Sunday, December 2, 2007

Morning at the Salt Marsh at the Tolomato River

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It was a very sunny, very warm day for December 2nd. We had spent the night just north of St. Augustine with our older son and his fiancee and set out this morning to visit the boardwalk in her neighborhood. It is a long boardwalk through a salt marsh that terminates at the Intracoastal Waterway. There were a few mosquitoes and no-see-ums but we were thankful that they were better than sometimes.

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It was low tide. All along the way,we heard the skittering of thousands of fiddler crabs in the mud below.100_0856

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The males have the large claw, usually their right one, but not always. This is to attract the females and to fence with other males. It has also been known to pinch the hand that holds it. Someone thought it looked a bit like a fiddle and the name stuck.

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In the close-up, you can see the grains where the crabs have been sifting through the mud with their small claw and eating bits of detritus. They make little burrows in the mud that may be a foot deep and connect to other burrows allowing many escape exits and entrances.

Also present in numbers, were the periwinkle snails. Since it was low tide, most of these univalves were in the mud.

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Where the mud was drier, their trails were more obvious.

A few periwinkles were still on their Spartina leaves and stalks, where they are normally found when the water returns.

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And one empty shell was even found on the deck of the boardwalk, perhaps dropped by a bird. Notice the lovely pattern and colors that can be so easily missed from a distance.

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There were signs of raccoons, too, no doubt attracted to the "seafood buffet" in the marsh. In addition to the periwinkles and fiddler crabs, we saw fish and oysters.

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There were large flocks of white ibis enjoying the bounty this morning. I counted about 40 juveniles in one spot and more were mixed with adults in another spot.

On the other side of the marsh was a bit of pinewoods, with a few oaks, hollies and cedars. The pine bark beetles have been at work here and have already killed some of the big trees. The sawdust at the base of this tree can be a telltale sign.

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Thanks, D and K, for such a wonderful time!

2 comments:

Daniel said...

Great pictures! Wish I could've been there instead of working on this no-good presentation...

David said...

Great post! I'm impressed with the pictures. We wished for you Daniel.