Saturday, September 12, 2009

Biscayne: Blackpoint for a change

I forgot to set the alarm. Good thing I am a natural early riser. We still made it to the launch site at Blackpoint by 7:45. The sun was higher than my preference for launching, but the sky was covered in a thin veil of clouds so it wasn't too hot or bright. We caught the middle of an outgoing tide so I didn't expect to see any wading birds. Never really do, except maybe along the jetty. I thought I'd meander into the creeks located about 1/2 mile north of Blackpoint and not much else.

Once out of the muddy creek that leads us out into the open bay, the calm water was glaring with the sun already high in the sky. I paddled a bit and noticed a tricolor heron flying toward the jetty and landing in an open area. The jetty offers some opportunties for morning photos, it is perfectly located to catch the morning sun. If there isn't any manmade debris laying about, you can capture some brilliant shots of a wading bird among the black and red mangroves. A few limestone rocks line the jetty and they sometimes provide the bird a place to stand over the water. I got out the camera and began to paddle toward the bird. There was no current (slack tide) to speak of and once I was about 80 feet from the bird, I anchored calmly and pretty much stayed right there. The bird fished along the edge of the jetty within a 30-ft range, back and forth. Sometimes it would be lit up among the bright green mangrove leaves, at another point it would stalk its prey along the black mangrove roots that rose feet above the bird. I sat on the bottom of the canoe today to get as low as possible and that seemed to work quite well.

I stayed with with the bird for 30 minutes or so, until it decided to fly off. I didn't seem to be bothering it as my boat sat still, but a parade of powerboaters pass through channel on the other side of the jetty. Some are louder than others, with their obnoxious raggaeton music over the engine noise. The bird, rightly so, was not amused and left the scene. So I turned and paddled to the east toward Blackpoint where Vivian and our friend David were fishing. I paddled past them and continued along the shoreline toward the lagoon that leads into some creeks. Other than a few comorants and gulls, there was not animal activity that I could see. I noticed a very large blue crab in the clear shallow water and as my boat passed it within 5 feet, it raised its large claws toward me in defense. Beautiful crab!

I wandered through the creeks with a strong outgoing current and didn't see any spiders or crabs to photograph. I simply enjoyed the paddle and kept my cameras in the pelican case. The sky was still veiled with clouds, this would have been a good day to use the macro lens with the flash. I headed back to Blackpoint and wandered over to another area to another creek closer to the launch site. There I found my favorite spider, the large female golden silk orb weaver. I got out the macro and the flash and started to photograph her with the strong sun light above. By now, storm clouds were forming to the west and soon, I would need to paddle back.

For photographing, Blackpoint is not my first choice, but it is the only site we launch from that is within the national park boundaries. Except for the powerboats in the channel heading out to Eliott Key, this is one of the most pristine areas on the bay. The cove that sits behind Blackpoint is a popular kayak fishing area. When I am here, I think how things might have been if not for several relentless people who fought hard for the Biscayne Bay refuge and eventually the national park. Blackpoint was once considered the future location for the head of a bridge that would lead out to Eliott Key. That and a refinery were being considered for this location. Now, Biscayne Bay in its entirety is the largest marine park in the country and it shoulders right up to the city of Miami. How lucky we are to be here.

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