The long, long walk…

On Tuesday I made a bad mistake. It wasn’t one of my better ideas in fact it was a pretty awful one. I know, I thought, while Andrew goes fishing I will WALK to Long Key State Park. It only takes about 10 mins in the car so it won’t take me long. How wrong can one person be????

The morning had started well. I’d got up at 6.30am, the Ruddy Turnstones had turned up at five to seven twittering for food at the back door. They always make me laugh when they run after each other. Each one scared that the other is going to get “the” morsel that is so much better than any other morsel on offer. Instead of flying they run and waddle at the same time.

After a relaxing morning spent watching the wildlife around the house, Andrew headed off fishing with Ronnie our fishing guide and I strode off to Long Key.

I can see Long Key from the sitting room window. That’s half the trouble. Between us and Long Key is a 3 mile bridge.  No problem I managed that easily, then realised it was another 2 miles to the State Park entrance. OK, bit tired now and getting thirsty. I’d only brought two drinks with me and had already gone through one and it’s now 80 degrees.

I make it to the State Park (the lovely Ranger on the gate lets me in for free…. God I must have looked knackered) and I wander around the Nature Trail.

Horseshoe Crab Shell

I find this fascinating Horseshoe Crab shell. The crab is long dead but it’s shell remains washed up on the beach. Here is an exerpt from Wikipedia that tells you a bit more about them:

Horseshoe crabs are stem group chelicerates,[16] thus distant relatives of spiders. They were traditionally grouped with the extinct eurypterids (sea scorpions) as the Merostomata. They may have evolved in the shallow seas of the Paleozoic Era (570-248 million years ago) with other primitive arthropods like the trilobites.

The four species of horseshoe crab are the only remaining members of the Xiphosura, one of the oldest classes of marine arthropods. Horseshoe crabs are often referred to as living fossils, as they have changed little in the last 445 million years.

Related to spiders eh! Who would have thought it…

Horseshoe Crab Shell

Here is the whole shell (tail and all). It was about 2ft in length from head to tail. I wish I could have taken it home but I don’t think security would have let me through Heathrow (or out of Miami) with it in my bag. Shame though.

I sat down for a bit of a rest on a bench. Literally only for 2 minutes and I think that’s when it happened. I was bitten. No idea what by, how big it was, whether it was spider or fly but whatever it was it was vicious. Within no time I had a rash as big as a side plate on the front of my thigh and another on my ankle – and boy did it sting!

Northern Cardinal

Anyway, nothing for it but to carry on. It was late afternoon by now and the birds were starting to call from the top of the mangroves. Trouble is I couldn’t see them. Then this fella came into view and sang his little heart out. A Northern Cardinal. I’ve seen snippets of them before – you’d think they’d be easy to see (being bright red) but they are incredibly adept at hiding!

OK, that was enough for one day. I frightened a big black snake from it’s slumber on the path (and it shot away into the mangroves) and I headed for home.

At 8pm I arrived back at our house. Tired, aching, stinging, thirsty and hungry. Now I know how those Ruddy Turnstones feel at 7am in the morning!

Ruddy Turnstone - I'm home!

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~ by Jane on April 23, 2009.

7 Responses to “The long, long walk…”

  1. OK – so you leave us hanging on till the next exciting episode – did Jane recover from her horrible bite? has the dehydration had an effect? did the black snake follow her home? what was hiding in that shell?

    The crab shell is amazing – I would be a bit wary of snorkelling with them around!

    • Hi Hilly. The black snake had more sense than to slither 5 miles back to Conch Key in the dark! I know what you mean about the horseshoe crab shell. Apparently they also moult, and grow into an even bigger shell at the age of 17. So this one could still be scuttling about somewhere in the ocean.

    • Horseshoe crabs are entirely harmless to people. They don’t bite or sting even though that tail looks like it could do damage.

  2. Good to see that you are in training for Walk for Wildlife while you are away! Hope you have recovered by now and ready for your next adventure.
    No wonder they are called ruddy turnstones! If they woke me at 7am every morning I’d call them something quite similar to that!

    • It was certainly good training for W4W. All recovered now and ready for whatever bites me next! The ruddies or “twits” as we call them, are very sweet… I won’t have a bad word said about them. They are noisy though! 🙂

  3. Horse flies leave welts sometimes. I hope you aren’t feeling it tomorrow!

    • Hi Misti. I think I’ve worked out what it might have been. Poisonwood. I visited a hammock with lots of poisonwood growing in it the day before. I must have brushed against some and it didn’t come up until the next day. Anyway, it seems to be gradually fading now and losing it’s itch! Thanks. Jane.

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