Exploration


Hurricane Irma has revealed grounds for exploration on Raccoon Cay that were previously impenetrable with thick trees and brush.  This is a huge island with many salt ponds and the commonly seen rock walls.  To our surprise, there are ruins of a small settlement here.  









I had found the first house not far from a beach one day when looking for birds and mentioned it to others.  Clark’s drone helped lead the way to discover several more houses surrounding the big salt pond in House Bay… okay, now that name makes sense!  




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I was again successful in finding a few pretty ground and perching birds, including the common ground dove, the thick-billed vireo singing a lovely song, and an adorable black-faced grassquit belting out a trilling call.










We asked our Ragged Island friend Raphael about these houses following lunch on Reach one day.  



He mentioned that his mother visited there when she was a little girl ~ so there were residents perhaps some 80-90 years ago now.






We spent the next several days exploring the ruins and salt ponds on the south part of the island.  Tugboat and Sailor went with us a few times, but Sailor needs to stay on the leash or else she’ll run off chasing goats!









Mark starting finding artifacts of old glass and pottery.  Then we all joined in the discovery of what included old chinaware and housewares, presumably dating from the early 1900’s.  










For example, one piece had the name SB&S on it, which is probably a Sampson Bridgwood & Sons plate from England.  













Others resembled Dutch delftware with pastural scenes in blue and white.  












The next day we explored several salt ponds on the southern part of the island.  Some dark veins that we saw from the drone turned out to be explosions of fiddler crabs!


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Most of the salt ponds are significantly evaporating at this dry time of the year and we often see desiccated fish along the perimeter.  Another pond had a massive die-off of small fish.  We figure that larvae and/or juvenile fish were washed into inland ponds during the hurricane last year and were able to survive for a while until the salinity got too concentrated.






One pond bed was more rocky than sandy and appeared to retain a bit more fresh water than the others.  I finally found where the birds have been hiding!  


Besides the dabbling ducks, white-cheeked (Bahamas) pintails and blue-winged teals, we saw a few new (to me) birds, the beautiful black-necked stilt.  








Upon closer examination of a photo, I also noticed a few short-billed dowitchers in the background.  Apparently, they are only short-billed in comparison to the long-billed dowitchers!





After working up a sweat, the rest of our time was spent underwater cooling off!  We came across the resident loggerhead turtle one day taking  nap under a rock.  The water was crystal clear and the critters photogenic.  


Rita doing her thing…



Mark with loggerhead turtle



Loggerhead turtle with shark suckers



True tulip snail eggs with a tunicate on the side



Barred cardinalfish



Berried Pederson cleaner shrimp



Intermediate french angelfish and blue tangs



Blue Chromis and juveniles



Bouquet of mermaid’s wine glasses




So, as usual I was off on my own pretty reefs taking these pictures… and then there was the time that Mark rode a bull shark!  I’ll leave you to read about it in Clark’s blog entry here.  Let’s just say that I am so thankful that they both made it home in one piece and lived to tell the tale!!!


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Well, at least they got the fish…




© M&M 2016