GHOST CRABS ET AL

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‘Hey folks! Have you got the photo yet? I’m getting pretty bored with this posing lark!’

I noticed the  perfect round holes first. 

What lived in these burrows visible across the beach? Soon after I began to catch glimpses of the elusive crustaceans as they scuttled across the sand and as if leaping, disappeared into their holes.  Impossibly so,  I felt as the crabs were far broader than its habitat. Intrigued I wondered about their appearance, colouring. Not the usual dark brown crabs from the North Sea coast, that much I could see. 

Then one morning one of the mysterious ghost crabs obligingly paused by its burrow and looked up. Its expression was priceless; slightly disarming, slightly grumpy. It stayed still. Waiting patiently as camera phone was found, put on correct setting, sun glasses removed in order to see the screen. Ready at last! The black piercing eyes were unmoving, its shell pale and almost translucent. In contrast the legs shone with gentle light golden hues, furry-like at the tips. The two claws were of uneven size; a characteristic of the ghost crabs – so named for its pale complexion and chameleon ability to blend in with its environment and the shading of the body adjusts according to the time of day.

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The first morning I was mesmerised by a flock of large birds swooping and gliding across the ocean. Five clearly visible although other days up to eighteen would fly across the water close to shore. Suddenly one dived into the ocean before quickly reappearing. What were these majestic birds? Soon I had my answer. Pelicans! I was in utter awe; before I had only seen Pelicans in zoos. It was a joy and privilege to view them on a daily basis in the wild.  Often during meal times three pelicans would pass within two metres of our balcony, their heads and wings clearly visible. An awesome overwhelming sight and we sat in silence savouring the experience.

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One particularly elegant and regal bird was a constant visitor on the shores, purposefully striding along the waters edge, its crisp white plumage gleaming in the sunlight. Always keeping its distance from each other, the little egret, a type of heron, occasionally bopped its black beak into the wet sand before moving on with its striking yellow feet. Time stood still as I watched the egret; sheer peace and harmony. The only time it seemed bothered was as the wind increased following the hurricane and then it tucked its head snuggly against the body, seeking lee within itself.

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Partly hidden under the bottom wooden stair down to the beach, the turtle’s head stretched beyond the step. Oh no! It should have returned hours earlier back to the sea but then I saw its injury, a large chunk of shell lying by its side, no doubt attacked by the seagulls during the night. My heart went out to the poor animal. After our walk it was still on the beach, but heading in the right direction. Later it had disappeared, hopefully after making its own way to the sea!

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Geckos galore! That is the only way to describe the paths around the condo building by the car park as geckos of all sizes crowded the paths. I had to keenly observe the path I walked along, particularly as the baby ones were only a cute centimetre long!

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The sunlight sparkled from this alien orb on the sand; hypnotic in its strange beauty. Was it alive? The answer I found out was no as this was the the ‘jelly’ remains of a jellyfish. Called the mesoglea, this is the last part to decompose when a jellyfish dies, usually after being torn apart by fish, turtles or rough weather. It doesn’t sting but not knowing that at the time I wasn’t taking a chance!

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Butterfly clams were a delight of tiny proportions. Visible briefly as the waves washed over the sand, the butterfly clams use the water to move around on the beach before quickly burrowing themselves again. This recurrent movement is known as the “dance of the coquina”.  Although it was difficult and rare to catch sight of the clams themselves, their shells were scattered across the beach and the child within me eagerly collected a handful of the 15-25 mm empty shells.

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Image from Google

Finally, a mystery! These little birds were a common sight on the beach, pecking away at the sand along the water’s edge. They were among our favourite animals in Florida, so cute and particularly endearing as with each oncoming wave they would dash quickly away up the beach, their little legs stepping so fast. Despite numerous conversations with other walkers along the stretch of coast we became no wiser as to what these birds were actually called. Can anyone help?  Below are my first attempt to upload my own videos from Vimeo – fingers crossed they work!

I hope you have enjoyed the visit to the animal kingdom from New Smyrna Beach; my next post will visit the bricks and mortar of the towns in the area.

