Living on the Edge. Of the Salt Marsh.

Yesterday I was standing on the edge of my terrace watching a helicopter fly very low over the salt marsh and the park. Its flight pattern was crazy, heart-quickening. It would rise up fast, make a sharp turn over the bay or the Clearwater pass followed by a wild descent until it almost touched the ground.


mosquito-control-helicopter-ud79What was going on? I zoomed in and found the answer. It was a mosquito control helicopter from the county dropping larvicide in the many still flooded areas of the park. Part of the county’s efforts to prevent the Zika virus from spreading through local transmission.

mosquito-control-patrol-ud79It landed once and park personnel came forth to load several bags of (probably) granulated larvicide onboard.

helicopter-taking-off-16x9-ud79It’s been ten days since the torrential downpours from Hermine started, and although the flood water levels have been going down, both the beach and the park are still flooded (picture as of yesterday morning, today it looks a bit better).

flooding-after-hermine-ud79The whole park where the salt marsh is located is “closed until further notice due to effects after TS Hermine”. I had to read that out loud to Dylan, who insisted we go to the doggy park.

salt-marsh-flooding-after-hermine-ud79Very few birds have been present. I assumed it was because of the high water levels in the marsh would not allow them to feed, but it’s probably also due to the fact that bird blood is much preferred to human blood by mosquitoes. I learned this today from an article. My experience would have led me to a different conclusion.

You see, I had decided to take a walk on the beach and planned to visit the salt marsh too. Knowing that the beach entrances to the park would still be flooded, I was planning to ‘slink in’ to the salt marsh from the street.  Through the narrow opening between the stone wall and the closed gate. I was sure Tiny could get in through there when nobody was watching. That was the plan.

birds-at-the-beach-lake-ud79I walked through our back garden onto the board walk. And as I had anticipated the path to the beach had now dried up enough to allow me to walk there with my sturdy walking shoes. So I did. That’s when I was attacked by zillions of mosquitoes. Zillions. I’m not exaggerating. I had put on mosquito repellant on my ankles, arms, neck and nose, but they tried to bite me through my clothing. Twentynine of them hanging onto my crop jeans almost threw me crazy. I didn’t stop to zoom in on those fellows, so you have to take my word for it. Instead I ran to the water’s edge where a sea breeze drove most of them off. And on my way I stumbled upon a sand castle built by some brave little soul after the storm.

sand-castle-ud79The beach itself was lively. Only me and another woman, but hundreds of birds. Most of them were enjoying the now much more shallow floodwater lake between the beach and the salt marsh. The air traffic to and from the ‘lake’ was heavy, mostly Royal Terns and Black Skimmers.


black-skimmer-in-flight-ud79And there were plenty of newly arrived shore birds at the water’s edge, Sanderlings, Willets and Ruddy Turnstones.



ruddy-turnstone-ud79It was wonderful to see all of them again. And the Black Skimmer community was large. Beautiful juveniles and adults.


black-skimmer-talking-ud79Some juveniles were still hanging onto their parents – with resulting loud arguments and corresponding dramatics.

black-skimmer-juvenile-and-mom-ud79When leaving the beach I decided to run for my life through the soft, party wet path occupied by an army of aggressive mosquitoes. And arriving back to our garden, I had had enough of them. The planned ‘slinking in’ to the salt marsh would need to wait. Probably until they open the gates again. There is a reason for everything.

I wish you all a wonderful, mosquito-free weekend.


68 thoughts on “Living on the Edge. Of the Salt Marsh.”

  1. Wonderful photos, especially those of the juvenile Black Skimmers. Even though there is no staging water around our house, every time I go out on the grass I usually come back with several mosquito bites. I can just imagine what you must have felt down by the salt marsh!

    1. Thank you, Hien. I loved seeing so many shorebirds again. I truly got enough of the mosquitoes today. We usually have very few, if any, mosquitoes on this island due to sea breeze, but the flooding really brought them in. I hope they have only a short vacation here.

