Nesting Crabs and Hooked Pelicans

Every once in a while I get a chance to share my love of the lagoon with someone who can really appreciate it.. but for one reason or another has not yet been able to really experience it.  A good friend of mine, Eric, decided to meet up with me today along with his lovely lady Diana in order to do a little scouting and collecting in the grass beds on the Banana River.  We weren’t disappointed in the least.

While the high winds made my trash collections almost impossible I was able to retrieve another eight pounds of various flotsam.  The oncoming waves also brought in hundreds of pounds of fragmented seagrasses and macroalage – including Sargassum piles the size of volleyballs.  When we put the piles into buckets and shook them furiously the water revealed arrow shrimp, porcelain crabs, mangrove crabs, emerald crabs, lesser blue crabs, seagrass gobies, grass shrimp, and a number of “GROSS!”-inducing worms.

I’m no stranger to gross things. Afterall last week I attempted to pick up squishy dark green manatee poop and then had a discussion with friends about its potential as a spa facial treatment.  However, 3 inch long red undulating worms with roving proboscis are not my favorite things.

Along with the high wind, the warm temperature, and the beautiful bright blue sky, we were able to witness no less than nine pairs of horseshoe crabs attempting to nest in the rather furious surf conditions on the beachline.  It’s the same strange story I’ve seen unfold with the IRL crabs at other locations:  they’re nesting during the day, in small numbers, with very few satellite males in the area.  Stranger still, I never find any floating blue-green eggs from the crabs.  If they’re successfully nesting they must be burying the eggs so deep they defy the power of the waves and do not come up to the surface.

Either that or the wave action is so swift I dont have a chance to even see loosened eggs dribble away from the nests.

One of the few males I found today without a partner hitched to him already had tremendous growths of barnacles over his carapace, especially right near his eyes.  One of the barnacles had broken off – but before it did it’s location definitely impeded the poor crab’s vision.. it was right in front of his left eye.  Can you imagine having something slowly grow on you that, week by week, builds up into a veritable mountain that you can no longer see around?

Looking up there was more to see of course.  Not only are the ospreys nesting but they hung on the high velocity wind just over our heads for awhile.  The female was in normal flight position but the male had actually extended his legs and talons like landing gear as he was still gliding.  I’m not sure if he was preparing to drop down to grab a fish or if he was using his legs almost like an extra keel to stabilize himself in the tremendous air flow.  Curious.

Also spotted while looking up? A lovely trio of bright pink spoonbills and just a few moments later a brown pelican.  Spoonbills aren’t nearly as common as the pelicans at this spot, but it was the pelican that really grabbed my attention.  He had a length of fishing tackle and monofilament hanging from his bill that flashed silver in the sunlight.  I did call him in later to the local rescue group, but I dont have high hopes that they’ll be able to locate him very easily.  Sigh.  Maybe we should think positive thoughts and hope he can find a way to pry himself free of the hooks that must be imbedded into his gular pouch.  I just hope he can still feed until someone is able to help him out.

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