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.

Prince Edward Island

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We launched our kayaks from here as the tide was going out and had to bring them in over this area. It was quite a trek and I intend to better time our launch next time so we don’t have to lug kayaks over so much squishy ground covered with lots of life. I don’t like stepping on all the living things.

We are thoroughly enjoying Prince Edward Island.  The plan to thwart the mosquitoes worked.  Regis bought a screened shelter so we could enjoy the outdoors in spite of the mosquitoes.  We have not had to use it.  We are able to enjoy the outdoors without unnecessary molestation by bugs.

This is Anne of Green Gables territory.  We drove around the island and there are lots of places associated with the author of Anne of Green Gables.  If you read the author’s works, you would be able to enjoy the areas that inspired her.  Sadly, I have not read her works but intend to do so now that I have been here.

The dirt is red here because of iron oxide.  It’s very interesting and makes Dart more patriotic.  He is already blue and white, so the red dirt on his paws adds the final red color.

When we drove around the island we saw LOTS of aquaculture here.  We’re are pretty sure they are raising lots of shellfish around here.

We went kayaking today.  We can launch from the campground.  We left as the tide was going out and had to drag our kayaks out to the water.  It was nothing compared to what we had to do bringing the kayaks back across the flats.  Nevertheless, we saw lots of life in the water.  There were lots of crabs and other shellfishes and baby fishes.  Once we got on the water we saw some magnificent maroon jelly fishes.  Wow it was beautiful!  We saw a crab that had sea weed wrapped around it like a boa.  It was very cute.  Next time we will be smart enough to bring the cameras!

 

Cobscook Bay State Park

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Cobscook Bay State Park

We spent the last week camping in Cobscook Bay State Park and wanted to share some information about it since we love it so much.  This park is surrounded on three sides by Cobscook Bay.  The park has 106 campsites, many of which are situated on Whiting Bay which is a sheltered inlet from the larger bay.  The tides range 24 to 28 feet.  There are lots of tent campsites and most of them are spectacular.  Most of them have water views.  The campsites throughout the park are mostly private.  These are some of the nicest campsites we have seen.  There are no utilities but water spigots and primitive toilets are placed throughout the park.  There are showers and a dump station near the entrance.

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Tent campsite Cobscook Bay State Park
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Tent campsite Cobscook Bay State Park

We were not able to get a site with a water view.  There are only a few of them for mobile homes.  But, we still love our campsite and can always see the water from many locations.  There are lots of picnic tables that overlook the water.  If you don’t have a water view, you can spend time in the picnic area.  This park is sparsely attended so there are lots of available sites and no crowds.

There is a public boat ramp next to the park.  The nearest towns of any size are about 22 miles away in either direction.  I had to go 22 miles to a laundromat but it was a nice one.  The town of Whiting is about 4 miles from the campground and has a gas station with a convenience store.  The store also sells some groceries (e.g. meats, milk, etc.) and beer and wine.

We are not able to get cell phone service in the park and we use Verizon.  But, we can get access a few miles down the road.  We drive down the road to set up a hotspot to do the blog posts.

We finally managed to go kayaking.  Lovely.  Besides the beautiful scenery there were two cool wildlife events that happened.  There was a seal or multiple seals curious about us and kept popping up to check us out.  We never saw more than one at a time, so we don’t know if it was the same seal or not.  The seal(s) never got too close to us but close enough to see its eyes.

At one point, we heard a sound coming from behind us that sounded like a firecracker that had just been launched.  As the noise went by us we saw that it was a bird.  It was also a bird that was clearly targeting one of two other birds that had been flying over the shore.  We are certain that we witnessed a Peregrine Falcon hunting.  The other birds were onto him and took evasive maneuvers.  The Peregrine was not successful.  That was a once in a lifetime cool wildlife event for me.  The wind noise the bird made by flying so fast was as awesome as seeing it.

As we were launching our kayaks, we had to make sure we didn’t step on the sea stars.

 

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.

Butterfly Rainforest

By Linda

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Paynes Prairie State Park

The campground in Paynes Prairie is located on a small lake.  We took the kayaks out on the lake and watched the bird life.  There were numerous swallows swooping and soaring above the lake.  We also saw an alligator.  At one point, Regis bumped his kayak into my kayak and I was afraid that it was an alligator that hit me.  When we were coming ashore to take our kayaks out, I requested that Regis go first so if there were any alligators they would get him and not me.  He said that he would go first to attract them so when I showed up they would be ready to pounce.  Fortunately, we both made it out of the water alive.

Paynes Prairie is by Gainesville, Florida and the University of Florida has a natural history museum and butterfly rainforest.  We visited the museum and the butterflies.  If you are a butterfly fan, I highly recommend going to the Butterfly Rainforest.  There are numerous benches placed throughout so that you can sit in one spot and watch the butterflies land on the flowers around you.  There are a few birds in there and some fish in the water feature.  It is a very peaceful place to be and there are a large variety of butterflies to see.  After you visit the Butterfly Rainforest, go into the museum to see them raising butterflies.  There are rows of chrysalises.

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Butterfly Rainforest at University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida
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Making more butterflies at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. These are chrysalises.

The Natural History museum had lots of fossils that were found in Florida.  There were a couple mammoths.  I knew they were big, but didn’t realize they were that big.  There was also the fossil skeleton of a giant sloth.  That thing was huge.  The museum does an awesome job of displaying the fossils and telling the natural history of Florida.

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Giant sloth and Regis at the University of Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Florida.

We got up before sunrise on our last morning at Paynes Prairie so we could kayak on the lake as the sun came up.  It was beautiful.  Words cannot describe how peaceful it was to watch the birds around the lake wake up and start their day.   It was very cool in the morning, so I dressed warmly with my long underwear, shirt and jacket.  I stayed warm but it got toasty as the sun began to rise.  We headed to Silver Springs State Park for our next stop.

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Paynes Prairie State Park

Campground:  We stayed at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park campground.  It was a lovely campground nestled in the trees.  We had electricity and water and dumped our tanks at the campground dump station on the way out.  It’s Florida, so the sites were level and there was adequate space between campsites.   I believe that all the sites here are back-in sites. We made our reservations through www.reserveamerica.com.

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Campsite at Paynes Prairie State Park campground in Florida.