Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I finally sat down this morning to do a quick recap of our recent Florida trip.  I had about an hour before a meeting and I figured it wouldn't be hard at all. The only thing I needed to research before writing it, was the identity of this cute little crab we found on a St. Augustine beach:

One hour of research later, and 6 hours from my initial attempt to post, I'm happy to say that the crab is either a Mottled Sponge Purse Crab or just a Mottled Purse Crab. I gave up on Google trying to discover the difference between the two.

And, speaking of Googling crabs, let me just state what might be fairly obvious, but I hadn't thought of: 1) adding "salt water" to the search helps get rid of results on crabs you don't want to know about (yikies!) and  2) there are apparently quite a few "spider" crabs out there - both crabs that look like spiders, and spiders that are called crabs. For someone terrified of spiders, this is not a pleasant search. (check back Friday for fun spider phobia post)

On that same beach we found dozens of these red starfish.  They ranged in size from 1.5" across to 6." And no, I've not tried Googling its identity yet.

After 2 days of St. Augustine we experienced one of the highlights of our trip: the Discovery launch.

What an amazing experience! I'd never attended a launch before, we actually just happened to be over in the area and drove down that day, much to the amazement of nearly everyone we talked to in Titusville, many of whom had camped out for weeks during the initial launch period, and had attempted to see several other shuttle launches, only to have them postponed. Apparently we are quite fortunate to have seen a launch on our first try.

Being outdoorsy people, we spent every day on or near the water. We stayed in Crystal River, which is aptly named "The Nature Coast." We kayaked several times, fished in the Gulf (caught Spanish mackerel and spotted sea trout), shelled at Caladesi Island and enjoyed watching the manatees, dolphins, otters and other critters off our tidal river dock.

The Atlantic Coast is quite different from the Gulf, and the coastal Gulf areas are very different than the coastal tidal areas. It was fascinating to see three different habitats and have a chance to explore them all.

I tried to snap some photos of the American Oystercatchers on Caladesi, but we just had our cheap snappy camera with us and it didn't grab the focus very well. I love how cartoonish the bird's appearance is and watching them pull up the little "butterfly" clams between the incoming waves is great fun.

Other bird highlights included Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons and my first glimpse of immature White Ibises - I had no idea they were brown!

Wish the photo had turned out better, but managing a camera while kayaking on coastal waters is a skill I've yet to develop. (note to oneself: spend more time kayaking!)

The other really cool bird experience was watching a cormorant try to manage a very large fish. It actually speared the fish through the gills with its upper and lower bill.

Check back Friday for an ID on the starfish and more about spider phobias!

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