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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lower Wekiva River

Black Crowned Night Heron in flight

Back to one of our favorite paddling locations. It was a better than we anticipated, short, but very good. You cannot come back home disappointed when you kayak this Central Florida jewel. It was a day of BIG GATORS and little birds...many little birds.

Big Gator #1

Put In/Take Out: Our Put In for this, as for almost all our paddles in the Lower Wekiva River, was Katie's Landings. For information about this location please check our first post on Lower Wekiva River. One thing I can guarantee you; it is one of the easiest put in and take out facilities. The cost for using it is $3.00 per vehicle. I am thinking about getting an annual pass for the Florida State Parks, which I believe will cover the entrance at Katie's Landings too. There was an empty parking lot when we arrived around 10 before 10AM. It was a little windy but I have seen worst in this part of the river. Cloudy skies did not promise a good batch of pics so the plan was to paddle until noon and return to Katie's regardless where we were at the time. 

Female Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Black Crowned Night Heron
Once again we spent about 15 minutes in the area across Katie's and then paddled on the West side of the Island down river. It is the second time I do that. The East side of the island has lots of houses across it, The West side is wilder and we like it better. This time we saw an adult and a young Black Crowned Night Herons. Other than that there are not too many things to say about this trip so I am going to let the pics tell the history. The highlights were three gator sightings. What was special about that? They were big ones. One of them was sunning in a palm tree and we were able to see it from more than three hundreds feet. It almost look funny. Also a few little birds we caught pics of. Wifey is taking as a challenge to be able to obtain more pics of the little fellows. Let us see what happens. The traffic in the river was light, no other boats in the river on our way down, a motor boat, a couple of canoes, and another kayaker on our way up. The kayaker was Master Dave, from Dave's Yak Tales.


Well, as I promised, will let the pics tell the tale...

A three for one...Sandhill Crane, Little Blue Heron, and Ibis across Katie's Landings

Sandhill Crane nesting across Katie's Landings

Black Crowned Night Heron (Juvenile)



Belted Kingfisher

Great Egret


Gator...a first big one we saw

Gator...not so big


Big Gator...second one. This is the same one of the first gator pic of this post.

Big Gator...#3. This one was visible from more than 300 hundreds feet away. 
It did not even flinch when we paddled by.

Turtle trio

Yellow-Bellied Sapcucker...A first timer in Views From Our Kayak.
Did You Know That?  The Yellow Bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in North America that is completely migratory. Frequently it uses human produced materials to help in its territorial drumming.

The always present in the Lower Wekiva River...Great Blue Heron..

American Goldfinches

Tufted Titmouse

Yellow Rumped Warbler


Juvenile Little Blue Heron

Little gator

Another little gator, probably a sibling of the one above since they were
in the same area with more baby gators

Eastern Phoebe with an unlucky firefly.


Yellow Rumped Warbler

Great Blue Heron

The same young Black Crowned Night Heron seeing in the same area of the
one of the first pic around four hours later.



Wood Stork

Otter. Saw this one at the very last moment before taking the yak out at Katie's.
It let us know we were not welcome around as made some funny sounds toward us.

Little Blue Heron
And that is it for this one. Here is the link to all the surviving pics from this trip and past trips: Lower Wekiva River. Thanks for reading and see you soon in another Views From Our Kayak.

Lower Wekiva River Scene.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Haulover Canal and Scrub Ridge Trail

Scrub Jay

Saturday, Feb 18, was my birthday and also the first anniversary of Views From Our Kayak. Thought about going to the place we went for the first post a year ago. But the Econlockhatchee River is very low nowadays as I can see it from the CR 419 bridge everyday. Wanted to go to Crystal River and take underwater pics of manatees now that our digital UW camera is back. But my partner wanted to sleep until late in the morning so I was almost a click away from deciding not going anywhere. Decided to check the Marine Weather Forecast, that last night had the water of the Intracoastal as choppy. To my surprise the forecast said smooth for today so to Haulover Canal we went. Had a heck of a day at one of my very favorites and finished with a walk at the Scrub Ridge Trail, where three Scrub Jays "ambushed" us.

Dolphin at the Indian River

Put In / Take Out: The put in, as well as the take out, is the area where we always use when we kayak at Haulover Canal. It is the end of a dirt road north and west of the draw bridge over the canal. There is no charge, so far, to use this area. Please check one of our previous posts on Haulover Canal for more information.

Roseate Spoonbill

Brown Pelican
We put in at 11AM at the waters of the Indian River, the west end of Haulover Canal. The waters were flat as a plate which was a nice thing to see. There were lots of kayakers putting in since an outfitter was in business. Also a lot of motorboat traffic in the canal and the river. It was almost perfect and I say almost because it was cloudy, which was not helping the pics. To make things worst wifey tried a few things (different settings) on the camera and we ended up deleting many of the pics. But a few survived so it was not a total waste of time. We were happy to be back in the water though. Has been a while since the last time which is because I have not the same amount of time I used to have to kayak and now have to be selective to make the most of it.

White Pelican

Once in the water we did what we usually do here; a tour around Mullet Head Island, a bird sanctuary. On our way there two pairs of dolphins decided to swim north and south from us. Most of the pics are from the pair to the north since all the pics of the ones to the south ended up in the trash can bin. But that was not the only dolphin encounter we had in the paddle. Haulover Canal dolphins were very active it was really hard not to spot them in the river. It was a shame the lighting was not the best to take the pics because it was great dolphin day. The water level is low and the marine mammals seemed to work harder to swim in the shallow waters. It made a little easier to guess where they were surfacing to breath because the ripples as they swam were visible. One thing that did not last too long was the smoothness of the water. A breeze from the north started hitting us so it went to smooth to light chop in almost zero time.

