Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays

Last year's holiday greeting featured Charlie Corbeil's beautiful photo of a Florida mockingbird and a balsam apple. Once again, Charlie has shared his Christmas card with us - this year's photo is of a lodgepole pine, and it was taken at Yellowstone National Park (in July, fortunately - I'm certain it is buried in show right now). Charlie writes that because the trunk of this tree is long and straight, the natives and early settlers used them to build their shelters. Indeed, its name reflects its use in American Indian tepee lodges.
As always, we're grateful for Charlie's prodigious talent and generous nature. You can see more of Charlie's work at his web site, Charlie Corbeil Photography.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 41 years ago

(This is a repeat of 2008 and 2009 Christmas Eve posts ... it's my favorite "night before Christmas" story. marge)

Forty-four years ago, Apollo 8 was launched from Cape Kennedy on Dec. 21 and entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve. 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 20, 2009

Holiday Wishes

When Ann forwarded this Christmas greeting, it took me all of five seconds to decide to email the artist to request her permission to share it with you. Nini and Michael Conner are Sea Turtle Preservation Society members that started their sea turtle volunteer work in Ann's STERP program and have since expanded into nest survey and education activities. Nini did the artwork, and Michael came up with the title (I'll bet it reflects a wry sense of humor). Perfect!
My thanks to the Conners for permission to share their card. They added their wish for good will to all creatures great and small, and I echo that wish.

Monday, November 16, 2009

NASA does it again

STS-129, Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off on time today. This 11-day mission carries equipment to the space station and brings back Nicole Stott, who has spent the last two months living on the space station. It is inconceivable to think that there are only five of these launches remaining.

(Photo by NASA)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veteran's Day 2009

I'm looking forward to hosting my Fourth Annual Veteran's Day lunch tomorrow. Attendees will be co-worker veteran friends, and it's always a privilege to 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, 4th of July, and Christmas parties. Now, several years later, we're getting ready to adopt a platoon in Afganistan, and it's interesting to see the "wants" have not changed that much, except to add hand warmers to the list!
Tomorrow, we'll honor the warfighter, past and present. To all, thank you for your service.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Taking a Break

I make lists of things to do. Last week, as I was making my to-do list, I realized that blogging had moved from "want to" to "have to."

When I returned to the workforce in July (I'm a technical writer and spend most of my days hunched over a computer), I knew it would interfere with my blogging. I've tried various approaches - getting up at 5:00 in the morning to write (aargh), writing three or four posts on Sunday and then publishing them during the week. But the fact remains that something from which I have derived so much pleasure in the past now feels like just more work.

So I'm taking a blogging sabbatical, so to speak - a break until that day when I think - Wow! I can't wait to write about that!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Eyes Have It

After my fairly casual explanation of Matt's beautiful alligator eyeball photo, Blair sent a more accurate description and this photo of a Cuban tree frog's eye. One of the great things about Blair is his ability to make scientific stuff understandable, as you'll readily see in the following:

Most of what we see in Matt’s astounding photo is the alligator’s iris. Like many animals, alligators have an iris that is reflective (like a mirror) as well as pigmented. When we stare into an alligator’s eyes with the light directly behind us, we get the same effect we see in highway reflector studs illuminated by our car headlights. Some of the pattern is from vessels supplying the iris. Note the vessels and coppery reflectance of the Cuban tree frog’s eye.
This iris reflectance keeps unwanted light (like from the bright sun) from entering the eye. At night, another reflector that alligators have actually enhances the light available for them to see. This reflector is the tapetum lucidum, right behind the retina. It’s what makes alligator eyes shine red at night, a time when their pupils are wide open.

I hope you will remember all this the next time you find yourself staring into an alligator's eyes!

A kind neighbor made sure my little Italian Greyhound princess did not go without food while I was spending long days at the sea-bean symposium, and I gave her Blair and Dawn's book, Florida's Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber, as a thank-you. She is totally captivated and has started a list of people she plans to buy copies for.

As always, our thanks to Blair for sharing his expertise and his photos.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Here's looking at you, kid!

