Friday, July 18, 2008

Cedar Key

If once you have slept on an island
You'll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name.
You may bustle about the street or shop;
You may sit at home and sew,
But you'll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.
~Rachel Field

Well, July may not be the best time to visit Cedar Key in terms of weather, but I don't seem to be able to stay away for an entire summer. I tried new lodging on this trip, staying in a condo at Old Fenimore Mill. I liked it better than the other place (although, staying on the top floor again, I missed their elevator...).

I was able to get out paddling on the day I arrived, which turned out to be the only day I was out in the kayak, in part because of threatening weather, in part because of the intense heat. It was a great paddling outing, though! I had only been on the water about ten minutes when this osprey flew overhead with its catch:

I paddled in the tidal flat areas, as usual. This snowy egret was posing so nicely near some reeds, how could I not photograph it?

As I was exploring little inlets, I saw about six roseate spoonbills fly overhead and appear to land a short distance ahead of me, so I paddled stealthily over there. Sure enough, there they were feeding in the exposed mud.

At about the time I took that photo (along with others), I realized that I was getting myself mired in that same mud. It's deep and loose--you can't use a paddle blade to move yourself forward or backward since it just sinks right in. This was not good and so I backed out of the area and into deeper water as quickly as possible.

Moving on, I came to this--willet?--fishing alongside the water. It would find something and shake it vigorously in the water before eating it.

I wasn't out long--unlike on the Wacissa, this water was lukewarm and so there was no relief from coolness soaking through the hull onto my feet or cool air rising from the water. As became the routine on this trip, I went inside to cool off in the AC and then went back outside, the rest of the time on foot.

My condo and its balcony overlooked the fishing dock and cleaning station at the water's edge, which made it simple to keep an eye on bird activity there. As the tide went out in late afternoon, I was amazed to see more spoonbills (or the same ones) start to show up fairly close to the dock. So I grabbed the camera and went out.



Pelicans had also flown in to see if anyone was at the cleaning station.

After dinner I wandered down to the Gulf side of the property and took this photo of the sunset and moonrise.

After breakfast the next morning I went back down to the dock. Several people were fishing. While I was chatting with some of them in the covered area, we noticed that a woman at the end of the dock had clearly hooked something--her pole was bent at a sharp angle. The general consensus was that it was a large catfish, given the weight and the fact that it seemed to be just sitting on the bottom as she tugged on it. She slowly but surely reeled it in...and it turned out to be a stingray! First one I have ever seen. The woman's husband got it in the net as she pulled it out of the water; he put it down on the dock. He then proceeded to remove the hook and untangle the line from the net. He asked me if I had enough photos and when I said yes, I was fine, he let it fall back in the water, where it presumably swam (or whatever they do) away.



At around noon I walked into town and ended up stopping at one of the boat tour places at the water. The sky was extremely threatening at this time so it seemed unlikely that they would be going out, but I spoke to the "Captain" about where they went and what they saw when they did go out. It sounded like fun, although probably not for that day. He said the storm was going away from our area, and even showed me the radar photo on his cell phone. Love that technology, but looking up at the sky (the low-tech method of assessing the weather) indicated that the dark clouds were in fact getting closer, and nearly overhead at that point. This was around noon, his next tour was at 3:00. I said I'd be back if the weather cleared, and I went back to the condo to get in some quality reading time on my balcony.

It was clearly storming in surrounding areas, and very loud and deep thunder rumbled overhead for several hours. And then the sun began to peek out through breaks in the clouds. It was a pretty impressive sight, this sunshine on the ground below me and in the sky to the right contrasting with the dark storminess to the left. I went into the condo, put on the wide angle lens, and took a photo. I had been concentrating on getting the fishing dock in the photo and did not notice the lightning bolt until I got home and looked at my photos on the computer!

By 2:30 the sky was just flat overcast and it did not look like more rain would be falling and so I walked back to the boat tour place and paid my $21 (plus tax) for a seat. It ended up being completely filled--I guess other people had the same idea.

We left the dock and headed out into the Gulf to see some of the other keys in the area. A dolphin followed us close by on my side--frustrating all of us with cameras by coming out of the water at unpredictable places and intervals. I gave up trying to photograph it and just enjoyed seeing it. The captain told us quite a bit about the history of Cedar Key, which was very interesting. In other seasons he stops the boat at one of the nearby keys, the only one not protected and therefore open for exploration, for 30 minutes so the passengers can walk to the interior to see an old cemetery that served people who lived (and died) there in the 1800's. He didn't stop this time, though, explaining that the mosquitoes were simply too thick in the wooded area around the trail to the cemetery. I'll take this tour again in cooler weather.

We went to a key with a lighthouse on it (I should remember the name, but I don't--and I can't find the map I brought back with me). Around the side near the front of the lighthouse we came to a tree with many juvenile brown pelicans in it.

It's interesting that they are born white, as are so many other animals in nature (little blue herons and Siamese cats come to mind). This seems illogical--you would think that juveniles would need to be less clearly visible. At any rate, this was great! While we were there an adult flew over the fledglings, who, as you can tell, were expecting lunch.

After leaving that area but while still at the same key, we spotted many frigate birds flying overhead. This was very cool--these birds have an amazing capacity for staying aloft. Their wingspan is 7 feet (or more). They are usually found in the Caribbean and elsewhere; the line along which Cedar Key is located is, according to our Captain, the farthest north they go. They are very large and it was extremely impressive to see them.


It was after 5:00 when we returned to Cedar Key. Time for dinner.

It rained for most of the next day. I went down to the dock in late afternoon when the sky had cleared and sat with my book (#3--I got lots of quality reading time in on this trip!). A group of people came in from a fishing trip and proceeded to clean their fish, which bode well for possible pelican photos since they are always drawn to fish cleaning stations. Sure enough, here comes one.

He enjoyed the scraps that were tossed to him.


And then the egret came in. These folks clearly knew this bird. The egret hung out on the dock railing for a while.

It watched the pelican eating.

One of the women decided to offer it some fish by hand, something she had evidently done before.

It hung around, intently watching the goings-on.

After they left, it jumped down into the water to pick up a few fish the pelican had missed.


Gulls showed up, squabbling over who got the last of the fish.

I went in shortly after that. The next morning I packed up and left Cedar Key. But I'll be back! Meanwhile, it's getting to be time to get back out in the kayak. Stand by.


RHD said...

Your pictures are sprctacular!!
Harpgirl's dad

pineyflatwoodsgirl said...

Damn fine photos, pal!

Dave said...

Your sunset/moonrise photo will soon be on screen savers worldwide.

Crayons said...

Oy! This is the best story I've seen/read in weeks. I feel silly leaving a comment because I always say the same thing: magical, superb photos. Your love of life radiates from each photo. Thank you so much for these very knowing photos of a place I will perhaps never see.

Mary said...

Absolutely stunning photos! The pink birds look like they have beautiful skirts on. The! The lightning in the sky...double wow! And the pelicans in the trees...the friendly little egret...WOW! I don't always leave comments, but I'm always in awe of your photos.

Stacie said...

WOW Peggy! those photos are all always get the coolest shots! And what luck with that lightning..that's so hard to get! of course my faves are the pelican shots..I just love those!

lesle said...

Hi, Peggy-

Dave beat me to it, and he's right; I'm certainly going to live with it on my desktop for a while.

My very favorite though, centered (not stretched) on the desktop, is your photo of candles on your table--it's just so peaceful and calming, almost mesmerizing. And until now, it's been on my desktop for several months.

Regards to the cats.