Sunday, July 25, 2010

Doormat Fluke and Snorkeling with the Birds!

The South Norwalk Boat Club held their annual Fluke Contest this weekend.
This beautiful 9lb 1oz Doormat Fluke was leading the board with one hour to go in the contest.
Proudly displaying his catch is Paul Fosse, who along with partner Paul Lovas had a fine weekend of fishing with a number of other fish pushing the five pound range.
This fish was about 30 inches long, it was well on the thin side, if it had packed on a few waistline inches, it could have gone in the twelve pound range, either way, great fish guys!

With the outrageous heat wave we have been in, I have had no desire to go boating, other than the Norwalk Seaport Associations Bird Cruises to which I am committed.
My friend Marc called me a few nights ago and suggested we go snorkeling around the islands this weekend, huh?
I always have my snorkeling gear onboard, but never use it, outside of cleaning off the boats bottom several times during the summer months.
I have many hundreds of hours in the water snorkeling from Florida to St. Croix but never thought much of trying it in the Norwalk Islands.

I agreed with Marc that, I'd be very happy cooling off in the water in this hot weather, and with a noonish high tide, I'd be game to try it out, we met at 10:15am and were in the water by 10:45.
Crow Island was my choice, it is a rocky, cobble sandbar extending between Chimmons and Copps Islands.
It has a variety of underwater habitat that is exposed at low tide, but can easily be explored with a snorkel, mask and fins at high tide. I was not disappointed.

In fact I was incredibly impressed, this was not the Florida Keys, Hawaii, or the Virgin Islands by any means, but yet I was awed at the underwater beauty and life that was surrounding me, it only took moments before I became one with this incredible environment.

The first school of a few hundred, one inch long shiner type fish passes a foot in front of my mask, the visibility in this shallow water is four to six feet, and having this school so close to me, perked my interest.

I have my eye on a number of Turnstones, Plover, Cormorants, Terns and Oystercatchers that are either resting along the rocky shoreline or are perching on large offshore boulders.
I wonder, how close I can get to them in the water, will they accept me as something natural, and not fear me, or just flush as they would a human on land?

Before I can get to them, I have to snorkel around a few boulders and a good bit of vegetation.
My mask is below water all this time exploring the fascinating world around me, as I get close to bigger boulders I see larger fish darting for cover beneath the large rocks, small scup, three, four inches long, then snapper bluefish, the same size, just feet away I venture near a maze of eel grass, sea life is very abundant along this edge, a small blue crab scampers away, many Asian Shore crabs run for cover, large Atlantic Silverside shiners are abundant, in schools of many hundreds, a school of fifty, two inch long Menhaden pass inches in front of my mask, I'm almost looking cross eyed to see them.

Face down and floating on the surface, I laugh as the eel grass is now tickling me, with the wave action softly brushing the tips of these grasses against my belly, I am laughing through my snorkel, this is an experience I would have never imagined could happen in these islands.

There is a Common Tern loafing on a boulder twenty feet in front of my, I wonder how close...?
I slowly snorkel along the shallow water until I reach the boulder, I tilt my head and mask half way above the water line, look up, and just twenty four inches in front of me is a juvenile Common Tern, looking at me as though to say "gee, I never saw on of these before".
The bird never flinched, I wished I had the camera for this shot, plus catching the twenty one Ruddy Turnstones from water level would have been neat, but with no camera in hand, I just slowly backed off, the birds stayed in their places.

Turning around and looking away from the shoreline, I see a Double-crested Cormorant, floating on the water thirty feet away from me, I thinking that if he dives, can I hook up with him and see him underwater?
Yeah Right? I now know I must be suffering from rapture of the deep (the bends) from my two to three foot dives, the corm is not happy with me and dives in the other direction.

The tide is now moving with the outgoing tide and is bringing Moon Jellyfish in numbers,
these small transparent jellies are incredible to see underwater and I attempt to play with a few in my hands, this looks much easier than it is, sort of like trying to catch jello in a bathtub, they just continue on their own merry way.
A small horseshoe crab is crawling along the sea bottom, I pick it up for a moment, I hope this little one survives to help reproduce many offspring, I release it and marvel as it slowly swims off to its next adventure.

Anyone that has ever walked a shoreline at low tide must have come the upon many groups of seemingly lifeless seaweed that are flattened out against the ground, but at high tide these seaweeds are anything but lifeless.
They lift up and now float still attached to the bottom and abound with great beauty, not unlike our most favorite perennial shrubs and bushes, wavering in the wind. Sort of like the sea fans of the southern oceans.
Within the cover of this vegetation hide many small fish, crabs, periwinkles, barnacles and probably one hundred thousand other organisms that I am not capable of naming.

I can't wait to get back and do this again, it is a fantastic underwater world, and it's in our own backyard!

From past blogs, you know this youngster, the one that was always ruffled up.

This is probably the last shot we will ever get of the three amigos/amigas together
as they are about to fledge and fly off any moment now.
They will still return to the nest site for a few more weeks, but to get the three together for a photo, will probably never happen again.
Good Luck, My Friends!

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