Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Haulover Canal

Living in Florida, I am fortunate to see a wide variety of wildlife. A while back, I named eight animals "Florida Icons". They are alligator, manatee, otter, deer, bear, bald eagle, dolphin and rosette spoonbill. This morning, Sunday, December 27, 2009, I Check Spellingrealized I had seen the first 6 the first 3 days of my long Christmas weekend. I figured Haulover Canal would provide dolphins and manatees. It did.

I have an expanded "icons" list as I think the original is to short. It adds white pelican, fox, beaver, bobcat, manta rays and sharks. All creatures I have see while, or just before or after kayaking. Plus some rare animals I have not seen, but hope to someday, panthers and right whales. I saw lots of white pelicans today.
And a bobcat crossing State Road 3 as I came across the drawbridge on the way home. After a stop for yet another Florida Icon on my ever expanding list, a scrub jay.
Speaking of adding, I'll see if I can add more to this Tale. I have a lot more photos. But I need to go back to my lost Chassahowitzka post. Not to mention its a short week. And of course, I may do a mid week paddle before my late work day. Tuesday, this week. So much kayaking, so little time to share it. It is now Wednesday, I did not kayak yesterday, but did complete the Chass Tale. Sunday, I started my Haulover yak in the usual way, paddling to Mullet Head Island.

Quite the concentration of birds at Mullet Head. Appropriate for a bird sanctuary. Dolphins, too.

Back to the Canal area.

As I drove to the launch, I saw that the road to the Manatee Overlook, on the other side of State Road 3, was closed. The overlook was not there as I paddled past.

Normally, a wood platform and railings are on top of the rocks. Has to be some project going on. There is. Closed for repairs to mid January. For some reason I can't cut and paste the item from the Merritt Island Refuge website. It suggests going to Bairs Cove. But you already knew that. Unless you are a first time visitor to Dave's Yak Tales. If so, welcome. I did not see any manatees. To cool. When I landed, a gentlemen said one swam by his kayak.

There were birds in Bairs Cove

Dolphins, and a white pelican overflight, at the mouth of the Canal, Indian River side, as I landed.

Nice way to end the day, and the last paddle of 2009.

I mean, final Tale/Tail

I do have to report criminal activity. Dumb fockers trying to feed scrub jays on the Scrub Jay Trail. "I think its illegal to feed wildlife" (I know it is) "They feed them" "You follow the example of dumb people, that's good" I should have said- GO READ THE SIGN YOU DUMB FOCKERS!!!!! If I ever get a cell phone, I'm putting the Fish and Wildlife Commission on speed dial.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Saturday, December 26, 2009, after seeing bears, deers, otters and alligators during my Seminole State Forest kayak camping trip, I decided to venture to a place where I might see manatees, dolphins and bald eagles. I had not been to Chassahowitzka for a while, so that's where I went. Driving west on Highway 50, "Fly Like an Eagle" came on the radio. A sign? Not this sign, taken just after launch from the Chassahowitzka Campground boat ramp at 9:30. There has been a price increase for parking, from $2.12 to 3.00. It was cool, 50 degrees as I made my way down the Chassahowitzka River. I paused at a cove, River left, just before Baird Creek. There is a spring here, lots of mangrove snapper, the occasional otter, and manatees.
I considered viewing them from in the water, but decided it would be better to wait until I returned in the afternoon, when it would be warmer, and I'd have a short paddle back to the launch. So, I observed the trio from the yak, before I moved on to Baird Creek.

Up the shallow water way, in one grassy section not much wider than my kayak, to Baird Blue Spring. Watched the circling mullet before heading up the narrow run at the back of the spring towards the Crack spring. I did not make it to the Crack. Did not want to get my feet wet walking the final 25 yards.
So, I turned around. Down the run, across Baird Blue Spring, down Creek back to the Chass.

Paddled across the River and to the left of a three island chain. Out of the boat channel, not that there was much traffic.

