|The beach has changed, as it always does, since the last time I rode the whole way around the river and the ocean side of Fort Clinch State Park. The sunrise, as well as the sunsets are always different 365 days a year with some more spectacular than others. With the possibility of showers the clouds were partly covered with clouds which can give a more interesting view as the shafts of light from old Mr. Sun filter down between the open spaces.|
|My first morning
out was spent rescuing Horseshoe Crabs, checking out the birds, and
just seeing what gifts of nature were left from the night
before. The tide had carried this Portuguese Man O' War in
to shore to meet his demise in a natural process. I
was able to rescue several Horseshoe Crabs which had gotten stuck in
the sand or overturned, unable to right themselves, and would have died
in the hot sun before the return of the tide.
Maybe it evens out.
|I met a newbie to the submarine watchers group, as I entered the beach that first morning. She asked if the "orange tug" was an indication that a Sub might be coming into port. I told her absolutely. She was happy to have not missed it. By the time I got the South and Eastern part of my ride done many more wives and their families had gathered to get a first glimpse of their sub-mariners heading back to them after many months at sea.|
|I finished my ride around checking the North end and counting Horseshoe Crab nests, over 200 that night. I was also seeing Wilson's Plovers acting as if they had babies or were guarding their nests. It will only be days before I will be seeing little ones doing their Roadrunner imitations as they dart all over the beach with frantic parents in hot pursuit trying to keep watch over them.|
|By the time I finished that end of the ride I was in time to see the Submarine come by looking like some big sea creature half out of the water. Some of the men were on deck readying it for port.|
|Another day, anther crop of stranded Horseshoe Crabs. From a distance I could tell this one was alive with that tail sticking up like a periscope. Their instinct is to use the tail to right themselves but it seldom works on the beach. I stood back and watched as it tried but he just couldn't seem to get the momentum going to actually flip over. He was back in the water in a few minutes as I air lifted him to the edge.|
This looks like one of the little Grebes I spotted when I was in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. I don't usually see them in the river.
|We have one Snowy Egret which hangs out in this area quite a bit. He seemed to be playing tag with the water. I am sure his actual purpose was to grab a bit of breakfast. Having just spent an afternoon doing this kind of thing with my Great-niece, Reagan, I wonder if these wild creatures ever feel the fun factor like humans do. When I see birds soaring with the thermals or deer frolicking on the beach I have to believe that they do enjoy life on another level than just survival.|
|Speaking of deer this little cutie was watching me as I entered the service road to the beach, but it quickly disappeared into the undergrowth.|
|More Horseshoe Crabs, stranded during the night trying to get the mating process finished so the eggs can be laid to make more Horseshoe Crabs. This big male may have been "down with that", but was quite "upside-down on his back", I soon had this one too, back on solid footing.|
|The river beach is less wide this year at the point. Winter storms and Nor'easters have taken their toll on the sand. A lot of it was fill sand put there from the year before's beach renourshment project. It was not good sand as you can maybe see in the color of the upper beach. It is very shelly and not good for turtles to want to nest so I for one would be happy to see it gone if it didn't mean damaging to the beach.|
|My bird friends are still hanging out in their usual spot. I found the year the pier was closed, that it made a huge difference in the number of gulls hanging out on the point near the pier. They were all but gone that summer showing the not-unexpected results of interaction between man and bird. The birds again enjoy the lost bait and the fish scraps left from cleaning, enough to stay there hoping for more handouts. The Least Terns have not shown up yet but there were Herring Gulls, Skimmers, Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns, many of which were actively engaged in their mating rituals and dances preparing for another season of egg laying as I am sure the Sea Turtles are also behaving similarly just off shore.|
|This was the huge cache of eggs left from last years last nest, 158. Such a shame to not have been permitted to save them.|
|The Carapace of a big Loggerhead was left decomposing on the beach. It's death had been reported days prior to my beginning Patrol. Reports must be made immediately upon finding a dead turtle to the Florida Wildlife Commission so that if there is a pattern happening they can act on it immediately. Usually it is the propellers of boats which cause the deaths but sometimes it can be connected to some off shore commercial fishery operating nearby.|
|This is not a Plover but was acting very much like one where the mom feigns an injury to lure you away from her nest or chicks. I began to think she had really hurt herself.|