Matt MacQueen took this beautiful closeup of a juvenile alligator eye. Matt and I both did some research to see what caused the unusual eyeball pattern and came up with zilch, so we asked Blair Witherington what he thought. Blair opined that it was not related to the age of the gator so much as it was to the amount of outside light being reflected back out of the inside of the alligator's eye, back-lighting the maze of blood vessels in the eye. (If you search on alligator eyeballs, you get hits for one of my favorite sayings - When you're up to your eyeballs in alligators, it's hard to remember that your objective is to drain the swamp!)

That explanation is good enough for me, and I know I love the photo. (Click to enlarge)

Friday, October 16, 2009

14th Annual

The 14th Annual Sea-Bean Symposium is off to a great start. We had good crowds today, with standing room only for the presentations. In this first photo, Ed Perry is finishing his presentation about beach walking - Ed is a life-long resident of Brevard County, a Park Ranger, and a confirmed beach rat, so he knows whereof he speaks!

In the afternoon, STPS Volunteers Ann and Adrienne tag-teamed to talk about sea turtles of Florida's East Coast and the Sea Turtle Emergency Response Program (STERP) that we've told you about. Adrienne is holding the bucket that STERP volunteers carry to collect washbacks. These two ladies started this successful and innovative program, and in its second year, there are 189 volunteers that can be rallied by a phone call in case of a washback event.
Tomorrow is the Bean-a-Thon in the morning, Blair Witherington speaking at 2:00, and Curt Ebbesmeyer speaking at 7:45 (after the Bean-a-Thon winners are announced). Good fun!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Haiku, anyone?

This wonderfully peaceful sunrise photo by Charlie Corbeil simply begs for a haiku. I'm a technical writer with a limited imagination, but here's my shot at one - I hope some of you fearless readers will provide more fitting verses. Meanwhile, click on the photo to enlarge it, then meditate!

reeds in the sunrise
another day beginning
and the game is on

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Rescue of Wilbur the Washback, Continued

Yesterday's post spoke of Wilbur washing up on our beach, far from his home in the Sargasso, and luckily being rescued by a Sea Turtle Preservation Society STERP volunteer. Wilbur and his fellow washbacks were transported in the snazzy STPS truck shown here to the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, the nearest facility licensed to treat sea turtles.

Once there, Wilbur was greeted by Tammy, a sea turtle rehab specialist and one of our conservation heroes. Her exam showed that Wilbur was exhausted and dehydrated, but otherwise in good condition. Wilbur then:

got weighed (Wilbur weighed 24 grams, or .87 oz),

got measured (Wilbur was 5.6 centimeters, a little over 2 inches) ,

got fluids (ouch),

and joined his friends for lettuce and a little "rest and relaxation" so he can build his strength back up. Then he'll be ferried back out to the Sargasso and released, hopefully to lead a long and peaceful life.

A lot of people made a difference in the life of one little turtle - our thanks to them and to animal rescuers everywhere. Special thanks to Ann for sharing her story and photos.

The Rescue of Wilbur the Washback

I've written before about Ann, Sea Turtle Preservation Society volunteer extraordinaire. Ann's passion is sea turtles in general, and hatchlings and washbacks in particular. For the non-turtlers amongst you, a hatchling is a new-born. Hatchlings are born with a yolk sack that provides their source of nutrition as they head out on their 20+ mile swim to the Sargasso weed line, where they will make their home for several years. Washbacks are baby turtles that have already started or completed their swim to the Sargasso, using up their yolk sack, and have been washed back in during a storm. They lack the strength and food source to swim back out, and that's where Ann and her STERP team come in. Ann developed STERP (Sea Turtle Emergency Response Program) two seasons ago. Now, during a washback event, STERP volunteers are mobilized via a phone call to find these little critters so they can be transported to the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet for evaluation, rehab, transport back out to the Sargasso, and release.
Ann will be talking about STERP during her Friday afternoon presentation (2:00) at the 14th Annual Sea-Bean Symposium. Meanwhile, she's provided us with some photos to use as a preview. This is Part I - we'll do Part II tomorrow.
In this first photo, a STERP volunteer prepares to search through the wrackline (the seaweed that has washed up) for washbacks. Remember that these are just little critters, a couple of inches long, with protective coloration - sort of like finding a needle in a haystack. Volunteers are not allowed to use sticks to poke through the seaweed, so this is a back-breaking work of love.

