Apalachicola: Day 3

When I woke up on Monday, I found an email from reader Tara Tanaka, whose wildlife videos have often graced this site (go here to see all the posts containing her contributions). It turned out that on Monday, Tara, who lives in Tallahassee with her husband Jim (former Head Naturalist of the Florida state park system), woke up at 5 a.m., planning a birding trip to St. George Island near here, and saw, on her weekly summary of WEIT posts, that I was in Apalachicola. We arranged to meet at a birding site on the 28-mile-long barrier island.

Tara and Jim were there because her online birder network told her that a). the weather would be nice and b). the migratory songbirds were moving north across the Gulf of Mexico (a trip they make in one night) and would be found on St. George, resting and eating after their long flight.

At the birding park (“Youth Camp”) on the island, we found many birders watching rarely seen migrants. In this place birding was like theology: there were more students than objects of study:

After a bit of a search, we found Jim, Tara, and her famous digiscope. (She won that expensive Swarovski digiscope in a photography contest, which she won so often that they finally made her a judge to give other people a chance.) She can take both video and photos, and had just made a video of a scarlet tanager.

Tara in action:

I had only my small point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix, so I did the best I could with that. Tara will, she says, be furnishing us with photos and videos she took on Monday.

A silhouetted bird; I’ll leave it for readers to identify (I do know what it is):

What do you suppose this is?

Eastern Wood-Peewee (Contopus virens):

A bad picture of what I think is the Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus; formerly the rufous-sided towhee):

One of the birds Tara came to the island to film: a gorgeous male Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea; females are a greenish-yellow):

Tara and Jim:

We then headed for the nearly deserted white sand beach that rings the island. Here are some patterns in the receding waves:

A crab pot with several captures:

The shore is lined with signs telling you how to protect the birds. Some appear to have been made by school children:

I’m not quite sure about this one, but I suppose it means that if humans attract gulls to the island with food, they’ll also eat the snowy plover chicks:

A Willet (Tringa semipalmata):

A laughing gull, (Leucophaeus atricilla):

A magnificent Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias):

The deserted white-sand beach: too windy for sunbathing or fishing:

And a selfie of me with Tara (actually taken by John Willis). Tara’s Vimeo page, with all her great videos, is here, and the Flickr site with her photos is here. We’ll have at least two new-ish videos from Tara later today.

Finally, arriving back in Apalachicola, famished from an absence of lunch, we had a lovely dinner at a local place, Papa Joe’s Oyster Bar & Grill. There’s nothing fancy here; the decor is minimal except for the stuffed marlin (see below), but the seafood is superb and the prices lower than the tourist joints.

Here’s a big Atlantic blue marlin (Makaira nigricans) caught offshore a while back. In this species females are much larger than males, can weigh nearly 2,000 pounds, and be up to 5 meters (16 feet) long. The waitress told us this one was paraded through downtown after it was brought back on the boat:

Dinner: a dozen oysters, even better than the ones we had the other day (more texture and more of the flavor of the sea), followed by a substantial oyster po-boy (sandwich).

And The Boys couldn’t resist a short bout of postprandial casting off the nearby dock. Nothing was biting, but a Great Blue Heron, standing sentinel over the water, bid us goodnight.

60 Comments

  1. jorgensen28ryan
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    It looks like the silhouetted bird is an Osprey.

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      As in, let osprey?

      • rickflick
        Posted April 18, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        Ya. Bowyerheadsn’…

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Ah, I realize people are guessing the first bird–the silhouetted one. Yes, it’s an osprey, identified on the spot by experts.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 18, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      The “eagle of the sea.” Here in the Keys, they build their nests atop telephone polls.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 18, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        “poles”

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Agree

  2. Colin
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Yes, Osprey. Other bird appears to be a Bald Eagle.

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Agree, both

    • darrelle
      Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Yep on both.