|When I got out of the buggy to check her she headed back into the dunes so I think she must have been just trying to fake me out. I think that there may have been chicks back there. if so it will be the first time I have ever see this type of bird nesting on our beach, even though I am sure it happens.|
|Another nest I am watching closely is the one in our maintenance building up at the park. After giving one of the Rangers near heart failure when he reached into the box for some staples and she flew out in his face we have all been keeping tabs on the pair. I am not sure how she gets in but let's hope she successfully raises this brood. Usually a raccoon, owl, or snake gets her chicks right after they hatch. It will be interesting when the chicks start to fledge to see how she takes them out. Of course there is a big roll up door just next to her nest I am sure everyone will cooperate and open it for them.|
|The Ospreys that we all watch also have chicks but they have not gotten old enough for me to spot yet in the very high nest. It won't be long.|
|The last of our butterflies have emerged and flown away; now I were suffering empty nest syndrome without anything to tend to.|
|Just when it seems you don't have any responsibilities, this cute little Chickadee came to us from next door. He had been on the ground all day even falling in the neighbors pool at one point. I took him in but this one's destiny did not turn out so well.|
|Another day of turtle patrol and a stubborn young male who was intent on not leaving the beach. Evidently he did not achieve his goal of mating and after being freed from his sand prison he wanted to return to continue the search for his true love.|
I finally got him to the water's edge and I can hear him now singing, "'I'm on my way back to you".
|The fog in the air was not fog but smoke from the fire up in the Okefenokee Swamp about 45 miles away. For several days ash was dusting all our cars and the sun was an orange the haze all day.|
Now we get to the important but distressing photo below:
(Don't click on it if you think you might be upset by a what is frankly
an upsetting image of a little creature that was barely clinging to life)
The morning after we received that Chickadee, a lady called asking if I could help her out. She had put a "sticky board"
out to catch "skanks" which she had deemed undesirable because they were sooo ugly. I happen to like all lizards especially the Skinks which catch all kinds of bugs and I assume a Skink is large enough to catch Palmetto Bugs which are huge flying roaches. She had her husband put out this ultra sticky board (which I feel should be outlawed as cruel and unusual punishment for even a rat). Of course anything that comes in contact with these boards becomes hopelessly stuck. I had never had any experience with these boards. Little Chickie and I were trying to rush off to work.
What you see here is unfortunately only one of the victims, one of my beloved Florida Green Anoles. The other victims were 3 baby Carolina Wrens and their mother, all helplessly stuck. The more they struggled the more they were stuck. I had no idea what solvent I could un-stick them with. I tested it with fingernail polish remover but it did not work at all. Next product to try with time was of the essence was baby oil. This did soften it to the point I could carefully pull them off. The mom only had her wing tips and her tail feather tips stuck and she promptly got away from me as soon as I was able to free her. Two of the babies were more critically stuck but I was finally able to free them. I put each (except momma) in a box until I could free the last one. I washed and washed trying to get the vile stuff off of them but it was impossible to get it all gone. I could tell the first two were pretty sick, but one seemed like he might be OK. Evidently there is also a poison in the sticky stuff, an attempt to humanely shorten the suffering from just starving to death. The mom was running all around the floor. My house is open in the middle so after two full trips around the circle of living room, den, kitchen, dining room and back again I decided to wait for reinforcements to catch the Missus. By the time I returned home the last wren which had been eating bread crumbs when I left was also dead. Since there was no longer the need to keep the family unit together we opened the door and let the mother fly out the door. I was sad for her. The Anole in the photo was also released but it was impossible to remove all the sticky stuff from his tiny body even though he changed from his distressed color of gray almost to green, he was probably doomed also.
This was our little Chickadee just about an hour before he died. I believe that I had contaminated his food with some traces of the poison from the icky "sticky-board" stuff that had remained on my hands even after washing. He had seemed so healthy then all of a sudden a few hours after the episode with the stuck birds he started having convulsions and just died. Sad.
The reason for this prolonged story is so that I can warn people not to use those things which indiscriminately kill anything it touches. I don't for a minute believe that any of my readers would use such a thing, but let this serve as a reason to discourage others from using them, should any of us get the chance to intervene. Because I had not even thought about this stuff having toxic elements to it, I may have thought I had washed my hands carefully enough but in my rush to get to the gallery maybe I didn't. Something as small as this little guy would not have been able to withstand much.