Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nothing that is can pause or stay; The moon will wax, the moon will wane, The mist and cloud will turn to rain, The rain to mist and cloud again, Tomorrow be today. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Looking across the Stump Pass channel towards Knight Island to the south.  The channel was dredged in 2010 to make the pass deeper.  The dredged sand was used to build up the south end of Stump Pass State Park.

All it takes is one little tropical storm named Debby and 3.76 million dollars worth of sand gets shifted to the west.

The sandbar has shifted to the west of it's previous location.  You can see the little spit of sand just past the stumps.

The south end of Stump Pass State Park has easily tripled in width since Tropical Storm Debby last July. Prior to the storm the trees were on the edge of the water.

Only a mile walk down from the main entrance to the park beachcombers reap the rewards of sharks teeth and shells for their efforts.

Australian Pines stand tall against the sky.       (taken with my iPhone)

Stump Pass is my happy place.  I walk out to the end a few times each month.  The changes over the last year are really intriguing to watch.  Thankfully, the channel is still deep enough for boater's to traverse safely.

The Red Tide can only keep me off the beach for so long. I'll keep enjoying this sandbar while it's here.  Who knows where it will end up after the summer storms kick in.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Eagles Have Landed

The eagle's nest is located in North Fort Meyers, Florida.  An errand in the area brought me close enough to swing by and see the nest in person.
(Credit:  Jamie & April Brooks from Southwest Florida Eagle Cam Facebook Page)    The babies were referred to as E1 and E2 until recently being officially named in a poll taken on the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam Facebook Page.

Like the other 8,550 followers of the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, I find myself checking in on the growing baby eagles several times a day.  The Eagle Cam just passed 8 million views so I'm not alone.  People from all over the globe are watching and connecting by social media as they chat, tweet, & post comments on Facebook concerning the two baby eagles that both hatched around January 1st.  Now named Hope & Honor, the baby eagles are growing about a pound in weight each week.  Webcam viewers are watching the babies learn to eat, preen, and now are starting to develop what will be the massive 8 foot wingspan of their parents Ozzie and Harriet right in front of our eyes. 

  Thanks to Dick Pritchett Real Estate, whose property the eagles nest on,  the webcam they installed last fall gives the worldwide web a bird's eye view of the escapades of the eagle family. From Honor & Hope bopping each other on the head and vying for mouthfuls at feeding time there are more than a few comments on Facebook voicing concern about the sibling rivalry. Also, about the feeding - when you tune in be prepared for any number of animals to be on the menu.  I have witnessed lots of fish, rabbits, small rodents, & one seagull head being served up for dinner. Now that the babies are moving about with their gargantuan eagle feet, the new topic of worry is how close the babies get to the edge of the nest. 

A recent trip to the area brought me close enough to swing by and see the nest in person.  After watching the webcam for a month it was great to see the entire site and put it all into perspective.  Mom and Dad are never too far away - just out of camera range perched above the nest or on a tree close by.

(Credit:  Greg Hill from Southwest Florida Eagle Cam Facebook Page)  The camera is mounted 6 feet above the nest without screws or nails to avoid damaging the tree in any way.  The camera's night vision emits no light or noise to avoid intrusion into the eagle's habitat.

(Credit:  Diane Howard from Southwest Florida Eagle Cam Facebook Page)  One of the parents is always close by - something you can't see from the webcam although you can hear the eagles calling back and forth which adds to the viewing experience.

The eagles chose a lovely pasture.

The fence keeps the Eagles a safe distance from all the looky-loo's.

There is a pond across the road and it's a short flight to the Caloosahatchee River as well.

I'm thinking about how I could get my hubby to continue driving to Sanibel since we are so close to there as well.

(Credit:  Southwest Florida Eagle Cam Facebook Page)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Don't go away mad - just go away!

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission webpage gets updated every Friday. 
Like a drunken sailor drifting up and down the coast looking for a port to land in - the red tide algae bloom that made it's appearance on Christmas Day is still wandering aimlessly up and down the SWFL coastline.  Manasota Key was hit especially hard.  For 4 weeks now tourists, snowbirds & local beach goers have been hacking, coughing & sneezing all the while stepping over dead fish to try to get in some quality beach time. I ventured out to Blind Pass Beach on Manasota Key hoping the recent NW winds had blown the nasty stuff back out to sea.  The sun was out and the tide was low enough to make it a great day for sharks toof hunting.  The beach was clear of dead fish but there was a definite whiff of red tide in the air.  We stayed for a bit until the winds blew the bloom our way and as the hacking and coughing commenced we quickly exited the beach. I did get a handful of sharks teeth so the day wasn't a total bust.

There were shells and sharks teeth galore but the air was full of red tide so you couldn't breathe without coughing & sneezing.

Pookie found the end of a junonia shell.
Lots of sharks teeth, calico scallops & green sea glass.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Minus Low Tide (part 2)

The tide was rising at Blind Pass and it was getting a little too crowded for my shelling sensibilities so Jenonia, Pookie, & myself moved south to Lighthouse Beach. 

Lighthouse Beach is on the opposite end of Sanibel Island from Blind Pass.  It's about a 15 minute drive.
Jenonia was happy to hold her first sea star or starfish.  Of course, the sea star went back in the water where we found him.

After taking my advice to look on the wrack line for what looks like coffee grounds - Jenonia got the eye for Wentletraps immediately. 

Lighthouse Beach is loaded with photo opportunities. 

We arrived to Little Hickory beach access #10 to find the shoreline littered with fighting conchs left behind by the receding low tide.

