Wow! We could really get used to this great winter weather! We’ve had clear blue skies and temperatures in the low 80s all week! We took advantage of the great weather by participating in a couple of the tours hosted by the park’s naturalist, Pam.
On Tuesday, all four of us attended the “Wading Tour.” On this tour, the group goes into the seagrass bed estuary – kindof a nursery for sea creatures -- and collects whatever they can find.
We got there early and helped Pam get set up for the demonstrations by filling tubs with water and getting out all the nets.
We started out walking through the dry upland habitat (an endangered habitat, due to development), where we learned about palm trees and the different types of mangroves. We learned that black mangroves absorb saltwater and secrete the salt through their leaves,
whereas red mangroves have filters in the tips of their roots which filter out the salt from the water. [I hope I got that straight . . . I wasn’t taking notes, and have to rely on my memory!! LOL]
Down at the beach, Pam got the group started collecting specimens in the water, while Nick & Bryce got a lesson in “dip-netting”.
[I guess Bryce tackled his fear of the water . . . at least temporarily!!]
The group got right into the water, and found quite a few specimens for us to study.
Tom got into it, too, and was excited to find a seahorse . . . and not just any seahorse, but a pregnant male seahorse! I guess seahorses are liberated . . . the males carry the embryos!
Bryce and Nicolas found lots of interesting creatures in their net, too. They found a baby puffer fish, several pipefish, some shrimp, and lots and lots of anchovies . . . otherwise known as “bait”!
Once the group was done collecting specimens, we gathered back on the beach where Pam shared them all with us, and educated us with lots of new information!
The small ones were put into little magnifying cups for us to get a good look at them,
but the bigger ones were passed around in tubs of water, or even held right in our hands!
I can’t quite remember the name of this one – hairy something – but it was an actual live creature! It looked and felt like a blob of goo, but it had a head, with eyes, and it moved across Bryce’s hand!
We also found a Florida Fighting Conch, and Pam showed us that if you hold it flat in your palm, the animal would try to crawl out and flip itself over. This one was pretty timid, and just poked it’s eyes out,
but on todays “Shoreline Exploration” we found one that was really active!
So, that brings me to today’s adventure, the Shoreline Exploration Walk. Bryce couldn’t go with us, because he had his live biology class at the same time, but Tom, Nicolas and I hopped on the tram and rode down to the beach for the tour. We started out in the dry upland habitat again, but then crossed the bridge that would take us down to the beach.
Crossing over the canal, we saw several birds hunting for prey in the shallow water. This rose-colored egret, which is a very pretty bird,
was watching for fish in the shallow water, and this little blue heron stalked smaller creatures on the shoreline.
Down at the beach, we saw this oyster catcher,
before we set off along the water’s edge, searching the “rack line” for interesting and unusual shells. It’s amazing to me to realize that all those shells that we see and walk gingerly over on the beach at one time had a living creature in them!
It was low tide, so there were tons of conch shells in the sand, but many of them had already been attacked by gulls . . . that really active fighting conch was found out in the water. The same guy also found two live lightning welks.
These were really beautiful shells, too, and really big!
It was a fun and enlightening walk this morning, and we all enjoyed it . . . we’re looking forward to many more naturalist programs next month!