Monday, June 18, 2007

Yesterday's Buffett quote was a clue that I was heading out to sea. I know it was Father's day, and it may have sounded like I was heading home to St. Auggie to see mine, but we agreed to postpone Father's Day until next weekend since Jr. had to be away for a basketball camp in Naples this weekend.
So, darn it, I had to settle for just another day on the Gulf of Pure Florida surrounded by tropical (okay, SUBtropical) beauty and more friggin Frigate Birds than you could count.
Ho Hum.
I hope Rurality is reading this 'cause I remember a past post of her's where she got pretty excited about a frigate bird.
We cruised out of Cedar Key aboard the USS Summerschool and headed over to North Key for play time on the sandbar we have christened "OUR Beach". The crew sunbathed and swam there while I took the boat out a bit for some fishing. That's another post.
This post is post beach play. When the tide swallowed our little sandbar on North Key, we headed south to Seahorse Key to sightsee. Seahorse Key is still off limits to humans so that the cormorants, pelicans, frigate birds, egrets, herons, and ... (I believe) peterodactyls can finish their breeding and chick raising.

These keys: Deadman's, Seahorse, North, Snake, and Atsenia Otie are all part of Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge ... thanks to Teddy Roosevelt. As I am fond of saying, "We own these together"... you and I.

In a few weeks, it will be legal to park the boat and walk this wild shoreline, but for now, this is as close as you can get. Seahorse Key is dramatically higher than any of the other keys in the refuge collection. It's essentially an ancient ice age relic dune from our recently (geologically speaking) flooded shoreline.

Extending out from this Gulf side shore are extensive shallow grassflats that just go on and on. We had a strong high tide at this point so we were able to cruise in areas where, at low tide, we'd have to tilt the motor and pole ... or get out and walk towing Summer School behind you.
Been there, done that.

The crew on this fine day consisted of Captain FC, First Mate Mrs. FC, Emma and Alex. Now, Alex is Welsh... which means he's British, but we still let him come along. We enjoy his company even though both Sir Francis Drake (British!) and Henry Morgan (British too!) burned my home town to the ground.
Alex has promised to behave, but we still don't let him near matches or lighters.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Sevice has posted signs and watchbirds around the perimeter of the island to ensure the breeding bird's privacy. The birds seem to really appreciate this because every tree on Seahorse seems to be festooned with nesting or resting birds.

You may want to click on the photo above to count the pelicans roosting on the oaks. I had to shoot them from outside the closed area signs so the shot is a little distant.

A little closer cropped view of one pelican oak on Seahorse Key.

Ya' know ...

When these islands were set aside in the 1930's, most of Florida still looked like the scenes above. At the time, my Dad was about 10 years old, his son and grandkids distant points in the future, yet the adults of the era were thinking about us.

The wonder of that never ceases to amaze me.

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SophieMae said...

Rats! The link on that first pic didn't take. I hate it when that happens!

I miss the frigatebirds! Once in a great while, we'll get a stray or three up here. A few weeks back, someone reported seeing quite a few down around Bald Point or Bottoms Road or somewhere thereabouts.

You know, of course, you're feeding my yearning to move back down thataway. I keep throwing hints Duller's way. Like 'Hey, how about start lookinog for a job down there?' Somehow, I don't think he'd handle the Tampa-Jax commute too well. 8-}

Rurality said...

Dang! Dang! Please mail me a couple of those frigatebirds, ok? And toss in some rain while you're at it. I think we've had an inch of rain in the last 3 or 4 months.

Rurality said...

And another thing... :)

Since I've been a bit MIA lately, I just saw the post on the Mojo chicken. (I'm commenting here since I'm not sure you read back that far.)

Any chance that I can beg you to elaborate on the phrase "and spices"? I googled and came up with cumin, but what else? (please oh please! I won't even make you mail frigatebirds!)

Floridacracker said...

It's a link to her excellent site, not the actual frigate bird post.
That commute would really stink. Poor guy, working in Jacksonville. You do need to find him a new job.

