Friday, August 31, 2012

Post-storm shelling update

(Credit:  National Geographic)

It is said that one only finds a junonia "once in a blue moon".  Well, tonight a blue moon graces our skies - the last one until July 2015 and there are pictures of 3 junonias found in the after-Isaac-shell-free-for-all out in blogville.  The post-storm shells are rolling in on SWFL.  For a good look at the shell-action run over to Seashells & Salty Air facebook page.  Stephanie hit it big time on Little Hickory with a 4 foot shell pile.  She also found a coveted junonia. Woohoo!!

Further north the shell pile at Blind Pass on Sanibel/Captiva has been hopping as well.  My shell Sistah Pam of iLove Shelling has some pictures that will make you green with shell envy. Thanks to Pam & Stephanie for their coverage of the post-storm shelling bonanza.  I'm hoping I'll have some pics of my own to share soon as well.
(Credit:  Seashells & Salty Air facebook page)
        Some of Stephanie's Little Hickory finds.  Makes you drool right?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I'm just saying.....

As a native Floridian, it's possible I've grown a little too accustomed to hurricane season.  It's always better to be safe than sorry so I had a couple extra cases of water & new batteries for the flashlight.

Hurricane seasons starts on June 1st.  August & September are the most active time of the season.

Some are questioning the wisdom of the RNC for bringing the convention to Tampa during the peak of hurricane season.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rising like huge exclamation marks on the beach,  the towering Australian Pine trees on the end of Stump Pass State Park  beckon you past the main beach and on to the the beach less traveled. As a non-native species of tree, the park service started eradicating the pines some years back because they emit a chemical that kills all nearby plants and inhibit the growth of new vegetation. The island is now thriving and blooming with native trees, mangroves, & flowering bushes but the landscape near the southern end of Stump Pass is a surreal driftwood sculpture garden of huge fallen trees and their gargantuan root systems. 

The entrance to the park is a good base camp for walking the mile out the the southern end. The Weston Wanna B Inn Resort (see my last post) where I stayed last week is located a shell's throw from the park & the end is an easy walk from there as well. Stump Pass State Park is a bare bones facility with only a soda machine for refreshments so bring a cooler stocked with cold drinks & snacks.  I would also suggest an umbrella for shade.  Definitely bring water with you on your walk to the end as well as a camera for the bounty of nature photo ops.

The walk to the end takes about 20 minutes IF you are not looking for shells, fossils, or shark's teeth which are there in abundance.  Inspecting the beach as you walk can add several hours to your travel time. A nature trail rambles up the center of the park out to the end.  Once on the southern end of Stump Pass you have a spectacular view of Knight Island, the Gulf of Mexico & Lemon Bay. The pass shifts & changes on the whim of every tropical storm or hurricane that blows through.  A popular destination for boaters & kayakers,  the pass is a busy place on the week-ends but week-days are usually quiet & serene.

After Australian pines kill off the sea oats & other native plants that hold the beach in place they topple over as the beach slowly erodes.

It is not uncommon to see a half buried root system festooned with shells placed by beach combers walking out to the end of the pass.

This non-native species has flat narrow roots not made for sand and give away during strong winds.

The birds make good use of the available perches.
 My beach buddy Lil Shorty & I took a walk out to the end last week and found a huge shell pile being uncovered by the ebbing tide flowing very quickly out of the pass. I love being in the right place at the right time.

All in a day's walk.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the beach without feeling guilty about it. ~Author Unknown

You could be here (It's closer than you think)  Find your own little slice of paradise in SWFL.

On the small Key of Manasota on Englewood Beach, it's virtually impossible to get lost.  And yet it is blissfully easy to lose yourself on  it's laid-back beaches with seagulls & pelicans flying by. When it comes to choosing a beach resort for my out-of-town vistors to lodge at, I stepped on a pop top & blew out my flip flops a long time ago. I do look for a comfortable place but I like the old-Florida style where the boating-fishing-beach combing lifestyle is embraced and even celebrated. 

The Weston's Wanna B Inn Resort sits at the most southern end of Manasota Key right at the entrance to Stump Pass State Park. The resort is a sprawling compound of condo-type apartments, bayside fishing cottages, & gulf-front efficiencies smack dab on the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay.  The new owners are in the process of updating & remodeling their way through this local beach landmark.  My family from North Carolina stayed in the Sea Star Motel which borders Stump Pass State Park.  There are 16 units, 10 of which are gulf front efficiencies decorated in a colorful mid-century style reminiscent of a vintage Florida postcard. Englewood old-timers still refer to that part of the beach as "Sea Star" beach. The compact kitchen was well stocked with dishes, pans, & such.  But who wants to stay in the room when from the huge sliding glass doors the beach was giving us the come hither look from not even 10 steps away. 

 The management staff of Weston's were gracious & accommodating to those of us that were visiting their guests as well.  I only needed to pop into the office to pick up a parking pass each time I arrived to hang out with my family.  One morning after I arrived, my sister-in-law informed me there was a construction crew on the beach early that morning pounding away.  I checked outside their back door - it was the turtle patrol not a construction crew.  A sea turtle had dug a nest & buried her eggs not even 30 feet from the Adirondack chairs on the back porch of their room.  My family had an amazing 4 days of soaking in the sun, swimming in the Gulf & the pools (there are 2), hunting shark's teeth, and just relaxing right outside their back door watching sea birds, dolphins, and even manatees parade by.  Weston's Resort is aptly named.  The moment you leave you will Wanna B back.

Stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico from the newly remodeled efficiency of the Sea Star Motel at Weston's Wanna B Resort are yours to enjoy morning, noon, & night.

If you wake up early enough, you might be a witness to a Loggerhead turtle digging her nest & laying eggs right outside your back door.

Staying on the beach is more affordable from May to December when you can take advantage of the lower summer rates.

Although the sand on Manasota Key is not powdery white, the trade off is a beach loaded with shark's teeth & shells.  The dark stuff on the wrack line is sargassum seaweed that started washing ashore after  Tropical Storm Debby blew through last month.

You can fish, sunbathe, or just beach walk to your hearts content.  There is plenty of beachfront property for everyone to enjoy.

The Weston has 2 pools both of which were clean & well maintained.  My Hubby & his sisters enjoyed some major power noodling - noodles being the floatation device of choice on the Englewood beaches & pools.

The bayside of the Weston has boat slips for rent & trailer parking available.  The location on Lemon Bay puts you in close proximity to Stump Pass and   some of the best salt water fishing Florida has to offer.  Lemon Bay is also an excellent kayak or SUP destination.

Lemon Bay is a bird watchers utopia.  Pelicans abound but Osprey, Heron, & Egrets are plentiful as well.

In my next post I'll show you my all-time favorite beach (no, not Sanibel - gasp!) that is only a one mile walk south of the Weston Resort.

Please note that the preceding post is the personal opinion of me, the writer.  I did not receive compensation from Weston's Wanna B Inn Resort nor did they have any input into my post.  I simply feel that a great business should receive the complimentary word of mouth advertising that they have worked so hard to attain.  I also want to pass on to you, the reader a great place to experience what you come to this blog to read about - a great beach spot.  For more on the Weston - check out their Trip Advisor here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Happy Shark Week

In honor of the start of  Shark Week on Discovery Channel I am sharing the watermelon shark my creative genius bestie Momma Gee whipped up for her son's 11th birthday.  Her son specifically directed that he did not want a cake but wanted a watermelon fruit basket like his momma had made for a family party.  Because of Pinterest  I knew we could do better than an ole basket. The best part was the blue jello jiggler waves & Swedish fish candy garnish. The hook & sinkers were found on a beach walk & were the perfect finishing touch.  Click here for more watermelon carving ideas.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shell pile, Oh Shell pile. How I love thee. Manasota Key is famous for fossils & sharks teeth. Only 20 miles north up the SWFL coast from Sanibel some of those shells straggle onto the  beaches of Manasota Key as well. I stumbled upon a stray shell pile up against the seawall at the motel my family is vacationing at on the south end of Manasota Key. Using my Haviana's to sit/kneel on & having my little hand rake to dig with, I attacked that shell pile with all the energy a St. Arbuck's lite mocha frappacino could give me. Stay tuned for a full report of my new favorite beach resort on Englewood Beach.  (Posted from Mobile Blogger via iPhone)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war. - Loren Eiseley

Sargassum seaweed has piled up on Blind Pass Beach in Englewood, Florida.

Seaweed is piling up on the beaches of SWFL.  It's called sargassum or aka "gulfweed" and it's typically found out in the deep blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Tropical Storm Debby not only rearranged our beaches with the storm erosion but she is now redecorating with a scratchy, matted carpet of sargassum seaweed.  It don't smell so good either. Found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean and  greatly concentrated in the Sargasso Sea, Sargassum seaweed's name originated from it's grape-like appearance which Portuguese sailor's called salgazo.

 Huge rafts of sargassum naturally float about a mile off the shores of our SWFL beaches.  It acts as a transport system of sorts floating thousands of miles around the Gulf Stream current.  Marine life off all kinds take refuge and find survival in sargassum weed.   Sargassum is the destination of baby turtle hatchlings once they dig their way out of the nest, make it past red ants, raccoons, & seagulls - crawl towards the water over a sandy path too often filled with man-made obstacles like sand castles, beach chars, & litter left on the beach.  Once in the water the little guys swim like crazy towards the sargassam, hopefully not catching the hungry eye of a grouper or pelican. After safely making it to the sargassam, the seaweed raft will be great camouflage and provide a floating baby nursery for the turtles for the next six or so years.

Most county beaches have crews that operate the machinery to rake up and remove  the dried stinky seaweed. It just so happens that turtle nesting season being under way so the heavy machinery - not a good idea.  The sargassum weed is a smelly nuisance but unlike red tide won't affect your breathing.  Knowing the diverse ecosystem that the floating traveling gulfweed supports it's worth a little inconvenience at the beach knowing we have a healthy sea ready to take care of our juvenile fish, baby seabirds, and determined turtle hatching's.

The Sargasso Sea provides habitats, spawning areas, migration pathways and feeding grounds to a diverse assortment of flora and fauna, including endemic, endangered, and commercially important species. It has been called a "floating golden rainforest".

It's the little grape-like air-filled bladders on the Sargassum seaweed that cause it to float.

The seaweed didn't stop the shark's tooth collectors from their search.  Blind Pass Beach has had it's share of shell piles since Tropical Storm Debby as well.

Really... I know I was talking about seaweed but how could I not share this little cutie?  Duke is a local celebrity on Manasota Key beaches.  He thinks he's incognito in those sunglasses.
Since turtle season started around May the Coastal Wildlife Club's turtle patrol has counted 2,850 actual turtle nests and 2,876 false crawls.
The turtle nest is in the middle of the dune with the orange tape.  The baby turtles have to make it across all the dried sargassum to enter the water.