Monday, October 08, 2007

It's Still Summer in Florida

It's getting to be a habit. Six o'clock in the evening rolls around and I'm ready to wind down the workday and head for the beach to catch the sunset. But I go for more than just the sunset. There is a sense of peace at the beach at day's end that really helps bring the day to a close in just the right way: fresh salt air; a nice breeze; terns and gulls floating in the air and diving for dinner; people picking up shells; and the ever-present sound of the Gulf, surging and lapping at the shore.

The water temperature is still well above 80 degrees, and the humid air is about 84 degrees at sunset, and it doesn't cool off much after that. October is the time we look for that first "cold front" to sweep through, bringing a bit of dryness to the air and a dip into the low 70's at night. We are still above 90 degrees for a high now.

Tonight, as every night, the Hubbard Marina sunset cruise went by with a fairly small group on-board. Photo below:

The sunset was small tonight. A dark gray stratocumulus obscured the pink ball until it was almost touching the water. For a few minutes the top of the sun was blocked by the cloud while the bottom was submerged under the watery horizon. Here it is:

There were lots of birds on the beach--always are on Treasure Island. Large flocks of terns swirled in the air, calling and splashing in the water as far up the beach as I could see.

And the sanderlings, with the fastest legs on the planet, run up and down the beach, expertly dodging the surging wash from the waves.

I took a walk up the wide beach after the sun went down, just enjoying the warm east wind and the sparsely populated beach. I was at the Treasure Island beach access just south of the Bilmar Hotel Resort. I like it because the parking is free, and it's the closest beach access to my house--about 10 minutes away.


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Friday, September 28, 2007

A Treasure Island Sunset and Moonrise

September and October seem to offer some of the most spectacular sunsets here on the Florida Gulf Coast beaches. This is because of the cloud formations that drift around in the Gulf during the early fall.

To create the most beautiful sunsets, tall cumulus clouds are necessary, with some stratocumulus and some high cirrus for good effect. Heavy banks of flat, grey stratus hanging on the horizon will most usually mute the sunset, or obscure it altogether. During the spring months, there is often a thick fog or haze on the horizon, and during the summer months there are often large thunderstorms and thick clouds out over the Gulf that block the sunset.

This particular evening found some flat heavy clouds partially obscuring the sunset. But I took some photos of a cruise ship sailing across the beautiful pink glow of the sunset.

Some of the most beautiful effect of a sunset are seen in the water and in the colorful glow of clouds far away from where the sun is actually setting.

After enjoying the sunset, I turned around and saw the full moon rising in the east.

Every sunset is different, and when you can see the sun set and the moon rise at the same time, well...what more do you need?

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dinner Time for Seabirds

Sunset means dinnertime for seabirds (actually ANYTIME is dinnertime for hungry birds). I drove out to Sunset Beach on Treasure Island to watch the sunset, and found lots of jumping baitfish being pursued by gulls, terns, and black skimmers. A seagull caught a fish that was almost too big to swallow. The bird played with it for a long time (a live, flopping fish is hard to swallow).

Of course there are risks that come with trying to hold onto a fish when there are other hungry birds around. A willet kept sneaking up behind the gull and made an unsuccessful grab for the gull's fish.

Finally, the gull managed to swallow the fish. That was quite a meal. A few minutes later a black skimmer caught a fish and fumbled with it for several minutes before abandoning it.

A hungry willet ran over and tried to claim it, but a willet's beak just isn't designed to eat relatively large fish.

Finally, the willet lost interest and I walked over to see why the skimmer abandoned its catch. I picked up the little fish and it became immediately apparent why the skimmer did not eat it. Here is the fish:

I noticed that the little fish had very sharp and very stiff spines on top of its body and underneath. Many fish have spiny fins, but they generally fold back against the fish's body rather easily when it is dead. The spines on this fish were rigid and would have damaged the bird's throat.

All of the photos above, except the ones of the fish, were captures from my video camera, so they are not the highest quality. Later I'll post the video of the birds and the fish.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day = Beach Day

We got out of the house a little earlier than usual today and took a drive out to Treasure Island, which is less than 15 minutes from our house. The new Central Avenue bridge is now open and no longer has a toll. We parked at the public access at 104 Ave, which is one of the few FREE beach parking lots in Pinellas County (other than in Indian Rocks Beach).

Even at 9:30am it was nearly 90 degrees. Some people were just leaving the beach after their early morning walk (smart people), and others were already in the water to escape the increasing heat. Others sat on the balcony of their beachfront hotel/resort and looked out over the wide beach.

There were a lot of terns on the beach this morning, resting from their morning fishing activities.

Whatever you did today, I hope you got the chance to relax a bit.

See you at the beach!

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