It would be easier to mail you a frigate bird than rain.
We HAVE frigate birds...

Floridacracker said...

You slipped in another comment while I was commenting to 'ya.
I'll ask Mrs. FC what all she used in this recipe.

threecollie said...

What a lovely day you had! I'm glad.

kathy a said...

wow! i know not from frigate birds, but the pelican condos are to die for!

we live in such geologically and geographically different places, so it is really interesting to see some similarities.

california oaks are native to my area. they don't look so lush as southern oaks -- we just don't have the moisture -- and they have been crowded out by non-native species like eucalyptus, or torn out for farmland or housing. but we have several strapping saplings in the yard, needing to be transplanted up the hill where there is more room. give them a couple hundred years, they may look as good as the oaks on your keys.

and your story about how the keys are what remained after the last ice age -- that is also the story of the islands in SF bay. they are your basic local hills, a little shorter in stature than the flashy ones around the perimiter, but standing proudly above sea level. alcatraz is one of them, known as an inescapable prison, and one-time home to a self-taught ornithologist, the birdman of alcatraz. angel island is much larger, and was once the "ellis island" of the west. neither is free of people now, but both are protected to some extent.

Harry said...

Wow! Ten generations! You've got me beat by at least 6 generations and most people can't believe my family's been in Florida even that long. You're right though. Things sure have changed even in my 46 years in this state. I try to tell my kids and wife what it used to be like, but it is hard for them to appreciate.

Hal at Ranch Ramblins said...

It sometimes seems nowdays that we don't even want to preserve what we have for ourselves, let alone for generations into the future. Hopefully, the pendulum will swing the other way soon, and we will do our fair share for our descendents.

Hurricane Teen said...

It is amazing that those prior generations had the foresight to protect those islands. They are absolutely beautiful...Much of that has disappeared around here, as you know.

Also, I love the comment about Alex the Welsh guy. I got a chuckle out of that.

Deb said...

Wow, all the birds! Amazing.

Really, how did Teddy R and others think we would be where we are today, where wildlife refuges are necessary to save little slices of land from development. I am thankful for their foresight.

Floridacracker said...

It was a great day even if I did not catch any fish.

Kathy A,
Those similarities are interesting considering how far apart and different the two states are.
What makes these frigate birds so neat is they are really a tropical species and are at their northern limits here, yet they breed in abundance at the refuge.

Welcome to Pure Florida!
You're right, it's hard to explain what was. I think that's why I blog here everyday ... just trying to tell the story of the Florida I know and love.

I know. We can't stop caring about generations yet to come. Preserving special places should never go out of style.

When I gave my Ranger talk at the Castillo years ago, I always asked my audience of tourists if Sir Frances Drake was a good guy or a terrorist.
They always said, "Well, duh, he was a good guy!"

"Let me tell you about Drake and my hometown ..." I'd say and they would leave with the other side of the Drake tale.

Oh, and the Welsh guy is a fine fellow with a good sense of humor. We don't really think he's into that whole sacking and pillaging thing.

I thought you serious birders might enjoy that primeval scene.
It's an incredible legacy, this refuge system that's bigger than some countries.
We are blessed.

SophieMae said...

Your first picture... the link to the original doesn't work. That happens to me sometimes when I edit the html.

Floridacracker said...

Oh sorry, I misunderstood what link you were talking about. I'm not sure what happened, I didn't fool around with the code.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Yes, but you are doing the same for us. Way to be.

Harry said...

Thanks for the comment and, yes, it was better than a bakery cake. I clicked for the "full size" Florida picture and realized what it was. Very funny! I like that -- a Florida cracker!

Alan said...

Shooting pelicans is a serious offense! {laughing}

I want the mojo chicken recipe too!


Floridacracker said...

Thanks pal :)

I put that together one day at lunch while I ate chicken noodle soup.
Always multitasking ...

Floridacracker said...

You're right ... that practice is why these islands were set aside!

JLB said...

Excellent! I gained an affinity for frigates when I traveled to Belize - they're really wonderful!