And here's Wilbur, washed ashore during a storm. Ann describes his state of mind thusly: Everything happened so fast, Wilbur is dazed. Where is he? What happened to the ocean? Then Wilbur begins to recognize where he is. He is back on the beach amongst the seaweed. Without water, the seaweed traps Wilbur even more. He is exhausted, hungry and dehydrated. He no longer has the energy to crawl back to the ocean, much less to swim 20 miles back to his safe haven in the sargassum. The birds are searching the seaweed for food. The sun is beating down on him.

Wilbur is one of the lucky washbacks - a STERP volunteer will find him, put him in a bucket with a nice damp towel, and transport him to the Marine Resource Center in Ponce Inlet. What happens there will be the topic of tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cathie Katz, The Sea-Bean Lady

(Note: Long-time readers may recognize this as an updated reprint of a post I ran a year ago, prior to our 13th Annual Sea-Bean Symposium. New readers, I'd like you to know about Cathie.)

The late Cathie Katz was friend, mentor, and muse who wrote wonderful books (including The Nature of Florida's Beaches), started an international organization of sea-bean lovers called The Drifters who hold the annual Sea-Bean Symposium, and inspired all who knew her.

Cathie lost her battle with cancer in 2001, but she left a legacy of books, friends, and traditions. Shortly after her death, Ed Perry led the effort to have a sea-bean named in her honor, and the common name for the Canavalia nitida shown here is now Cathie's Bean. (Photos by Jim Angy)

Cathie and Jim Angy were close friends, and Jim provided the photographs for some of Cathie's book covers. For her memorial service, he wrote a poem titled The Nature of my Questions that began with these words:

"Considering how vast the shoreline truly is …
What wind, what current, what tide

Allowed us to end up on this same beach?
In a sea of strangers, how did we become such close friends?"

Our 14th Annual Sea-Bean Symposium will kick off Friday, October 16. We'll see close friends, many of whom have attended every symposium, either as a visitor or a speaker/exhibitor, and we'll make new friends who will be amazed at just how warm and friendly this event is. And we'll take time to think of Cathie. She loved the beach and everything on it, and credited her first sighting of a sea turtle laying eggs with changing her life's direction. Knowing her changed ours.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A chamber of commerce weekend

We have had a touch of Fall in the air this past week - one morning, it was actually down to 63 degrees when the little princess and I took our before-dawn walk. Still getting into the high 80s during the day, but at least there is hope for moderation here soon.

Meanwhile, it was a beautiful weekend. Cocoa Beach had its first airshow, and it was apparently a huge success, with some 30,000 folks crowding onto the beach each day to watch such events as the Golden Knights skydivers, an F-22 Raptor, a water rescue demonstration by the 920th Rescue Wing from Patrick Air Force Base, and a variety of other airplane related performances. Margie sent these pix, with this note: Perfect day to watch loud airplanes over the water. :)

Friday, I attended a meeting at the Brevard Zoo and snapped a few photos of little kids having a simply wonderful time in the Paws On exhibit. I hope this picture gives you an idea of just how carefree an environment this is. We'll talk more about the Zoo later, probably in our Space Coast Eco blog, but it was such a lovely day in such a delightful place that I wanted to share the feeling.

I hope your weekend was similarly mellow, wherever you are. Blog the Beach friends David and Sue spent their weekend getting married, so best wishes to them!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

If it has legs ...

... don't put it in the ocean!

Margie found this beautiful little gopher tortoise on the beach early yesterday morning. What, you may well ask, is a gopher tortoise doing on the beach? Blair and Dawn Witherington's book, Florida's Living Beaches, tells us that gopher tortoises dig burrows in sandy scrub habitat, including coastal dunes, and that they may wander onto beaches, but rarely feed there.

Margie adds: There are some living in the dunes here and there. I've seen them wandering on the beach before. The unfortunate ones are misidentified by beach-goers as sea turtles and "helped" into the ocean. This little guy today was pretty far from the dune line when I saw him. He was down in last week's dried wrack, right next to a big ghost crab hole. At first I thought maybe the crab had dragged him there and he was injured, so I picked him up to see. He was ok and tried to run away, so I could see all his legs were working fine. At that point I figured I might as well "help" him get home, so I took him up to the dune line and put him down near a bay bean plant (sometimes called a beach pea), which is when I took the photos. When last seen, he was motoring west into the thick dune, using his sturdy little legs. (Be sure to click on the photo to enlarge it - baby gopher turtles are such pretty little creatures.)

