Dive Bombers and Other Birds

Tudor Richards, USNR

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One of the pleasanter local trips was one involving the use of the various bridges—one or two at Daytona, going across from the shopping center on the mainland to the long and yet appreciably wide sand spit that has the beach on the ocean side and a road both along there and along the river; one at Ormond several miles to the north and still another further up where the Halifax River is only a narrow creek flowing through salt marshes. On one such trip, late in March, 1943, I listed about 50 species of birds including a goodly variety characteristic of the river, beach, salt marsh, scrub pine woods, hardwoods and thicket habitats, though nothing very unusual. Interestingly enough I saw almost exactly the same number on a trip following about the same route in the middle of November of the same year, but only just about half were common to both lists. The greatest discrepancies were in the water birds and hawks. Perhaps the sight of one young and four adult eagles bald eagles sitting on the beach near the same spot on the latter trip was the most noteworthy, though to have ten kinds of birds singing on the March day was pleasant. Each trip totaled close to 40 miles, so there was plenty of exercise involved too.

Ponce de Leon Inlet, as mentioned before, was visited for both shells and birds, the long stretch of beach leading to it giving one ample opportunity to add new specimens to one’s collection and list, respectively. birdsSandpipers, plovers, gulls, terns, skimmers, pelicans, and even some herons and egrets as well as cormorants, etc., offshore were the birds most in evidence. Gannets and both kinds of loons I had seen in the vicinity of Jacksonville Beach, but never as far down as Daytona. Offshore ducks were almost non-existent in Florida, though scaups were fairly frequent in bays and occasional red-breasted mergansers seen in such places. “Puddle” ducks were seen even less often, but only because of the few visits to fresh water marshes. One visit to Ponce de Leon Inlet from the south side (I had taken my bicycle by train to New Smyrna, 25 or 30 miles south of Daytona and biked out to the train) netted a new bird, new bird the gray kingbird, but also an unpleasant tussle with some overconscientious coast-guardsmen, before pedaling home.

Trips longer
train (to
cocoa, back
from melbourne) & bicycle trip
further afield were often especially successful. One of the longest occupied the better part of two days, involving a rather complicated tour. It was late in September 1943, and if there hadn't been a strong northeast wind, conditions would have been ideal*. This was to Cocoa, whence I rode across the bridge to Merritt Island and, after a side trip to the north, across the next bridge to Cocoa Beach, headed south past the naval air station, going back across the bridge to Eau Gallie, inland nearly to Lake Washington, south to the Melbourne-Kissimmee road, and finally, after a look at the upper St. John’s, east to Melbourne. Though longish (around 55 mi.), it took me through a great variety of country, including river bottom hardwoods, sand dunes and beach and scrub land immediately behind them, pine lands, prairie and fresh water marshes.

* From here on copied in 1991 from a rough penciled account of ? 1945.

To get a better look at the marshes and having two days off I borrowed a rubber liferaft and took it in a parachute bag to Melbourne, hitch-hiked to the St. John’s and headed north and downstream. Progress was slower than expected, and I got only as far as Lake Washington before it became time to look around for a sleeping place. By chance I found a deserted cabin on a hummock of dry land that I figured afterwards must have been the one Dr. Barbour used to visit from Eau Gallie. The next day I explored a little further around the lake, admiring the hundreds of white ibises, then deflated the raft and packed it up in the bag again, slinging it over my shoulder for the walk out. The side road that took me to the big marsh east of Lake Washington before, attracted me again, and fortunately, because a flock of glossy ibises there performed very nicely. There were also surprising numbers of blue-winged teal and black-necked stilts. It was a long walk out though, especially as I was offered no ride, and the 40 lb. bundle, not riding like a good pack, was very uncomfortable in the 10 miles of heat to Eau Gallie.

One time I went to Miami, taking the bus to key west Key West, foolishly never having made the trip when based in Opalocka. I had time for a short ride around the island, but that’s all.

Two trips to the west
of fla.
west coast, one to Clearwater, the other to Sanibel, were possible on two-day-off periods, though there wasn’t time for anything but a fairly good walk along the beach at the latter. There was, however, enough for me to get a fair representation of the shells, which littered the beach in piles the like of which I've never seen the like of anywhere shells else. The Coast Guard gave me rides both ways. I was the only guest at the inn, and there was no one else walking the beach. More time was available at Clearwater, where, after seeing a couple of new birds on the beach, new birds,
Snowy Plover and Cabot’s Tern, I hired a boat and rowed to Caladesi Island and found some really pretty good shells—paper nautilus, left-handed whelks, helmet tun shell, olives, paper fig, fighting conch, Chinese alphabet.

It might look as if I were an awful lone wolf going on all these trips by myself, but the fact is that there were very few other bachelors attached to N.A.S., and none of these had bicycles or were particularly interested in natural history. Charles Jenner was an exception to the last statement except that he was very happily married. Mildly interested in birds, he became very interested in shells and with the help of his car and his wife managed to build up a collection perhaps on the whole slightly superior to mine but which he mounted in old cigar boxes fixed up with cotton and glass tape. We were occasionally able to go out together, and that was always enjoyable.