Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Getting to Know A Salt Marsh, Robinson Preserve

Brackish Pond Spoonbill Trail, Photo by The Quiet Image
A couple of weeks ago, we hiked the Spoonbill Trail at Robinson Preserve in Bradenton, Florida. We had planned on following the Osprey Loop on around, but we arrived during the hottest part of the day in the hottest month, August. The heat index spiked over 100 degrees. The afternoon clouds didn’t form, and there was no breeze off the Gulf of Mexico. We didn’t carry enough water, and we decided to turn back before climbing the forty foot observation tower.

We visited Palma Sola Botanical Garden in the morning, and decided to try Robinson Preserve in the afternoon. It was our first time to explore both of these destinations.  As I climbed out of the car at Robinson, the smell of salt marsh smacked me in the face. It brought back many fond memories of Eastern Shore, Virginia and St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge, Florida. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time exploring both of these locations.

I prefer swamps and salt marshes to the beach. Wildlife is much more abundant around these locations. I never grew out of playing in the mud, and photographing birds and reptiles. These days I rather walk on a well marked elevated trail than trudging through knee-deep mud. I’ve graduated from a VW bug with a rusted out floorboard to a Honda Civic with carpeting. Also, my wife gets upset if I come home covered in mud.

In high school, I was lucky enough to attend marine biology camp at Chincoteague Bay Field Station, Virginia each year. I loved it. I got to play on the beach and inter-coastal for a week, while everyone else was stuck in a classroom studying for exams. I learned about the plants and animals of the salt marsh, and its importance to the ecosystem. The salt marsh smell became ingrained in my brain.

Some people don’t like the smell of the salt marsh. It smells like the anaerobic degradation of dead grass and animals mixed with a little bit of sulfur and salt water. To me it smells like renewal and life. The marsh provides an abundance of nutrients for animals to grow and thrive. Fish spawn in the pools, and fingerlings hide among the grasses. Without the salt marsh the oceans and seas would become barren wastelands.

The marsh provides fertile nesting grounds for birds. At Robinson Preserve we saw roseate spoonbills, ibis, great blue herons and ospreys. We even spotted a bald eagle. Thanks to marsh restoration programs like Robinson Preserve bald eagles are becoming more numerous.

We enjoyed our brief jaunt through the salt marsh in Bradenton. We plan on returning later in the year and spending more time once the weather becomes cooler in October. We look forward to doing the Osprey Loop, and walking on the boardwalk through the mangrove swamps.

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