Friday, June 25, 2010

Beautiful Swimmers Mating

What were you picturing?
I hope it was Callinectes sapidus.

If it was something else, well, I may just have to wash your brain out with soap.

Meanwhile, back on that island from Wednesday ...

After a while poking about the island, I left the kayak parked on the shore and waded out to sea. There were blue crabs EVERYWHERE, mostly juvies of 4-5 inches, but plenty of bigguns too. Had I thought to bring some string and chicken necks, I could have come home with supper pretty easily.

The nursery aspect of a healthy marsh is hard to miss when you are out there surrounded by schools of tiny new killifish and mullet pups. Plus, when every step sends 4 or 5 blue crabs scuttling away into the depths and the mud is covered with gelatinous egg masses from worms ... well, like I said, it's hard to miss.

In a tiny pool, about as big as a small swimming pool, I found this pair of blue crabs mating. The pool was entirely enclosed by "higher" ground now that the tide had dropped, except for one small, inch deep rivulet with water flowing to the Gulf.

It was a great place for a pair of blue crabs to mate, away from the pressure of predatory fish for a few hours while the tide left, changed it's mind, and then started back.

The photos above and below were taken by holding my polarized sunglasses over my camera lens to cut the water's glare, so they aren't super,duper sharp, but I wanted you to see this.

A big male blue crab is holding a female protectively beneath him. During this embrace, she will molt her exoskeleton under the protection of his feisty crabattitude.
That's important since she will be a very vulnerable soft shell blue crab chick for several hours while the new exoskeleton stretches and hardens.
During this time, he will mate with her.
Sort of a ... you scratch my carapace, I'll scratch yours.

Crown conchs were patrolling the sandier areas. These are voracious predatory snails that strike fear into the hearts of smaller snails like marsh periwinkles.

The other, really abundant crab, the stone crab, was less obvious, due to the fact that they were under, around, and on the oyster clumps ... and they hold still rather than scurry off.
Since the young ones are about the same color as the oysters, they really blend in.

Back at the Shell Mound boat launch ...

This earlier in the day picture shows the ramp at the time I launched. Pay attention to the water and how close it is to that spectacular red JEEP.

The picture below is what it was like when I returned, still with an hour of falling tide to go.

In the photo above, I'm standing about directly behind where the JEEP is parked in the first photo. I had just paddled in through that narrow slot of 6 inch deep water and then slogged and dragged the kayak up the smooth muddy shore.

It's a little gooshy at low tide, so plan to get sweet smelling marsh mud on your lower parts if you launch from this site.

You'll feel really smart if you pack a gallon of freshwater to rinse off your tootsies before getting back in your vehicle.
I wish I had thought of that before the trip.


threecollie said...

Another wonderful post! Clever use of the sun glasses

Dani said...

I had an old couple swimming and mating the other day at the beach.

Floridagirl said...

Great sea life photos, again!

Thunder Dave said...

This is becoming sort of an animal porn site! ;-)

I just heard that the oil hit PCB and I saw a satilite photo of it and it looks like it's heading straight for Cedar Key. If the storm that's brewing up hits it looks like seriously bad news!

Miz S said...

You make crab sex sound so romantic.

Linda Starr said...

Oh, this is right up the road from me, I can't wait to go back and explore the mounds, I've got to go back and read several previous posts, thanks so much for your blog.

Ava said...

That was a great tour! Great use of the sunglasses and I'm glad that it worked!

lisa said...

Mudd between the tootsies, ooooh! Love the crabs.

Floridacracker said...

I need a polarizing lens on the camera obviously! LOL!

Well, you do have a lot of retirees down there in your area.

Thanks! I'm partial to saltwater critters.

Yup, the oil is past Destin now.
This storm may slip past to the southwest.

Miz S,
It's the only tender moment in a blue crab's life. They are piss and vinegar the rest of the time.

Great! Shell Mound is easily combined with a trip to Cedar Key, it's right next door.

Thanks, I've used it before on stingrays. It's amazing how polarized shades allow you to see below.

Thanks! That was the shallow mud.

Tricia said...

Girl you need some serious personal sex time. LOL I grew up around Blue Crabs and seriously they are like bunnies, doing the sexy crab tango all the time in South Florida. I must say the use sunglasses was brillant. I am on the other side of the state and I truely do not think anyone over here writes about crabby sex like you do.

I remember when gooey yucky mud was not a problem but NOW eeeewwwwwwww.