April 25 to 26th, 2019

Caterpillar finally came and did the engine repairs. They told us they should have an answer on the generator today. But of course, no answer. As well, M.A.C. of Florida replaced another faulty chiller today. The sun is in full blast, so we are anxious to get back home where the sun does not scorch your skin, but gently caresses it. It is time to hug Emmett, and kiss his soft cheeks as we wait for the birth of Malcolm. Although, we do not have the generator fixed, we will be heading to Marathon tomorrow. The heat inside the boat should be tolerable because we will be traveling at high speed.

The Secret Woods

Just a few blocks away, we found a hidden gem from the general hustle and bustle of urban life. Just east of Fort Lauderdale International Airport, there is absolute stillness in this dense canopy of mangroves. In 1978 the Secret Woods was designated as an “urban wilderness area” protecting a 56 acre floodplain of cypress strand and mangroves. Extensive boardwalks meander through the mangrove forest and the royal palms rise elegantly above the canopy. The sweet sounds of the birds break the stillness as we explore this secret gem.

It is a place where crabs lumber around the forest floor, and crawl along the barks of the mangroves. Burrows made by these creatures can be seen along the forest floor. If you are lucky, and are very still and wait, you will get a glimpse of these fast running crabs. If they see you approach, they will scurry to their burrow. Their stalked eyes give them the ability to see you before you see them. We were very patient and were able to view both the “Fiddler Crab”, and the “Mangrove Tree Crab”. The male “Fiddler Crab” has one claw that is quite larger than the other, unlike the female where both claws are similar in length. The male’s claw is about one third of its total body weight. And girls, what do you think this claw is used for? They use it to try and attract the females. Waving it about like a wailing banshee hoping to impress the girls. The other claw is used for feeding. They also use this giant claw for fighting other males. “En garde!”.

The “Mangrove Tree Crab” is not the most attractive subject. Unlike the “Fiddler Crab”, it resides in the canopy, feeding on the dead mangrove leaves. They are known as the “engineers” of the ecosystem. Their beady eyes are widespread giving a spider like appearance. Their dark brown bodies scurry fast and they jump a distance as well.

If the “Mangro Tree Crab” is not enough to give you the heebie jeebies maybe the “Golden Silk Orb” will do it for you. As they hang through the mangroves on impressive webs weaved of golden silk, you must be wary of their golden orange body, and their long spindly golden legs with bands of brown. These scary creatures have a reputation for ensnaring prey that is exponentially larger than they are. Their elaborate webs are remarkably strong, and a permanent home to them. If these intricate structures are damaged, no worries, they rebuild it. Their venom is relatively mild, so if one bites you, you will only hurt for a few days. On the other hand, it is enough to paralyze a bird or bat. Once one is snagged, he wraps his victim tight in his golden silk and saves it for din din. On the bright side, he would make a good sentinel for your vegetable garden.

A beautiful guest of the forest, the “Yellow-Crowned Night Heron”, announces his beauty to us. He is hunting alone, this handsome species forages for the fiddler crab during low tide. Its creamy yellow crown and head plumes stand out against the wooded swamp. His slate gray body stands very still as he patiently awaits his next meal. Waiting for just the right moment to strike.

Unlike the “Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron”, the striking white “Ibis”, has a different approach for foraging. It methodically swings its bill, scythe like through the mud. His long curved bill probes the mud for insects, worms and crabs as he walks the wet soil.

High in the canopy a beautiful air plant resides with it long green leaves reaching up and down and around the scarlet flower. Oh, what a beauty! Further up the path rests two ducks, peacefully taking their afternoon nap.

Inside each of these holes is a cab.
Male Fiddler Crab
See if you can spot the females.
Mangrove Tree Crab
Watch him jump!
Golden Silk Orb
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
White Ibis