We have had several interesting wildlife experiences since the last post. After publishing our last post while at anchor on the east side of Choctawhatchee Bay, the sun started to set and thousands of tree swallows showed up. I have a video below. The birds are small and can be hard to see. They were flying low over the water for as far as we could see. They came at once, flew around for about 20 minutes feeding, then all left at the same time. What a gift!

As I was finishing putting the anchor away in the morning, I noticed Regis in the front of the cabin running back and forth swinging a fly swatter. He looked like a madman. I asked what he was doing and he said “The damn swallows left two mosquitos behind.”

On our way out of the bay, we came across a huge flock of double-crested cormorants. We were in a very narrow channel on the water and the birds were gathered in the middle of the channel. If not for the shallow water on either side of the channel, we would have gone around them. Regis slowed down and I got some video of them taking off. They did not go far and gathered up again.

We entered the narrow channel and went about 18 miles to West Bay. I nicknamed the channel Kingfisher Highway because we saw a lot of kingfishers. There is a brief video below showing how narrow it was.

We saw one small barge, one large barge, and one fishing boat the entire route. We were surprised about the lack of boat traffic.

Barge moving on the Intracoastal Waterway.

We saw four bald eagles and one of them was kind enough to sit still for a photo shoot.

Bald eagle preening.

The waterway got more interesting as we neared the west end of West Bay. As we approached the bay, our first dolphins showed up. We saw many dolphins as we crossed the bay to Panama City Beach. The curious thing about the dolphins is the ones nearby almost always headed for our boat. They would come to the bow and then leave. Not one of them stayed, but nearly every nearby dolphin came to the boat. At one point Regis said, “I don’t think you can ever get tired of this.” I agree. Since the dolphins were numerous in the bay all day, the entire trip across the bay never got boring.

We arrived at South Point Marina which is completely rebuilt. This area was hit hard by Hurricane Michael years ago and it appears this marina was completely redesigned. The folks at the marina are very nice and the marina is beautiful. Upon arrival, I got a shower and started the wash while Regis worked on the heater of the boat. When we arrived, the marina folks told us some of their services would be closed down on Thanksgiving. We only planned to spend one night, so that did not impact us.

Our plan is to spend the next two days getting to Carabelle and load up on diesel before we head across the open waters of the Gulf to Tarpon Springs. This is the scary part to me. Regis keeps calculating fuel requirements to be absolutely sure we can make this run. There are no places for us to get diesel out in the gulf. As I was doing the wash, I got to thinking that would make our arrival in Carrabelle on Thursday, Thanksgiving. We probably would not be able to get diesel. If that was the case, where was the best place to spend the extra day waiting? When I got back to the boat, Regis was giving up on the heater and told me he needed a part and we would be without AC/heat until he got it. I pointed out the likely Thanksgiving problem, so he opted to stay another night in the marina (it is very nice) since West Marine is in the area and he may be able to get the part. We got some groceries delivered to us via Instacart and dinner via Door Dash. Who needs a car?

I was very tired this evening and went to bed around 7 or so. It was dark, so it was easy enough to do. Around midnight, I woke to the sounds of barred owls. Barred owls in a marina? I did not recall a lot of trees around. I got up to check it out and heard about six barred owls. I saw at least two of them sitting on top of one of the fishing boats. I was not sure it was the owls and ran back for the binoculars (I have a pair that work well in low light conditions). When I returned, the two shapes I saw were gone, confirming they were something alive. I followed two of the calls and saw two owls, one each on two boats next to each other. I never expected to find more owls in a marina than all the natural areas in which I have been outside. As I sit here typing this, the owls continue to hoot.

One last item about wildlife. Yesterday, I was having difficulty with some of the buoys. There are green markers on one side of the channel and red on the other. Upon approaching one of the bridges, the channel narrowed and I complained to Regis because I saw a white buoy and could not understand why it was not red or green. He looked through the binoculars and said it was green. I looked more closely and saw green at the bottom of the buoy. As we got closer, it was clear the problem was bird poop. The birds sit on the buoys pointed into the prevailing wind. We were on the leeward side of the buoys and most of them appeared white to me.

Green can buoy with a Forster’s Tern sitting on top pointing into the wind.

The two collie puppies (krakens) are staying with our son Jason and his partner Dan. Jason sent me a diary of what’s been going on with them since their Seattle adventure began. I am quoting the words he wrote and including Day 1 next. From Jason:

“The krakens arrived in Seattle after what I’m sure was a flurry of frantic packing. I’m sure their stress levels were elevated from all of the changes going on around them. Once we got all of their stuff out of the car and into the house, I hopped into the car to drop Linda and Regis at the light rail station. I returned to find the piece of paper with all of the security codes and passwords to their house partially eaten (Clover no doubt!) Off to a good start I see!

Unfortunately, to add to the first day’s stress, Dan and I had to take off after only a couple of hours to go to a concert so with a little trepidation, we locked the krakens in the basement and hoped for the best. A few hours later we returned and were pleasantly surprised. There was one plastic… something… on the floor – chewed well past the point of recognition, but no other obvious damage. We let the dogs romp in the yard for a bit as we got ready for bed.

We debated locking them in the basement again for the night but eventually decided we’d left them alone too much and we’d let them have free reign in the house while we slept. Maybe not the best idea! They had not had nearly enough energy released during the day and you could hear them exploring throughout the night. Needless to say, neither Dan nor I had a particularly great sleep that night. Dan also caught Clover sleeping on the couch in the middle of the night – I guess she figured new house, new rules. (Linda: The dogs have never been allowed on the couch at home.) The evenings casualties were a few more pieces of plastic (now identifiable as picture frame stands – since removed from mouth height), a stuffed animal (I don’t even know where she found it!), and one of the temperature sensors that connects to the thermostat. Luckily the temperature sensor appears to function still, but it’s a little more conspicuous sitting on the mantle with all of the electronics exposed. We might need to get a new one and move this one somewhere like the office where exposed electronics don’t stand out quite so much!”

Clover and Raven playing.

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