Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cormorants rule the bay

It was a gorgeous Biscayne Bay morning, with slight winds from the north and an outgoing tide all morning. I launched from Matheson at about 7 am (a bit too late) and headed about 2 1/2-3 miles south with the Miami skyline behind me. I was going to the "hidden" lake where I had heard from a fisherman friend that a rookery of cormorants resided. I had been to the lake before, but that was at least a few years ago. I remember it being a beautiful paddle through a creek before rounding a corner into a large opening where a good sized mangrove island sat in the middle. That's where I figured the rookery would be.

I didn't bother taking the camera out until I reached the rookery. The tide was high as I passed the usual feeding ground for several wading birds; little blue herons, tricolor herons, great white egrets, an occasional lone great blue heron, and ibises. They would not be there today with the waters too high for wading and fishing. Instead, I watched a flock of 3 brown pelicans, a couple flocks of ibises and occasional cormorants fly by as the sun lit up the mangrove shoreline on my right and turned the bay waters a brilliant hot white to my left.

It felt good to simply paddle and enjoy the bay. Typical of these past couple weeks, I could not help think about the oil leak in the gulf and wondered if this bay will be spared the onslaught. I'm usually optimistic and have never thought Biscayne Bay or The Everglades could be destroyed to the point where it would take more than my lifetime for them to come back to present day conditions. But that idea is beginning to settle hard on my mind, cementing itself firmly to every thought about my life of paddling these waters. The heaviness pulled my thoughts to dark places where there were no birds or fish. Could this really be happening? My mind goes numb thinking about it.

Today, the birds are here. Dozens of cormorants are nesting on the mangrove island in the lake. A green heron couple were sputtering around the lower half of the mangroves, close to the water. I positioned my boat in a wind-protected spot near the island and got very close to one of the green herons. It had come out onto a mangrove branch that hovered over the water. Here the heron with its brilliant orange feet stood and made a raucous noise every 15 sec or so, and jutted its neck out attempting to catch a dragonfly darting past it. The cormorant families were loud with their deep croaking sounds. The young ones have more high pitched voices. I noticed one anhinga nest with 2 young ones. At one point, I noticed an adult anhinga flying toward the island and then turn around. I imagined that I was keeping them away with my presence directly under their nest. Sure enough, as soon as I paddled away, I noticed 2 anhingas flying near the island.

In the meantime, cormorants were flying in and out, landing or taking off in the water, but I never noticed any babies. Then I watched an adult fly in and begin feeding another bird, that I had mistaken for an adult. It was a juvenile, not quite jet black like its adult parent, and still without those brilliant emerald eyes, but it was large like an adult. A cormorant feeding is harsh to watch. the baby jabs the adult's mouth and flaps its wings violently all within about 10 sec.

After about an hour, I left the island and spent the remainder of the morning paddling back and picking helium balloons out of the mangroves. "Get well soon", "Happy Birthday" and "Happy Mother's Day" were the messages displayed on these balloons that were wrecklessly released from someone's party. I found a large rubber raft and after several slits from my knife to release the water it accumulated, I had it in the back of my canoe for the ride back to the launch site where I could dispose of it properly. A woman walking near the launch site commented to me when seeing all the garbage in my boat, "What a nice thing for you to do". Nice? We all should be doing this.

1 comment:

  1. Connie,

    Love your photos and trip reports!

    I wrote an article about your blog for our new website, (I think you met my partner at a book signing at Books & Books recently too.)

    Here's the link to our item about you: