Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Haulover Canal Lift Off !

May 31, 2008, Space Shuttle Discovery. My fourth time seeing a launch from the yak, first time since Dave's Yak Tales began in October, '07. A great day. I was in the water at 12:45. T minus 4 plus hours. I began by paddling into the Indian River from the launch site. I made my way north, then came back and headed to Mullet Head Island, storng east wind behind me. The forecast of 5-10 knot winds and a light chop was inaccurate.

I counted twenty one rosette spoonbills on the backside of Mullet Head Island. By far the most I have ever seen from my kayak. Very possible more than I have ever seen in one flock, anywhere. It's possible there were more, but their camoflague isn't to good, so I think I counted all within my line of sight.

Pelicans and cormorants also too advantage of the Refuge.



Fishing in the Canal was quite good.

The redfish was a bit too big for the dolphin shown between my yak and the second boat.

I traversed the Canal, entered the Mosquito Lagoon, gazed south to the distant launch pad. the went north, encoutering anothe dolphin and a manatee before seeking shelter behind a series of islands. Back to the Canal, to Bairs Cove. Four manatees taking it easy. I left as a large tour group came in, but not before telling a father and son where to look for manatees. I saw about ten all day. Here are a some great birds, egret and blue heron.

Additional avain sightings inclued blue heron, green heron and osprey. The most impressive bird was the Shuttle. Rising in a pillar of fire and smoke, thundering overhead

In two minutes, diaapperaing into the void of space.


A sampling of Shuttle aficionados. A small sample, there were more kayakers watching then I have seen in my three prior launches. Lots of folks must have viewed from land. Three plus hours after launch, traffic crawled from several miles east of the 50/ 520 merge, almost to the East West Expressway. The only downer to the day.

I also have a report on Green Wave.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chassahowitzka River

I spent Memorial Day, 2008 on the Chasahowitzka River and a few of its spring fed tributaries. I arrived relatively early, 9:00 am, and got one of the last two, car only spaces in the parking lot. As you can see, I saw manatees. Unlike Thursday on the Banana River, I was able to get pictures, underwater

and from the yak.

or, in the yak

The manatees (2) were in House Boat Spring. 5 other paddlers were in the small cove when I arrived. So was this blue heron.

I took the picture as I searched for a place to beach the yak. There are no good options. The last time I snorkeled House Boat Spring, I swamped the yak getting out. This time I merely sank thigh deep in organic matter. "One is headed towards you" , a paddler exclaimed. Sure enough, my commotion in getting out of the yak attracted one of the manatee. By the time I finally swam out, the paddlers had left. It was Dave and the manatees. I have never experienced such curious/playful/aggressive manatees. Locals say they are a mother and calf. I think the calf is ready to cut the apron strings, it is big. Momma is huge, near 10 feet long. They swam up to me, I swam away, they followed. I turned around, they did 360's in front of me.

I did not intentionally touch the manatees. They came in contact with me, bumping me, swimming face to face. To close for a good picture, unless you are interested in wrinkles.

The Save the Manatee Club advises observing manatees from a distance. Where was the Save the Human Club? Don't let the innocent face fool you.

I re-boarded the kayak, and the manatees continued their pursuit. This was not the first time my yak has been embraced by a manatee, but this was further up the yak and tighter than last summer in the Mosquito Lagoon. (pre Dave's Yak Tales).

I wondered if the flippers would flip me, but it never came to that.

Mom rolled over, I resisted the temptation to rub its belly, even though when we were both in the water, it tickled me with a flipper. Perhaps she was just looking for a manicure.

I left the Spring, and paddled down River. One of the many things I like about the Chass is it has so many channels, creeks, some spring fed, others not, that even on a holiday, there are secluded places. These flowers were on the a side channel, too shallow for motors, unless it is high tide. Plenty depth for kayaks, and alligators.

Before the channel, I passed Baird Creek, which I though would be crowded, as it is relatively close to the launch. I paddled a few miles to Crawford Creek, then up Blue Run.

A long section of Blue Run was very shallow, causing me to take apart my paddle and push upstream. Working up a sweat, I looked forward to a dip in Blue Run Spring.

I changed my mind after seeing this guy.

The alligator was breathing heavily. To attract a mate, or to force the algae off its snout, I don't know. I saw a raccoon on my way out of the Spring, and a lot of yellow crowned night herons.

Why aren't they called yellow crowned day herons ? Beats me. I often see bald eagles on the Chass, none today. I made my way up the Chass. Two manatees surfaced. I watched them come up a few times, glad to see they were well outside thw main channel where boats were zooming by. Paddling on, I reached Potter Creek, and made my way upstream.

