Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My soul is full of longing for the secrets of the sea, and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me... - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(Photo Credit:  Meghan McCarthy / Daily News File Photo)

While most people follow the traditional spring, summer, fall, & winter seasons;  Here on Manasota Key we observe two seasons - Lights on and Lights off.  May 1 is the official start of Lights off or better known as Sea Turtle Nesting Season.  Most beach side Manasota Key Motels, condos, & homeowners have already made the annual move to shield all outdoor lights visible from the beach.  Sea turtle hatchlings have a natural instinct to move towards the brightest direction. On a natural beach, the brightest direction is most often the expansive view of the night sky over, and reflected by the ocean.  Environmental lighting on the beach such as street lights, outdoor lighting on buildings, and even a lamp shining from a living room window can confuse the mother coming ashore to lay her eggs and the baby hatchlings some eight weeks later looking for their way to the sea.

Sea turtles not only have to get past lights, beach furniture, and predators to survive.  The weather has to be dealt with as well. Coastal Wildlife Club, Inc. who manages the turtle patrol of Manasota Key had counted 1,988 turtle nests up to week #9 of last year's turtle nesting season when Tropical Storm Debby blew across SWFL and sadly most of the nests were lost.  The 2012 season's final count was 7,030 turtle nests on Manasota Key of which 4,000 of those were false crawls.  A false crawl is when a sea turtle comes ashore but for some reason gets startled or unhappy with the area and returns to the sea without making a nest or laying her eggs. 

A few years back I got the surprise of my life.  As I was sitting on Blind Pass Beach (located in the middle of Manasota Key not Sanibel) sorting through a big pile of shell crush looking for sharks teeth a lady came running up the beach shouting that turtles were hatching about a 100 yards up the beach.  It's unusual for baby turtles to hatch during the day but it does happen.  I had been making a video about looking for sharks teeth so my camera was already out.  As I scurried up the beach to see what was going on I was met with 100's of baby turtles making their way to the water.  I was also met with a flock of seagulls trying to scoop up the determined marching babies.  Turtle patrol experts will tell you to stay back and quietly observe.  When the sea gulls started swooping our little gang went into turtle rescue mode.  They say only 1 out of a 1,000 turtles makes it to maturity.  We wanted the odds to be as good as they could get.  I was in awe of seeing the turtles hatch for days.   

For more information on what you can do to prepare for the 2013 Turtle Nesting season click here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Searching is half the fun: life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party. - Jimmy Buffett

My shark's tooth jar is always half full.

Englewood is an accidental town of sorts. Situated on the Gulf coast somewhat close to I-75 and even closer to the historic Tamiami Trail don't text while driving through or you'll miss it. Even most Floridians couldn't tell you where Englewood is located.  (Also on that list would be Chiefland, Alva, & Gulf
Hammock & I have kinfolk in them all) Most vacationers end up in Englewood for a quick stop to visit their retired parents on their way to the real vacation destination of Disney World.  Other tourists stumble upon the beaches of Manasota Key while on their way to more well known beaches like Boca Grande Island or Siesta Key.  At any rate it's one of the best accidents you could have.

Although Englewood beaches cannot boast of the sugar white sand of Siesta or the swanky shopping of Boca Grande.  Our beaches have their own distinctive treasure to brag about - fossilized sharks teeth. The official past time in Englewood is hunting for sharks teeth.  Our beaches are loaded with them.  For a town where the pace is a little slower, walking the beaches and looking for sharks teeth is the perfect speed.

Finding sharks teeth is easy if you know where to look, when to look, & what to take with you to make the looking even easier.  The sharks toofs that wash up on the beaches are usually 1 inch or smaller.  The huge Megalodon sharks teeth are found occasionally on the beaches, usually after a storm but more commonly by scuba diving or snorkeling. Most Englewood residents are happy to simply stroll the beach picking up a handful of the smaller teeth.  Those teeth as a rule end up in a container that  graces most homes.  It's a time-worn tradition here in Englewood that the decades cannot improve.

Most shark's tooth hunters walk the shoreline when they are looking for teeth.  My method is to look past the shells for patches of crushed shells and tumbled rock. My brain has a hard time focusing on both shells and shark's teeth.  For me, it's one or the other.   More shoreline is exposed at low tide but you can find patches of the shell crush at any tide.

Just a short walk up the beach can produce a handful of shark's toofs.

When you find patches of what I call "shell crush" take a closer look.  Shark's teeth in abundance are hidden among all the shell fragments and tumbled rock.  The low tide exposes the most shell crush but you can find patches to sort through even at high tide.

Some beachcombers can put quite the hurting on their Florida Snow Shovel aka Sharks Toof Shovel.  It was beyond fixing so off to Wal-mart for a new one.  We have some very creative & ingenious shark's tooth hunters in Englewood. Check out some of their contraptions.