  3. Posted April 18, 2018 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Why is it no longer rufous-sided? Looks pretty rufous-sided to me! 🙂

    • rickflick
      Posted April 18, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      I think there’s a rule in bird naming, something like: when enough people have finally learned the name of a bird it gets changed.

      • Diane G.
        Posted April 19, 2018 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        Lol! Sometimes seems that way, doesn’t it?

    • jaxkayaker
      Posted April 18, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Bird species have standardized common names. The rufous-sided towhee was determined to be more than one species, so it was split up, with some of the new species receiving new official common names as well as new species (Latin) names.

      • Diane G.
        Posted April 19, 2018 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

        Yep. Eastern (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), in the east, Spotted (P. maculatus) in the west.

    • Pete Moulton
      Posted April 21, 2018 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      The name change came about because the former “Rufous-sided Towhee” was found to comprise two genetically separate lineages, one eastern and the other western, both of which have strongly rufous sides. In fact, they don’t differ much phenotypically, which is how they got considered conspecific by the old-time ornithologists.

      According to the principle of priority, the eastern bird, which was named long before ornithologists even knew of the western form, would retain the name originally given, and the newly elevated form would get a different, and hopefully more accurately descriptive, name. This is a hard and fast rule with scientific names, which are the only official names, but the AOS applies it more unevenly with the vernacular names. So the quondam “Rufous-sided Towhee” became the Eastern Towhee and the Spotted Towhee. Should PCC-E see some of the western birds in the oak woodlands in SW New Mexico, he’ll get to add a new species to his life list.

  4. Posted April 18, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Awesome! I do spot some “L” lenses in the first picture. Are those a pair of Canon 100-400mm? Beautiful! Simply gorgeous!

  5. glen1davidson
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Audubon Florida–trying to save all of the smiley-faced baby birds.

    Glen Davidson

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    The sand on those white beaches along the Redneck Riviera is the consistency of confectioner’s sugar; it squeaks underfoot as you walk.

  7. Posted April 18, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Mouth watering oyster dishes. I am envious. And what an excellent heron pic. Majestic.

  8. BJ
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Wait, so Swarovski, the company known for its crystal, has a whole subsidiary devoted to cameras? That’s crazy. I wonder how that happened and how many other types of products they produce. I’m genuinely curious, so if anyone knows of others, post them. I guess I can see how they might have arrived at cameras, with the making of fine lenses and whatnot.

    Anyway, seems like a lovely trip. I wish I was in Florida right now, though I would be staying at a fancy hotel, loafing on the beach, riding jetskis, having drinks by the pool, and getting massages at the spa.

    • BJ
      Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Holy hell, that marlin is enormous! The people who caught that will be local heroes until the day they die. I bet they still tell the story every time one of them goes to a bar. “Hey, I’m the guy who caught that absurdly huge marlin.”

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 18, 2018 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        “The people who caught that will be local heroes until the day they die.”

        So thought Santiago, the titular character of The Old Man and the Sea. 🙂

        • BJ
          Posted April 18, 2018 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

          “His hope and his confidence had never gone. But now they were freshening as when one sees a huge fucking marlin and thinks, ‘oh man, by bros will be so stoked if I catch THAT.'”

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Not just cameras but really nice tiny binoculars, 8X and clear as a bell. Tara has some of those around her neck–I think she also won them.

      • BJ
        Posted April 18, 2018 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        I’m actually in the market for some new binoculars, so I’ll take a look. Thanks.

        • Posted April 18, 2018 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

          If you look at reviews, I think you’ll be impressed, however they’re one of the most expensive brands. I believe they’ve been in the optics market longer than most.

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      They don’t make cameras, but they do make some of the best, if not THE best, optics on the planet. http://www.swarovskioptik.com

      I didn’t know they made crystal until long after I started using their optics.

      • BJ
        Posted April 18, 2018 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        Ah, I see. I clicked on the website, saw cameras, and read “Optik,” so I just assumed. It’s fascinating that they ever entered that market, though.

