Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Fall Day in the Florida Salt Marsh

Observation Tower Robinson Preserve, Florida

It’s fall in Central Florida. This means azure blue sky, low humidity and moderate temperatures. On this day we visited the Robinson Preserve in Manatee County. The Gulf breeze brought refreshing cool air to the salt marsh, attracting numerous people to enjoy the recreational benefits of the salt marsh.
We talked to one couple that had completed a loop of the marsh in kayaks. They told us of seeing roseate spoonbills, bald eagles and a family of raccoons. The kayak vendor informed us the masked bandits feed in that section of the marsh every morning to chow down on clams.
We unpacked our picnic basket of leftover turkey sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies next to the dark blue water, and watched the leaping mullet. Overhead osprey circled and chirped. Only a few clouds adorned the sky so we decided to put on sunscreen, but we skipped the DEET. We hoped the wind would keep the mosquitos at bay.
A Stampede of Fiddler Crabs
After lunch we passed through the marsh on our way towards the mangrove swamp boardwalk. At one of the ponds, we witnessed a large collection of male fiddler crabs. It looked like something out of a science fiction movie.
We climbed the observation tower to get a better view of the surrounding marsh, the Gulf and the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Many kayaks and paddleboards floated on the open water at this point. People are discovering the many recreational opportunities offered by the salt marsh. It's important to ensure the conservation of these wetland areas that fish and birds rely on.

Sunshine Skyway bridge
A boardwalk meanders through the mangrove swap. It provides hikers numerous opportunities to see wildlife. Along one section it follows the Gulf shore. Fisherman and hikers can make their way through the massive sea grape stands, and dip a line or their feet in the Gulf waters. One can also get a good view of the Sunshine Skyway bridge, and downtown St. Petersburg.

On this day we saw several osprey and ibis. We also saw an egret and a juvenile black crowned night heron. There were lots of hikers, bicyclists, and kayakers. On this day wildlife was minimal, however the great weather and scenery made for an enjoyable trip.
Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron

Osprey enjoying a fall day at the Preserve