Brown Pelican and Cormorants at Mullet Head Island

Black Skimmer
We cannot came even close to the signs at around Mullet Head Island. It is so shallow that we ran aground several times. There was only one spot where we could take pics from at the north side of the island. Luckily Roseate Spoonbills were wading on that side and wifey, who loves them, had a few pics chances at the time. At the south side of Mullet Head we spotted Black Skimmers, which I am not sure we have seen at the area before. There were also Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls and what I think are Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones. Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons were nesting in the island as we were able to see them in the trees. Mullet Head Island is truly a bird sanctuary and nice place to visit. What is a real shame is the trash at the island shores.

Laughing Gull and Sandpipers at Mullet Head Island

Ruddy Turnstones in flight

Royal Tern at Bair's Cove
After finishing the tour around Mullet Head Island we headed back to the canal. This time we were facing a light chop and the paddle back, while it was not difficult, was a little bumpy. That did not make it easy for wifey to shoot pics at the pair of dolphins swimming near the entrance of the canal. After taking all the precautions to cross the main channel leading to Haulover Canal, it was really busy with motorboats, we paddled to Bair's Cove thru what is called Dolphin Cove. It is an alternate route south of the canal which comes very handy in days like this one, when all the boats in Central Florida seem to be in the area. We were hoping to see manatees at Bair's Cove but they were not there. Must still be in waters near springs in the St. Johns River.


Florida Scrub Jay
After Bair's Cove we decided to go back to the put in area. We did not want to paddle the canal with all the boat traffic we were seeing. But we did not want to end our day so agreed to visit the nearby Scrub Ridge Trail. A few months ago we tried that but did not go far because all the mosquitoes in the trail. The actual weather is not favorable for the mosquitoes and this time were not a problem. As we walked the trail hoping to see the Scrub Jay became discouraged when we saw nothing but an armadillo. Our van was visible from where we were when I spot one Scrub Jay in a branch ahead of us. Told wifey about it and she was not able to see it until it flew  and landed at the trail. Then another one came out, flew to a branch to my left and when I extended my index finger, just to see if it was going to fly to me, the Scrub Jay just did that. I was between surprised, excited, and scared(Were we harrasing them?) when the Scrub Jay flew to my index finger. It looked my hand, looked at me  and flew away. It had some tags in both its legs. Seemed that it was a rehab bird. Another Scrub Jay came out and we had three of them posing for pics. One on the left, one of the right, and one on front of us on the trail. It looked like an ambush and wifey and I laughed about that when I made the comment. Kidding aside, the Jays looked so used to humans and personally, while I think is good for pics, also think that cannot be good for them. Just my personal opinion.

Florida Scrub Jay

Florida Scrub Jay
Did You Know That? Individual members of the Florida Scrub Jay family take turns watching for hawks while the rest of the family looks for food. If danger is sensed the sentinel gives an alarm call and everybody dives for cover. A different call alerts the family about snakes and other dangers on the ground, what brings the family together to face the predator. It is believed that while the Florida Scrub Jay has adapted to eat peanuts, being the humans the main source of it, it is also true that this diet will cause them to breed before time and the chicks will die when the parent cannot supply the caterpillar and other bugs they need to survive. Also they will become very tame and will easily perch on a person's hand, arm, or head to get food. That explains why one of them flew to my index finger when I offered it. My bad and apologies for my behavior. I should have known better than that.

Florida Scrub Jay

After the experience on the Scrub Ridge Trail we were on our way out when saw a Gopher Tortoise. Took a couple of shots and left on our way to Black Point Wildlife Drive but realized we did not have any cash on us and the check book was at home so cut it short and decided to go home instead. Here are more pics of what we saw on Feb 18...

Red Shouldered Hawk

Dolphin and kayaker (play a Jaws music theme for dramatic effect here)

Dolphin at the Indian River

White Pelican


Roseate Spoonbill


Brown Pelican

Roseate Spoonbill

Black Skimmers

Dolphin at the Haulover Canal west end

Belted Kingsfiher

Great Egret at Bair's Cover

Dolphin and a fisherman at the take out area

Armadillo at Scrub Ridge Trail

Florida Scrub Jay

Scrub Jays share a bug

Scrub Jays. Ca you see the leg tags in the one to the right?

Florida Scrub Jay

Gopher Tortoise

I am adding a few more pics of another trip we made to Orlando Wetlands Park last Friday, Feb 17th. Was supposed to be a kayaking day but due to scheduling conflicts did settle for a two and a half hours walk at the park.

Little Blue Heron

Common Yellowthroat


Pine Warbler


Snake...Garden Snake?

Gator dashes to the water

Purple Gallinule


Green Heron


Little mean thing

Mottled Duck

Glossy Ibis

Black Bellied Whistling Duck

Sandhill Craned in flight

Blue Winged Teal

Red Shouldered Hawks


Red Bellied Woodpecker

This is it for this one. Here is the link for more pics from this and past trips at Haulover Canal. I still have to make another cut before downloading pics to the slideshow so give me a couple of days. Thanks for reading and see you soon on another Views From Our Kayak.

Haulover Canal (view from the Indian River end looking east)