Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Our New Year's Eve photograph is one of Jim's - a new dawn, a new day, a new year.

I subscribe to the Jacquie Lawson e-cards service. I remember when her animated e-cards first appeared several years ago - pieces of fruit flying around on the computer screen, somehow morphing into such things as a Thanksgiving turkey or a wreath or a cake. People were amazed, and the cards were forwarded many times over, with the original sender's signature, of course. A few days ago, I received notice of a new Jacquie Lawson New Year's card. The background music for the cards is the Blue Danube Waltz, and information accompanying the card explains the tradition of the Vienna, Austria New Year Concert, started during the Second World War to give the local audience hope for the future. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performs dance music from Austrian composers, primarily Strauss. Quoting from Ms Lawson's background information, "Tickets for the concerts are highly prized, with some Austrian families reserving seats from generation to generation." (Reminds me of the Green Bay Packers fans.) The Blue Danube Waltz is always included as an encore, followed by the Radetzky March. I found them on the Internet, of course, and thought they would be a fine way to wish you Happy New Year. So turn up the volume and follow the links.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Other People's Blogs

There are some 10 million blogs. I only follow a few, but they are a very good few, and I wanted to share some of their recent postings with you. But first, we need a photo, and I'm lucky enough to have hundreds of great photos to chose from, thanks to Jim and Matt and friends. This beauty is one of Jim's - a Brown Pelican mother and baby. (As usual, click to enlarge.)

David McRee had a particularly interesting December 21st post on his Blog the Beach. He spent the day on a bird rescue trip to the Skyway Bridge State Park Fishing Pier with a volunteer from the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, documenting the problems that arise when fishermen and pelicans are after the same fish in the same space. We have our own dandy Florida Wildlife Hospital here in Melbourne, and we'll be devoting a post to their activities and an upcoming volunteer training session in January.

I was looking for Brown Pelican information, and one of the links was for a web site called South Dakota Birds and Birding! Since I was born and raised in western South Dakota and still remember those winters, I was a little sceptical, but this is a delightful site developed by a guy that loves birds. He has a FREE 2009 printable bird calendar - each month prints on an 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper, with half the page devoted to a bird photo and the other half to the calendar. I've printed out January - the bird is a Horned Lark in snow. Good stuff!

I found this next blog by serendipity. Pure Florida is mostly about the Nature Coast, a wonderful part of Florida's west coast that runs from Pasco County north through Wakulla County. The blogger (Florida Cracker, or FC for short) has a great spirit line - "If it ain't true Florida nature or Florida culture, it ain't here. At Pure Florida, we don't just admire nature ... we participate." He has a companion site, Pure Florida Food ,with recipes - it's worth a look just for the photo in the header!

I've mentioned Amanda's Veranda to you before, primarily because of her beautiful photos of the northeast U.S. and her fabulous music selection. If you want to see what the weather is like in Washington State, look at the closeups of frosted trees in her December 27th post entitled "Am I living in Antartica?" And don't miss her bird pix. Cactus Jack Splash gives us a horse's perspective on the weather there - if it's above 30 degrees, he does not have to wear his tarp!
There are others, but these are the nature/critter-related blogs I follow. I use Google Reader to list when these blogs are updated. It's a "cool tool" - let me know if you need directions (and thanks to David McRee for getting me started on it).

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Field Trip to the Beach!

We've talked before about Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR), Canaveral National Seashore, and Playalinda Beach. It was time for another visit up that direction, so neighbor John and I took advantage of the Chamber of Commerce weather last weekend, traveled up US#1 to Titusville's Garden Street, and headed east.

First, a few facts. MINWR is a 140,000 acre refuge that shares a common boundary with NASA's Kennedy Space Center. It lies in the Atlantic Flyway and is a major route for migrating birds. It is an important part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Some 330 species of birds use the Refuge, either as a full-time residence or a winter destination. According to link provided above, approximately half of the Refuge's 140,000 acres consists of brackish estuaries and marshes. The remaining lands consist of coastal dunes, scrub oaks, pine forests and flatwoods, and palm and oak hammocks. (I urge you to follow the above link - the resulting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site has lots of good, crisply written information.)
This was John's first visit, and eventually the conversation led to a discussion of water management and impoundments used as part of habitat management at the Refuge. Originally, the impoundments (dikes) were created in the 1950s for mosquito control (early Space Center workers will remember why!). The impoundments helped with the mosquito problem, but were found to be detrimental to the marsh habitat. Lots of people, government entities, and organizations collaborated to develop a good solution, and now the 76 impoundments not only help control the mosquito population, but provide food and habitat for birds and other critters. Be sure to read the impoundment link - it provides good insight into how technology and nature coexist so beautifully.
The above photo of the Great Egret in breeding plumage is one of Jim Angy's many photos from MINWR. Five years ago, we produced The Nature of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a photo album on a CD full of information and Jim's pictures. I'd forgotten just how good it is until I started doing some research for this posting. The CD displays only on PCs, and eventually Matt will turn it into a narrated DVD, but meanwhile, you can learn more about it at our companion site, http://www.stillnature.com/.
Eventually, John and I wound up at Playalinda Beach. If you've watched the Beautiul Beach section of our Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast DVD, you know what a cool beach it is. I had on one of my Sea-Bean Symposium shirts and was stopped by a surfer dude who pulled a hamburger bean out of his pocket to show me. So while he and I talked beans, John took photos like this one. Just look at the varied activities going on in this one small stretch of sand - fishing, surfing, sunning, wading, beachcombing - and the shuttle facility off in the distance. Perfect!
A fine, mellow day. If you live around the Space Coast, you owe it to yourself to make the trip to MINWR and Playalinda. If you are coming to visit us, add it to your agenda. Just remember to have a full tank of gas and some snacks and water, as there are no places to buy food or gas on the Refuge.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Greetings from Florida and Apollo 8 Remembered