The fighting conchs were all alive.  They hunker down until the rising tide washes them back to the water.

This little spit of sand is the very northern end of Little Hickory Island on Bonita Beach. It is a 15 minute walk from the public beach entrance.  No concessions, no potties but lots of shells.

Jenonia will leave no sand bar unturned but what crystal clear water to walk in.

Winter always brings the migrating sea birds to gather in droves at the end of the beach.

This live lightning whelk was the biggest Jenonia had ever seen.  If you spend alot of time on the water the waist pack Jenonia is wearing is worth a closer look.

The Overboard waist pack is the coolest pack ever!  The main compartment is a roll down dry sack perfect for cameras, iPhones & other small electronics that need to stay dry on the beach.

There are 2 jetties on the north end of Little Hickory and you can almost bet there will be shells piled up next to the rocks.  It's always a good idea to pack a hand rake to dig with instead of your bare hands.

Beach access #10 is worth the walk out to the end.  The view is a panoramic look at the Gulf of Mexico surveying Sanibel, Ft. Meyers Beach, & Lover's Key. 

We started at 2 am and covered 3 beaches traveling about 40 miles to visit each one. 

Life is a beach and I'm just playing in the sand.

Monday, January 14, 2013

“No matter how dark the night, somehow the sun rises once again and all shadows are chased away” ~ from lyrics by David Matthews

The day breaks revealing a busy morning of shelling at Blind Pass on Sanibel/Captiva.

Can you remember being a kid and playing a game of  hide & go seek?  The best hiding place was always a closet.  As you sat in the closet being quiet and trying not to be found did you ever try to see your hand in front of your face?  That is dark.  If you are at Blind Pass on Sanibel/Captiva at 5am it's called "pitch black".  The 5:45am lowest minus tide of 2013 coincided with a new moon which means no moon - no light at all except for the hundred's of thousands of incandescent stars glowing across the sky.  As we stood in the empty parking lot of Turner Beach gearing up for our shelling expedition on the beach below our eyes slowly became accustomed to the early morning pre-dawn sky and the outlines of shell piles started coming into view.  

My strategy for being the first one on the early morning  beach is to do a quick scan the shoreline for anything big and anything speckled brown & white.  After my initial fly by I go back for the serious re-con shelling. Joining me was  my new shell sistah Jenonia & niece Pookie. Armed with her new LED flashlight, Jenonia nimbly climbed over the jetty rocks and headed for the shell line.  This Sanibel January morning was like a summer day to this Wisconsin native.  It was already decided that in the pursuit of the goodie shells water or waves were no object.  Fueled by a bottle of Dr. Pepper, a very wide awake Pookie headed to her favorite spot under the bridge.  

The morning looked promising but it wasn't long before a parade of flickering headlamps and flashlights joined us on the sand bar of Blind Pass.  The minus -1.1 lowest tide of 2013 word had gotten out on the shelling grapevine (probably by some big mouthed blogger ;D )  By 6am I counted 30 fellow beach combers lining the pass with various shelling apparatus's. Some were digging with sand flea rakes. Others had hand-held garden tools to dig through the shells piled up around the bases of the jetty rocks.  Jenonia's method was to walk in the waist deep water on the sand bar and feel for shells with her toes & retrieve them with her shell shovel. As the tide turned and the water in the pass started to rise higher, our shelling window at Blind Pass started to close.  But.... the tide is an hour behind at the south end of the island so it's still low tide there. To be continued.

A good flashlight or headlamp are the the essential tool for night shelling.

Jenonia brought along her new LED flashlight for her first night shelling excursion.

Night shellers lining the pass at daybreak.

With our unseasonably warm January the Florida morning was perfect weather to get out in the water and walk the sand bar.

This recent Florida transplant from Wisconsin has jumped into the deep end of shelling feet first.

Jenonia's first nice find - a flat.  It's actually half of a bi-valve. It could be a zig zag or Raveneli scallop (to be determined).

Pookie crossed the bridge to check out the Sanibel side.

Pookie's shell bucket is getting some treasures in it.

Good shelling is always fueled with caffeine products.  Jenonia & Pookie take a breather. Did we really get up at 2 am?  You bet we did!

Stay tuned for more of our 1/11 minus -1.1 low tide shelling day.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Heigh ho, heigh ho! It's off to Sanibel we go!

Sanibel Island is my Disneyland. I feel just like the little girl in the video when I find some time to visit my happiest place on earth. Thanks to planet position and gravitational pull,  I am heading to Sanibel for the lowest tide of 2013. The minus -1.1 low tide won't drain the pass but it will be significantly lower uncovering more beautiful shelling loveliness. Follow me on Instagram or Twitter for real-time updates.  Who knows - I might be jubilating like the little girl in the video by finding my first junonia.

Me in front of the giant junonia on Bowman's Beach last year at the Shellabration.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time. ~ Steven Wright

Taking beach combing finds and arranging them in to perfect order.

The shell line stretched the length of Blind Pass Beach on Manasota Key.

Heading north from Blind Pass Beach will eventually bring you to the rocks. At high tide this area is impassable. On Monday this tide was a minus -0.3.

Lots & lots of shells hiding behind the rocks.  The looking has to be quick because the tide has turned and the water is rising.

The victims of the latest Red Tide outbreak from Christmas Day.  The county clean-up crews have cleared most of the beach but missed some of the more remote areas.

Beautiful pink.

It's about a mile walk to the rocks from the main Blind Pass Beach.  Head north (or facing the gulf > go to your right)