Unless specified all photos copyright © Annika Perry

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79 thoughts on “GHOST CRABS ET AL

  1. Sherri says:

    What an amazing array of wildlife…thank you for sharing your beautiful photos Annika. Did you find out about that mystery bird? It’s so sweet! And what a delight to see those pelicans too. Love the little Ghost Crab! I can almost smell the salt and hear the waves crashing on the shore from here…ahhhhhhh! 🙂 xxxx

  2. literaryeyes says:

    You took in a lot of the sights and sounds – and smells – of the beach. New Smyrna is a lovely place. I love watching pelicans fly by like they’re on a mission. The ghost crab photo was excellent!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Your phrase ‘pelicans fly by like they’re on a mission’ sums them up perfectly; intensely focussed, flying together in an absolute straight line for ages before veering off. Glad you feel I captured New Smyrna Beach – the beach was a heavenly haven for us.

  3. Aquileana says:

    Stunning post… I would say I almost felt I was there… the regal bird is stunning… ((Such a coincidence, I saw one of those by the river last friday … and got close enough to record a little video. I will add the link for you to take a look if you want: https://goo.gl/rwzSN3 … By the way, Your slideshare featuring that bird is beautiful… Thanks for sharing!. Sending best wishes. Aquileana 😉

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Aquileana and great that you posted the link to your video. Wow, you got close and so majestic. I think it is the Great Egret as this one is much bigger than the ones we saw. All amazing. So glad you liked the post and also the slideshow – almost worked like a video! Warmest wishes 😀

  4. reocochran says:

    It is funny since I know I read this and even refer to it in my comment on the St. Augustine post “today,” Annika. I must have read and possibly commented but this is a problem with my blogging on a cell phone, I don’t always wait to make sure my response is posted.
    Anyway, I like the idea of seeing large groups of pelicans! I would also be excited as you were! I think I am used to seeing one on a post at a restaurant or two “overseeing” our fishing trip, either with my parents or a few years ago in 2012, with my fisherman friend.
    I also have only rarely seen ghost crabs, in Florida. I like how you so accurately described his expression on his tiny face! Grumpy and irritated at your catching him! But you did manage to get such a clear photograph of each of the natural elements on your beautiful beach vacation. xo
    While up in Rockport, Massachusetts, we saw the ones which you like to catch and eat. 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    Another great blog Annika. I really am beginning to be attracted to Florida, particularly the coast. It all seems so peaceful and close to nature and somewhat different to the east coast of Essex!

    Love the videos too. They convey the feel of the sea and beach more than photographs can. Must be the sound.

    I too remember the Sandpipers, but much prefer the Turtles from the late sixties!

    Thanks for sharing your holiday experiences.

    Mike

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mike, I hadn’t thought much about the sound from the videos at first but once home I appreciated them so much more – they really helped to pull me back to Florida! Much the same as scents / smells can immediately transport one back to a place or time. So glad you’re also enraptured with Florida and although different from the UK east coast, the quiet, peace and wildlife can be found there. Turtles a group?? Really?? Off to explore further…

  6. Carol Balawyder says:

    Annika, these are fabulous photos and as your first time using video it was great! I love the way your personal way of describing these creatures – you have such a lovely way with words.Thanks for bringing into my office a little bit of Florida beach <3.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Carol, lovely to see you back on wordpress and I hope you have had a lovely summer break! 😀 Glad you liked the videos – I’d saved for a new camera and enjoy using the filming option but there is not always something to film so it was such a wonderful opportunity to try out the feature in full in Florida. Ahh…love your comment about the Florida beach coming into your office…a warm cosy happy feeling but without the hassle of sand! Warmest wishes ❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you and with your most definitive answer I’m glad to declare mystery bird…A Sanderling!!😃 It was a wonder to see so many birds in the wild, often only seen in zoos before – a real treat! Thank you so much for your comment.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you, Jo – nature seems to becoming an increasingly important and integral part of my life recently; or maybe I’m just paying it more attention! So glad you liked the post – looking forward to your Edinburgh trail.

