Friday December 2, 2016 Most Recent Posts
Blue Springs State Park Return to the Manatee
Orange City, florida Hidden Hurrican Damage, a Rant and a Reward
My favorite thing about blogging is hearing from my readers. They know me pretty well from my blog posts, where I am, what I’m doing, what I like.
I like getting to know them from their comments and hearing what they like. Some are in cold climates and like seeing the warmth of Florida in the winter. Others are in dry areas and enjoy seeing some green and the water of rivers and springs. Some love our kayak trips. Some like our hikes. Others love the ocean posts, the waves and the beach. Which one are you?
Some of our commenters are close friends, some we have met on the road and they’ve become friends, others are friends we really hope to meet. Today’s post is for the kayak, creek and bird lovers among you.
Oh and of course the manatee lovers. Every day here starts with a walk down to the spring run to see the manatee. There are quite a few here this morning. The low last night was 45, the high was 69. Tonight’s low is predicted to be 38. That’s seriously Brrrrrr for Florida.
I expect there will be even more manatee tomorrow morning. They are here because they are actually tropical animals and cannot survive in cold water. When water temperatures fall below 68 degrees they become cold stressed which can lead to their deaths. Luckily the spring is 72 degrees year round.
I see 7, how many do you see?
One of the nice things about returning to a park multiple times is that we’ve had a chance to really investigate the area so even if we are only here for a few days, we know exactly what we want to do with our time. That’s totally true today as we pack up and head out in the kayaks.
The kayak put in is on the far side of the boat dock just beyond the end of the spring run in the St. Johns River. The St. Johns is the longest river in the State of Florida. It’s 310 miles long. It’s a river that flows north which always amazes me. Trying to follow it on a blow up in Google Maps I find that it appears to originate in the Blue Cypress Conservation Area near Vero Beach which is pretty near the ocean. The total drop of the river from its source in swamps south of Melbourne to its mouth in the Atlantic near Jacksonville is less than 30 feet, or about one inch per mile, making it one of the "laziest" rivers in the world.
Of course it has been diked and drained in the over development of Florida. It suffers from discharges from wastewater treatment plants and runoff from urban and agricultural areas after it rains. This runoff carries pesticides and other pollutants into streams that lead to the river. Because the river flows slowly it is difficult for it to flush pollutants.
In all, 3.5 million people live within the various watersheds that feed into the St. Johns River. The St. Johns was named one of 14 American Heritage Rivers in 1998. Guess that deidn’t help much since it was included on a list of America's Ten Most Endangered Rivers in 2008. Can’t even imagine what will happen with our incoming environmentally unfriendly administration.
Today it’s looking lovely. Hope that’s not just a surface appearance as is true for so many of our waters. I also hope the presence of the water birds, like this little blue heron, is evidence that things are better for the river.
You have to know what you are looking for to find the entrance to Snake Creek along the shore of the river.
Looks like he’s entering the jungle.
Once on the creek, it becomes almost a wonderland. See the heron, the same color as the cypress and spanish moss?
Water birds abound. Many White Ibis of course along with Anhinga and Great Blue Heron
I have never seen a Great Blue panting or whatever he is doing with his tongue. When I see his throat vibrating and he’s not making any sounds, I zoom in closer.
Super look at what I assume is the tongue of the heron. If Paula is out there perhaps she can fill us in on what’s going on here.
The number of birds as we float along is just wonderful. We watch a little blue fishing.
We see a Great Egret. I love the light in the close up picture.
The Snake is a creek through a cypress marsh and sometimes it flows higher than other times. We paddled it in the past when a small power boat got stranded trying to come down. I can’t imagine why any power boat would attempt to come except in the highest of water conditions. The cypress tell the water story.
Although as you head north toward Hontoon Island the creek widens and I suppose this is what lures the power boaters who don’t know what is coming near the opposite entrance to the creek where we came in..
In among the cypress I spy this juvenile little blue heron in his white phase. I can recognize him by his green legs.
I spot a little blue heron over my head as I drift by and I’m able to get a close up.. Not sure I’ve ever taken a picture with this angle before.
At our slow leisurely pace of barely moving along, we make it almost all the way up to what is known as the Hontoon Dead River. I couldn’t find any explanation of why the river is called “dead” since we’ve been there and it certainly isn’t. Snake Creek and the Hontoon Dead River form the western boundary of Hontoon Island State Park to which we have kayaked several times up the St. Johns. You cannot enter the park from the back side or at least you are not supposed to.
We turn around at this point given the time and our desire to check out the lagoon next to the park before ending our paddle for the day.
When we turn around, David is now in the lead and sees the waterfowl first. He gets this great picture of a White Ibis as it is about to launch into flight.
On our way up the creek we heard an enormous splash behind us and knew it was an alligator but we didn’t see him. This time David spots him on the bank around the same spot as before. He’s the first alligator of the winter season and he was back in the water by the time I reached that spot. Darn! Thanks for the picture David.
Lots of juvenile Little Blue Herons today.
Back in the Saint Johns we see the sign warning that this is a manatee area and there is to be no wake beyond this sign and “minimum wake” on this side of the sign. Despite that, a fisherman in his boat passes the sign coming toward us and hits the full throttle. This is exactly how manatee are injured and why I believe the state should require propeller cages on all boats. I’m not a regulation hater since I know that people and corporations too often will not do the right thing unless they are forced to. Put a hefty fine behind it and they will comply.
An Anhinga shows us his beautiful wings as he dries them in the ever lowering sun.
We can tell the day is waning when we enter the marsh area and all the black vultures are in their roosting trees.
The waters of the lagoon beautifully reflect the grasses.
This traveler has picked a gorgeous spot for his over night stay. He has no neighbors but the birds and will have a wonderful view of twilight and sunset.
Nice red toad.
These two seem to have agreed to share a small area on the little island between me and the houseboat in the first picture above.
I’m amazed that I can drift up so close to these egrets without their seeming to care. They play hide and seek with my camera, appearing and disappearing over and over.
Two coots are nearby and the second picture I am able to take of them is one of my favorites of the day. They are just so cute.
The vultures appear like black ornaments in the twilight.
Coming out of the lagoon we see two teams of women crew rowers enjoying the golden light as they race by.
The take out is just around the corner from the lagoon. If we were going to be here for more days, we’d just leave the kayaks tied and locked here and come back for other paddles..
Check out who is on shore to greet David as he arrives.
At Anastasia we had a single wood stork welcoming committee. Here we have a group of vultures.
It sure was wonderful having Snake Creek all to ourselves.
Tomorrow is our last day at Blue Spring and we’re going to another favorite location to see if we can get birds to land on our heads again.