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Your Yak Or Mine? April 2010

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On: Tue, Mar 23, 2010 at 10:48AM | By: Mel The Guide

Well, it’s really great to be back on the water in sunny down town Matlacha at Gulf Coast Kayak. We just came from up north and it sure was cold, as I am sure most of you know. We really have it good here in southwest Florida, otherwise you would not be here either. That said, I have to tell you this place is FOR THE BIRDS. Yes, I said the BIRDS. Now that’s not a bad thing. I mean it in a good way. I can’t begin to tell you all the different kinds of birds we saw last time out in the yak, on the back bay. Just the shore birds could fill a birder’s field guide. Then all the different kinds of herons, great blue, little blue (not the same bird), the little greenbacks, and we can’t leave out the one we see the most, the yellow-crowned night heron, (who when he is immature is brown with yellow spots). Then the pelicans. I say then the pelicans because the brown pelicans are nesting in the old yellow night heron’s nest. It’s somewhat funny to see this large pelican fly over to a little nest of sticks in the Australian pines, and lightly touch down.

We also saw a few white pelicans with their large orange beak in a rather small flock, about fifty or so. Most times we see them in flocks of about 200 or so, in the north end of the pass. The egrets had a good showing also, a few great white and some snowy. We try to get back in to the mangrove tunnels when the tide and water is high enough, which is not easy with the winter water. There we find some of the birds you probably won’t see on a normal day’s paddle — Rosette spoonbills, the other pink bird. This bird is a treat to see, and even more so if you luck out and find their roosting area with a flock of 50 or so. It doesn’t happen all the time, which is what makes it so special.

When we are going up close to the mangroves we some times see a cormorant dive off a branch into the water, and see him a few minutes later in the water up ahead, Or an anhinga with a small fish on the end of his beak trying to wiggle it in to his mouth, then flip it in the air and catch it. When we get in to the areas where not too many paddlers go we have found large stick nests about 10 feet across; yes, this is the home of the great American bald eagle. He has a white head and a white tail and orange feet and beak. I often times am asked, “Mel, why are the eagles so small in southwest Florida?” Do you know???????? That’s right, the bird they are seeing is not an eagle, it’s an osprey. The little cousin. Sure he is a fish hawk, like the eagle, but he is two thirds smaller. In addition, his nest is much smaller, but still made of twigs and grass. A few weeks ago when we were coming back from our daily paddle we saw a young eagle building a large nest just south of the Sandy Hook Restaurant. He worked about two weeks on it and it was looking good. We never saw a mate to help him with this large task. However, we did see something strange happen over the next few days. Four to five osprey were chasing the young eagle. Yes, I said chased. The eagle would try to leave his nest, and the next thing we saw was the osprey dive down and swoop over the eagle’s head like they were trying to peck at him or grab him with their feet.

Well, as best I can figure the eagle may have gotten to the osprey nest and eaten one of the young. The osprey that was chasing him did so for the next few days. We had not been back for a couple of days due to cold and just bad weather. However, when we did get a chance to pass the nest again, guess what. No eagle in sight; the osprey has taken over the nest. It looks strange to see just one female osprey in this large nest and the male only a few yards away on another tree, keeping watch. When we approach the island the female starts to chirp away and the male takes flight over our head, as if to say keep away. Which we do; we back up and keep a sharp look with our binoculars. You can see so much more if you don’t get too close to the birds; give them their space; this is their home, and we want to keep them here for others to also see. Try to think of yourself as a Calusa Indian who has not eaten in a few days; do you want to scare the birds away?? In addition, never see them again? No, you want to be able to come back another day and find the rest of the flock, so tread lightly, and remember this place, the back bay is FOR THE BIRDS. Well, maybe you too. Get in the yak and come paddle in paradise. We will be looking for you on the water. Thanks for paddling with Mel the Guide. Gulf Coast Kayak is open all year 24/7 941 661 8229 239 283 1125 for rentals or to book a tour with Mel, the Guide


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