She had a college photojournalism assignment that involved "shadowing" a character around and documenting ... a "typical day in the life of ...".
Could she shadow me?
I told her, I was not doing anything exciting that day ... a haircut, a later than normal blog post 'cause of the haircut, Bear wrestlin', and maybe a collecting trip out to Cedar Key to get a head start on stocking my classroom aquariums.
She was interested anyway and we agreed to meet after the haircut.
At the house she photographed away while I blogged, teased Bear, made and ate a turkey sandwich, breathed, etc. Eventually it was time to head out to Cedar Key for the collecting.
She perched herself on a steeply sloping creek bank and photographed me while I waded the muddy creek and tossed the castnet in search of my favorite ectotherms, ... fish.
I love fish the way Zick loves birds, so I was pretty much in heaven as the net brought up a nice variety of euryhaline fishes.
Here are some items from that trip.
A young mullet. We call these finger mullet, because ... I don't really have to explain that name do I?
This one has great potential. At this size, she could feed a trout, redfish, flounder, tern, heron, egret, ... the list goes on and on. In a few months, she could feed you or me, pelicans, bigger fish, dolphins, ospreys, that list goes on and on too.
If she is incredibly lucky, she may dart, dash, and leap enough to grow fat with roe and make us all more finger mullet, but her odds are long ... as long as the list of predators who love them.
A female Sailfin Molly. Isn't she a beauty? And she's not even dressed up compared to her beau, who is waaaaay down at the bottom of this post. Sailfin mollies are native to Florida, not some runaway fish store type molly. The males get pretty big, I still can see one I dipped up in a ditch as a kid, I swear it was over 6 inches long.
Mollies are so amazingly adapted to coastal life. You can find them in fresh water, salt water, and everything in between. I checked the salinity of the water they were in and it was almost full strength seawater, but you could just as easily run into this fish in a clear, spring fed creek.
The toughest fishes in the creek though, are the killifish clan.
A long nose killifish in the hand is worth two in the water ... if you are going flounder fishing and need a bait that flounder can't resist. The many different killifish you find in coastal creeks are known as mudminnows to fishermen seeking them as bait.
It's not flattering, but it's actually a great common name because these fish will duck under the mud to avoid predatory birds and they are often swimming in water barely shallow enough to float them ... over muddy marsh bottoms.
And tough? I once stuck a thermometer into a small sink-sized puddle of saltwater left behind on a mudflat by a springtide low. The puddle had been exposed to the Florida June sun for hours, and the puddle water temperature was 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
I don't walk around with thermometers in my pockets by the way. It was during a summer marine science camp for kids ... before Jeb Bush cut out foolishness like that.
Anyway ... in the puddle were 3 or 4 longnose killifish ducking in and out of the mud on the bottom. There couldn't have been more than a handfull of stray free oxygen atoms in that warm water and those fish had been in there for hours and still had hours to go before an incoming tide brought relief.
I have no doubt they made it.
A mudminnow to a flounder is like fresh fried chicken to me. I don't give a damn if I just ate a 5 course meal, if I see it and smell it, I wanna have a piece.
What is it you Weight Watcher types call that ... a "red light" food?
Mudminnows are redlight foods for flounder.
Here's a view of the creek I was in. The tide is out, which concentrates the fish for predators like me.
What do you notice ... botanically speaking ... about the view above?
The left side of the creek is dominated by Black Needle Rush (Juncus), which tells you that bank is higher ground. Needle rush likes to dip it's toes in the water a bit, but prefers to not be completely flooded at high tide.
Directly across from the Needle Rush, on a lower shoreline, Cordgrass (Spartina) is dominant. Spartina loves the water and thrives in the lowest parts of the "land" in a saltmarsh. Only the tops of the spartina plants will be above the high tide, but that's the way, uh huh, uh huh, they like it, uh huh, uh huh.
So, you can gaze out over a salt marsh and tell at a glance where the "high" ground is by looking for Needle Rush.
The creek was so shallow, I just set my collecting bucket and aerator down in the center of it. Even though these fish are superbly adapted to the low oxygen conditions of warm, shallow tidal creeks, it's not fair to crowd them in a bucket with no added aeration.
I won the bucket and aerator above while down at Harbor Branch during a fish ID contest.
Eventually, I was done and my shadow had all her pics, so we said our goodbyes and I headed east to my school to stock a few aquariums.
Once the fish were secure in their new digs, I locked up and pointed the JEEP towards home.
A few of the mollies went with me to live in a big outdoor tank and maybe, just maybe make some babies.
Here is that flashy male I mentioned back near the top of this post. Behind him are two preggy females. Mollies are livebearers. The eggs are carried internally and born "alive", but each has a yolk, ... each is independent of Mom for nutrition ... which means they are ovoviviparous.
Those birds so many of you go gaga over, are oviparous, and you, dear human reader, are viviparous.
(I can hear Miz S Googling and clicking now)