Sometimes it is difficult to think of a Florida image that epitomizes Christmas. Luckily, Charlie Corbeil sent an e-greeting card with this photo of a Florida Mockingbird , Florida's state bird, with a wild balsam apple seed. The image lingered in my mind over several days, so I asked Charlie if I might use it for my Christmas Eve greeting card. Always generous in sharing his lovely photographs, he agreed. (Be sure to click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Forty years ago this past Sunday, Apollo 8 lifted off on a mission to orbit the moon. So many "firsts" and so many technological accomplishments, but the lingering memory is of the astronauts (Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders) beaming a television program from orbit to earth on Christmas Eve, during which they read from the Book of Genesis. They timed their broadcast to show the planet Earth hanging in the blackness of space and the surface of the moon visible in the lower left corner. At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever. In addition to our profound appreciation to NASA for its many technological achievements, we must also recognize their extraordinary sense of history and documentation that allows us to relive Apollo 8. Here, then, is that timeless greeting from the crew of Apollo 8, illustrated by NASA's photo entitled Rising Earth.

William Anders:
"For all the people on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you. "


"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."


Jim Lovell:
"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."

Frank Borman:
"And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good."

Borman then added, "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Paper Nautilus - The Argonauta

Butch Childers graciously gave us permission to use these photos of a Paper Nautilus shell that he found on Melbourne Beach last week. Wanting to tell you everything you ever needed to know about this creature, I began my research on the Internet. On the sea-bean web site, I discovered that the Paper Nautilus is also called an Argonaut, is a mollusk, and lives a pelagic existence in the tropics and subtropics. Although this part of the shell looks like paper, it is contructed of calcium carbonate (like most seashells) by the female for the purpose of protecting her eggs.
A good explanation, to be sure, but too clinical for such a lovely shell. So I turned to a poet and an author for help.
Poet Marianne Moore (1887 - 1972) wrote The Paper Nautilus in 1941. Much of the poem was symbolism that went over the top of my geeky head, but I understood and liked these words:
...the paper nautilus constructs her thin glass shell. Giving her perishable souvenir of hope a dull white outside and smooth-edged inner surface glossy as the sea, the watchful maker of it guards it day and night; she scarcely eats until the eggs are hatched.

And then I turned to Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gift from the Sea" written in 1955. This is a fine, contemplative book - I suggest you read it while sitting on a quiet beach. (It should be required reading for Baby Boomers.) Chapter 6 is devoted to the Argonauta. While the author may have taken a little poetic license, she certainly captured the essence of this dainty creature.

There are in the beach world certain rare creatures, the "Argonauta" (Paper Nautilus), who are not fastened to their shell at all. It is actually a cradle for the young, held in the arms of the mother argonaut who floats with it to the surface, where the eggs hatch and the young swim away. Then the mother argonaut leaves her shell and starts another life. .... Almost transparent, delicately fluted like a Greek column, this narcissus-white snail shell is feather light as some coracle of ancient times, ready to set sail across unknown seas.
Our thanks to Butch for sharing his lovely gift from the sea.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mole Crabs (aka Sand Fleas)

As part of our recent beach walk at Sebastian Inlet after the Sea-Bean Symposium, Ed Perry was kind enough (and quick enough) to catch some mole crabs to show Izumi. Here's the video Matt shot. Be sure your sound is turned up, and watch at the end as the little critters find some damp sand, then burrow in rear-end first, disappearing as if by magic.

video

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Beautiful Blue Glaucus Sea Slug

If you asked a child to invent a creature and describe its lifestyle, you might wind up with something like this blue glaucus sea slug. According to Blair and Dawn Witherington's book, Florida's Living Beaches, "The blue glaucus floats upside down (foot up) due to an air bubble in its stomach. " Cathie Katz spoke of the blue glaucus in her Nature of Florida's Oceans book thusly: "A glaucus is a mollusk with no shell. The inch-long glaucus floats upside down, clinging to the underside surface of the water. They eat the tentacles of toxic creatures such as blue buttons, absorbing the poisonous cells to use for their own defense. "

Some folks walking the beach yesterday found this little beauty. Fortunately for us, their efforts to identify their find eventually led to Margie Mitchell. Margie's job as Beach Coordinator for the City of Cocoa Beach frequently involves rescuing distressed birds, and she was on her way to the Florida Wildlife Hospital with a couple of birds when she received the call. She detoured to the house where the USO (unidentified swimming object!) was being kept in a bait pail and took the pail with its occupant to the Wildlife Hospital to be photographed. She also called Ed Perry and Jim Angy and described this blue creature to them - they identified it as a blue glaucus sea slug. (Ed also reminded us of the entry in Cathie's book.) Margie eventually returned the little guy to its finder, who named it Fred and said he planned to set it up in a salt water aquarium. (Photo courtesy of Sue Small, Florida Wildlife Hospital)

Christopher Boykin is a sea-beaning friend who works for the State of Florida on the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative. His comment when he saw the photo expresses my thoughts exactly: "I’m in love with this creature. So cool. It looks like an alien. The Latin name is Glaucus atlanticus. Glaucus was a Greek sea god, and how cool would it be to have the word atlanticus in your name? What a freakin’ neat sea critter!"

