This spear fisherman is a Anhinga. They are a pretty common sight on our kayak and SUP tours in St Augustine. The Anhinga does not have oil glands for waterproofing like most most water birds. When they go swimming their feathers get wet. This helps them dive and chase fish under water, however above water they must spread their wings to dry in the sun. They can fly with wet wings, just not as well. They spear their fish with their long neck and sharp bill, like an arrow shot from a bow and flip it into the air and swallow it head first. The size of the fish eaten ranges from small to unbelievable.
Other common names are water turkey because of their long tail, snake bird because they surface on the water with just their long neck above water, and darter because of their swimming agility. Florida Wildlife
The Black Crowned Night Heron is very common world wide however, rare in Florida. We caught this guy hanging out on one of our kayak tours in Silver Springs. As you can tell he is a bit shy. Like his name implies, this heron works at night, thus avoiding traffic jams with other birds who might be fishing in the same territory. This is the first time I have seen this bird in the wild.
Black-crowned Night Heron nest in groups that often include other species, including herons, egrets, and ibises. A breeding Black-crowned Night-Heron will brood any chick that is placed in its nest. The herons apparently don’t distinguish between their own offspring and nestlings from other parents. The oldest Black-crowned Night-Heron on record was 21 years, 1 month old.
Horseshoe crabs are marine inveterate’s that live primarily in and around shallow ocean waters in muddy bottoms or on soft sandy areas. They occasionally come into shore along the beaches and waters of St Augustine. They are commonly used as bait and in fertilizer. In recent years, a decline in the population has occurred as a consequence of coastal habitat destruction in Japan and over harvesting along the east coast of North America. Because of their origin 450 million years ago, horseshoe crabs are considered livings fossils.
During the breeding season, horseshoe crabs migrate to shallow coastal waters. We caught theses two in front of the St Augustine Lighthouse in the Salt Run at the beginning of our kayak tour. A male selects a female and clings to her back. The female digs a hole in the sand and lays her eggs while the male fertilizes them. The female can lay between 60,000 and 120,000 eggs in batches of a few thousand at a time. Shore birds eat many of the eggs before they hatch. The eggs take about two weeks to hatch. The larvae molt six times during the first year. Florida Wildlife
This is a Purple Gallinule and is one of the most beautiful birds in the world. We found this guy on one of our St Augustine backwater kayak tours in Snake Creek. It has the intense bluish purple of a peacock on it’s chest and a light blue shield on it’s forehead. It’s legs are bright yellow with extremely large feet which allow it to walk on lily pads and other plants in search of an insect lunch. The Purple Gallinule is a rare and exciting find in this neck of the woods.
This white beauty is a Great White Egret. We see theses magnificent birds on almost every kayak tour we do in St Augustine. We caught this one lounging in the Anastasia State Park. The long feathers growing on it’s back are Aigrettes. Aigrettes are Great Egrets breeding plumage. The plumes grow from the upper back of the bird and are not tail feathers. Around the turn of the century the egrets were hunted for their plumes, for the fashion industry, mainly lady’s hats. Hundreds of thousands of birds were killed in Florida. The most efficient technique was to shoot them in their nest. This resulted in the death of the babies and unhatched eggs as well. Extinction of many waterbird species was a real threat until federal legislation combined with private pressure turned the tide. Florida Wildlife
Like other sea turtles, green sea turtles migrate long distances between feeding grounds and hatching beaches. Many islands worldwide are known as Turtle Island due to green sea turtles nesting on their beaches. Females crawl out on beaches, dig nests and lay eggs during the night. Later, hatchlings emerge and scramble into the water. Those that reach maturity may live to eighty years in the wild.