Charlotte County Florida Weekly

When you disturb nature, be prepared for a load of crap



Note: Capt. Kirk is on leave for a while. Meanwhile, enjoy this classic from 2018.

This is the time of year for all of nature to be renewed with a new generation. Birds are hatching, animals are being weaned and sea creatures are being born and hatched.

For those of you who are nature lovers and get out into the wild on a regular basis, this is a repetitive cycle. Nonetheless, it is still exciting and draws our attention to the ways of nature. I am outside more than in, and nature still brings excitement to my day. I may have seen the same scenery and animals, watched gators or dolphins thousands of times, but each time is like my first. Subtle changes in the environment will have the creatures act a little different each time. When food is plentiful and easy to get, most wildlife will revel in that situation. This leaves them more time to play — and, yes, creatures do like to play!

For the novice outdoors person who infrequently walks off the beaten path, or rarely explores a new cove with their boat, the sights and sounds will not be as familiar. Many years ago, when I taught live aboard while cruising/sailing out of Fishermen’s Village, the group I had was from Michigan. They had some sailing experience, but the goal was to show them some secluded spots around Charlotte Harbor.



One of our stops was the cool little island of Cabbage Key. We stayed overnight and, the next day, borrowed kayaks to explore the backcountry. Heading west from the docks early in the morning, we passed by numerous islands of nesting birds — frigates, pelicans, snowy egrets and bright pink spoonbills. We had three kayaks with the mom and dad in one, the two kids (ages 9 and 11) in the other, and myself in the single. I could hang back and watch as they got bolder, moving closer to the islands and the birds. Being very quiet allowed them to get under the mangroves and in the midst of this huge nesting area. I warned them to not get too close, and not to disturb the birds with noise.

This all worked fine until a green water snake fell from a low branch into the parents’ kayak. I watched as both parents shrieked and fell overboard, trying to get away from the snake. The snake, too, was swimming away very fast on its own. Even more unfortunate is that the quiet, peaceful rookery was now a mass of hundreds of spooked birds flapping their wings and “lightening their load” (the “load” in question being excrement), which covered the family of four from head to toe. Yep, they sure scared the you-know-what out of those birds — literally!

I was at a safe distance, but could hear (and, especially, smell) the results. Lesson learned. We all paddled away to a small lagoon through the “tunnel of love,” a narrow, mangrove-lined inlet that empties into a lagoon at the Gulf of Mexico. Even with swimming in the gulf, and washing off the birds’ “deposits” and all the kayaks, the smell still lingered for hours.

Seeing wildlife from a safe distance not only is smart but also a more enjoyable way to stay out of unpredictable situations like this. Zoom lenses, binoculars and common sense will allow you a better — and less stinky — way to enjoy our great outdoors.

Fair winds; calm seas. ¦

— Capt. Dennis Kirk and his wife, Nancy, are avid mariners and outdoor enthusiasts. Since the 1970s, their love of nature in Southwest Florida has allowed them to experience the dream of writing about their travels and adventures of sailing, fishing or flying out of their homeport on the Peace River, the old DeSoto marina.

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