Update: Margie uploaded the photo of the blue glaucus to a List Serve, and amongst the comments returned was the following from Judie C. , with a link to a wonderful photo gallery: "What a fabulous find! You might like to have a look at:
http://www.imagequest3d.com/portfolio/index.htm#
and then click on Surface Drifters. Peter Parks has done a lot of the photography here in Bermuda, and we all have a great time searching the beaches and floating Sargassum for these amazing critters."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Birders' Paradise

Just as Space Coast hoteliers and businesses eagerly await the return of seasonal visitors and tourists escaping the frozen north, nature lovers in Brevard await birding season. The recent Migration Celebration at the Barrier Island Center heralded the return of migratory birds to Brevard County, and preparations are in full swing for the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird counts. In January, the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival in Titusville will provide thousands of visitors with an array of lectures, tours, and exhibits. And luckily for us, popular bird hangouts will provide opportunities for "wow" photographs like this one Wayne Matchett captured during a trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last birding season. (Be sure to click on the photo to enlarge it - it's a pure joy to look at closely.)

The above sites, as well as the Space Coast Birding web site, will provide you with a wealth of information. We'll have more bird count and Festival information in future postings. Meanwhile, put January 21 - 26 on your calendar.

By the way, if you are planning to visit Brevard County, be sure to check out the Space Coast's official tourism web site. It's a well-maintained site that offers excellent logistical information for use in planning your visit. You will, of course, also want to order your copy of our Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast DVD before you come!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sea Oats

In the Plants and Other Beach Life section of the Florida Beach Basic - The Space Coast DVD, we speak of sea oats. The sea oat has roots that go far down in the sand, and that makes it an important dune stabilizer. It is a protected plant species, and it is illegal to pick it or damage it in any way. (Photo by Jim Angy)

This plant is so critical to our beach habitat that the Brevard County Natural Resources Management Office and Keep Brevard Beautiful, Inc. are collaborating to bring beachside residents the 6th Annual Bargain Sea Oats Sale. While supplies last, you can purchase liner size sea oats in packs of 96 for $48. Paula Berntson of the Natural Resources Management Office sent us this photo so you can see what the pack of 96 looks like. Plants will be at least 12 inches high. You must order and pay prior to January 30, and pick them up on Saturday, February 7. Planting guidelines and pre-hydrated planting gel will be provided.

Additional information and the order form can be found here.

Here's a "glamour shot" of sea oats, so you can see that indeed, they are as lovely as they are useful. Again, this is a Jim Angy photo. Click to enlarge.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More About the Right Whale

The Right Whale Volunteer News, Summer 2008 issue, published by Julie Albert, Program Coordinator of the Marine Resources Council Right Whale Monitoring Program, provided a wealth of information about the program and the whales. I learned that peak time for sightings is typically mid-February, but in the 2007-2008 season, it was late January. An above-average 19 calves were born during the 2008 season in the southeast region (South Carolina to Florida). In addition, another 135 right whales, mostly juveniles, were tentitively identified. There were 689 reported sightings.

The newsletter listed 151 volunteers (including our own Cecelia Abbott, conchologist extraordinaire) who reported whale sightings and noted that because of these efforts, the MRC was able to inform commercial and military ships of the whales' whereabouts. An interesting map pinpointed critical habitat and reported sightings. Brevard is part of the critical habitat, although we don't get the quantity of sightings that Jacksonville and points north to Savannah get.
Harbor Branch Oceanographic supports the program and manages the Protect Florida Whales specialty license plate program. According to the newsletter, "The license plate program has contributed $200,000 to the effort ... something to spout about!"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

GO GATORS!

I know, this is not beach news. But what a great ballgame! The Florida Gators have defeated Alabama 31-20 for the SEC Championship. I look forward to the National Championship game and a second Heisman for Tim Tebow. Go Gators!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Give Birds a Rest!

We're so used to seeing birds flying that we might forget they need to rest every once in a while. If you've watched the Beach Birds section of our Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast DVD, you know we ask that you don’t let children run up to birds on the beach. As the northern birds begin arriving for their winter vacation here, it is especially important that we give them time and space to recover from the long trip down. Friend David (http://www.blogthebeach.com/) spoke of this in his blog the other day, and gave us permission to share this photo he took during a Thanksgiving trip to Fort Desoto Park. Our Brevard County beach signs tend to be more sea turtle related, with rip current signs thrown in for good measure - I don't think I've ever seen a bird-related sign.

