Archive for April 22nd, 2010

April 22, 2010

Another 38 In The Bag

We headed out this morning to a favorite spot of mine on the Banana River branch of the IRL system, Kelly Park on Merritt Island.  Its not a particularly secluded or wild area.  If anything it’s rather highly manicured.  But of all the teaching spots I experienced while conducting field trips this place never failed to produce miracles in the form of visiting dolphin pods, wandering manatees, pelicans, spoonbills, herons, and fascinating fish finds like the day we had a absolute landslide of seahorses show up in the seine nets.

Because it is so highly accessible it is also absolutely unengulfed in debris and trash.  (This is the same place where we pulled a police officer’s badge from the water afterall.)

Of the various finds and selections from the total thirty-eight, these are  worth honorable mention:

  • Heavily encrusted and fouled seat cushions from a boat (which had obviously been out there awhile)
  • Hannah Montana Wig
  • Two large orange net bags used for citrus fruits
  • Small sample squares of carpet
  • Compact flourescent bulb (oh the irony)
  • Balloons and ribbons galore
  • Many dozens of feet of monofilament enwrapped around the mangroves and which took a good hour to cut free

Also of particular mention today?  A feeding group of dolphin – probably a nursery pod judging from the various sizes of the dorsal fins present – chasing mullet inshore.   A dead sea turtle carcass that I called in for removal (the smell was outofsight awful).  And a snake.

In fact the snake gets his own paragraph. In between the edge of the lagoon and the beginnings of the mangrove stands at Kelly Park there is one small rivulet where freshwater from the roads above drains down.  Unless it is actively raining or we’re experiencing a very high tidal force, the two little bodies of water do not really meet, although they are all of twelve feet apart.  On one side we have the well flushed and oxygenated lagoon and on the other a tea-colored and tannin-stained back pool of saltwater full of leaves and debris and tiny killifish, sailfin mollies, and countless water boatmen.

I was at first keenly interested in the fish so I crouched down to watch them and waited a good ten minutes for their initial “ahhhhh its a heron, run!!” reaction to my shadow to be forgotten.  They picked between the macroalgae stands and the mangrove leaves and the male mollies displayed their gigantic orange dorsals to the females and flexed their masculine prowess.  I glanced back at the lagoon for a moment, and stood up in shock as I caught sight of a smooth dark s-curving line cutting through the surface of the water hardly three feet off the beach.  The dark head was held just above the surface as the wavelets rolled in and the tail swung effortlessly side to side to propel the animal forward.

I admit, I sort of freaked out. In all my time exploring the lagoon I have never run across any snakes actively swimming in the water.  My curiosity got the better of me and I followed him as he swam past, keeping back just a few feet, trying to get a good look at his body coloration and pattern so I could identify him later.  Blotches and bands were broken up in colors of alternating shades, but it didn’t seem too intensely colored, and I couldn’t think of any other venomous varieties in Florida outside of the coral snake.  Red on yellow, red on yellow.  Nope, not sure I see that.

He dove three or four times, annoyed at my presence and probably wondering if I was stalking him for food.   I have since decided I probably saw an Atlantic Saltmarsh snake, a non venomous species that is currently listed as Threatened, primarily due to habitat loss.

Ah, Kelly Park.  You are always an adventure.