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[ft-l] I drove my Chevy to the levy . . .

But the levy was dry.  And a good thing, too, after all the wading we did 
yesterday.  The Chevy in question was my Cavalier and the levy in question 
surrounds the Emeralda Marsh outside of Eustis, the site of the Solar Bear 
and Navigator hike of the day.

This hike was for the birds -- literally.  I have never seen so many birds of 
all kinds as we did today.  It got to the point where I was thinking, "Ho 
hum, another limpkin . . . ho hum, another great blue heron . . ." etc.  We 
saw singular examples of bald eagle, marsh rabbit, red-tailed hawk, snake and 
field mouse.  The unfortunate field mouse in question was gripped in the 
talons of the aforementioned red-tailed hawk.

Without the wildlife, there isn't much to say about the merits of a walk 
along a dike.  Otherwise it might have gotten monotonous, but we walked 7 and 
a half miles of a continuous wildlife parade which made for an exciting day.

Six alligators retreated at our advance along the dike, allowing us only to 
hear a big splash and to see at most the slap of a purposeful tail as they 
disappeared in the marsh.

Red shouldered hawks and ospreys patrolled regularly.  Great blue herons 
numbering several dozen squawked at us and flew off in a huff usually 
circling back to the same area after we concluded our trespass.  They seem to 
be solitary hunters and territorial.  Never have I seen so many.

When we reached open water, we were greeted by thousands of moorhens and 
coots, distinguished by the color of their beaks.  They were raucous, nervous 
and noisy, exploding into flight using their feet to walk on water as they 
take off.  Most of our hikes are fairly silent.  This one was a great 
carnival of sounds, unlike any other hike I've done.

We watched anhingas and cormorants fly and land and dive underwater.  We 
watched them perch and spread their wings to dry.  We noted the difference 
between the little blue heron and the Louisiana heron with its white breast 
and bottom of wings.  We watched the social white ibises with their long 
curved orange bills.  The red winged black birds gave the scene a nice touch 
of color.

The bald eagle landed in a large stand of pond cypress.  We hurried to the 
spot in hopes of getting a picture, but it flew off at a moment before Sandy 
was prepared.  We waited for a while watching it circle and gain altitude in 
hope that it would return.  But after a few minutes we left, satisfied with 
the picture etched in our memories.

We watched as a visible line of showers advanced toward us, prompting us to 
don our raingear and stow the cameras, but in 5 minutes we had weathered the 
brunt of it.  The temperature was pleasant all day and a breeze eliminated 
the possibility of insect problems.  All in all, another wonderful adventure 
on a first class Central Florida trail.

I hope you are enjoying reading these reports, as much as I enjoy writing 
them.  But I would really enjoy reading about some of your adventures as 
well.  Who is going to step up and write about their hike?  It will take the 
pressure off so I won't have to get embarrassed to find that I wrote fairy 
when I should have written ferry in a previous report. I mean try and 
visualize riding a fairy across the St. Johns.  I'd need to wear my tutu to 
make that scene work!  :) 

Happy trails,

Solar Bear and Navigator