Find yourself a nice cool spot in a tidal pool and start sifting.  An empty water bottle is a good holder for your shark' teeth.  You can attach it to your bathing suit with a rubber band or a carbine.

Another good shark's tooth hunting position especially if you are my age.

A collection of shark's teeth from 4 generations of Englewood natives that are the proprieters of The Shell Shop located at McCall Rd & Beach Rd in Englewood.

Shark's teeth come in all shapes, colors, & sizes.  The color varies due to the type of material they fossilize in.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

A honey hole (or honeyhole) is slang for a location that yields a valued commodity or resource. A local landmark or road near a honey hole may have "Honey Hole" in its name  In fishing, a honey hole could be a particular spot in a body of water (or used as a general term for the entire body of water) where conditions are ideal for catching fish. In popular culture, American Pickers, a documentary reality television series where the stars often refer to some "picks" as honey holes because of the amount of amazing objects they contain.                       
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

I love daylight savings time!  The long dark early evenings of winter are over (well the Florida winter never really started but the dark is gone here in SWFL)  The sun now sets at 7:45pm instead of the earlier 6pm of the "fall back" pre-daylight savings time.  I am a "spring ahead" girl for sure.  Those extra few hours of daylight lend themselves to a significant amount of late afternoon beach time.  Low tide was at 6pm on Boca Grande Monday evening.  Clan Gee & I grabbed our shelling and fishing gear and made the 14 mile drive out to Boca Grande aka beach heaven.

As the boys fished, Momma Gee and I strolled down the beach - me shelling - she taking pictures.  I was finding a nice shell here and there.  Momma is into jingles right now so I was keeping an eye out for those.  We saw Ospreys nesting, manatees bobbing up for air in the channel next to the shore & 100's of shore birds of every kind. It was a nice quiet peaceful walk.  The kind of walk that calibrates one's self back to the stillness instead of the busyness of the day. Whatever.  Where are the shells?

As Momma Gee walked on the wet sand I plowed through the shallows of the outgoing tide looking for any shell stragglers caught on the bottom.  As we neared brothers Geeman & Wade-ster I went out further in the water to dodge their fishing line.  Holy moley! What am I stepping on?  I was on a huge shell pile in about 3 feet of water.  I started shoveling and sifting.  Buried under the tides were a massive compacted pile of shells. As I started sorting through every shovelful, I threw the nicest ones up on the beach for Momma Gee.  I was in pursuit of the elusive cream colored brown spotted shell.  I had to work quickly because the sun was now setting and  the tide was turning.  Did I mention hammerheads feed at dusk?  Then the worst possible thing happens!  My shell shovel breaks.  Yup, I shovelled the end right off.  Ratz!  I'm standing in a huge shell honeyhole with nothing to dig with.  As I sink into disappointment and accept the reality of my situation... I remember! My bait net is 200 yards up the beach where we left our towels. All's well that ends well but I am still out of breath.  


Originally built in 1890, the  Boca Grande Lighthouse has been restored and a sister building built to house the park ranger.

Sand dunes and sea oats abound on Boca Grande.

Thoughts can wander aimlessly as Momma Gee meanders  up the beach.

Good things come to those who bait.

  The pain is in the resistance.  Accept that it's broken. (Photo Credit:  Momma Gee)

Happy happy happy again!  Always have options. (Photo Credit:  Momma Gee)

No junonia this time but lots of horse conchs, tulips, and nutmegs. (Photo Credit:  Momma Gee)

I'm a flip flop girl living in a flip flop world!  (Photo Credit:  Momma Gee)

Honeyhole keepers.

This olive measured 3" long.  Doesn't the marking look Native American?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Is the glass half empty, half full, or twice as large as it needs to be? ~Author Unknown

What do you see?  A skull?  A ladle?  A river of green?

Have you every taken an ink blot test?  Take an ambiguous ink blot and show it to 10 different people and you will get 10 different responses.  Our interpretation of the ink blot is supposed to be a peek into our personalities.  Well adjusted people give answers like it's an ant, a cloud, or Justin Bieber.  People with "issues" say something like "it's an ink blot". 

 I think our responses could bounce either way depending on what kind of day we are having or the amount of stress that we are under.  Bottom line, we all see the world through our own particular set of internal glasses.  The optimist sees the glass half full.  The pessimist sees the glass half empty.  The opportunist drank the glass of water while the other two were deciding.  I think one of life's biggest challenges is to co-exist with people who see things differently than we do.  It might be more comfortable to surround yourself with people who see life just like you do but how boring is that?

All the photos from today's post were taken by my friend Momma Gee.
Have a look at Stump Pass through her eyes.

Did you see it?
 It was a large Heron on Stump Pass.

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

(Credit:  Momma Gee)

Momma Gee under the shade of the shell tree.