Curt Ebbesmeyer has told us that flotsom can float in the Atlantic gyre for years, but David sent a story about a message in a bottle that is an extreme case:

NORTH HALEDON, N.J. — A message in a bottle tossed into the ocean off Barnegat Bay has turned up in North Carolina — 39 years later. The note was sealed in a Schaefer beer bottle. It was dated Aug. 17, 1969 and read: "If found notify the North Haledon Fire Co. .2." Mark Ciarmello and his 3-year-old daughter found the bottle along a beach in Corolla, N.C., in October. That's about 400 miles from where it was released. The Downingtown, Pa., resident says he got on his cell phone, called North Haledon and e-mailed photos of the bottle to the firefighters.No one is sure who tossed the bottle. But firefighters suspect it was during one of the many fishing trips that they used to take years ago.

I'm looking forward to the Migration Celebration and the Barrier Island Bash this weekend - should pick up lots of new information to share with you. Plus, Ann Zscheile is off to a sea turtle rehab conference this weekend at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, and she has promised to take photos of Sandy the Hawksbill rescue turtle and give us a first-hand report of her progress.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Right Whales

The Barrier Island Center is having a Migration Celebration on Saturday, December 6, from 11:00 to 3:00 to celebrate the end of hurricane season, the beginning of the right whale and shorebird migrations, and the beautiful fall weather! There will be presentations in the theater, shorebird viewing and oyster mat making on the observation deck, a guided hike on the sanctuary trail, live animals, eco-arts, storytelling, and live music. Although the event is FREE, Center folks are requesting that you bring donations of dried black and pinto beans to help hurricane victims in Haiti. All donations will be sent directly to Haiti to those in need. (Photo by Wayne Matchett)

This got me to thinking how little I know about the right whale, so I asked Cindy Dolaway for help. Cindy forwarded a hot-off-the-press release from the Marine Resource Council (MRC) that is just jam-packed with good information and a list of free classes one can attend to become a whale spotter.

We'll have more information and, with luck, some photos in future blogs, but I wanted to alert you to this week's classes (see link above for more details):

Tues, Dec 2, 12:00 - 1:00 (brown bag lunch), Lagoon House, Palm Bay
Thurs, Dec 4, 6:30 - 7:30, Wild Treasures of Brevard County, Mims
Fri, Dec 5, 12:00 - 1:00, Fisherman's Landing Park, Grant-Valkaria
Sat, Dec 6, 10:00 - 12:00, Ormond Beach Public Library
Sat, Dec 6, 1:30 - 2:30, Barrier Island Center, Melbourne Beach

A piece of trivia for you - according to Wikipedia, Right whales were so named because early whalers considered them the "right" whale to hunt.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Welcome Home, Endeavour

Bad weather prevented Endeavour from landing at Kennedy Space Center this afternoon, but she touched down safe and sound at the Edwards Air Force Base landing facility in California at 4:25 EST today. According to NASA, STS-126 was the 124th shuttle mission and the 27th shuttle flight to visit the space station. A Florida Today story notes that during the nearly 12-day visit to the space station, Endeavour's crew and three station residents unloaded more than seven tons of appliances, supplies and science experiments from the shuttle's packed cargo container. Another NASA job well done. (NASA photo)

If you watched football this weekend, you saw the rains in Georgia and Florida (go Gators!), and that rain reached us today, along with winds and tornado activity. At least it wasn't snow. I was born and raised in South Dakota, and South Dakota knows how to do snow! A friend sent photos a couple of weeks ago showing the November blizzard that delivered four feet of snow, driven by 65 mile per hour winds. This was a pretty wicked storm, even by South Dakota standards.

And to conclude this weather-related posting, today marks the official end of hurricane season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This and That

A wonderful story in our Florida Today newspaper about the Caribbean Conservation Corporation's 2009 Sea Turtle Calendar. Reporter Maria Sonnenberg had me at the first sentence: "An exquisitely rendered family album, the Caribbean Conservation Corporation’s 2009 sea turtle calendar looks at the marine reptiles with affection and pride." We, of course, are justifiably proud because friends Jim Angy and Blair Witherington have photos in the calendar. Order yours from the CCC on-line gift shop or pick it up at the Barrier Island Center. And don't forget the Barrier Island Bash December 7. While there, you can get started on your holiday shopping in their delightful gift shop or adopt a sea turtle for that special someone! This photo is one of Jim's.

A friend sent her reaction to the oyster mat posting, and I'm still laughing. In her words: "I noticed all the items for oyster mat workshops. This is a true story; I'm not making this up! When I moved here 5 years ago, I signed up for one of these workshops. I swear I thought it was an arts and crafts project. I was hoping to make at least 4 to use on the dining room table!"

I'm dining with good friends at their home tomorrow, as I have done for many years. I'll be giving thanks for family, friends, and critters, those with us now and those who have gone on to their heavenly rewards. I hope your day is filled with whatever makes you happy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Aloha!

