Monday, June 23, 2008

Girls Gone Mild

Last Friday, Emma, Corinne, and Laura went island hopping with me. The three college dormies are close pals and very good company. The seabird video and still photos from a few days ago came from this voyage and the weather was absolutely perfect all day (summer rarity) ... so I'm pretty sure they are good luck charms also.

We sea captains can be very superstitious.
I remember that one voyage ... well, let's just say after that one, I was a little more careful about my nautical mojo management.

Our first stop on this voyage was North Key. A sandbar there divides broad shallow flats from a deep channel that cuts between Seahorse Key and North Key. We anchored up next to bars covered with resting pelicans, terns, cormorants, and laughing gulls.

I did a little bird shooting (no albatrosses) while the girls beach combed and soaked.
The sandy flats are loaded with invertebrate crawlies and it didn't take the dormies long to find some cool critters.

This hermit crab was inhabiting the biggest moon snail shell I've ever seen and I've seen a lot.

No one knows what the true hermit crab personality is like, but they sure have a curmudgeonly appearance.
We let this guy go after he finally agreed to a photo op.

The lightning whelk above and the crown conch below seem harmless, but they're actually deadly predators out on the flats.

If you were another snail and fell prey to them, they would envelope you in that muscular foot and use their radula (sort of a toothed tongue) to scrape your flesh into their mouth. The lightning whelk gets a lot bigger than the youngster in the photo.

On the other hand, (heehee) crown conchs are a smallish variety and don't get much bigger than this guy.

I've mentioned before how much I love the sand and grass flats off this quiet coast. There is so much going on all the time and flowing tidal currents bring stuff to you even if you are standing still on a flat.

It brought me a small bonnethead shark that cruised by about three feet from me before I noticed him ... I was so intent on photographing some pelicans. Bonnetheads are a small variety of hammerhead and mostly crab eaters, so no big deal ... but, it still gave me that start you get when you almost step on a snake.

I think he only came so close because I was standing still. Usually they are very shy. We see them so often out there when we are wading or swimming that our protocol is simply to yell, "Bonnethead coming your way" , when we spot one.

If somebody from the Chondrichthyes clan is going to harm you on the flats, it's much more likely to be a stingray than a shark.

The flats are their ideal habitat and you need to be aware of that when you're flats walking. The stingray shuffle ... walking without lifting your feet is very effective in avoiding stings.

The best defense is probably a pair of polarized sunglasses. Not only will you see more critters (woohoo!) , but they will make it easier to spot rays nestled into the sandy bottom.

Look below.

The picture above shows a stingray as viewed without polarized sunglasses.

Here he is viewed through my $15 polarized fishin' glasses.

This is a little one. Some of these get 4 feet across wingtip to wingtip . I tried to get a photo of one of those, but the water was too deep for a good shot. I spooked him and he zoomed away from me in a cloud of mud.

I just hold still when they do that so I don't interfere in whatever direction Mr. Ray needs to go.

After North Key, we cruised over the North Key flats watching seabirds clobber baitfish schools, swam around at Snake Key, and then cruised back over behind Seahorse Key to watch the nesting Frigate birds spiraling en masse above the maritime forest.

Pretty sweet day.


Anonymous said...

Only 4 years from Sunday and trust me we are counting down to the day that we become permanent Dixie County residents and that's close enough to Cedar Key for us! Can't wait to bring our grandson there and let Grandpa have fun with him (okay, I'm sure grandma will have a pretty good time too) Is Corrine the one that's related to our home builder?

robin andrea said...

That does sound like the perfect summer day. The girls look like they're having a grand time. Very cool critters all around, and a few scary ones to keep everyone on their toes (or off as the case may be).

Miz S said...

You're the cool dad with the boat! I bet all the kids want to hang out with you.

elpbulls said...

You are a pretty cool DAD!! We had lots of fun thanks for taking us. Love you!!

Dr. Know said...

A few years ago, I was wading in a flat such as this in south Pinellas Co. -- dipnetting interesting creatures -- and ran across a small (16" dia) ray. Shortly, it's big ass momma apparently came to find out what the commotion was. It's a bit disconcerting when a huge ray is circling while you're 100 feet from shore. And those tail barbs sure are sharp and spiny.

Laura said...

Yep, what a great way to spend the day, just relaxing out there, far from the traffic jams and concrete nightmare!

Susan said...

Hi, FC. I call those moon shells "Bubba shells." (It seems to fit.) That IS a big one. I like finding the Nauticas too... just like the Bubbas, but with fancy markings.

I like to see the rays scuffling along the shoreline... usually in the morning as they're finding breakfast.

When my ship comes in, I'm moving back to Florida.

jojo said...

lost my comment:( but i wanna know how'd you know that the polarized glasses would work thru the camera lens? pretty cool... always learning something new here.

Sharon said...

OHH!! let's name a species, a species, a species...let's name a species that lives in the SEA!

sorry, You said "MR Ray" and now that's stuck in my head :)

Looks like a great day.

Floridacracker said...

Yes she is.
I know you guys are looking forward to that home in the woods.

The thing that pulled their toes out of the water was the fish feeding frenzy.
Probably a smart move!

Miz S,
Oh yes, tres cool.
No pool though ... that really makes you cool.

It was fun wasn't it!
Love you!

Those barbs really, really hurt too. Been there.

Even on land here we are pretty far from that stuff, but I know what you mean!

Bubba shells ... where did you pick that up?
This ray had just been cruising in about 4 inches of water before the pic.

Well, it just seemed natural to try it.
Polarized camera filters work, so why not my sunglasses?
I was pleased with the effect.

As you can guess, I love that movie... and that song.

Cathy S. said...

Love the title of this post. You are a wiz with words.

Doug Taron said...

Beautiful weather, charming company, great critters. Sounds like an ideal day.

Floridacracker said...

Cathy S,
Thanks :)

Robber flies tomorrow.

Thunder Dave said...

Looks like a really fun day! Hey way cool video of the moccasin!!! Although it did creep me put just a bit! ;-)

Thunder Dave said...

Sorry, that was supposed to be "creep me out"!

Freste said...

Mermaids, hermits, a conch you find, are fascinating creatures. But geeze FC look at how that whelk critter scraped and ate all the nail polish off of someone's hand. Just imagine what it will do with skin. Ack!! I know if I am going in water of any kind, I'm wearing grease, a wetsuit, kevlar and polycarbonate armour because I just ain't risking finding another jellyfish. grrrrr

cinbad122 said...

So the all of the stuff that you see in Cedar Key is available in Jamaica! I saw rays, teeny tiny hermit crabs, a conch (?), pelicans, hummingbirds (the national bird), sea slug, and all kinds of cool fish that live on the reef! I can't wait to tell you about it! Next week...NJ and NY!

Floridacracker said...

If it creeped you out,you are perfectly normal.

Leave your body armor at home and just take some vinegar to the beach.

Yeah, yeah, ... but how was the hummingbird in a glass?
Looking forward to hearing all about your adventure. There better be pictures!

Anonymous said...

cedar keys,oh goodness me! know what i like most about Florida,the sunshine! you can party all you want today and still have the same great weather and mood tomorrow!you guys musta had real fun!
jane doe

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