A Very Interesting Day

I don’t have a picture of him to show you, but the best part of my birding adventure today was a young man whose name is Arash. He’s from Orlando. But the most important thing was – he’s just completed walking the entire lenght of the Florida Trail. All  1000 miles of it!

We passed each other on the  bike trail, very near Turtle Bridge, and nodded, then continued on our way.  Little did I know that this very slim, very intense looking young man was within 50 yards of completing his hike from the Big Cypress Swamp in the Everglades to the northern terminus of the Trail, right here at Fort Pickens. That’s a 1,000 mile hike!

The actual brick monument with a brass plaque that designates the end of the Trail is right beside Turtle Bridge, although, I suppose, the actual end of the trail is a couple of hundred yards on, at the edge of the Fort Pickens parking lot.

Anyhow, a few minutes later, he came walking back toward the bridge, and me, and politely asked if I would take his picture standing beside the marker. So I did, using his iPhone. Our conversation then became about his journey. He told me that he had also already traversed the entire Appalachian Trail – from Georgia to Maine (something I’d always said I’d do someday, but never got around to it, although I have hiked many a mile in the Great Smokies where I grew up.). That’s 2,200 miles long! He was hoping to get a ride back into Pensacola Beach so that he could catch a couple of buses that would eventually get him to the Pensacola Greyhound station. He had a ticket for a bus heading south at 1 a.m.

So, of course, I offered to drive him all the way to the bus station. And he was hoping that he might catch an earlier bus. We hit it off immediately. I wished him well on his next adventure. He has my card, so maybe he’ll send me an email to let me know he got home safely. AND what he’s planning for his next adventure.

Meanwhile, back on the trail. Still disappointed that my favorite Osprey, Big Mama, hasn’t shown up yet. But there is beginning to be lots of Osprey activity. But here are a few things I found:

is-this-nest-taken-

This young female Osprey seemed  unsure about whether or not this is her nest. Nobody else seems to be using it. So why not?

And here’s my second favorite female ( also in a nest near Big Mama’s.)

watchful-mama

She’s been here for a pretty long time … and doesn’t like me approaching too close. She’ll start screeching immediately if I get inside her comfort zone. So I try to keep my distance. She and her partner are very busy building and repairing their nest right now. And fighting off the occasional young buck who wants to butt in.

stick-like-a-fish

Meanwhile — back near Turtle Bridge. I’ve photographed this silly twig several times and finally decided to post it here. I’m not sure what fascinates me about it. Maybe it’s the bleached white, delicate little limbs against that black, black water.

And of course, there’s always the requisite turtle.

big-turtle

This is one of the Snapping Turtles I often see here. They’re all covered with a certain amount of moss. I’m guessing it’s because this body of water is still and there is no current. So things settle quietly. Thus, the moss on the turtles.

But this one …

turtle-head

… seemed to be fixated on me, and just floated there, almost motionless, for several munutes. I know it’s a face only a mother could love, but this day I found her to be sweet and friendly.

Then

turtle-tail

I noticed that she had this funny little flag of moss on her tail. Maybe she was just sticking it up out of the water so that I’d notice it. She’s not usually this attentive.

So I consider it a successful day. I met Arash. I found a few interesting birds. And I got to spend a few minutes of meditation staring into the eyes of a Snapping Turtle.

Who could ask for more?

 

 

 

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Silly Great Blue Heron

I got out to FP Tuesday, February 26, for a couple of hours, hoping to see more Ospreys. And I sure did. Not so many nests to watch yet. A few are just beginning to rebuild. But I heard a lot of screeches and calls that were distinctly Ospreys.

And most exciting on that score is the possible re-appearance of Big Mama!

big-mama-

I didn’t get close enough for a positive ID. But this bird was sitting in the pine I call the Dining Room, because it’s where Big Mama and her mate, and eventually their kids, go to eat most of the time. It’s just a stone’s throw from the nest.

But she was having none of my shenanigans Tuesday and flew off into the distant pines to get away from me. So I left her alone.

Meanwhile, as I was wandering around the picnic shelter at Battery Worth I spotted what appeared to be a brown streak – racing on a flat path through the trees and brush only 5 or 10 feet off the ground. As I swung the camera around to see what I could catch, this beautiful little Cooper’s Hawk landed briefly on top of a snag.

Cooper's-hawk

First one of those I’ve seen out there. And he/she didn’t stay but a second. But there he/she was. Cool!

Seemed like a short hike to Turtle Bridge was in order, so that’s where I went next. And, as always, I was not disappointed. The GBH egg is still sitting down there in the brush, and a couple of turtles were paddling about. But what was the most fun was this guy.

bath-time

A juvenile GBH, all alone, and just having one hell of a time. First he was dipping down under the water, almost completely submerged. He’d do that a couple of times. Then he’d climb up on the top of the little island to shake.

shaking-feathers

After he’d done that a couple of times he decided that he needed some practice in stick gathering. Maybe because he’d recently been watching the grownups who were busy picking up lots of sticks, and rebuilding their nests  in preparation for this year’s crop of new kids.

gettin-a-stick

I’m not sure he ever found just the right stick, but he tried several as I watched.

another-stick

What I found most unusual about this little guy is that the same bird (I’m almost certain) was in this same place when I had been here a few days earlier. And the little island of sticks and mud isn’t really very far from the bridge. He seems completely relaxed with people coming and going across the bridge. And with fools like me who’ll stop for half an hour and point a huge black machine at him.

I hope he’ll be there the next time I visit (maybe tomorrow). I’d like to get to know him better.