The other day, we received an e-mail from a sea turtle biologist with NOAA Fisheries at the Pacific Islands Regional Office in Honolulu, Hawaii asking if she could use Jim Angy's disoriented hatchling photos that she found in an August posting on this blog. She explained that she plans to use the photos to illustrate the extreme disorientation that occurs when hatchlings are confused by anthropogenic lights. (Anthropogenic is defined as resulting from the influence of human beings on nature.) Jim is generous in providing his photos for anything educational, so off went five photos. He is still shaking his head at the wonders of the Internet that would somehow connect a biologist in Hawaii with a photographer in Florida!
When we transmitted the photos, I asked Kim (the biologist) if she would share some of her adventures with us, and back came the photos you see here, along with this description of her work. (Serendipitously, the hatchling is a Hawksbill, which fits just perfectly with our previous posting about Sandy, the Hawksbill from St. Croix. ) Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge.
As far as our work out here, it covers a wide range of issues; I generally work on sea turtle issues within the state of Hawaii although our region and therefore our responsibility also includes the US territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. We also are involved in a number of international project with partners throughout the Pacific. We have a turtle team of three here in the Protected Resources Division in the regional office who work on the regulatory/management side of things and also our counterparts at the regional science center who perform research and run the stranding program. I work closely with many partners within the state on projects involving interactions between sea turtles and nearshore fishers and also hawksbill recovery and conservation. Hawaii's hawksbills nest exclusively within the Main Hawaiian Islands (unlike greens who nest mainly in the uninhabited Northwest Hawaiian Islands), so when it comes to addressing anthropogenic threats, hawksbills are often a high priority. While most nesting occurs on the Big Island, several turtles per year also nest on Maui, and there have been conflicts involving artificial lighting on that island in particular. Hawaii Wildlife Fund monitors the nesting activity on Maui, and the Hawaii Hawksbill Recovery Project monitors the activity on the Big Island. Attached is a photo of a Hawaii Hawksbill Recovery Project researcher holding a hawksbill hatchling that emerged in the morning before it scampered to the sea, one of the hatchling on its way to the water, and a broader look at some of the rugged, black sand nesting habitat often used by hawkbills in Hawaii. I took these on one of my site visits to the project. Enjoy!
Our thanks to Kim for sharing her photos and her experiences - such a treat!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sandy, the Hawksbill from St. Croix

This is a story with a happy ending, all things considered. A few weeks back, there was a story in the paper about an injured Hawksbill sea turtle found on a beach in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. The 170-pound turtle had come up on the beach to lay her eggs and was attacked by feral dogs. She was rescued and transported to a St. Croix clinic. Her injuries were so severe that the US Fish and Wildlife folks in St. Croix contacted The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida, to see if the Hospital would undertake treatment and rehab. American Airlines flew "Sandy" to Miami at no charge, and The Turtle Hospital personnel transported her to Marathon. After examination and medication, she was allowed to rest/stabilize in a salt water tank for a couple of days, and then surgery was performed to amputate her right front flipper and repair damage done to her other flippers. At last report, she was back in her tank, alert and strong, and getting fluids, antibiotics, and vitamins daily.

What I love about this story (besides Sandy's survival, of course) is the number of people (and American Airlines) that went "above and beyond" to save this creature. If you are unfamiliar with The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, take a few minutes to wander through their website. This is a great tale of a modern sea turtle hospital housed in a former motel. The goal is to rehab Sandy and eventually return her to St. Croix. I'll follow the story and let you know what happens.

We don't get many of the endangered Hawksbill sea turtles in Brevard County, so we're grateful that Blair Witherington was willing to share his lovely photos. Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge - the closeup certainly shows where this turtle got its common name.

Monday, November 17, 2008

STS-126: A Thing of Beauty

Our friend Ann Zscheile has chastised us, and rightfully so, for failing to note a big Space Coast event last week - the spectacular night launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor from Launch Pad 39A at 7:55 p.m. Friday. According to NASA, the mission of STS-126 is to outfit the International Space Station for a larger crew and improve the function of a solar array rotary joint. (For all you acronym lovers out there, "STS" stands for Space Transportation System, the original name for the Space Shuttle Program.) The NASA site always has some beautiful images, and we particularly liked this one. (Image credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph-Kevin O'Connel)

If you've seen the Beautiful Beach segment of our Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast DVD, you may remember that we speak of Mother Nature, NASA, and various Government agencies working together to provide us with the interesting juxtaposition of a wildlife refuge adjacent to the technology-driven Kennedy Space Center. Ann really captured this concept in her email to me: "We stood out on the beach waiting for the launch, enjoying the beautiful moonrise, reflections of the moon on the water, and the waves gently lapping at the beach. When the shuttle fired up, it lit up the sky for a few moments, and then we watched it arch across the night sky with the moon nearby. Then, as the rockets separated, it seemed to pause for a moment. We knew the shuttle had separated and was on its way. The booster rockets stayed behind and looked like a new bright star in the sky, gently and slowly dropping down toward the ocean. You couldn't help but think of the contrast of nature and modern technology - the ocean, sky and earth as they have been throughout the ages, a background for the wonders of man and our fascination with space. We were standing near a couple from Germany and another couple from France - they were thrilled by what they saw, and it seemed to connect us all as fellow inhabitants of this earth home. We really do live in a very special place here in Brevard County. "

Thanks to Ann for sharing her perspective of this final launch of 2008. As I write this, all is going well at the Space Station, and we pray for a safe return of the seven astronauts on November 29.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oyster Reef Restoration Mats

Google Analytics reports that in the last 30 days, our blog had visits from 27 different countries. Of course, most of the visitors are from the United States, but even then, we’ve had viewers from 34 states. I think it is safe to say that not all of our visitors know about making oyster mats.

