First, my thanks to all for your words of support and encouragement as well as your concern regarding my angst about the moving of my cheese. It’s true that I’m not terribly techno-savvy, but I am actually enjoying both of the new toys… my i-phone and our MacBook. Learning curves continue, but so far so good. If you’re reading this, I’ve been successful in posting from our new MacBook.
After spending the better part of the previous days playing with our new techno-toys, yesterday we decided to change gears. I’d found yet another spot on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail that is not too far from here and accessible by our free/donations encouraged GoLine bus system. Unlike the beautiful McKee Botanical Garden of my last post, the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area or ORCA for short, is a wild place. Nobody doing any manicuring of anything here. We caught the first bus of the day from the marina (shortly past 8am), made one transfer and arrived at ORCA just past 9am. Nobody collecting money, no gift shop, in fact even the signs seemed a little dated and weathered. We were immediately glad that we’d remembered to bring the insect repellant; we learned later that this very spot was once a lab of sorts for University of FL students to study mosquito disease transmission. Yikes! The hiking trail was amazing, with an almost pre-historic feel to it at times, Florida before condos. We got the feeling that it’s a pretty well-kept secret, at least on weekdays; we had the place to ourselves until we were on our way out and met a young couple with two kids on their way in. Mike hiked up front with his “web wand” (a dried palm frond stem), whacking spider webs, or at least the ones blocking the trail, as we went. We saw a ton of Black and Yellow Garden Spiders, apparently pretty common but very cool, and a few snakes that I could have done without. We saw two very cool things though that made the place worth the visit. One was the Zebra Longwing Butterfly, which I later learned is the State Butterfly of Florida… who knew. They were plentiful and very pretty in the morning light. On a side note, check out the following website for some fun facts on various state symbols. I never did get around to posting last fall on North Carolina’s state carnivorous plant. Really, I’m not kidding, they have one. Who knew that the Venus Flytrap is native to the Wilmington, NC area. Go figure.
The real highlight of our hike though was the Tri-colored Heron in breeding plumage. I’ve learned that many birds look completely different during breeding/nesting season than any other time of year, which makes identifying them, especially for rookies like us, more than a bit challenging. The one we saw on our hike was truly beautiful; we had a great view with binoculars, but alas, not close enough for a good photo, so I’ll share one I found on the web.
On the other hand, there is a Great Blue Heron that has been hanging out in the north end of our anchorage and has been plenty close for photos… on our mooring ball and on the boat even. We’d seen him on the mooring balls nearby, and caught him on ours a couple of mornings ago as we were taking the dinghy to shore. We were actually having coffee in bed one morning and heard something topside… you learn to listen closely to strange noises on boats, but we’d not heard anything quite like this sound. We pulled up the shade on the window (kind of like a windshield in the bedroom) just in time to see him take flight; I think we startled him as much as he did us. The sound we’d heard was of him landing on our deck, right above where we were enjoying our coffee. Wild. The following morning I was in the galley making coffee and saw him/it? on our neighbor’s mooring, and watched it take flight and head right for Cheshire! I grabbed my camera and caught him on our mooring line (apparently a good fishing spot) just as he was swallowing a huge fish… really, I could see it still wiggling in the heron’s throat. Usually they are a bit skittish, but this one stayed put for a good long stretch… guess he couldn’t fly so easily with a throat full of fish… so I was able to get some photos. He must be a poser, or ours is a particularly good fishing spot, because he was back the following day for more. Photos below.
As much as we’ve enjoyed this place though, we’ve started to talk about moving on. We’ve decided that Wednesday is the day, weather permitting of course, that we’ll say good-bye to Velcro Beach and do a bit more exploring further south for a week or so, then heading north again in time to spend a couple of days in St Augustine again… I want to see the Alligator Farm/Rookery in breeding/nesting season and have been keeping tabs on their blog to see what’s happening… and eventually on to Jacksonville.
Until next time…