    • Annika Perry says:

      The bird is now most definitely (by popular vote!) identified as a Sanderling – thank you for the tip, David! Thank you so much for your kind comment, now I can’t stop smiling. 🙂

  7. Curt Mekemson says:

    I always enjoy a trip to the ocean, Annika, for all of the reasons you do. Great shot of the crab and pelicans are my all time favorite bird. I can sit and watch them diving for hours. They always make me laugh. Fun blog. Thanks! –Curt

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you, Curt. I totally fell for those pelicans and I felt privileged every time we got to see them. Of course, the camera was never to hand when they flew straight past our balcony, almost so close to touch. I think we were both awe-struck into stillness!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Pam, thank you so much! 😀 I know, I had such a wonderful time I can’t stop going on about my trip to Florida (my son and husband have been warned to be patient!). It was almost surreal how still and patient the crab was – only later did I realise its great expression. Classic!

      • roughwighting says:

        But YOU made that crab alive for us. Really special. My college roommate (Pam in my earring story) lives in FL and has for years. She l o v e s living there, and when I visit, I can understand why.

        • Annika Perry says:

          What an amazing place to live in! My only hesitation would be the constant heat…don’t know if I’d ever get used to it. After four day heatwave in the UK I welcomed the fifteen degree drop and rain today! (But we don’t have air con!!) I hope you get to visit Pam a lot. 😃

          • roughwighting says:

            I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like. We’re getting together this October, but in my Boston neck of the woods. She says Floridians get used to the heat and humidity. And they celebrate that they don’t have to get used to ice and snow. Makes sense to me!! 🙂

  8. PeterR says:

    Hej Annika,

    Thanks for sharing the pictures and the peace. It must be a wonderful place, but it takes someone with the right spirit to extract so much from it. Most of us just rush by.

    Mention of the group The Sandpipers reminded me: you really should look up the track “Guantanamera” very sixties – ages me.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you, Peter. It was an amazing place and did wonders for the soul. I imagine everyone takes something different from such an experience – from the lone walkers on the beach, the children playing, the surfers and even the yoga lady!

      Don’t know the song but I’ll have a listen. Thank you.

  9. mommermom says:

    The two things I love most about this post was that little ghost crabs sitting so patiently waiting for you to snap his picture. The second thing for your little videos showing you watching the antics of the seabird while you took the shot from the water not from the shore. Nice perspective.

    • Annika Perry says:

      This ghost crab was amazing – incomprehensible that this one should be so patient when all the others scuttled away at the first sound of our footsteps! Thank you for your comment about the video – I never tired of stopping to gaze at these delightful funny birds and was happy to capture them on video – the one taken from the sea was ensure the sun was behind me!

  10. delphini510 says:

    Thank you Annika for this wonderful post. You have given us a lot of beauty in pictures and films. You must have done some research to know so much about each lovely creature.
    How important it is to keep eyes and heart open to the nature that surrounds us;
    so many treasures to find and delight in. You have achieved this.
    Mirja

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Mirja. The nature here was so different from home and the usual so it was wonder and delight to behold. I did do some research on them all – started for my own interest but then wanted to share here as well. So glad you liked the films too – my first ever attempt at putting my own on!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Christy, at first I thought this was a baby jellyfish until I read about it later – I prefer my imaginings more than the decomposing truth! With such beauty all around it was a treat to capture beautiful photographs of the animals.

  11. JC says:

    Annika, thank you for the wonderful pictures and descriptions. Living here, I sometimes take it for granted the wildlife along these shores. It’s good when fresh eyes show you again the miracles living by this ocean.

  12. L. T. Garvin, Author says:

    I love your beautiful photos also, Annika. Nature and animals are a true blessing. A few days spent enjoying it all is so refreshing to the spirit. I loved the little crab. I never heard of ghost crabs before, but when my girls were small, they each had hermit crabs as pets.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Lana, I just love the idea of your daughters having hermit crabs as pets!! Did they have a little rock pool nearby? How long did they live for? What were they called? Blimey…you could write a whole post! I’d never seen anything like these ghost crabs either, more used to the ones my grandfather and family fished off the coast of Sweden or the tiny ones we caught whilst ‘crabbing’.

      • L. T. Garvin, Author says:

        The girls had them in a large glass fishbowl type thing. They did have a little pool. I think they called them Oscar and Gidget, although we never really knew their orientation….but one was smaller. It has been so long that I don’t remember how long they lived, but I don’t think it was very long. The girls always wanted different types of pets, but my son was content with just a dog.