Luckily, we have The Nature Conservancy and Anne Birch, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Indian River Lagoon Program, to explain this oyster reef restoration initiative. The Indian River Lagoon stretches 156 miles along Florida’s east coast and is described as the most diverse estuary in North America. Years of development and agriculture have threatened the health and well being of the Lagoon and everything it comprises, including oysters. The Conservancy is working with Dr. Linda Walters from the University of Central Florida (UCF) to restore oyster reefs in the Mosquito Lagoon area (within the boundaries of Canaveral National Seashore) using oyster mats constructed by thousands of volunteers. The project is funded by grants through a National Partnership between NOAA's Community-Based Restoration Program, the Conservancy, and many other partners throughout the Lagoon.

Leslie from the Barrier Island Center provided us with the above photo showing an oyster restoration mat made by one of the children at a Nature Conservancy workshop held at the Center. Each individual mat is laid like a tile and anchored to another with cement sprinkler weights to form a new reef. Each new reef is made up of anywhere from a few hundred to over one thousand mats. Within 18 months of being placed on the reefs, the mats have attracted oyster larvae and are covered with live oysters, providing habitat and food for fish and crabs and filtering the water. Seagrass is even starting to recolonize next to some of the news reefs.

Those of you that live in or near Brevard or Volusia County can attend an oyster mat workshop – the Florida version of a quilting bee! Follow this link for dates and locations, as well as for more information on the project: http://www.nature.org/oysters

Our thanks to The Nature Conservancy and the volunteers for their efforts on behalf of our Lagoon. I was particularly taken with the spirit line on Anne's email - VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES FOR RESTORING THE CHARISMATIC OYSTER - VIVA LA OYSTERS!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sand

A few days ago, we spoke of beach renourishment and whether it was beneficial to sea turtles. As with most things, there are arguments both ways - Dave Hotchberg from the Sea Turtle Preservation Society noted that while it gave the turtles more beach to use, the sand was different, and the turtles knew it.

That started me to thinking about an interesting article David McRee wrote regarding sand (http://www.beachhunter.net/florida-beach-sand.htm). David notes that "Florida beaches have so many different types of sand, and they are all beautiful. All kinds of things make up the beach sand--quartz crystals, broken shell, minerals, fossils, the shells of various marine animals, organic matter, and coral fragments. " His story includes photos of some of the various types of sand found in Florida, including sand from Playalinda, Cocoa Beach, Indialantic, and Sebastian Inlet. Once you look at David's photos, it makes more sense that matching sand during restoration is probably difficult, and that indeed the turtles can very likely tell the difference.

David's story also includes a video of sand scuptures. This being a small world after all, one of the sculptors in the video is Thomas Koet, who was recently featured in the Viera Voice newspaper. Every year, Koet and his partner, Jill Smith, return to Manatee Elementary School in Viera to create a sand sculpture for the school's lobby, using 12 tons of sand they donated to the school six years ago!

The photo above is one of Jim Angy's, and I accused him of "staging" the beautiful shell background. I was, of course, wrong - the photo was taken on an Indialantic Beach, which, as David notes, is composed of beautiful crushed shell mixed with white quartz crystals. Be sure to click on the photo to enlarge it - this is a dandy photo of a loggerhead hatchling. Just look at that face!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veteran's Day 2008

I don't love repetition, but I do value tradition, so I'm looking forward to hosting my Third Annual Veteran's Day lunch tomorrow. Attendees will be former co-worker veteran friends, most of whom I now see only at this luncheon, and it's always such a treat to catch up on their lives and honor their former military service. We hold this luncheon at Loreen's Cafe, which is decorated year-around with flags, red, white, and blue, and anything and everything patriotic! (Eagle photo by Jim Angy, illustration by Matt MacQueen)

In the very early days of the Iraq war, I led an effort of co-workers in supporting a Battalion stationed in Iraq that used equipment manufactured by our employer. We did "parties in a box" - a great NFL Kicks off in Iraq party, as well as Halloween and 4th of July parties. For our Christmas party, a good friend wrote a poem that was featured on the back of the card we inserted into the "goodie bags" - unfortunately, it is as applicable today as it was in 2003.

Not Just Any Soldier
We do not know your name,
It's important, just the same.
This war has a face
And it's yours.
Take care. We care.
Written with love by Judy
November 2003
To all Veterans - we thank you for your service.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

CCC 2009 Calendar Winners Announced

We were delighted to receive news from the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) announcing the winners in their first Calendar Contest. According to the announcement, "Photographers from around the world submitted beautiful sea turtle images to help show their support for conservation. A panel of CCC judges selected their favorite images from almost 80 entries." The reason for our delight? April, September, and November will feature colleague Jim Angy's photos, and friend Blair Witherington's photo is the July image. We're not sure which of Jim's images were selected, but this photo of a loggerhead is an example of his sea turtle portraiture.

You can purchase your 2009 Sea Turtle Scenes Calendar at the nifty Barrier Island Center gift shop or via CCC's online gift shop. Leslie tells me the Barrier Island Center also has the CCC 2008 holiday ornament.

Congratulations, Jim and Blair!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Beach erosion and sand renourishment

Over the past couple of months, we've talked about beach erosion and included some excellent photographs sent to us by beach-walking friends. I took this picture last month while Matt was videotaping Ed and Curt on a stroll along Canova Beach, and it gives a decent perspective of the erosion (and how the sea oats are valiently trying to keep everything together).