  2. Beautiful bird photos Tiny! I’m sorry about the mosquito abundance, typical of the idle waters of a flooded zone. I hope they resolve the problem soon! Take care my dear! 🙂

    1. Happy you enjoyed those shorebirds, H.J. I am not planning any clandestine walk at the marsh…will wait patiently until they open the park again 🙂 Have a great weekend, my friend.

    1. Thanks Amy! yes, I am trying to protect myself from those little ‘vampires’. Being attacked was not fun, got several bites through my clothes. It seems the park has opened today so I am assuming the problem is under control now. We’ll see…

  3. Great post Tiny, it is good to follow the progression after the storm, it seems to be taking longer than expected. It does give hope that I will see my waders back this month now that yours are arriving. I think many of them are int he are and on their way here. I love your Black Skimmer, this bird is not found here in any form and is quite a good looker, the juvenile has the classic features of the immature shorebird, with mottled grey. All great pics, and of course interesting mozzie story. Most of the worlds deadly disease, especially malaria is spread by them. My wife became very ill after a bite from a mozzie in a wetlands early this year, it took weeks to recover, so keep protected. We have experienced Zillions of mozzies at one of the wetlands places north of here. They even built ‘the big mozzie’ and placed it on top of a service club building, they almost carry you away with their size. We have the dangerous anopheles mozzie which carries malaria and other nasties. Have a wonderful weekend my friend, hope the water soon subsides so you and Dylan can get a walk through the salt marsh to report the local news:-)

    1. Thank you for being here, and for your nice comment, Ashley. It seems that the park has reopened today, but I will wait at least until tomorrow to walk there. Mozzies like me more than I like them 🙂 They can carry the Zika virus, although we have not had any locally transmitted cases as yet. I hope it will remain that way. I agree that the Black Skimmers are both special (the way they feed skimming, and the way they ‘talk’, almost like a dog bark) and beautiful. The juveniles’ feathers are so nicely patterned. Have a wonderful, blessed week!

    1. The park has opened today, but I’m waiting…at least for a couple of days more. I was freaked out by their vicious attack. We normally don’t have them as they do not like the sea breeze, but Hermine gave them to us as a parting gift 🙂

    1. Thank you, Karen. I could have taken even more pictures, but a few persistent ‘mozzies’ followed me around. We do not have locally transmitted Zika as yet, and I hope it stays that way. But we’ve had 16 cases or travel related Zika so far…the fewer mosquitos, the smaller the chance for local transmission to occur. I keep my fingers crossed as they say here 🙂

  4. Scary stuff, Helen. I have very fair skin; mosquitoes love it! If there are others in the room they will, generally, avoid them, and enjoy my blood instead. When they do feast on me, I have a welt that will generally take days (sometimes more) to heal. Yuk; I do not like mosquito bites. Having said that, even without the threat of the Zika virus, it is so important to keep safe and protect yourself, which I’m sure you are. However, I can’t help being ‘mother’ sometimes… 😉 Btw: Isn’t it ironic how closely the Mosquito Control helicopters resemble mosquitoes…!
    Great images! I’ve always found it amusing how the juveniles can, at times, be larger than their parents… And oh, how they squeal.. 🙂

    1. I am exactly like you in terms of mosquito preferences and the aftermath of a bite. I got a couple of new welts yesterday despite my protective efforts. So I’m keeping out of the park for a few more days despite the fact that they opened it today. Luckily our local mosquitos do not (yet) carry Zika, and we hope the county’s efforts will keep it that way.
      The youngsters on the beach were just funny with their requests to their parents…and I thought they were quite beautiful 🙂

    1. I know, Brad. I am also not a fan of any chemicals in the environment, but I’m happy to say our county had adopted a fairly nature friendly approach to mosquito control with multiple ways of preventing them. Now that Zika is a real threat in FL, and Hermine having left such extensive flooding, we hope having a smaller army of these fellows will help prevent local transmission.

