Tag Archives: Gulf of Mexico

Silence Breathes in Colors. On Caladesi Island.

Caladesi island from the air. Source: Pinellascounty.org
The Hurricane Pass and Caladesi island from the air. Source: Pinellascounty.org

One morning at the end of January, I set out with a friend just after sunrise.  She had agreed to join me for a hike on Caladesi Island, one of the few remaining pristine barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, situated a mile and a half off shore from the city of Dunedin, FL.

It was called Hog Island until 1921 when a major hurricane split it into two separate islands. The Hurricane Pass was formed. The northernmost island became known as Honeymoon Island after becoming popular with honeymooners in late 1930s.  The southern island got its name, or so the story goes,  after a Spaniard named “Desi” said to have lived on the island bayou, which is “cala” in Spanish. Caladesi.

Caladesi Island eastern shore

Caladesi Island, now a state park, was “discovered” in 1888 by a Swiss immigrant, Henry Scharrer, who became the first and only homesteader ever on the island. His daughter, Myrtle, who was born there in 1895, has written an interesting book, “Yesteryear I Lived in Paradise – The Story of Caladesi Island”,  first published in 1984.

Myrtle and her father, Henry, at the homestead, circa 1902. Source: floridastateparks.org

In the book, she gives a timeline of the area’s early history involving the Tocobaga, Seminole and Miccosukee people, and the Spanish – English – Spanish rule until the Florida territory was acquired by the U.S. in 1821. She also describes her family’s life on the island in late 1800s and early 1900s in vivid color and fascinating detail.

Fishermen close to Honeymoon Island

We started our trip by driving to Honeymoon Island. From there we took the first boat of the day over to Caladesi. The air was cool. The ocean was completely still. A light mist was rising  from the water as the sun  slowly climbed higher.

fog rises on the ocean on our way to Caladesi island
A small island between main land and Caladesi Island

Suddenly we spotted some movement in the water. It was a bottlenose dolphin on a morning swim in the sparkling ocean.

A Bottlenose Dolphin near Caladesi Island
A Bottlenose Dolphin

A few minutes later we passed the northernmost tip of Caladesi Island. White sand,  shore birds … and more dolphins, all swept in the soft blue of the morning.

northern tip of caladesi island by tiny
The northern tip of Caladesi Island
A school of Bottlenose Dolphins frolicking in the ocean Caladesi Island

We watched them quietly for a while – and got another delightful surprise. A mother dolphin with a baby beside her “floated” by on the other side of the boat.  They might have been sleeping. It certainly was a dream-like moment.  Dolphins are such enchanting beings, meeting so many of them first thing in the morning was a treat. The universe was smiling.

Caladesi Island two Bottlenose Dolphins, mother and child
Two Bottlenose Dolphins, mother and child

The boat ride was short, about 20 minutes, and soon we started to navigate our way into the marina, the only establishment on the island. I was excited to finally experience the beauty of the island I had read so much about.

Caladesi island approaching the marina
Approaching the marina

The island is about six miles (9.6 km) long. We decided to start by walking south on the beach, and then hike the 3-mile (4.8 km) nature trail in the interior of the island. The beach was pristine, so beautiful I could have walked there for the whole length of the island!

caladesi island beach by tiny
The miles long beach on Caladesi Island

But we wanted to see more. I knew that unlike Honeymoon Island, this was not a place where I could spot lots of birds inland, but I anticipated that the nature itself would be breathtaking. And it was, Florida in its natural state, as it used to be.

caladesi island nature trail live oak by tiny
The nature trail
Caladeai island live oak on the nature trail by tiny
A huge live oak extends across the trail
caladesi island nature trail pines2 by tiny
Tall pines along the trail

The trail passed through beautiful old pine, oak and palm forests. And soon we came across the beautiful waterway along which one could reach the interior of the island by kayak.

caladesi island pond by tiny
The inland waterway

When we came closer to the former homestead, we found the only fresh water pond on the island. That’s where Myrtle and her family got their water for daily use. Trees were bending over the pond, as if protecting it from the passage of time. And silence… was breathing in mesmerizing colors.

caladesi island freahwater pond
The fresh water pond on north side of the trail
caladesi island freswater pond
…and south side of the trail

Fairly close to the pond, we literally stumbled upon the famous “Harp Tree” or twin pine as it’s also called. Numerous photos were taken there, and are exhibited in the book, by early photographers who came to the island to visit Myrtle’s family.

Caladesi Island The famous "Harp Tree"
The “Harp Tree”

It was a beautiful spot. I could feel the wing beats of history in the air. It was easy to imagine how life used to be there a hundred years ago, and how exciting photography had to be for these early pioneers. There would always be someone willing to climb up to be pictured sitting in the Harp Tree.

Caladesi island old pine trees
Beautiful, old pine trees

Then the trail turned back towards north and the harbor. We were admiring the old trees when we heard some rustling in the bushes next to the trail. We stopped, looked carefully, and saw a nine banded armadillo trying to dig a hole in the ground, either to find food or to prepare a new burrow. His head was already far down there, and he was working hard.

A ninebanded armadillo
A nine banded armadillo

The last part of the trail was equally beautiful. I felt like I’d been thrown back in time. A harsh time in many ways, but much more simple and peaceful in this island paradise.

A huge oak tree on the nature trail
A huge oak tree on the nature trail

The tranquility of Caladesi Island was tangible. Being dipped so deep into untouched nature was inspirational and soothing for the soul. Like coming back to my real origins.

