Adventures beyond time

Adventures beyond time

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cedar Key's Annual Nature Coast Birding and Wildlife Experience

Last weekend was the annual Nature Coast Birding and Wildlife Experience in Cedar Key. On Friday, we participated in the afternoon Native Plant Walk on Atsena Otie, which is the island just off the coast of Cedar Key where the town used to be until the Great Storm of 1899 washed it away and killed almost all the residents. Before the storm, there was a large factory on Atsena Otie where the Eberhard Faber company made slats from the native cedar trees. The pencils were hauled the short distance back to Cedar Key by barge, loaded on trains, and shipped around the country.

After the Great Storm, the factory was never rebuilt, people resettled on the bigger island of Cedar Key, and the major industry was the making of brooms from palms. Actually, Cedar Key was a thriving community until the railroad diverted to Tampa in the late 1920s. Until then, it was a major port for trade with Cuba and Latin America.

In fact, in the 1930s, my Quinn grandparents came here from Rochester and took a ship to Cuba to celebrate their 25th Anniversary. Nine months later, my uncle Mike was the story goes.

Anyway, back to last weekend. The highlight of the hike on Atsena Otie, as usual, was the mosquitoes! We took a boat over and were immediately swarmed when we got ashore. Along the beach, it was only irksome. But inland, it was amazing. Having been there several times before, I wore long pants and long sleeves, and had a hood as well as a hat. I suffered less than the others. The legs of one woman in the group, who was wearing shorts, were covered with little black mosquitoes. Most of our group of about 12 went back by the beach, but those of us who continued had a great walk with Colette Jacono, our guide. Her enthusiasm for the plants practically overcame the annoyance of the mosquitoes ...practically

Friday evening there was a clam feast and a presentation about bird migration. Really nice. Saturday, another Native Plant hike, with few mosquitoes, an equally enthusiastic group of learners, and equally dynamic presentation by Colette. In the evening, Jake's veterinarian, Dawn Miller, brought a dozen or so birds of prey from her sanctuary to show to the 30 or so attendees. And we had another delightful dinner. Very nice, even though there were so many events that we had to skip the bird walks and boating trips, and the kayaking, in favor of plants and feeding the mosquitoes. The photos show Dawn with a hawk and two of the attendees, Peggy and Jennifer, with a small Great-Horned Owl.

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