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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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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