  13. maryannniemczura says:

    Great story, photos and videos. I’ll ask my husband the name of the birds since he is an ichthyologist and will know. It looks like you had good weather to spend in Florida and missed the hurricane and its aftermath. Inquisitive by nature, it is gratifying to find such details in your posts. My walks at the lake leave me with endless questions about plants, birds, the water, etc. Happy blogging to you. ^__^

    • maryannniemczura says:

      Perhaps a “sanderling” for the bird but definitely in the sandpiper family. Without consulting a bird book on sandpipers, my resident biologist says this is the name of the bird, but perhaps there is a birder out there with a better guess?

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Mary Ann. It was a revelation to find myself so totally absorbed in nature, to have time to really observe – an absolute delight. I love the sound of your walks by the lake; water is such a magnetic force, reeling us in! After a while the walks become meditative…

      Thank you also for taking time to help with the mystery bird…it does indeed look like the sanderling from the sandpiper family! Mystery solved, methinks. Just looked on the wikipedia page for sanderlings and there are some stunning close images of the bird. So appreciate your thoughts and comments.

      Hope all is well and music is still singing in your heart and soul!

      • maryannniemczura says:

        Hi Annika, and thank you for your kind words. Glad I could help with the name of the bird. Indeed, water has a magnetic force. It calms the soul and inspires poetry when I walk along the lake. The ducks were marching in a row along the path where walkers normally walk their dogs. I take that path because it’s closest to the water. Nature is so intriguing. I spot bits of color and follow sounds into the nearby woods. I guess it also brings me back to my childhood in Massachusetts. I don’t know if you know the gospel song My Lord What a Morning, but I am currently working on that piece. The words fit so perfectly with my morning walks at the lake. Music is in my heart and soul as I gaze out at the lake. ^__^

  14. D. Wallace Peach says:

    I love the feel of this post, Annika, your peacefulness and presence with nature. We miss so much beauty when we’re rushing around in our daily lives. I’m glad you took the time to notice all the wildlife around you. Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing a bit of that wonderful feeling 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Diana, this trip has awakened my sense of awareness with nature and particularly wildlife. As you say in the every day we often charge around, not noticing but here in Florida, time seemed to stop. Standing fifteen minutes watching a bird became quite natural (lulled by those waves!) and I felt privileged to view such magic. Happy to share…Wishing you a lovely day with many happy writing moments.😀

  15. Jill Weatherholt says:

    Ever since I was a child, I loved the ghost crabs. I always enjoyed chasing them along the beach. Funny thing, during our last trip we never saw one. It was so odd. I wondered if it was because of the storm, but you saw them, so that blows my theory. Like Bernadette, I’ve always called those birds sand pipers. I love them! Thanks for sharing your amazing photos, Annika.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Blimey, Jill! You were fast managing to chase after the ghost crabs…they were almost mystical in their speed and often we’d just catch a quick glance out of the corner of our eyes. They are truly amazing and another first for me. I’m sad you didn’t see any however thinking about it, we didn’t see any at all after the hurricane/storm…so that could definitely be the reason. The weather was still so blustery, the sea crazy wild and the sand different. Yep, the little cute ones definitely seem to be sandpipers, thank you for the suggestion. Very different from UK sandpipers but oh, one of my favourites to watch! Who needs TV?!😀

  16. Marion Wesslander says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us. The photos and the commentaries are just great. Really enjoyed this and I will show Kent. He will love it for sure. Kram

    • Annika Perry says:

      Julie, I know, I wondered whether to give the crab a tip! 😀 He was so patient and seemed to hang around longer than necessary as if waiting for something! In the usual hustle and bustle of life, nature so often passes me by so this was a real treat to spend so long each day just observing, just being.

  17. Bernadette says:

    Annika, as I said you are bringing the Florida coast yo me with fresh eyes. I love to watch the Pelicans fish. It is so startling to watch them crash into the water. Mystery bird… I always called them sand pipers but not sure if that is correct.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Bernadette, I agree, the pelicans just look too big to crash into the water like that but they make it look like an art! It was fascinating to watch the flock fly across and try to guess which one would peel off to dive. Thank you for your sand piper idea – I’ve just read more about them and you’re spot on! Thank you! The sandpipers in the UK are quite different, often known as snipes with longer beaks and sleeker bodies but this is another one within the family. Great!

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