Saturday, October 20, 2012

Catching the low tide on the bay

Had to take advantage of the calm morning, with a low tide scheduled around 8:30 am. I expected to see many birds as the bait fish make there fall run through the bay. The water was smooth as could be except for the frequent interruption from schools of bait fish causing the water to bubble as they escape their predator. This is a good time to be on Biscayne Bay.

Early on, great white egrets were taking their place along the shoreline of grasses revealed.Typically, I see lots of great white egrets on the bay. Lately though, I have noticed many more juvenile great blue herons in the area. Rarely do I see more than one or two on any given day and it is even more rare to capture them. Of all the wading birds, the great blue heron is the most wary of an intruder in a boat. But today, I somehow got close enough to one as it fished along the shoreline. Enjoy these photos of Biscayne Bay's western shoreline.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Back to the Everglades

This weekend seemed to mark a change in season, which got me thinking a lot about our camping trips. Instead of afternoon storms and early morning temperatures above 80 degrees, we got our first glimpse into what could be a windy season. We stayed in Chokoloskee Island for the weekend so we could take advantage of the beautiful weekend. No significant rains were expected, but the relentless northeast winds would prevail, and boy did they. Another nice change was the cooler temperatures especially felt on Saturday morning when we awoke to 65 degrees.

As always when we are paddling, the winds dictate our course of action. Rather than spend the weekend on and around the large bay, we decided to launch from Seagrape Drive in the Big Cypress Preserve (off the Tamiami Trail) in an area that would offer more wind protection. Here is an aerial map of the area.

I didn't expect to have much opportunity to photograph birds. The water levels are so high right now that the fresh water is flowing like crazy. Unexpectedly though, this fact became the best part of my weekend. From the Seagrape canal, I turned into a smaller creek that immediately led me into an Everglades sawgrass meadow. The creek that I paddled was quite deep and distinctly cut through the water-saturated meadow. Several water trails tempted me to explore the area, but I didn't need a water trail. With a moderate amount of effort, I was able to glide my canoe through the grasses.

I spent two beautiful mornings paddling around the area where mangroves intermingle with grasses and birds have lots of hiding places. Enjoy the photos from the Everglades.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Columbus day weekend on the bay

Anyone in Miami with a boat recognizes this holiday weekend as being famous for the Columbus Day Regatta (a trademarked name that is now known as the BARDARDI Columbus Day Regatta) that is sailed on Biscayne Bay. This weekend marks the 58th anniversary of the regatta, which is the oldest organized event on the bay. The regatta is a sailing race, but over the years it has become associated with the infamous powerboat parties. Hundreds of powerboats anchor near Elliott Key which becomes Biscayne Bay's version of south beach. Everyone in Miami, including those that remotely pay attention to the local news recognizes this weekend to be the most dangerous boating weekend of the year. Alcohol/drugs, stupidity and boating never go well together and with so many boats on the water, the combination of these three ingredients is a common recipe for inevitable tragedy.

While all of that mayhem was happening offshore, I was on the western shoreline Saturday morning, quietly approaching the wading birds. It was dark when my canoe touched the water, but soon, the sun began to peer over the horizon that had already become speckled with boats. I wanted to come here as the low tide was suitable for lots of wading birds in that perfect morning light. I knew there would be more than the usual noises coming from the nearby boat channel, but the birds would still be there.

I paddled about 1/2 mile south of the launch area and there were plenty of birds lining the shoreline. Despite the nearby activity of powerboats and occasional helicopter flying over, it was peaceful as usual. Early on, I spotted the albino yellowcrown heron, but not to capture it. And surprisingly, the out-of-place mute swan flew past in a southerly direction just before sunrise. There appeared to be several young great blue herons actively feeding in the waters. At one point, I watched a flock of them (about 5) fly over. This was unusual, so I figured these might also be juveniles and perhaps there is a nesting site nearby.

So much bird activity on the water today. The tide was perfect as the low occurred at about 8:30 am, followed by a steady incoming that provided me another hour and half with the birds. By 10:30 am, the only birds seen on the water were a few great white egrets, large enough to wade in 6 or more inches of water. The smaller waders had all disappeared quietly into the trees, where they would be until the next low tide. All this happening, while another part of the bay was anything but peaceful.