A tri colored heron broke the yellow crowned dominance.

More winged critters.

Potter Creek flows from Potter Spring. At the back of Potter Spring is the narrow, shallow, twisting run

to Ruth Springs.

I saw something very unusual in Ruth Springs Run. People, the first I have encounterd in my 8 or so visits. Nice folks, brother and sister. Sister even said "Dave's Yak Tales" rang a bell. Brother offered me a beer. I declined- shocking, I know. Speaking of family,

I first was these guys, or rather heard them, on the left, west side of Potter Creek as I paddled upstream. 5 otters scurrying along the bank, getting in the water, back on the bank, before they swam across the Creek. They were still on that side when the photo was taken. The sharp teeth had just made quick work of a shrimp.

Here's another family.

I have two photos of this wood duck brood. This one, taken about 4:20 pm is much better than the 9:30 am shot.

An alligator kept me out of Blue Run Spring, deer flies prevented me from snorkeling Ruth Springs. I ended the day with a brief dip in the Solution Holes, diving down one hole and popping up another at two locations.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wekiva River

Sunday, May 25, 2008, Katies Landing to the St Johns River and back with a short peak at Blackwater Creek.

I was in the water at 8:15, just ahead of the gentlemen in the first picture. Adventure racers having a workout. I saw them again on their way back.

It was a great day for great blue herons.

Also tri colored, blue, green and yellow crowned, but you'll have to take my word for it. No pictures. Lotsa limpkins.

Limpkins were not the only animals pairing off.

The first four gators I saw were in pairs. May is the peak of mating season, perhaps they were courting.

I did not see an Ark. I did see kayaks, motorboats, pontoon boats, speed boats, the later two near the St Johns where the Wekiva is wider and deeper than it is upstream.

Last time I did this paddle, in January, I saw one alligator. Today, a dozen. Six on the Wekiva, in 6 hours, 6 on Blackwater Creek, one hour. This guy was in Blackwater.

Here is a less toothy reptile.

As stated above, I saw numerous great blue herons and limpkins, so here are two more pictures.

If you like birds, the Wekiva across from Katies Landing is a great spot. Herons, egrets, ibis abound in the long grasses. I can't recall seeing a wood stork on the Wekiva since 2005. This one was across from Katies as I landed.

During my 7 hours on the water, I also saw osprey, anhingas, pileated woodpeckers, wood ducks and belted kingfishers. Finished they day walking 2.1 mile Sandhill Trail at nearby Lower Wekiva Preserve, 90% of the paddle is in the Preserve.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Econlockhatchee River

I got out on the Econlockhatchee River this afternoon, Saturday, May 24, 2008. 12:45 pm start, after working in the morning- the trade off for paddling the Banana River Thursday afternoon.

I put in at the Snow Hill Road Bridge, paddled upstream until 3:15, then turned around. The forecast called for rain, 60% chance. I stayed dry upstream, got wet on the way back, light rain, a few heavier patches, not continuous and no thunder. Classic "scattered showers", getting rained on, but still needing sunglasses.

I saw six other paddlers. More people biking the trail along the River, or just splashing in the water, or fishing. But, I had a good hour or more with no other people. Saw four alligators.

The first one, not the above photo was in an area where two very large gators hang out. They were not in their usual spot. As I paddled past, a big gator slid into the Econ from the opposite, shady bank. It was hot, so hot even the gators were staying out of the sun.

The white object on the anhinga's beak is a fish. Enlarge the photo for a better view. Additional avian sightings were tricolored heron, limpkins, wood ducks, osprey, red shouldered hawks, belted kingfishers, cardinals, blue herons,


and great blue heron.

Thanks to little rain since early April, the Econ is low. Lots of sandy banks to stop and take a break. I landed after turning around. Walking about, I saw what looked like leg bones. A little bit up a low bluff, the rest of the skeleton.

More leg bones, a rib cage, I thought deer, but a close look at the flat skull, top of next photo,

made me conclude it is an alligator skeleton. Looks like these guys did their job.

Some Econ scenics

I returned to Snow Hill Road shortly past 6. Two law enforcement officers were asking a father and son in a canoe where their life jackets were. They had none, and got off with a warning. Last Sunday, at Wekiwa Springs, a DEP officer was inquiring about life jackets. I like the law enforcement presence (must be showing my age).

Another fine day on the water, even though I did not see any of the bald eagles I often spot along the Econlockhatchee River