The divided River rejoins, and a few homes, raised high, with long piers for tidal flooding, appear on both banks. A manatee swam very near my kayak. I did not see it, just the double circle of its wake. Nearby, an alligator floated.
The homes end as the River enters the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. I paddled towards Crawford Creek, as I often see bald eagles near its confluence with the Chas. Nearing the Creek, a large bird perched on a shorn palm on my left. To far for me to distinguish eagle, osprey, or vulture. I ventured a short way up Crawford for a different, perhaps better view, but was unable to see it. Back in the Chas, I saw a large bird across the River. Another spot where I've seen eagles. So off I went. But first, the second belted kingfisher of the day.
The large bird was a bald eagle. I was able to paddle up a tidal creek for a better look
The creek cuts through a salt marsh, connects with another braid of the Chas, which can be taken to Dog Island. But I still had to see a dolphin, and there would be none in this shallow waterway. So I turned back, to the main channel and approached the Dog Island Rest Area. No rest for me. To much work, and danger of capsizing, getting in and out of the yak at the high dock. It was noon, a good time to turn around and find someplace for lunch. Back to Crawford Creek, a bald eagle at its mouth.
I wonder if it was the same eagle I'd seen across the River. As it, or a different eagle had earlier, it flew off after I got a few photos. I landed the kayak on the mud exposed by the tide, looked up, and saw a second eagle. It must have been blocked by a tree as I was looking at the other, they had been very close together.This eagle also flew off, but only to the perch vacated by its partner.
This eagle remained in its new aerie as I stood, one foot in the mud, one in the yak so not to sink to deep in the former, to pee. Seated, I got a ham sandwich from the cooler. Ate it, and took more photos.
The eagle remained as long as I did. I pushed away from shore. Looked up, the eagle was gone. I resumed my up River paddle. Passing the tree I saw on the way down the Chass, I saw now it definitely held a bald eagle. I kept my hopes up that I'd spot a dolphin, but was not so lucky. But,as usual, there was plenty of bird life.

I entered Potter Creek, on my left as I paddled up the Chas, and went the length of that spring fed creek.

Twice, a young bald eagle launched from a tree before I was aware of its presence. The third time was the charm.

I arrived at Potter Spring. The run from Ruth Spring flows into Potter Creek. I think it is one of most beautiful places I paddle.

Back to Potter Creek, where like Baird Creek earlier in the day, I saw no one.
Back on the Chass, a few power boats and a single kayaker as I entered the less traveled channel at the island chain.

With the herons, storks and hawks I heard crunching noises from shore. Having seen otters here before, I thought they must have some hard shells. But the noise was not otters, it was pigs. I can go months without getting a photo of a belted kingfisher, a bird I see 95% of the time I'm on the water. Today, I captured three.
It did get warmer as the day went on. But not much, 58 degrees for the high. I paddled past the spring that had manatees in the morning. About 8 canoes and kayaks were there. Not the people to manatee ratio I like. So, I paddled towards the launch, figuring the crowd would eventually leave and I'd come back. I peaked back, and the group was leaving. I reversed course and made my way to the spring. Two paddlers were there, but they left. I had the spring to myself. It was cool, but I took advantage of the opporuntity. Wewdged the yak in the muddy shore. Not firm footing. I found a log to sit and stand on as I put the snorkel gear on. I dove in, swimmming through cloudy water, thanks to me stirring it up. It was cool on the service, so I dove deeper, to the warmer water coming from the spring. The water cleared, and, boom! I was with the manatees.
One was very interested in me. I swam away trying to give it space.

The manatee had no aversion to crowding me. It took effort not to touch it. There were four manatees in the spring.

I wasn't in the water more then ten minutes. After I got out, I saw something for the first time. Manatee snot, as one of them blew his nose in my direction.

I began the day hoping to see manatees, dolphins and alligators. As Meatloaf sang, two out of three ain't bad.