I spent the next couple of days recovering on a chaise lounge on the dock of the Hungry Pelican motel. The owner regaled me with stories about how the snowy egret came to the motel the first time and never left after he was fed, and how the “hungry” pelicans came and never left, and how the pair of red shouldered hawks came to nest in the large pin oak at the motel. I could hear the hawks screeching above, just like our Cooper’s Hawks at home.
Red Shouldered Hawk
I watched as the owner fed the egret and pelicans twice a day. I got used to his routine. He would go into the freezer in the motel office, grab a frozen block of bait, and let it defrost. Then he would fill two buckets and carry them out to the dock. He would sit on a certain chair that was “his”, like a throne under a palm thatched roof. Each bird would take its own position on the dock prior to feeding time. From there, he would feed the birds by throwing the fish out singly to each bird at his own position on the dock and criticize them if they stole from each other, which happened pretty often, especially when the gulls came around. No one stole from the egret, however, all the birds kept their distance from him. The owner kept a good sense of humor about it though, chuckling to himself. It was amusing to say the least.
He also told me about how when hurricane Andrew came in 1992, all of the water was sucked out of the bay towards Florida and he knew that something really bad was going to happen. He was told to evacuate and decided to stay anyhow. It was really bad, but Homestead was hit the worst. When the water came back, it covered Key Largo and they lost some trees. Smaller keys, like Soldier Key (15 miles south of Miami Beach) were inundated and all but wiped clean of houses, trees and structures by the hurricane in no time. (See before and after photos below.) But it could have been worse, far worse, if Andrew had hit Miami.
While I was on the mend, Sean was out exploring. He found a Cuban Café right next to our motel that served café Cubano and other Cuban delicacies. When I recovered, we went there daily for our morning fare.
Sean went to Silent World Dive Shop, which turned out to be only a block or so from our motel, and arranged for us to go on a dive with them later (I would be snorkeling) in the week. They were having a half price sale on wetsuits, he had one and I didn’t, so I needed to go try one on. So, one day when I thought I was feeling up to it, we went there and I went into the dressing room with the suit. If you have never donned a wetsuit, they are not easy to put on. I had broken out into a full sweat by the time I wriggled and wrestled myself into the thing on and zipped up. But, it fit like a (rubber) glove, so we bought it. By the time I squirmed my way out of the thing, I was completely exhausted and we went back to the motel for me to hit the chaise and see the pelicans get fed some more.
The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was just across Route 1 and down and the road a piece from our motel and they had two short hiking trails there, so we decided to test my energy level there. The trails were beautiful, winding their way through the mangrove swamps, with tamarind trees and glimpses of gorgeous beach and kayakers. I was energetic at first, but then got so tired that I had to sit on the elevated board walk for a minute to rest. That was not a good sign. I guess we were going to have to take it easy for a couple more days before we hit the water.
The elevated boardwalks were to protect the environment. We didn’t get to kayak either.
A mangrove cuckoo. We didn’t see one, but we could have…
So, it was back to the chaise and the hungry pelicans. The owner was disappointed to see me back there and gave me some words of encouragement.
“You’ll get into that water soon, Hon!”