Peeking into the Salt Marsh. While My Turkey Was Cooking.

I just had to go to the salt marsh on Christmas Eve while my turkey was cooking. Needed to wish Happy Holidays to all my feathered friends, and deliver the greetings many of you sent to the “team”.

Holidays at salt marsh

Upon arrival I was greeted by a dragonfly in full holiday attire. She was busy, just posed quickly for the photo shoot and then flew away.

A Great Egret was playing Santa and delivering Christmas gifts. No reindeer needed. He left a small package in the grass, not far from the osprey nest. Maybe a treat for Papa Osprey?

gift delivery by egret

In a tree next to the deep water, a Green Heron was happily guarding his stocking. It had already been filled by Santa, and was now hanging securely next to him.

Xmas green heron and his stocking

Then I heard music! An Ibis was singing carols, accompanied by bells in a nearby tree. His deep baritone entertained everyone in the salt marsh for quite a while. Including me.

singing ibis

When I arrived at Mama Osprey’s nest nobody was home. I sat for a while on my usual bench admiring her decorations.  Suddenly I saw her fly in with a huge branch! She has started restoring the nest on her own! She worked hard before she was happy with the placement of this large beam. I was impressed. Again.

papa osprey decorating his nest for xmas

After wishing them all Happy Holidays, I hurried back home to check on my turkey. It was a nice little walk before all that eating  🙂 Many more walks are needed, however, in the next few days.

PO, Bumble and I say thanks for the many beautiful cards received from blogging friends thanks to Jackie’s Great Christmas Card Exchange! And we thank you all for being such an inspiring part of our year. ❤ Tiny

Ps. This post has been edited after publishing when I discovered that Papa Osprey (PO) actually was Mama Osprey.

Papa Osprey Goes Fishing. And Other Serious Stuff.

We are having our best weather so far this year. It’s been calling me to go outside. Finally yesterday morning I got an opportunity to spend a couple of hours on the beach and in the nature reserve. I needed that quiet time in the midst of everything going on in the outer world. It was simply beautiful. I invite you to come along.

snowy egret, Florida, Sand Key
A Snowy Egret drying in the sun…

Just outside our garden, I was greeted by a Snowy Egret who was enjoying the beautiful morning at the top of a tree. Close by, two Mourning Doves were admiring the sun. I thought they looked like a happy old couple. Content with life. No worries of the world.

mourning dove couple, Florida, Sand Key
Mourning dove couple

Once on the beach I was walking along the water line, watching the terns and gulls play and bath in the surf. And pelicans fly back and forth in search of fish.

sandwich tern bathing 2
A Sandwich Tern baths in the surf…
pelican flyinng low, Florida, Sand Key
A White Pelican glides above the waves…

I also found mama Royal Tern and her teenage offspring…arguing as usual. I had to smile. Some things stay the same.

Mom and juvenile royal tern
Mama and juvenile Royal Tern argue….again.

I was just about to turn towards the nature reserve when I spotted two ospreys. They were on a fishing trip.  Flying high above the waves and peering down on the water. They were far out so I couldn’t see who they were, but snapped a picture of both. And guess what?

 osprey fishing, Florida
Stanley, the second osprey, fishing with P.O.
 osprey over the ocean, Florida, Sand Key
P.O. on a fishing trip with Stanley on Mexican Gulf

That was Papa Osprey and Stanley! They have become pals, it seems. They flew further away on the ocean and I took the path to the salt marsh.

I walked on the north side of the marsh and was greeted by a Great Egret on the very top of a huge tree. I guess having an overview was trending among egrets yesterday.

great egret at the very top of a tree, Florida, Sand Key
A Great Egret on the top of the world…

I spotted many other egrets, a juvenile Night Heron, and Tricolored Heron, among others. And my pal, the Muscovy Duck, who tends to come and greet me whenever I rest and sit on a bench.

tricolored heron Florida, Sand Key
A Tri-colored Heron hunting in the salt marsh…
muscovy duck Florida, Sand Key
A Muscovy Duck swimming in the salt marsh….

I didn’t expect to see Papa Osprey because I’d just seen him over the ocean. But when I approached the nest, there he was. All wet. But with no fish.

wet papa osprey returns from ocean
Papa Osprey is wet…but didn’t catch a fish…

I guess he was disappointed that the dive in the ocean didn’t result in fresh seafood lunch. And he must have been hungry. He turned to look at me as if saying he can’t stay.

osprey Florida, Sand Key
Papa Osprey…says he’s hungry…

I assured him I understood, and that I’d wait for a while. Off he flew  to the drive-thru fish place, aka the intra-coastal bay.

osprey goes fishing Florida, Sand Key
Papa Osprey goes fishing…again.

I wanted to see if he’d catch a fish, so I decided to take a run around the park. I approached his nest again after about 15 minutes. And he was already back! Soaking wet and with a fish  firmly in the talons of his left foot. It looked like one from the lunch menu.

Papa osprey back with a fish
Papa Osprey comes home with a fish…

The second fishing trip was a success. Persistence pays off. After drying himself for a few minutes, he looked up towards the wooded end of the park and talked to someone I couldn’t see. In a friendly voice. Maybe he told his pal Stanley where he had caught the fish?

papa osprey has a fish 2
Papa Osprey starting his lunch…

After checking the airspace around him he started to eat his lunch. Soon thereafter I said my goodbyes. I may not see him until after a couple of weeks due to my upcoming travels.

It was a great little outing. I hope you enjoyed it too. Be good now and enjoy the weekend. ❤ Tiny