The timing couldn’t have been better. With the late afternoon sun shining brightly, this shrimping trawler headed for port to unload the day’s fresh catches. Clearly, the boat and its crew weren’t alone.
An assortment of gull species, Northern Gannets, and other sea birds followed along, hoping for an easy meal as the crew pitched unwanted catches overboard. It was unusual for the trawler to be close enough to shore to zoom in for a decent shot.
Everyone needs a sanctuary. Recent research shows that connecting with nature helps humans in multiple ways.
Nature helps heal, soothe, and restore individuals from pain, stress, and depression. We all need a place to escape, if only temporality, from the pressures and madness of the world.
When my wife and I winter in Florida, we are fortunate to have just such a place. Egans Creek Greenway is the first spot I visit after my wife and I get settled into our rental.
Egans Creek Greenway is an island inside an island. Covering more than 300 acres, the greenway is a city-run park on the north end of the 13-mile long Amelia Island, a barrier island northeast of Jacksonville.
The greenway is not your typical sanctuary, but it’s mine for many reasons. I get needed exercise walking its grassy trails. A variety of wildlife is in abundance. I can practice my photography hobby shooting landscapes and nature’s flora and fauna.
Please click on the photos to enlarge them.
Egans Creek winds its way through the two main sections of the greenway. A saltmarsh dominates the northern half. It teems with wading birds, birds of prey, songbirds, furry mammals, and intriguing reptiles. The Atlantic Ocean tides keep its waters brackish.
The southern section is part maritime forest and part freshwater ecosystem. The creek runs along the eastern side while a grid of manmade ditches from previous farming attempts crisscrosses elsewhere.
Mixed vegetation creates a habitat for a wide variety of creatures. Pileated woodpeckers fly their noisy flight high above momma alligator and her baby brood while a barred owl hoots from a branch of a giant live oak tree.
Scores of yellow-rumped warblers dart from the underbrush to palm trees, chip-chipping all the way. A red-shouldered hawk watches for lunch from high on a dead snag. A freshly hatched monarch butterfly flaps its damp wings on a Florida holly bush.
A reunion of soft-shelled turtles suns on the steep banks of the creek. A honeybee gorges on a clump of newly blossomed marsh-pink.
Where the creek runs along the west side of the greenway, an osprey hovers before diving for an unsuspecting fish. In the process, large shorebirds are flushed. A great egret, wood stork, and a beautiful roseate spoonbill all take flight.
I am not alone in appreciating this preserve. Students stroll through on their way home from school. Seniors ride bicycles or walk in the sunshine of gorgeous days. Middle-aged joggers hustle by. This passive recreation is part of the park’s plan.
Strangely, concentration is essential to appreciate all the greenway has to offer. Surrounded by streets, houses, and businesses, the greenway is a quarter of a mile from the ocean. Horns, sirens, and roaring engines compete with the clacking call of the clapper rails.
So, too, to do the helicopters flying back and forth to the Mayport Naval Station 20 miles to the south. Commercial airliners, private jets, and noisy single-engine planes fill the air space overhead as they approach the local airport and Jacksonville International.
Besides a sanctuary, the greenway serves as an outdoor classroom. People stop to ask what I’m looking at or to tell me of a bird they saw. I love their smiles when they spot the eastern bluebirds devouring cedar berries.
I enjoy the greenway all the more when others accompany me. Multiple pairs of eyes and ears trump singular old ones. We help each other find and admire all the greenway’s splendor.
Why are people drawn to the edge of the sea? It’s not a frivolous question.
Spending the heart of the winter at a rented condo on the beach, I have observed the ocean lure people of all ages to her shore. There seems to be something magical, magnetic to where frothy waters lap at sandy beaches.
People young and old seek that seemingly sacred spot that wavers with every collapsing wave. Even the shorebirds covet that undulating, elusive line in the sand.
The tiny and swift sanderlings poke and prod the moist sand for nutritious crustaceans on the shore’s surface or just below. They always scurry ahead of the washing water as if they are afraid of getting their feet wet.
The larger willets saunter along probing for the same bounty with their sturdy black bills. They, too, avoid the ebb and flow as if their lives depended on it. Perhaps they do, instinctively knowing the consequences of being swept away.
Humans of all ages, however, take a wide variety of approaches while at the shore. Throwing caution to the sea breezes, children rush squealing to the water’s edge. Whether in street clothes or swimsuits, the youngsters wade right in, much to the horrors of their adult overseers.
Are they lulled by the rhythmical sound of the waves? Does the foamy surf beckon them to come to see the sea? Do they thrill at the sensation of surviving the rushing, rolling water?