        Perhaps TVs and bongs are next.

      • BJ
        Posted April 18, 2018 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        By the way, your photos are just magnificent. So vibrant!

      • Pete Moulton
        Posted April 21, 2018 at 7:14 am | Permalink

        I guess we know your priorities, Tara! LOL But like you, I knew a lot about their optical excellence long before I ever learned that they also make crystal.

        No, Swarovski doesn’t make cameras, as far as I know, but they do make wonderful spotting scopes, which in turn make excellent lenses for digiscoping. Their binoculars have been world-class for quite awhile.

        • Posted April 21, 2018 at 7:30 am | Permalink

          You’re right, although Swarovski has sent me three crystals over the years for participating on the jury for the Digiscoper of the Year Contest that I treasure. I hesitated to say that Swarovski makes the best optics, but I believe they do.

  9. Monika
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Ornithomaniacs in preying position! 😉 Great photos!

  10. Posted April 18, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Great fun! Thanks for sharing these!

    Scarlet Tanager! Lucky you!

  11. darrelle
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Tara produces great videos. One of her 1st that Jerry posted here, Big Red, is still my favorite.

    Shortly after my daughter and I saw that video (month or two if I recall, maybe longer) my daughter came across a Reddish Egret at Sebastian inlet and got some good pictures of it. She was thrilled (me too). This was really interesting because Sebastian inlet is just outside of the normal range of the Reddish Egret, at least according to what we found on the internet. A park ranger told us that just in the past couple of years they have seen a small number of them there at certain times of the year.

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much Darrelle! I had just gotten my first GH4 two days before that trip, and didn’t even know it had slow-motion capability until the night before when I saw someone on the web talking about it. I think it’s still one of my favorite videos I’ve ever shot too. I’d like to think that seeing the Reddish Egret meant more to your daughter having seen Big Red in action. Birding creates bonds between generations that last a lifetime.

      • darrelle
        Posted April 18, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        Tara,

        Oh, it absolutely did mean more to my daughter having seen Big Red. She prides herself in being able to identify most wildlife in our area, but she had never heard of a Reddish Egret before (none in our area) before seeing your Big Red video. She was very excited to see one at Sebastian.

        She was very much into wildlife photography at the time. She had previously won (2015, age 11) 1st & 2nd place in the Cameron Bespolka Young Birders Photography Contest, the minors’ division of the annual Florida Bird and Photo Festival. Needless to say your videos, Big Red in particular, excited her.

        • Posted April 18, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

          That means a lot to me! Congratulations to her for winning 1st AND 2nd place. If she doesn’t know about it, please tell her to enter Nature’s Best Photography’s “Windland Awards” next year – it just recently closed for this year. They have a youth division, and winners and “highly honored” photographers are invited to the awards ceremony, usually in November, at the Smithsonian in D.C. Those photos are printed and displayed in the museum for a year, and then go on tour. Every year they make awards videos which I know you’d both enjoy seeing: https://www.youtube.com/user/NBPAdmin A short clip of Big Red was in one year’s, and I’ve had clips included the last few years, and they even included one of me digiscoping in the swamp in this year’s. The video plays on two big screens as part of the exhibition in the museum. It’s very exciting that she’s starting so early and has such great family support.

          Tara

          • darrelle
            Posted April 19, 2018 at 7:44 am | Permalink

            Thank you for the kind words. And thank you also for the lead on the Windland Awards event.

            • Posted April 19, 2018 at 8:04 am | Permalink

              You’re welcome. I’d love to see her photos if you’d post a link.

              • darrelle
                Posted April 19, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

                Here we go! Here are links to some albums I have of her pics on Google +.

