Willet Altercation

I was recently conducting a whale survey here in northeast Florida. We are most interested in looking for Right Whales. The mothers come to the area to calf and I am on the Monday team to look for them in Sector 1 (from the St. Augustine Beach Pier to just north of Marineland).

Last Monday, we didn’t see any Right Whales but I keep my camera with me just in case. We had the opportunity to witness two Willets in an altercation. It appeared that they were fighting, but I can’t be sure exactly what was going on between the two. Following are a few shots of the sequence.

One willet has another willet firmly by the leg.
The willet is not letting go.
They both have their beaks locked on to each other.
One willet is completely submerged under the wave.
After this shot, they both flew off.
I also got to see this Bonaparte’s gull. I don’t see them very often.

Snake update: Sadly, the snake mentioned in the previous post died of its injuries. I took it to the vet, but they could not save it. I am not surprised. Once I took a closer look at the snakes underside, I could see its injuries were more extensive than I realized. I am grateful to St. Johns Veterinary Hospital for trying to save the snake and the GTM NERR for setting up a tank for it to recuperate from its injuries if it survived.

Injured Rat Snake

Injured rat snake.

I was out for a walk today and when I returned to within 1/2 mile of the house, I saw a rat snake curled up in the road. I went over to it to attempt to get it to leave the road surface so it wouldn’t get run over by a car. Once I got closer, I could see the snake was injured but still alive. Although I didn’t realize it was a rat snake at the time, I knew it was not venomous and picked it up. It had skin missing from two areas on its body and there was a wound on its head. The eyes did not look good, so I feared the end was near.

But, I wanted to try to save it anyway, so I carried it 1/2 mile back home with it’s head in one hand and the tail in the other. It lightly wrapped its tail around my hand, which made me realize it was still with us. The eyes looked near death so I thought it would perish before I got home, but it did not release its tail. That gave me hope.

When I got home, I rang the door bell since I had a snake in both hands. No answer but Dart went ballistic. I tried to open the door and it was locked. I went to the garage and it was open and I was able to open the door into the house with the snake in my hands. I found that Regis was in the shower. I entered the bathroom and told him to get it over with quick and come help.

We have little in the area of snake supplies, so we repurposed Dart’s fabric dog crate into a snake enclosure. We placed the snake inside with some water and left it alone while I emailed some snake experts to determine what to do. A couple hours later, the snake look much better and the eyes were glistening. I have hope this snake will pull through. Regis thinks it was the victim of a string trimmer.

I’m hoping my snake friends will get back to me, but in the meantime I researched and determined that I needed to provide it a place to hide, check, something to keep it warm, check, and food eventually. So, if this snake is still alive tomorrow, I’ll be looking for a dead mouse. Argh!

If any of my local friends are snake charmers, please let me know. I have never handled a snake before and don’t know how to take care of one. I don’t want to release the snake back into the wild until it recovers from its injuries. It’s a beautiful snake.

If I can get better pictures tomorrow without causing it more stress, I will post.

Injured rat snake.

Next Book Available

Our fourth book, The Gifts of the Day: Florida to Washington State is now available on Amazon in paperback and electronic.

Description: Linda and Regis Burek and their dog Dart travel regularly in their Jayco Seneca motorhome while towing a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. This book, with over 100 photographs and humor, documents the fourth year of their travels when they went from St. Augustine, Florida to Washington state and back. The first year of their cross-country camping travels was published in The Gifts of the Day: Traveling and Camping With Dogs,  the second year being published in The Gifts of the Day: Where’s Dart? and the third year in The Gifts of the Day: Florida to Cape Breton Island.

Linda and Regis believe that life brings gifts every day. A gift could be hearing meadowlarks sing, seeing a baby bighorn sheep with its mother, watching the setting sun tint the top of a snow-covered mountain or glimpsing river otters at play in the waters of Puget Sound. While traveling and camping around the United States and Canada, they look for those gifts.

Ibis Performance

Put your wings in…
put your wings out….
then you shake them all about…
now your feet, that’s how you do it.
End of performance bow. Your turn stork.
Encore! Encore!
All that dancing makes you thirsty.

GTM Reserve

House Wren.

Regis and I went to the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve today. It is one of our favorite places. The three names (Guana, Tolomato, Matanzas) are the three rivers within the reserve. It is one of 29 national estuarine research reserves in the country. While so much of Florida is comprised of condos on the beach and other development, this is a beautiful, special natural place embedded in all that development. It explains why we spend so much time there!

We saw some nice sized alligators and glossy ibis. I don’t see glossy ibis often, so I was thrilled. It was my gift of the day.

Alligator. It’s hidden in the grasses.
Glossy Ibis.
Yellow-rumped Warbler.
Pied-billed Grebe.

On the Matanzas River

Mature brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

I had a great opportunity today to get out on the water on a pontoon boat on the Matanzas River to scout in preparation for the upcoming Christmas Bird Count. I was accompanied by several folks who will be conducting the official count on Sunday. Today, we wanted to see where the birds are located along the waterway now and we wanted to have an expert birder teach the rest of us tips to improve our bird identification.

It was an amazing day on the water and we saw a nice variety of birds. I think we all feel better about our ability to handle the official count on Sunday.

I found it difficult to capture good shots while moving in the boat, but I was able to capture some. Other photographs were good enough for us to validate our bird identification. I had the most fun watching the pelicans fish.

Immature brown pelican. I love the way pelicans can hang goofy-like in the air.
A mature brown pelican.
Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis).
Black-bellied plover in front ((Pluvialis squatarola) and a greater yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca).

Great-horned Owls

Great-horned owl that attempted to serve Dart as breakfast for its young.

A couple weeks ago, we began to hear a great-horned owl hoot for hours in the early morning between midnight and sunrise. This owl hooted non-stop for hours. About a week after all that hooting, we noticed that there were now two owls hooting in the trees behind our backyard. They were hooting a lovely duet. At first it sounded like one owl. If you listened closely, you could hear that it was one owl starting the hoot and the other finishing it. They hooted for hours.

The other night, we let Dart out for his final opportunity to relieve himself before bed and heard the owls doing their duet. We were reminded of our 2016 camping trip where two great-horned owls attempted to make Dart breakfast for their little ones. Regis saved Dart and a rabbit became breakfast.

Dart is probably reasonably safe while they are still “in love” but if they nest nearby we will need to be wary.

We recently saw two bald eagles circling and communicating with each other. In the past a pair has regularly nested nearby, so perhaps these are the two starting their courtship prior to nesting.

On a beautiful sunny day recently I was trying to photograph the butterflies visiting the last of my salvia. The bumblebees are gone. I was actively taking pictures of one butterfly when I noticed a change in its behavior. A praying mantis had nabbed it and started to eat it. It was hard to watch, but I understand the praying mantis has to eat also. In spite of having a wonderful camera in my hand, I was unable to get a good picture. I think part of the problem was adrenaline and the other part not having a good grasp of focusing with the new camera.

A poor picture of a praying mantis eating a butterfly.

Regis and I have been practicing a lot with the camera in hopes of honing our skills for our 2020 adventure. We plan to cover about 8,000 miles next summer and go to Washington state, Canada, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico before heading home. I’m still working out the details but I’m excited to have locked up some campsites on Puget Sound for nearly a month. Wahoo!

Little Blue Heron at the Palencia Saltmarsh.
Osprey near our house.