I suspect all of that and more. Unlike most parents, the children have no fear of undertows or rip currents. The adults quickly catch up and take charge, even at the expense of getting their own feet wet, shoes, or no shoes.
Teens, of course, don’t care. They, too, wade or rush or plunge right in, regardless of attire, or the water’s temperature. In February, it may match the chilly air temperatures, made cooler still by the persistent winds.
The adults also are intrigued by the sea, each in their own way. Some jog while others walk along the water’s edge for exercise and fresh air.
Conversely, the snowbirds take their time. They have earned it, after all. They relish being away from the cold and snow up north. Retirees prefer to traverse the firm, moist sand closest to the water for its support.
Many walk with their heads bent forward, searching for colorful shells or sharks teeth. A few long for treasures of a different sort. They sweep the sand with metal detectors seeking what others have lost.
Some beachcombers spend many minutes inspecting one spot before they slowly move on. Others are content to stroll more for the exercise than the shells. All, however, are careful to mind the lapping sea, especially if the tide is coming in.
Other beach walkers have another purpose in mind. Their canine pets demand to be taken on their necessary jaunts. Dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds head to the shoreline.
A few folks are content to simply sit and enjoy all their senses in one spot. They watch, read, sleep, or chat with companions for hours.
Hardy souls ply their skills at fishing. I think the dolphins, ospreys, and terns are more successful.
Like all the others, I also answer the sea’s siren call. I join them in their multi-faceted love affair with the seaside.
At dawn, I let my camera document all the unfolding radiance. Nothing beats a dazzling sunrise, except sharing it with others.
Though the sky wasn’t the most colorful as sunsets go, the setting certainly was. These palm trees stood on a bluff over the Amelia River in Old Town Fernandina Beach, Florida. They nicely provided that tropical look as the sun sank in the west.
Even in Leap Year, February is still 2020’s shortest month. That doesn’t deter it from packing a lot into its 29-day effort.
The mini month has so many designated days that I’ve had to pick and choose which ones to highlight. I apologize in advance if I fail to mention your favorite.
February 1 is Read Aloud Day. I highly support this idea, especially if you happen to have young grandchildren.
I’m pretty confident that day will be overshadowed by the events of February 2, however. February 2 just wouldn’t be complete without the human-induced appearance of Punxsutawney Phil on Ground Hog Day.
The good citizens of the little Pennsylvania town know how marketing works. The organizers get more than their 15 minutes of fame out of the annual silliness of speculating on winter’s dallying.
This year, however, Super Bowl LIV will give old Phil a run for his money since it’s on the same day. Phil will have to be exceptionally creative to grandstand the pregame football ballyhoo hoopla.
I’m not sure if there is a connection or not, but February 3 is the first primary election of the 2020 presidential campaign. Iowans take to their caucuses to express their personal preferences. The next day is World Cancer Day, an international effort to save lives and raise awareness.
I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t mention that February 5 is the annual National Weatherperson Day. It’s designed to recognize all of the professionals who forecast the weather in this crazy climate era in which we find ourselves.
Friday, February 7 is National Wear Red Day. You would think this should be a week later. However, this day is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease, indeed a worthy reason to don the supportive color.
Sunday, February 9, marks three different occasions. Tu Bishvat is the Jewish New Year for trees and marks the day to set aside tithes for the poor. For movie buffs, it’s also Academy Awards night and conveniently National Pizza Day.
February 13 is International Friends Day and National Cheddar Day. That sounds like an opportunity to invite your friends over for toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.
No reminder is needed for February 14, Valentine’s Day. But just in case, consider this your cue to order the candy and flowers and make those dinner reservations.
Of course, Monday, February 17, is Presidents Day, the day to honor our first president George Washington. His birthday was actually February 22, while Abe Lincoln’s was February 12. Once again, the madmen of marketing persuaded Congress to squish the two birthdays together into one countrywide sale event on everything from mowers to mattresses.
February 18 is National Drink Wine Day. We need a day for that?
February 20 hosts two designations: National Love Your Pet Day and World Day of Social Justice. Both are worthy causes.
International Mother Language Day is Friday, February 21. It rightly promotes linguistic and cultural diversity, along with quality education, unity, and international understanding.
It’s no coincidence that Mardi Gras falls on February 25, also known as Fat Tuesday. The day also recognizes Strove or Pancake Day, which honors the world’s oldest widespread food.
Ash Wednesday is February 26. For Christians, it marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent in preparation for Easter.