  5. I’m one of the lucky ones in that mosquitoes rarely bite me. I do get the odd one now and then if the mosquitoes are in big swarms but I think they don’t like my blood. LOL Or, it might be because I eat a lot of garlic. My dad and I used to take garlic pills starting in the spring all through fall…..mosquitoes don’t like garlic. We got the kind that had no odor but the blood tasted like it. Kept them away.

    Have a great weekend my friend. ❤ I sent you an email. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the tip on garlic, Jackie! We eat quite a bit of it, but it might be even more efficient to buy the pills. I do not like to put on that repellant. Thanks for your mail, please check yours on Monday 🙂

    1. First I did not understand what the helicopter was doing. It looked like a ‘kamikaze mission’, but after getting my camera, it all made sense.

  6. Wonderful bird photos as always, Helen. Your pics of the Whirlybird as very good too. We’ve had a guy in a boat spraying around the perimeter of our lake, and so far I haven’t seen a single mosquito. I loathe them almost as much as they love me. I can’t imagine being attacked by a zillion of them! That would be my worst nightmare. 😯 The sandcastle effort is so cute. 🙂 Happy weekend to you and Dylan. xx

    1. Happy weekend to you too, Sylvia, although I know it’ll be a busy one. We never used to see a mosquito so this is all new to me. Their attack was so vicious 😦 but I came out alive, only with a few new bites. The sand castle was a surprise and I figure it was built on a breezy day when the ‘mozzies’ could not prevail in the wind 🙂 XX

  7. Beautiful photos – I am sad for you about the salt marsh, but it will return and you’ll get in again. As for the mosquitos – I remind myself they have a purpose in the world, we just don’t appreciate it. Enjoy the walks along the beach. Peace.

    1. Thanks Clay for your visit and kind comment. The mosquitoes certainly have a purpose, but when they breed excessively (such as after flooding that lasts for 10+ days) they become a fairly dangerous threat, particularly for Zika transmission. The park was opened today, but I did not dare to go there as yet based on my experience yesterday morning. I saw that a few people went but did not stay long, so I assume the ‘mozzies’ are still around. Have a wonderful weekend.

  8. What an adventure you’ve had at the salt marsh, along with the helicopter views from your home; captivating update and photos.
    I forgot about mosquitos after floods, it’s good you remind people to be aware of the mosquitoes out there — especially with the recent Zika Virus outbreak in Florida.

    1. That was an adventure indeed! Luckily we do not (yet) have local transmission of Zika here in the Tampa Bay area, but excessive breeding after the floods will increase that risk substantially. This area is normally free from mosquitoes as they do not like the sea breeze, but right now we have an invasion. Happy you enjoyed the pictures, Genie.

    1. I am hoping for that too. We never used to have mosquitoes…bought my first repellant last week. Dylan and I walk on the sidewalks now…the park will need to wait little longer.

    1. Happy you liked them. That park is now open, but there are still too many mosquitoes for me to take a walk around the salt marsh…I tried today…for only 10 minutes.

  9. Great photos Helen. Thank you for the update too! With all the concern about Zeka, I do wonder how the spraying will impact the environment. … But mosquitoes get pretty ravinous.
    We have bees and so we very alert to chemicals that can jeopardize their future health.
    Right now, I am grudgingly appreciative of the cold winter ahead to stop them in their tracks.

    1. I am worried about the chemicals too, particularly after what has gone down in South Florida recently with spraying of Naled to kill adult mosquitoes (and bees). I did some research right after I saw the helicopter drop ‘stuff’, which looked like granulated larvicide, in the flood pools. It seems (I hope I’m right) like our county has adopted a bit more environment friendly and more narrowly focused ways to combat mosquitoes by first and foremost targeting the larvae in standing flood water pools. And what they used in the park certainly did not kill adult mosquitoes. I know as I tried to walk at the salt marsh yesterday…and only lasted for 10 minutes. Now I am hoping for a very breezy day that will blow the ‘mozzies’ out of here.

    1. I escaped with only a couple of bites. I’m hoping the birds will return soon. But there are still too many mosquitoes in the park, which is open now, for me to enjoy a long walk around the marsh. I am hoping for a breezy day so that they are all blown away from this island…as we usually have no mosquitoes.