This morning's Florida Today headlines announced a $7M federal grant that would be used for sand renourishment along the south beaches - Indialantic and Melbourne Beach. Most of the folks I know have mixed emotions about sand renourishment. From a practical point of view, the next Tropical Storm Fay could wash that $7M worth of sand right back out. From an environmental standpoint, Sea Turtle Preservation Society board member Dave Hotchburg stated it thusly: "It's like a two-edged sword. Without the renourishment, there's not as much beach for the turtles to use. But it always changes the beach," he said. "No matter how closely they match the sand to the rest of the beach, it's going to be different. And the turtles react to it." Hochberg said records indicate that "false crawls," or aborted egg-laying expeditions, increased on some beaches and decreased on others after crews added new sand.

Our Beach Hunter friend, David McRee, has some interesting photos on his website showing beach renourishment projects on Florida's west coast. http://www.beachhunter.net/renourishment.htm

A reminder that the Sea Turtle Preservation Society has an excellent program scheduled for its meeting on Thursday, November 6, 7:30 P.M., Melbourne Beach Community Center. Karen Holloway-Adkins, a Wildlife Biologist, will speak on Coastal Waters and Reefs: Sea Turtle Foraging Habitat. These meetings are open to the public, and you'll be cordially welcomed by this dynamic group of folks. Doors open at 7:00, so come a little early and meet some interesting new friends.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Malacology and Conchology

One of the segments in our Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast describes the seashells one is most likely to find on our Brevard County beaches. Seashell is the common name for the hard, protective outer layer created by a sea creature. Most shells that you find on the beach are the exterior shell of marine mollusks. The scientific study of mollusks while they are alive is called malacology. The study of mollusk shells and the collection of shells is called conchology. Our friend Cecelia Abbott, shown with her wrack stick in this first photo, is our resident shell expert. Cecelia’s late husband was Dr. R. Tucker Abbott, considered the world’s greatest malacologist, and author of numerous books on seashells. Cecilia and Dr. Abbott traveled the world as part of their research and writing, and Cecelia is a well-known conchologist.

This lovely shell is a sawtooth penshell. The penshell is a thin, brown bivalve with an iridescent interior and exterior. You’ll often find these washed up on the beach after a storm. As with many of our beach finds, there is real beauty in the smallest of creatures. (Photos by Jim Angy)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sebastian Inlet State Park Beach Walk

The Sunday after the Sea-Bean Symposium, a motley crew of about a dozen headed south on A1A. After a visit to the Barrier Island Center (Curt was enthralled and in a later email called it "a treasure"), we eased on down to Sebastian Inlet State Park for a beach walk. A beach walk with these inquisitive folks is an adventure - it took us 10 minutes to get out of the parking lot because there was a woodstork on a light post that provided a great photo op! However, now that I see the results in Jim Angy's photo, it was ten minutes well spent. Jim tells us these woodstorks are not actually beach birds, but like to hang out around the inlet and lagoon in hopes that fishermen will throw them a snack.

In Jim's next photo, I'm sure the lady in the beach chair is wondering who are these crazy people and why are they all looking down? They were looking for beans and/or good flotsam, of course. We didn't find too many beans, as Mike and Alan had been there before us and "vacuumed" the beach clean!
However, as you can see in the third photo, finding a spectacular piece of flotsam was pretty easy! (In our Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast DVD, we differentiate between flotsam and jetsam as follows: jetsam is something that has been thrown into the ocean on purpose – like a message in a bottle. Flotsam typically has NOT been thrown in on purpose.) This weather buoy washed up on the beach about a year ago. Curt has recorded all the serial numbers, etc. and will track down its origin and history, so we'll have a more complete posting on it later. Meanwhile, it makes a great centerpiece for a group photo.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sea-Bean Symposium, Day 2

What a glorious Saturday morning - bright, sunny, not too hot! The Symposium activites started with the annual Bean-a-Thon. In this first photo, Alan, Mike, Ed, Curt, and Matt prepare to check in beaners and their beans, sea glass, or flotsam. Winners in categories such as most beans, youngest beaner, smallest hamburger bean, rarest sea-glass, etc. were announced Saturday evening, and certificates were presented.

We've mentioned Izumi Hanno and her husband, Jim Godfrey, in earlier posts. Their Saturday afternoon presentation of Travels with Mr. Sea-Bean gave the audience an up-close and personal look at their travels (by motorcycle) in Malaysia, with movie clips of villagers and beautiful countryside. Izumi and Jim are creating a Seed Museum in Borneo - what an interesting and adventuresome life these two have fashioned! We'll keep you informed about their project as it progresses.

The keynote speaker this year was Richard LaMotte, author of Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature's Vanishing Gems. Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd, Richard was educational and entertaining , fitting right in with the spirit of the Symposium, even though it was his first visit with us. His presentation featured some of the many beautiful photos from his book - who knew a single shard of sea glass could be so lovely!

And with that, the official 13th Annual Sea-Bean Symposium drew to a close - but we're already planning next year's, so put that middle weekend in October on your calendar.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Blogging Friends

I enjoy following a few other blogs - one of them is Cactus Jack Splash from Washington State, who sent in a comment to yesterday's posting to ask what is a sea-bean? Well, Cactus Jack, sea beans are nuts and seeds from trees and vines that grow along water that flows into the ocean. Some beans will drift for years on the ocean current before landing on a beach. I live in east central Florida, and most of the sea-beans on our beach have been carried here by the Gulf Stream and come from Central and South America and the Caribbean islands. Check out http://www.seabean.com/ for lots more information. Meanwhile, this photo by colleague Matt MacQueen is of an unpolished seaheart - about the size of a silver dollar.

