Adventure 2018 Begins

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Sunrise as St. Augustine Beach Pier.

By Linda

We finished packing up the house in hopes it will sell while we are traveling across country and then we won’t need to come back.  We loaded up the motor home and set up in a local campground 1/2 mile from the beach.  We are bringing more in the motor home than we have done in the past because we don’t know if we’l be living in it moving into winter.  If our house sells, our goods will be placed in storage and be inaccessible until we find another home to rent or buy.   It will likely be a few weeks before we can figure out how to organize the motor home so we can find stuff.

The last several weeks have been stressful because of all the packing and saying good-bye to so many wonderful friends.  We had some moments when we wondered if we would regret leaving.  We have the most amazing friends here in St. Augustine.

Dart has been uncomfortable with all the activity and didn’t eat much this past week.  It always scares me when a dog stops eating because my experience has shown me that it can be a sign of something very bad going on with the dog.  Because of all the activity, I’ve been hoping Dart’s appetite will pick up once we get settled.  Fortunately, Dart ate well today so I think he was stressed out and is starting to relax.  While we were finalizing the packing we had the door to the garage open and Dart went out to the driveway and laid down next to the car.  I wonder if he wanted to make sure we didn’t leave without him.

Getting into the campground reminded me why we are doing this.  It has been lovely.  The weather has been beautiful and there are lots of birds and turtles in the campground.  We are camped by a pond and we are enjoying the neighbors.  A bunch of Mallards are hanging around.  There are also Anhingas, Egrets, Herons, and lots of birds soaring closer to the ocean.  I can’t identify all of them but the Swallow-tailed kite is easy to identify.  I love when the Swallow-tailed kites return to the area in Spring and I get a thrill every time I see one.  I have seen many of them soaring and have never seen one flap it’s wings.  They spend all day hunting on the wing.

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One of the local campground Anhingas.

The first morning we camped, we headed to the beach to watch the sunrise and picked up some eclairs at the local French bakery.  We’ve hit that bakery a few more times and I’m certain we will get some pastries before we leave tomorrow.  If I stayed in this campground too long, I would need to purchase larger clothes.

We also went to Matanzas Inlet one last time.  I love this area and I knew the Least Terns were starting to nest.  We were not disappointed and got to see a lot of Least Tern activity.  It looks promising that it may be a good season for them.  Let’s hope so.

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Least terns courting at Matanzas Inlet in Florida.

We’ve already had our first camping glitch.  I was attempting to take a shower this morning and the water would not heat up.  I would like to understand why the universe must let any glitches with our hot water heater show up only when I (not Regis) attempt to take a shower.  These glitches could show up when you are washing your face before you go to bed at night or when you are washing the dishes.  No.  They happen when I am standing butt naked in the shower wondering why the water won’t warm up.  I started yelling out to Regis hoping he was nearby and could quickly diagnose and fix the problem.  It turned out that the circuit breaker was tripped, so it was easy to resolve.

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One of our campground neighbors.

Later today, we arrived back at the motor home after being away all morning and I went to get some water for Dart’s bowl and no water would come out of the faucet.  Mr. Fix-it was getting ice cream at the local camp store.  Once he returned, he determined that there was no water coming out of the spigot from the campground.  He checked with the campground host who told him that when they were mowing the grass, they broke something but the repair was underway.  At least our first two glitches were no big deal.  But, the car is intermittently displaying a nasty message, so we may have an issue with the car to resolve soon.

Tomorrow we head to the Gulf Coast.  I’ve never been so sad to leave a place because of all the wonderful people we have befriended.  Nevertheless, we are really excited about getting started on this year’s adventure.

In Search of Florida Panthers

Let me start off by saying we never saw any panthers.  We didn’t expect to see any panthers.  They are very elusive.  But, we camped not too far from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Sanctuary.  There are some trails there, but pets are not allowed on them.  Also, you can’t walk alone and must keep a close eye on your children.  Hmmmm.  We thought a drive through the area would be pretty cool just to see where panthers hang out.

On the way to the refuge, we went to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.  According to the sanctuary literature, the sanctuary was “established to protect the largest remaining stand of ancient bald cypress left in North America.”  National Audubon had been protecting wading birds nesting in the swamp since 1912.  In 1954, the Corkscrew Cypress Rookery Association was formed and purchased the property and the National Audubon Society manages the area.  There is a visitor center and 2.25 mile boardwalk trail through the sanctuary.

Since pets are not allowed, Regis and Dart went for a walk outside the sanctuary and I went inside the sanctuary.  There were lots of Wood Storks flying overhead, so I think Dart and Regis saw as many birds as I did.  The sanctuary is amazing and the boardwalk makes it possible to visit a swamp that would normally be inaccessible.

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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
I expected to see mostly wading birds, but saw many birds flitting through the forest.  I couldn’t identify most of them but I know I saw an Oriole.  I also walked right under a hawk.  One of the coolest things I saw was a ghost orchid.  This is a very rare orchid that looks like a ghost.  There are people who visit the sanctuary just to see this orchid.

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On the left side of the trunk is a rare ghost orchid.

After visiting the sanctuary, we took a ride by the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.  There are several signs along the road nearby warning of panther crossings.  I regularly get email from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (myfwc.com) on happenings related to panthers, so it was thrilling to see the area where these events take place.

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Nesting Anhingas at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
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Red-shouldered Hawk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
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Wood Stork outside of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The Sanctuary has the highest concentration of nesting Wood Storks in the U.S.

Underwater Views

By Linda

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Anhinga and alligator on the Silver River in Florida.

On our last day in Silver Springs State Park, we kayaked by the springs and the Fort King Paddle Trail.  We did the loop a couple times.  Being Saturday and a holiday week-end, it was much more congested.  Nevertheless, we still saw a lot of wildlife including a Barred Owl.  If it had not hooted, I would not have seen it.  Much of the wildlife is very close.  If you are not careful, you can bump into a turtle or alligator.  They must be used to the relative safety of the area because most of them are not skittish.

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Fort King Paddle Trail in Silver Springs State Park in Florida.

This little loop on the paddle trail and the springs is easily one of my favorite kayak trips.  The wildlife is amazing.  If you find a place to safely anchor yourself, you can sit and watch the wildlife for hours.  I particularly enjoy watching the Anhingas fish.

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Anhinga on the Silver River in Florida.
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Anhinga on the Silver River in Florida.

 

Regis was fortunate to get quite a few underwater videos.  Click on the words to see a video of each animal:  Anhinga (close), Anhinga (dive), turtle, and otter.

The otter was particularly difficult to capture as a photo or underwater.  It was very fast as it popped in and out of the water.  It was a joy to see.

We will definitely be back!

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River Otter at Silver Springs State Park in Florida.
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Common Moorhen on the Silver River in Florida.
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Great Blue Heron sunning on the Silver River in Florida.
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Immature White Ibis on the Silver River in Florida.
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Alligator enjoying the sunshine on the Fort King Paddle Trail in Silver Springs State Park in Florida.