Before Dorian made a swing by off the coast of Florida, Regis and I went to the boardwalk over the Palencia salt marsh to check it out. In our last post, we posted some pictures of the clapper rails from that trip. Today I went back to the salt marsh late in the day while the sun was bathing the marsh grasses in a golden light. I took the following panoramic picture.
I went back to my picture from before Dorian in order to compare the water levels. When we went to the marsh before Dorian came by, the water was very high, probably because of the early storm surge, as well as the king tides. The following picture was taken in the same general area as the panoramic picture above.
I got a picture of a green anole. (Technically a Carolina anole, Anolis carolinensis). They are native to the area but are being replaced by the Cuban brown anole (Anolis sagrei). I don’t see green anoles often so I’m glad this little guy let me take it’s picture. In my Florida Master Naturalist classes I learned that the green anoles are moving higher in the trees as the Cuban brown anoles take over. This is their attempt to survive the invasion and takeover of the brown anoles and it seems to be working right now. They are adapting as best they can.
We are experiencing exceptionally high tides lately. This is a result of the placement of the moon, sun, and earth in a way that creates the greatest tidal effects of the year. At the height of the tides, some people have been traveling over the marsh in a boat and shooting. I found out that they were hunting clapper rails. The hunting season opened on September 1. There is a lot of shooting going on, so either they are bagging a lot of birds or they are lousy shooters and are shooting at everything.
We went for a walk on the boardwalk over the local marsh during the peak of the high tide. Our gift for today was to see an adult Clapper Rail walking on the wrack that was floating in the water and appearing to be oblivious to us. We were able to walk right by the bird and it didn’t move away. I rarely get to see a Clapper Rail because they stay hidden in the marsh grasses. This was a great experience.
And, it gets better. We saw 4 little Clapper Rail chicks. They were struggling with the high water and one little chick clung to the top of the marsh grasses that were barely sticking out of the water. The other three chicks kept popping their little heads out from under the boardwalk and they were walking on floating debris. They were very skittish, so I had a very difficult time getting pictures of them. They were as cute as they could be. I’m sure they can’t wait for low tide to get here!
When I got the pictures loaded on my computer, I noticed that one little chick had a spider on its head. Everything was looking for a dry spot with the exceptionally high tide!! A few photographs later, the spider was gone.
Now we wait for Hurricane Dorian…..
I apologize. I have been reformatting some old blog posts due to some WordPress upgrades and managed to inadvertently republish an old post yesterday. I was keeping myself busy so I wouldn’t be thinking about Hurricane Dorian heading up the east coast of Florida to pay us an unwelcome visit.
We just spent two days at Gamble Rogers State Park. We had a campsite on the beach and we could launch our kayaks across the road on the intracoastal waterway. It was lovely. Regis found a vacant spot for two nights at this campground a while ago so we could be on the beach. With hurricane Dorian headed this way, they kicked everyone out today.
We were sure to wake up each morning before sunrise to watch it. On our first full day, we swiftly left after sunrise to kayak on the intracoastal waterway and make our way through the mangroves. I think I would have easily gotten lost, but Regis is more astute and made sure we got back.
I sat on the beach for a long time taking pictures of birds and crabs. I feel like I’m “in the zone” when I sit on the beach like that. I could sit there and take pictures until the battery runs out or the card fills up.
Dart got sick on this trip, so we are trying to figure out the issue. He’s been good lately. We left him alone while we kayaked and they were working on repaving the local road. I noticed the vibrations while the equipment was working and perhaps Dart did also. While we were kayaking and he was alone in the RV, it may have been more stressful than we realized with the local work being done. We try so hard to make things right with him, but sometimes we miss the mark.
Another photographer and I went to a local stormwater management facility at sunrise to see what photographic opportunities presented themselves. We arrived to see over 1000 cattle egrets roosting and preparing for a day of foraging – probably in the local agricultural fields. Large groups of them would lift off at the same time. From where were could stand, the roosting egrets were backlit by the rising sun.
I enjoy watching the bumblebees and butterflies visit the purple Salvia’s in my backyard. Although I have other flowers, the Salvias are clearly a hit. Yesterday I spent some time trying to photograph as the clouds rolled in but before the rains came. It made for better lighting for pictures.
After taking closeup photographs like these, I enjoy seeing details that I can’t see with my naked eyes. You can see the proboscis probing into the flower.
The bumblebees are always very busy with these flowers. I’m glad the Salvias are in constant bloom.
We went to Fisheating Creek in Florida in hopes of seeing the Swallow-tailed Kites. About half the eastern population of Kites congregate in the area for a couple days near the end of July in preparation for their flight to South America.
We didn’t see a single Kite on our drive down. When we got to the Fisheating Creek campground, I asked the girl who checked us in about the Kites. She didn’t know what I was talking about. An irony is the campground has a swallow tail in their logo! Looked like we were on our own to find them.
The Fisheating Creek area is primarily within a Wildlife Management Area that is not very accessible (which is a good thing!). In the morning, we tried kayaking toward the upper creek and didn’t see any Kites. The scenery was beautiful with all the Cypress Trees and knees. In the afternoon, we drove around the area on some of the few roads available and did not see any Kites.
I thought we missed them. On our last full day (July 24), we planned to drive to Lake Okeechobee and see if we could get some views of the lake. We found that’s hard to do since it is almost completely surrounded by a dike and few public roads will get you over the dike.
Not far from the campground, on our way to the Lake, we both spotted a few Swallow-tailed Kites soaring above the highway. We pull into a turn around in the median strip and saw a lot more Swallow-tailed Kites heading our way. We stayed for probably half hour in the median strip and saw hundreds and hundreds of them pass by over head. Yes, literally hundreds, like 500, 600 700! lots! Talk about a gift of the day! It could have been a boring a highway drive and we could have easily driven right by the spot. You really need to be open about your surroundings and not mindlessly go from point A to point B.
In our travels we have seen many things, if we had not been open to stoping and investigating, we would not have ever known of their existance.
The moon was overhead. Several times I got a view of a Kite with the moon in the background. So cool!
As if that wasn’t enough good stuff for the day, we saw a Crested Caracara during our exploration of the area after we left the Kites.
The mornings are clear and you can literally watch the clouds form during the day. There were horrendous downpours every afternoon. I took 267 pictures, one every 10 seconds. Regis put them together into a video.
On the last morning there we went at the same time at the same spot where we saw the Kites and saw only about 50 Kites. Clearly, the big day was the day before. We don’t know if they were there the 23rd since we were in the wrong area to see them! Truly, when we saw them was a gift, and we took the time to stop and check them out. We stopped for a quick look and witnessed an amasizing sight.