Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cedar Key Father's Day Sunset Paddle

Our sunset paddles at Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast of Florida are very popular and occur quite often during the warmer months. But as we found out this past Sunday June 16th, it is also insect season. We paddled across to the island named Atsena Otie, which is loosely translated as 'cedar island' in the ancient Muskogee dialect. At one point the island was called Depot Key from its days as a supply depot during the Seminole Indian and Civil Wars.

The coastal islands are full of mosquitos and unless there is a nice constant breeze blowing, you're going to get eat up. One insect that isn't shy of anything, short of a strong hand slapping it, is the yellow or deer fly. These biting insects don't announce their presence until they've started to bite. You don't really feel them lighting on your exposed skin. But they sure do hurt, and a lot of times, the hand is too late to slap them dead as they've already gotten their little micro meal and flown off.

 Speaking of flying, we also saw lots of animal tracks upon landing at this white sandy beach. More than likely the above tracks were of some long legged wading bird, but I'm not sure what kind. Looking at these tracks from above, they appeared like little flying objects dragging something through the sand.
We also lots of the usual crab tracks and holes of the ghost crabs. These nocturnal crabs will dig holes that bely their size, so you will see different sized holes along the dune lines.

Another oddity seen sometimes along the shoreline are egg cases. The ones above are from a mollusk, more than likely a lightning whelk. As we walked the waterline, we saw numerous empty egg cases both in the water and upon the sand, left by the last high tide.
Though not the best photo of what we observed, there were lots of crown conchs moving about in the shallows with the incoming tide, among the oyster clumps. At one point we saw at least ten of the conchs within four feet of each other and of different sizes. Moving about with their proboscis' extended in search of food.
We attempted to go ashore to view the historical cemetery on the island, but the mosquitos were so bad, it was a case of don't stop running or else. It didn't matter if we had run or not, as soon as we got back in our kayaks and paddled backwards, they stayed with us for over five minutes of buzzing and biting, yards from shore.
We finally escaped the onslaught and made our way through the middle of the island to the western side, serenaded by red-winged blackbirds perched on the black mangroves. We observed a lone roseate spoonbill flying west towards its evening roost on Seahorse Key.
By the time we arrived back to shore, the sun was showing its colors in the western sky.
All in all, a great day to be out in nature within the coastal environment.

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