Another blog I enjoy is Amanda's Veranda. This site has some great music, so have your sound on. (How can you not love a site with an Etta James song on it?) Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom. Amanda is a talented photographer with a wicked sense of humor!

Those two sites focus on horses and ranching. The third blog I follow is by Robin Chapman. Those of you that have been around for a few years will remember Robin as an exceptionally intelligent anchorwoman for Channel 2 in Orlando. We met when she used some of colleague Jim Angy's photos in one of her books, The Absolutely Essential Guide to Winter Park. Robin talks about whatever she wants to talk about, and it's always thought-provoking and well-written.

Since this is a beach buzz blog, I don't often stray from discussing things beachy, so I'll get back to my Symposium wrapup tomorrow, but for this Sunday night, I'm going to leave Amanda's music on and contemplate life from a horse's point of view, thanks to Cactus Jack!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sea-Bean Symposium, Day 1, Part 2

Friday afternoon (October 17 - where has this week gone!) of our 13th Annual Sea-Bean Symposium featured Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer and his presentation of What's Floating in our Ocean this Year?! For those of you that aren't familiar with Curt, he's an internationally known expert on tides and flotsam. As such, he is frequently called in to offer his opinion or testimony about all things floating in the ocean. This year, Curt spoke of his work in forensic oceanography, and started his presentation discussing the bizarre case of human feet washing up in British Columbia. Doing an internet search on Curt is always fun, and my recent search resulted in several hits about this story. I missed the Larry King show where he and Larry discussed it - darn! Curt moved on to floating bowling balls and the similarity of a floating 9-pound bowling ball with a floating head. It was certainly interesting, and Curt has the scientist's abstract perspective that allowed the listener to focus more on the issue than the blood, but I still dreamed about floating heads that night. Blair Witherington provided us with this dandy photo of Curt and Ed Perry. Curt is wearing his Bean Squad hat - Sam Burnett came up with the idea of providing sea-bean experts with the hats and pins so that visitors would know who to ask for good information.

Floating heads is a hard act to follow, but somehow Bill Blazak and Alice Lowe managed to do it with their presentations on Polishing your Sea-Beans. Bill polishes by hand, and Alice uses tumblers, and both draw big crowds at their tables. They are so good at what they do, and both love to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with visitors.

This first photo shows some of Bill's beautifully polished beans, and the second shows Alice after her presentation, breathing a sigh of relief and holding a bouquet given to her in appreciation for having enough nerve to get up there and present!

Thanks to Matt and his trusty video camera, we'll have excerpts of these talks up on the website soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sea-Bean Symposium, Day 1, Part 1

The 13th Annual Sea-Bean Symposium kicked off Friday morning (October 17) at the Cocoa Beach Library with exhibitors ready to share their knowledge of all things sea-beany, speakers ready to present, and visitors ready to be amazed and amused. The weather was perfect, and given the state of the economy, having something this interesting AND free seemed to be particularly welcome to many.

In the first photo, Ed Perry, Symposium organizer, newsletter editor, and Mr. Sea-Bean, set the stage for the weekend with the first presentation. As you can see in this photo of the audience at Ed's presentation, the Symposium drew sizable, diverse crowds, with standing room only for most talks.
As you might expect, things were pretty hectic, so I have enjoyed looking through my hastily snapped photos and remembering the Symposium ambience. In this third photo, Sam Burnette is arranging the "tribute" display for Cathie Katz, along with Cathie's books. Sam and her husband, Mike, are yearly attendees from Matagorda, and we're so grateful that after Hurricane Ike, they were here safe and sound with us again this year. Next in the photo are Izumi and her husband, Jim Godfrey. We'll talk more about Izumi and Jim in another posting, but suffice it to say, her intricate sea-bean illustrations were greeted with awe and admiration. The fellow behind the end of the table is Blair Witherington. Blair and his wife Dawn are authors of several books, the most recent being Florida's Living Beaches. Blair is a sea turtle expert and research scientist with the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, and you've seen Dawn's beautiful artwork in our postings about the Barrier Island Center. There's a great collection of talent represented in this photo - and this was just a portion of what the Symposium had to offer.
We'll talk about Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer's Friday afternoon presentation in our next posting. Curt introduced us to the world of a "forensic oceanographer" and had the crowd laughing (albeit nervously) and/or groaning with his descriptions of floating heads. But we don't want to get a head of ourselves, so you'll just have to wait for the next posting.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It was a time of such splendor ...

What a wonderful sea-bean symposium - old and new friends, perfect weather, great presentations, educational displays, record attendance - it all came together. Matt got hours of good video, and Jim and I took lots of photos. It will take a while to parse through all the data and develop a good posting, but in the days to come, there will be numerous slide shows, video clips, etc etc etc. Meanwhile, I'm relying on the words of one of my favorite poets, Maya Angelou, who said "It was a time of such splendor - charming people, good food, laughter, and brave ideas - enough to entertain us for years!"