    1. Thank you dear Eddie. We usually don’t have mosquitoes on this island because they do not like the sea breeze, but Hermine brought them here due to too much flooding. I am hoping for a really windy day to wipe them out again 🙂

  10. enjoyed your story and your photos – although battling the mosquitos cannot have been fun. living on the southwest coast of BC/Canada makes for fewer mosquitos than in other corners of the planet. i understand this was exceptional for you, too. may they leave soooon! thanks for sharing.

    1. Happy you enjoyed my battle story. We normally have hardly any mosquitoes because they don’t like the sea breeze, but this storm with long-term flooding brought them here. I hope for a couple of windy days so they will be blown off this island – tonight I found considerably less than yesterday 🙂

  11. Those mosquitoes sound downright vicious – it’s amazing how something so small can cause so much trouble. Strength in numbers, I guess. I had no idea they prefer bird blood to ours. Poor birds… Your captures of the sanderlings, willets, ruddy turnstones and black skimmers are spectacular!

    1. Thanks for your visit and kind comment, Barbara! The mosquitoes have been here in big numbers after the storm – and normally we have hardly any. And they seem more aggressive than ever. Luckily I have not seen as many in the last few days – the breeze seems to be helping. And as the larvae pools were treated we should not be getting more of them.

  12. Beautiful photos ~ such an impressive stretch of land you live with. Would have been fun to have gone up in the helicopter 🙂 The mosquito attack sounds miserable, nothing worse than nature’s bugs forcing you to leave… Great follow up stories on the storm, hope that all returns to normal soon.

    1. I think that you would have enjoyed the absolutely crazy helicopter flight, Randall 😀 When I watched it without binoculars or my zoom – not knowing what he was doing, I thought he looked like a kamikaze pilot. Luckily things are gradually returning to normal around here, most birds are back and the ‘mozzie’ count is going down slowly. Have a great weekend ~

  13. Zika is almost everywhere around the world nowadays! I hope the MC will help. I got bitten when visiting a state park in Minnesota, I was no clue there were plenty mosquitos in this cold state – a lesson learned!

    Amazing images once again!

    1. Thank you Indah! Although the mosquito count is slowly going down here, I have ordered some botanical wipes to have in my pocket when walking around. Just in case I will encounter another attack 🙂

  14. I am taking your word about the zillions of mosquitoes 🙂 It is so sad that Zika is spreading, but I hope the larvicide will work. That last bird has a pretty wide mouth/beak, I must say!

    1. The zillions of mosquitoes are now down quite a bit, I am happy to say. The adults are slowly been blown away by the breeze, and the larvicide seems to be working. That juvenile in the last picture was arguing with his mama 🙂

    1. Thank you, Susan! I am happy to say the mosquito count has decreased considerably in the last few days – probably because I now always carry a plant-based repellent wipe in my back pocket when walking around 🙂

  15. Interesting to see how the mosquito control operates in your area. We have heard reports of bees being killed from zika control measures. It’s good the control measures are more friendly at the salt marsh. We don’t have much experience of mosquitoes in modern day Christchurch but we do have them.

    1. Yes, unfortunately there are chemicals used in MC that will kill bees as they are sprayed in the air to kill adult mosquitoes. This has been done in areas where Zika has been spreading locally to stop it in its tracks. I’m, happy they did not do that here as a “preventive” measure. The ‘mozzies’ that had already hatched are slowly disappearing again – naturally with the sea breeze, but I see bees and butterflies in that park 🙂

    1. This weekend is the first without any flood waters! I’m hoping the smaller wading birds will return to the salt marsh soon as the water levels have finally receded quite a bit. I visited there yesterday with the contractor who is going to replace the osprey nesting platform this fall so that Mama Sandy has a safe home for the next nesting season.

        1. Yes, I am excited about that as well, but lots of work for me with the county to get the trees trimmed so that the vehicle can get close to the nest, then fundraising… But I’m sure it will all come together before the nesting season 🙂

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