More Salt Marsh and a Plea

Palencia salt marsh located on the intracoastal waterway in Florida.

My plea is to ask people to use balloons and fishing gear responsibly. Regis, Sooz, and I tried to help a bird that was entangled in fishing line. St. Johns Audubon Society was notified about the bird via Facebook. We were unable to find that bird but I found a bird entangled in the remains of a balloon. We could not help this bird since it is still able to fly. We will keep an eye out for it this week. If it can’t eat, its health will deteriorate and we may be able to save it.

Royal Tern entangled with the line that was attached to a balloon. You can see the remains of the balloon below the bird.

On a lighter note, the salt marsh is looking particularly beautiful lately. I spent a lot of time in front of the computer this week wrapping up our second book, so I was desperate to get out with the camera. I went to the Palencia salt marsh this morning to take sunrise pictures. The sky wasn’t as beautiful as it can be, but the marsh grasses were beautiful. Florida may not get the stunning fall colors you see in other places in the country, but it is beautiful nonetheless!

Boardwalk on the Palencia salt marsh
Looking south over the Palencia salt marsh.
Palencia salt marsh.
Palencia salt marsh.
Boardwalk over the Palencia salt marsh.
Palencia salt marsh.
Palencia salt marsh.
Palencia salt marsh.
Great egret taking off at the GTM Reserve. Regis and I went there to look for a bird entangled in fishing line and I saw this beautiful egret.
I was taking pictures of bumblebees again and Dart decide to enter the patch of flowers. Was he smelling the Salvia?

Palencia Salt Marsh

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.

Palencia salt marsh during the “golden hour”.

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.

Palencia salt marsh prior to hurricane Dorian. This is high tide with a storm surge thrown in.

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.

Green anole. This anole may not look to green in this picture, but it is different than all the Cuban brown anoles we regularly see. When I saw it running across the boardwalk, I noticed the green color although it looks more brown here. The little anole posed briefly for me before running away.
Little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) in the Palencia salt marsh.
Tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor) in the Palencia salt marsh.
I think this is a Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus). If you think otherwise, please post a comment and correct me. I love that you can see it’s “tongue” in this shot.

Clapper Rails

Clapper rail (Rallus longirostris)

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.

Clapper rail. This is the first time I had an opportunity to see how big their feet are.

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!

This little clapper rail chick was staying perched near the top of the marsh grasses, apparently attempting to stay dry. It was reasonably successful. Compare to it’s siblings in the other pictures in this post.

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.

A wet little clapper rail chick with a spider on its head. That burry spot on the right side of the picture is the boardwalk. This chick is not walking on mud, it’s walking on floating debris.
The same wet little clapper rail chick without the spider and walking on floating debris during high tide.

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.

Gamble Rogers State Park

Sunrise at Gamble Rogers State Park

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.

Shortly after we arrived, this flag went up. This flag indicates a medium hazard.

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.

Osprey on the intracoastal waterway.
Anhinga on the intracoastal waterway.
Equipment we saw on the intracoastal waterway. There was a section closed because of construction.

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.

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres).
Willet (Cataptrophorus semipalmatus)
Brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
Ghost crab (Ocypodinae)
Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Black-bellied Plover

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.

Regis found this guy on his roaming through the campground.
Regis captured this lightning in the middle of the night.
Sunrise on the beach.
The high hazard warning flag went up today. If we weren’t already planning to leave, they would have kicked us out anyway.

Cattle Egrets

Cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis)

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.

Cattle egrets grooming before taking off.
Cattle egret in flight.
This dragonfly stood still long enough to get its picture taken.
Cattle egrets roosting.

Butterfly and Bumblebees

Black Swallowtail

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.

Black Swallowtail

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.

Black Swallowtail
Black Swallowtail

The bumblebees are always very busy with these flowers. I’m glad the Salvias are in constant bloom.

I love the wing movement in this picture while the bee is still.