St. Augustine

By Linda

I think I might have a problem sitting still too long, so we recently put our house up for sale.  We plan to travel in the motor home and ultimately settle somewhere in Washington State.  Our son lives there and we’d like to be within driving distance of him so we can visit more often.  We’re not waiting until the house sells to get going.  We can’t sit still long enough to do that!  So, we’re leaving on our trip and hoping it sells by the end of the summer.  If it does, we’ll put our household goods in storage and travel around until we find a place to put some roots in Washington State.  If it doesn’t sell by the end of the summer, we’ll come back and spend the winter in St. Augustine.  Either outcome is workable, so it’s all good.

As a result of this plan, we don’t really know where we’ll be at the end of the summer.  Our Adventure 2018 plan currently terminates the end of August.  At that point, we either head back to St. Augustine or start thinking about where we want to spend the winter.  Because we don’t know how things will work out, we have to pack as though we won’t see our household goods for awhile.  I also have to say good-bye to the wonderful friends I have made since we moved here and visit some of my favorite St. Augustine spots one more time.

While I am running around with my friends and visiting favorite spots,  Regis completes his motor home projects.  More planning is required regarding what to take since we don’t know whether we’ll be living in Florida next winter or somewhere else.  Also, knowing that we could be living in the motor home for over six months has given Regis an excuse to embark upon more projects than you can count regarding the motor home.  He is obsessed with improving this or that and spends more time at the motor home than he does at the house.  Oh, wait, he spends a lot of time at the local hardware store also.  Thank goodness they opened a new hardware store between our house and the lot where the motor home is stored.  It has greatly reduced our fuel consumption!

As I met up with some good friends recently to explore the GTM Research Reserve, they told me about a portion of an old ship that washed up on the beach near the Reserve.  One of the interesting things about living by the ocean is seeing what washes up on the beach.  Lots of times it’s garbage, but can be interesting nevertheless.  Months after hurricane Matthew visited the area, it was possible to see the objects from people’s lives continue to wash up on the beach.  It was very sad and made the ocean a dangerous place to swim.  Sometime we find cool skeletons of now dead creatures.  Having a portion of an old ship wash up was very exciting, so we had to checkc it out.  I took a couple pictures.  Here is a link to one of the many articles about the ship.  Click here. 

 

I saw this gopher tortoise at the GTM Research Reserve which is one of my favorite places.

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Gopher tortoise at GTM Reserve.

I also visited the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine.  This is a favorite place to visit while the birds are nesting in the spring.  The birds are wild but learned that the Alligator Farm is a relatively safe place to raise their young.  The many alligators keep other predators away.  Of course, any chick that falls out of the nest won’t have to worry about hitting the ground.  It will become a tasty snack first.  Those alligators are fast.  The birds are used to people watching them in this area, so you can get some very close views of them.

When I visited the other day, the alligators were restless.  While you are watching the birds, you stand on a boardwalk over the water where there are LOTS of alligators.  When the alligators start bellowing and thrashing around, you hope desperately that the boardwalk is well built!  Click here for a video on our youtube channel of some of the nesting activity and the restless alligators.  The alligator farm is a great place to visit any time of the year.  You can zip line across the alligators.  If you are visiting the area in the spring, it is a must see.  For more information click here for a link for the Alligator Farm. 

Following are some still pictures of the birds.

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Feeding time for a baby Great Egret
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Great Egret family picture. As usual, the kids are squabbling!
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Tri-colored heron nesting pair.
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Tri-colored heron scratching an itch while protecting his/her eggs.
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Cattle egret.

 

Dolphins and a Tortoise

We are enjoying being back in Florida.  We are catching up with friends and enjoying the natural environment.  We went kayaking today and encountered some dolphins.  That’s not unusual around here, but these dolphins came close to Regis’ kayak to check him out.  It looks like one pair of dolphins was a mom with her young one.  Click here to see the video of our trip highlights.

We also found a gopher tortoise floating in the water.  At first, I thought it might have been a terrapin because I knew it wasn’t a sea turtle.  Regis figured out it was a gopher tortoise, so we rescued it and placed it back in the sand dunes.  We don’t know how this little tortoise wound up in the water, but we know that sometimes well-meaning people think they are sea turtles and put them in the water.  Gopher tortoises live in the dunes by the water (and other places in Florida) and they cannot survive IN the water.  Hopefully, this little tortoise will be okay.

On the way back, I noticed a large animal surface in the water and then drop back down but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  Regis and I were headed that way, so we watched for it as we got in the area.  Suddenly, something large moved in the water beneath Regis’ kayak and stirred up a lot of silt.  We discussed this for about 5-10 minutes and decided that it was probably a manatee that I saw and Regis probably moved over top of it and startled it.  If that is the case, he is lucky to not have been upended.

We don’t see manatees in our area as we kayak, but we know they are around in the summer.  We’ll have to pay more attention!

When we got back to the boat ramp, Regis got a cute video of a hermit crab.  It’s on the end of the video mentioned above.

I’m also very excited to find that 3 Black Skimmer pairs have nested on the beach in Anastasia State Park.  These are the first Skimmers nesting on this beach since at least 2005.  Mostly, the Black Skimmers nest on rooftops because there is insufficient habitat for them on the beach.  That is not ideal since rooftops get too hot for the eggs and chicks and they can get washed off the roof in the many rainstorms that hit Florida in the summertime.  I was told by a Florida Wildlife Commission employee that these are the only Black Skimmers nesting on a beach in all of Florida that they know of.   Let’s hope this is the beginning of a recovery since Black Skimmers, among other shorebirds, are threatened.