Roseate Spoonbills in Cedar Key

Roseate spoonbills bathing in Cedar Key, Florida.

We left for Cedar Key on Saturday afternoon for a short, two-night stay in a house on the water. Not surprising, but tropical storm depression Fred decided to arrive while we were there.

Being on the water, we were able to sit on the dock and watch the wildlife activity. It would have been heaven, if not for the no see ums which are biting midges. They were horrific. We sprayed ourselves with a natural spray which slightly helped. They are small enough to easily fit through screens, so sitting on the screened deck was not any better. They also made their way into the house, so I was smacking myself all evening.

We were particularly interested in photographing roseate spoonbills and had ample opportunity to do so. Several times, they came by the dock at the house and Regis got the following video of them feeding.

We planned to kayak Sunday morning but decided it was too windy. It was on the edge of being okay, but the last time it was on the edge of being okay, I had to be rescued. We wisely chose to check out the town instead. Later in the day at low tide, we drove around and found some roseate spoonbills preening and bathing in the water. It was a delight to watch them. When Regis spotted them and did a U-turn to get photos, the car behind us followed and the occupants jumped out and got photos also. While photographing, another car stopped to join us. Spoonies are beautiful birds with their lovely pink feathers and it was a joy to watch them flapping their wings and enjoying bathing in the water.

Roseate spoonbill bathing.

On Saturday night we dined at the Island Hotel Restaurant and loved the food so much we returned Sunday evening. While in the restaurant waiting for our food, all the customer’s phones received alerts at the same time. It was warning of a storm surge due to Fred. We had another amazing dinner and I highly recommend the crab bisque. Coming from Maryland, I know of several restaurants that serve outstanding cream of crab soup. Since coming to Florida, I have been deprived of that outstanding specialty. The crab bisque at the Island Hotel Restaurant was what I have been waiting for. If I could have purchased a bucket of it to bring home, I would have.

When we got back after dinner, I attempted to capture images of the amazing sunset on Sunday evening, but I had to keep going in the house because the no see ums were killing me. I also had to maneuver around a spider web so as not to disturb the occupant who spent so much time creating its elaborate web. I saw lots of bats that I was happy to see. I suspect no see ums are too small for them, but who knows.

Sunset at Cedar Key with tropical depression Fred in the distance.

On Monday morning, the surge was upon us. It was not too bad but we could see the water was higher than any time we have seen on our several visits to Cedar Key. We drove around to take a look. We were also disappointed that the only coffee shop failed to open. While in our motorhome, we can supply ourselves with our required latte and cappuccino every morning. Being out of our usual element, we needed to be supplied by a local establishment. We were bummed to start our day without our fix.

When we made reservations, we hoped to kayak regularly, but the weather made that a bad option. Once again, we loaded kayaks for a trip and did not get to use them. Oh well. We came up with an alternate plan to leave early and visit Sweetwater Wetlands in Gainesville on the way home. While there, we got lots of great wildlife viewing and saw some alligator nests. One of them had its resident momma alligator hanging around for us to see. Regis lugged his large lens and tripod around the long walk and was ready to get an electric scooter for future visits of this kind. I carried my “carriable” long lens while he lugged his behemoth and he got the better pictures.

Whistling ducks.
Snowy egret with a fish.
Green heron waiting patiently for some food to show up.

We saw a momma deer and her two fawns and were saddened to see they had something wrong. There were growths (or something else) on their ears and sometimes face. It was sad to see. One little fawn was in worse shape than the other.

Fawns with growths on their ears and one has some growths near its right eye.
Momma with terrible growths on the back of her ears.

Food Poisoning

Great-horned owl behind our house.

It’s been a rough week. Last Wednesday I became ill and had a fever of 101 by Thursday. I wear a mask in enclosed spaces but was, of course, worried I got COVID. I got tested Thursday and it came back negative. Whew for all the people I had been around. When not better by Friday, I did a telemedicine chat with my doctor, and it was determined I have food poisoning. Lesson learned: Wash your fresh produce before eating it. I have not been this sick in decades. I am not fully recovered yet and it has been six days.

In the meantime, my healthy husband got some pics. We had a great horned owl show up behind our house and the wading birds have been congregating in the marsh behind the house. We also know a place where some of them congregate in the mornings and evenings at a nearby hospital.

Little blue heron in the marsh behind our house.
Roseate spoonbills at Flagler Hospital.

Blue Land Crab

Blue Land Crab

Regis and I went to the Palencia boardwalk to take some marsh vegetation pictures for a research project for the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM). When we returned to our street, we found this blue land crab (Cardisoma guanhum) running along the street gutter. I had my camera with me, so I stopped to get a picture. It was somewhat difficult because the crab found a tree and kept trying to get on the opposite of the tree from me. Eventually, it stayed still long enough to get this photo.

Wikepedia says the distribution of these crabs is as far north as Ponce Inlet which is about 80 miles south of us. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website says they are limited in their distribution by cold weather. During harvest season for them in Florida, you can bag 20 without a size limit. The season is closed from July 1 to October 31. They presumably taste as good as the blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) I grew up eating in Maryland. It is a beautiful crab and it was a thrill to see our first one.