                Sebastian Inlet 06-18-16

                4/26/17

                2015 Young Birders Contest Entries The Tricolor Heron took 1st place and, if I remember correctly it was the Great Egret that took 2nd. Looking around the internet for pictures I just found that the Tricolor Heron picture graces the top of the page for the 2018 contest! (Florida’s Birding and Photo Fest
                St. Augustine, Florida
                ) Not the best quality image though.

                And one last link, to one of Jerry’s Reader’s wildlife pictures from 2015. 4 of Brianna’s pictures are posted in the middle of the batch.

                Readers’ wildlife photos

                Thank you for the interest Tara!

              • darrelle
                Posted April 19, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

                Hmmm. I posted a single comment with multiple links forgetting it would automatically go to moderation. I’ll break it up.

                Here we go! The following are links to some albums I have of her pics on Google +.

                Sebastian Inlet 06-18-16

              • darrelle
                Posted April 19, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

                A few miscellaneous pics from around the area we live.

                4/26/17

              • darrelle
                Posted April 19, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

                2015 Young Birders Contest Entries

                The Tricolor Heron took 1st place and, if I remember correctly it was the Great Egret that took 2nd. Looking around the internet for pictures I just found that the Tricolor Heron picture graces the top of the page for the 2018 contest! (Florida’s Birding and Photo Fest
                St. Augustine, Florida)

              • darrelle
                Posted April 19, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

                And one last link, to one of Jerry’s Reader’s wildlife pictures from 2015. 4 of Brianna’s pictures are posted in the middle of the batch.

                Readers’ wildlife photos

                Thank you for the interest Tara!

              • Posted April 19, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

                Thank you so much for sending these links – she is certainly talented, and as Jerry noted in the 2015 post, she had a wonderful eye! I especially loved the close-up B&W Brown Pelican. If she doesn’t already, I would suggest that she follow Melissa Groo, who besides being an excellent award-winning photographer, has a daughter who is about Brianna’s age.

              • darrelle
                Posted April 20, 2018 at 8:37 am | Permalink

                Thank you Tara! The close up of the Brown Pelican is a favorite of mine too, both the B&W and the color.

                Thanks for recommending Melissa Groo, we’ll definitely take a look.

  12. Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    What a fascinating place – different enough to be fun, same enough to be familiar in a bizarre way.

    (And no swimming yet? :))

  13. Mark Cagnetta
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Vice News did a piece on Apalachicola last night. Climate change is pushing the salt water into the fresh water river. Oyster men are pulling in sea urchins where they never had before. It’s putting a lot of them out of business.

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      I’ll have to check that out On Demand – thanks very much for the heads up!

  14. Christopher
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    In defense of gulls, their numbers are declining worldwide. In the U.K., where a Tory MP went on a tirade against them for stealing food and pooping on things, actually called for farmers and other armed citizens to act as gull vigilantes and shoot them! This, in spite of their 50% population decline! Sea gulls need protection FROM people and not the other way around. There may be times when their population can harm other threatened or endangered species but we should of be treating them like public enemy no. 1 for being what they are.

    • Posted April 19, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      I wonder where they are declining? Never seems to be a shortage of them where ever there is enough water (fresh or salt).

  15. Posted April 18, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    The po-boy looks delicious

  16. Mark R.
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Dinner: a dozen oysters…

    They must like you, as your offering was a baker’s dozen. My ocd always compels me to count.

  17. Andrea Kenner
    Posted April 19, 2018 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    What a fantastic day! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  18. Posted April 19, 2018 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    It was very special to get to meet Jerry. I hadn’t been to St. George in a couple of years, and just happened to check my email at 3:30am and saw my Weekly Digest email with a subject of “Apalachicola”. I couldn’t believe the coincidence! For those of you who haven’t met Jerry in person – he and his good friends John and Doug are all the kind of people that you just feel comfortable with immediately, like they’ve been friends for years. The Scarlet Tanager was my original reason for going, but getting to meet three such great folks turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

  19. Posted April 20, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    There’s a great blue heron that frequents the pond on my campus (UNCC). I love the look of them.


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