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…..

Apology

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)
Willet
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.

Lots of Swallow-tailed Kites

Swallow-tailed Kites

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.

Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus)
Swallow-tailed Kite by Regis
Lots of Swallow-tailed Kites.

The moon was overhead. Several times I got a view of a Kite with the moon in the background. So cool!

Swallow-tailed Kite with moon in the background

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.

Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway).

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.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura). There were lots of vultures in the area.
A White-tailed Deer running away. It saw us before we saw it.
Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) by Regis

The black and white paperback version of our first book (The Gifts of the Day: Traveling and Camping With Dogs) is now available here. The premium version is available here.

Fisheating Creek

We recently went to southwest Florida to see the Swallow-tailed Kite migration to South America. We understood that the Kites are in the Fisheating Creek area around July 23 and 24. We had no idea where to look.

We arrived on the 22nd and set up camp just before the regular afternoon rains came through. We were the only other camper outside two extended stay guests. They likely work in the campground.

We weren’t sure where to look for the kites and realized very quickly we should have brought our kayaks. We rented kayaks on Tuesday morning in hopes of viewing the scenery and seeing a Kite.

We didn’t see any Kites but found the scenery was the most beautiful we have seen in Florida. There are numerous Cypress trees along the creek which are incredibly beautiful. We found one alligator along the way. Following is a video of parts of our excursion. I was hand holding the camera to video, so it’s a little shaky. I apologize.

We didn’t see any Swallow-tailed Kites on our trip, but it turns out we weren’t looking in the right place.