Thursday, December 20, 2012

Exploring the habitats of Lovers Key State Park

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.

Setting up for the wading tour

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,

Pam show Nick the difference between mangroves

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”.





The group gets their instructions

Nick and Bryce learn to dip-net

[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.

Searching for specimens

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!

Tom searches for specimens


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,

Bryce studies a shrimp

but the bigger ones were passed around in tubs of water, or even held right in our hands!

Sea Star


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,

Florida fighting conch

but on todays “Shoreline Exploration” we found one that was really active!

A very active fighting conch

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,

Rose-colored egret

was watching for fish in the shallow water, and this little blue heron stalked smaller creatures on the shoreline.

Little blue heron

Down at the beach, we saw this oyster catcher,

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.

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!


  1. WOW, what a great adventure. That's the way to learn about much more fun to experience it than just reading about it:o))

  2. Your family is truly doing the finest job of home schooling I have ever seen. Nice job, and thank you for the interesting commentary.

    1. Thanks! I keep thinking that, after this adventure, maybe Bryce will get interested in Marine Biology!


Thanks for reading! We'd love to hear your comments!