Wednesday, December 13, 2006

St. Marks NWR and St. Marks River

My husband recently pointed out an article in a local paper that told about how an unusually high number of roseate spoonbills (about 21) had been spotted at the St. Marks NWR. I really wanted to see those birds. As mentioned previously, I have had a variety of obstacles to paddling lately, so I decided to seize the day and load the Mystic in the car and head out to look for the spoonbills at the wildlife refuge and later paddle either the St. Marks River or the Wakulla.

It was overcast when I left home but by the time I arrived at the refuge, the sun was out. I drove slowly along the road that leads to the lighthouse at the Gulf, scanning the ponds and channels on either side for spoonbills. I saw a lot of egrets and great blue herons but did not stop for them on my way in.

As I approached the lighthouse I noticed that it suddenly got very foggy. Pea-soup type. When I got to the parking lot, one couple was there, the man with an impressive camera who was laden with lenses and other camera paraphernalia. He informed me that I was a few minutes too late—that not five minutes earlier the fog had only been out in the Gulf and the pond across the road was clear. The pelicans had been lined up on the pilings (which were now shrouded in fog). Great. The lighthouse area is where most of the spoonbills have been spotted. So I parked the car, talked to the man and his wife for awhile, and then decided to walk down the road a bit to look for spoonbills. Seemed a little silly to be looking for pink birds in heavy gray fog—even if I found one, the photo would not be very good.

As long as I was out walking in it, though, I decided when I saw these birds to get a foggy picture of them.

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I went back to the car. The man and his wife drove past me before I got to the parking lot, on their way out. I decided to drive to “Headquarters Pond,” where other spoonbills had, according to the article, been recently spotted. There is a quarter-mile trail that leads to that pond from a parking lot. When I got to the parking lot, the man and his wife were already there.

No spoonbills at Headquarters Pond, though I did get this group shot of a gator (left) and egret together.

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I spent some time talking to the guy with all the camera equipment. Seems he is a retired photojournalist who has recently taken up wildlife photography, and we chatted for a while about shots obtained and shots missed. He said he had been considering for quite awhile getting a kayak and so we discussed photography from a kayak for a while. Nice guy—they are from the Indian River area of Florida.

I stopped on my way out when I saw this great blue heron in the grass.

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It was late, I had spent about two hours at the refuge, so I decided to paddle the St. Marks River instead of continuing on to the Wakulla. The first paddling hour or so of the Wakulla is through a fairly populated area—the best birds are in the top half of the river, and I didn’t have that much time. I recalled that last time I paddled the St. Marks I was pleasantly surprised by the number of shorebirds I encountered.

No such luck this time, though I did see a lot of small birds. And, oddly, the shoreline was filled with robins. I’m not sure what they find to eat down here at this time of year, but clearly it’s popular—there were a lot of robins.

Here’s a little tiny picture of a little tiny bird I saw.

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And of course the belted kingfishers were out and about. Are you getting tired of these yet?

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Had I known I would see no egrets or herons at all, I would have taken more pictures of them at the NWR.

This was the first paddling trip for a long time and it was nice to be back on the water. I hope this much time doesn’t elapse again between trips. Stand by for the next report.


clairesgarden said...

no, not tired of them yet!!
love the alligator and bird in the same shot, do they eat the birds?

Peggy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peggy said...

(Yeah, I deleted my own post up there because I got it backwards...)

I just read that larger birds, like herons and egrets, hang out in trees near gators because they know (somehow) that the gators will keep tree-climbing predators away. And I gather they are too big to be gator dinner themselves.


pineyflatwoodsgirl said...

Let's go to Lake Munson and look for woodstorks... tomorrow after two pm or satuday earlier????? I saw one at PineyZ this past weekend abita