do it all themselves. To break open their shells, hatchlings use a temporary, sharp egg-tooth, called a “caruncle.” The caruncle is an extension of the upper jaw that falls off soon after birth. Digging out of the nest is a group effort that can take several days. Hatchlings usually emerge from their nest at night or during a rainstorm when temperatures are cooler. Once they decide to burst out, they erupt from the nest cavity as a group. The little turtles orient themselves to the brightest horizon, and then dash toward the sea.

If they don’t make it to the ocean quickly, many hatchlings will die of dehydration in the sun or be caught by predators like birds and crabs. Once in the water, they typically swim several miles off shore, where they are caught in currents and seaweed that may carry them for years before returning to nearshore waters. There are many obstacles for hatchlings in the open ocean. Sharks, big fish and circling birds all eat baby turtles, and they die after accidentally eating tar balls and plastic garbage. The obstacles are so numerous for baby turtles that only about one in 1,000 survives to adulthood.

The ability of a sea turtle to migrate hundreds (and occasionally thousands) of miles from its feeding ground to its nesting beach is one of the most remarkable acts in the animal kingdom. That adult females return faithfully to nest on the very beach where they were born makes the feat even more amazing. Research into where and how sea turtles migrate has been a focus of scientists for decades. The information collected is vital to the development of conservation strategies for the species. We now know that sea turtles undergo migration throughout their lives, beginning with the first frenzied swim as a hatchling.

During its first critical 48 hours, a hatchling must travel from the beach to a place in the ocean where it is relatively safe from predators and where it can find food. Many hatchlings in the Atlantic and Caribbean make their way into Gulf stream currents, which are filled with floating sargassum weed. There the young turtles find an ample food supply and few predators. After several years of floating around the Atlantic, these young turtles are big enough to venture back into nearshore waters.

(Tom Barrat Photography) florida island nesting sea singer turtle Thu, 19 Apr 2018 19:49:16 GMT
Wakodahatchee Wetlands Wakodahatchee Wetlands is a park located in Delray Beach, Florida. The park was created on 50 acres of unused utility land and transformed into a recreation wetlands open to the public with a three-quarter mile boardwalk that crosses between open water pond areas, emergent marsh areas, shallow shelves, and islands with shrubs and snags to foster nesting and roosting.

The boardwalk has interpretive signage as well as gazebos with benches along the way. This site is part of the South section of the Great Florida Birding Trail and offers many opportunities to observe birds in their natural habitats.

I made a visit there recently, and was thrilled to see an enormous number of nesting wood storks, most with fledglings, and in parts of the park that traditionally was populated by other bird species.  Large, white Wood Storks wade through southeastern swamps and wetlands. Although this stork doesn't bring babies, it is a good flier, soaring on thermals with neck and legs outstretched. This bald-headed wading bird stands just over 3 feet tall, towering above almost all other wetland birds. It slowly walks through wetlands with its long, hefty bill down in the water feeling for fish and crustaceans. This ungainly looking stork roosts and nests in colonies in trees above standing water.

Wood Storks occur only in a few areas in the United States, so to get a look at one, head to a wetland preserve or wildlife area along the coast in Florida, South Carolina, or Georgia. Wood Storks tend to be busily foraging with their head down and body held horizontally, but their large size should help them stand out amongst the other pale herons, ibises, and egrets in wetlands even if you can't see their hefty bill. If they aren't foraging in areas with standing water, check nearby trees for groups of roosting Wood Storks, or look up in the sky for soaring birds with black-and-white wings. They are mostly silent, but during the breeding season, sounds of begging chicks might help you find a colony.  And the chicks and fledglings at Wakodahatchee Wetlands are making themselves known.

(Tom Barrat Photography) florida south storks wakodahatchee wetlands wood Sat, 24 Mar 2018 21:26:32 GMT