Following are the drone pictures Regis took from the Palencia boardwalk in support of the GTM research project. We are planning to take them once a month.

Aerial view east from Palencia boardwalk.
Aerial view north from Palencia boardwalk.
Aerial view south from Palencia boardwalk.

Regis Got a Blue Ribbon

Prairie Dog Family Portrait

Regis won a blue ribbon in the Florida Camera Club Council 2021 2nd Triannual Print for the above photo. I love the shot. I think momma has her eyes closed praying for strength to handle all those young ones.

local session on Wildlife Photography

Seagulls silhouetted against a St. Augustine sunrise.

Least Terns and Turkeys

Least tern parent with chick.

It is late in the season for it, but I finally went to Anastasia State Park to see the nesting, endangered least terns. The chicks are almost as large as the parents. These pictures are severely cropped because I keep my distance so I do not bother the birds.

Least tern parent with chick.
Two least terns with fish.
Least tern chick.

On my way back found this adorable Wilson’s Plover chick with five leg bands. That is a small bird for so much jewelry. There was a smaller chick running around but it was so tiny and moving so fast that I could not focus on it.

Wilson’s plover chick with five leg bands.

I was happy with my gifts for today but got one more when I was almost home. I saw a mother turkey with about 10-12 babies. I was driving and pulled to the side of the road and took pictures through the car window.

Turkey with her chicks.
Turkey with her chicks. About half of them are outside the image.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers

A blue-gray gnatcatcher feeding its nestlings.

Yesterday, I discovered a nest of blue-gray gnatcatchers. I have been hearing the squeaky sounds of blue-gray gnatcatchers a lot lately but they are hard to see. They are tiny birds that flit among the leafy branches looking for insects. I saw an adult in a tree next to the sidewalk and it stayed close and I got a few pictures. After a few seconds, I saw it fly to a nest in the same tree. I was able to determine there are four babies in the small nest. The nest is not much bigger than a hummingbird nest and looks similar.

A blue-gray gnatcatcher checking me out. Notice the placement of the eyes.
A blue-gray gnatcatcher feeding a moth to its nestlings.
A blue-gray gnatcatcher with an insect in its beak.

I went back again this morning and got some video. The babies look like they may be leaving the nest soon.

Last Count

Snowy egrets. The yellow feet distinguish them as snowies.

It was the last bird count of the nesting season at the Alligator Farm. There are still eggs that have not hatched yet and young chicks still in the nest, but many of the babies have moved on or are hanging around the Alligator Farm. They are adorable and a joy to watch. While we count, we have to concentrate on getting the numbers correct. I do not usually photograph during a bird count unless there is something of interest like a banded bird. After we finished counting today, I hung around to enjoy the birds and get some photos and video.

Tri-colored herons.
Baby bird perched precariously on the palm boot. There are alligators on the ground below.

The little chick below fell out of the nest onto the boardwalk and I got some video of it trying to figure out how to get back in the nest. It could not fly and tried to climb the fence. It eventually climbed the fence into a palm tree, but it was not the right tree.

Chick that fell out of the nest onto the boardwalk.
The egg had just hatched and this tri-colored heron parent is removing the shell from the nest.
Tri-colored herons.
Tri-colored heron with a punk hairdo.
Young wood stork.
It is tough to tell what type of bird the babies are when the parents are not around. Cattle egrets, snowy egrets, great egrets, wood storks, and little blue herons have white chicks. Great egrets and wood storks are fairly easy to identify if you can get a look at their bill. The other birds can be difficult which makes it tough to count. I have a particularly hard time with baby snowies versus baby little blues.

This is probably the last nest of roseate spoonbills to hatch this season at the rookery.

Fifty Baby Alligators

Baby alligators.

I went to the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM) today to continue taking photographs for the North American Nature Photography Association bioblitz. I found about 50 baby alligators. Baby alligators are adorable. When they are young, they have yellow markings. These little alligators were concentrated in the same general area. Alligators have the coolest eyes.

Baby alligator.

I got some photos of lichen and fungi. I was hoping to find a snake but had to settle for a frog.

Tree frog.

I managed to get some pictures of blue-gray gnatcatchers this evening. I hear them when I walk on our street but they hang out in the upper parts of leafy trees and it is difficult to see them. They also move constantly and quickly. I suspected there were some parents feeding young a few houses away, but I could never get a good look. This evening, they briefly spent time in a tree with several bare branches and I got lucky and captured a parent feeding a fledgling.

Blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) feeding a fledgling.

Crab in the Living Room

Squareback marsh crab (Armases cinereum)

Regis found this marsh crab in our living room yesterday. At first he thought it was a leaf until he realized it had legs. It was difficult to catch. It is small and fast and immediately went under the couch. When Regis moved the couch, the crabbed moved with it. We have a dog that sheds a lot and that hair accumulates under the couch. The crab was hindered by the dog hair. I pulled as much stuff off him as I could before releasing him back into the marsh. We can not figure out how he got into the house. The doors have been shut because it is too hot to leave them open. He could have hitched a ride on Dart. We have had a snake, birds, frogs, anoles, and now a crab in the house.