As luck would have it, Jim has this photo of a loggerhead sea turtle hatchling, posing near a railroad vine. Good looking flippers, handy to have when swimming. (Click on photo so you can see the fancy white trim on his little flippers.)

The moral of this story is, if it has flippers, it's a sea turtle. If it has legs, it's not, and don't put it in the water!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If the shoe fits ...

Margie sent this photo a few weeks ago, along with this note: Attached is a photo of some, but not all, of the shoes I picked up in just a couple of hours this morning. The seaweed is beginning to come in pretty thick and is, as usual, full of floating shoes. All of the shoes in the photo are drifters, not the ones forgotten on the beach by visitors. I get a lot of those, too. (For you new readers, Margie is the beach coordinator for the City of Cocoa Beach, and mornings will find her tooling up and down the beach on her four-wheeler, picking up everything from injured critters to launch trash.)

Curt Ebbesmeyer had Bill Blazek and Margie documenting drift shoes for a while. Margie notes: Bill may still be doing it, but I quit after about three years. Curt was interested in whether certain beaches attract left or right shoes. I collected over 500 shoes and kept a spread sheet with an entry every day I found any drift shoes. My data showed no statistical difference between the arrival of lefts and rights, but Curt eventually concluded, from what data I don't know, that there are left and right beaches. If I remember correctly, he mentions it in his book. I know I've heard him say it in a talk.

Curt is the keynote speaker at this year's Sea-Bean Symposium, so I'll be sure to ask him. Meanwhile, there are pages and pages of Internet "hits" for Curtis Ebbesmeyer - here's a good one that talks about his shoe theory.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A day without Florida orange juice ...

... is a day without sunshine!
I am addicted to fresh Florida orange juice. I have a freezer in the garage dedicated primarily to freezing enough Hamlin oranges to last from mid-May to mid-October. I don't wash or juice the oranges - I just freeze them, a layer at a time so nothing gets squished, then take out a couple every night, thaw them in the refrigerator, scrub them, and juice them for breakfast. This does not work as well if you want to eat them, as freezing changes the texture, but if you just want juice - perfect! Just like fresh-picked. I get my Hamlins from a local grove that (thanks to a wonderful owner) has not been turned into a development. This photo is of what's left in my freezer - should last until Mr. Tyler opens his grove.
I'm also addicted to cantaloupe, and we're coming to the end of the season. (I don't eat imports.) Cantaloupe gets mushy if you freeze and thaw it, so I experimented this year with eating it frozen, and it's pretty good! For those of you interested in trying it, here's my process. Peel, seed, and chunk a cantaloupe that has ripened on your countertop for a few days after you buy it. (It should smell like ripe canteloupe at the stem end, and the skin should start puckering just a little bit.) Put a flexible plastic cutting board on a sheet pan and spread your cantaloupe chunks on it, not touching. Freeze.
I use a Food Saver system that sucks the air out of the bags, but you can use a zip lock bag or whatever you like. It's nice if somebody holds the bag when you're ready to fill it with frozen chunks. Grab the edges of the flexible cutting board and fold towards the center. Voila - the chunks will release from the cutting board and you can funnel everything into the waiting bag. I think these frozen chunks will be a dandy treat this winter.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

1,202 winners - and one loser!

I'm delighted to report some excellent results from last Saturday's annual International Coastal Cleanup. While there are frequent beach cleanup days throughout the year, this is the only day where everything is counted, weighed, and tabulated world-wide. The Ocean Conservancy web site does not yet have any totals for the day, but Keep Brevard Beautiful's Barb Venuto forwarded me the following from Jim Kriewaldt, KBB's Spoil Island and Invasive Plant Program Manager: Today we had 1,202 volunteers come out to do this extremely important survey, and we collected 23,365 lbs of trash in the process. This may seem significantly lower than the last few years, but the numbers don't include Canaveral AFS. They will be having their cleanup next month due to some high priority commitments this month. So the actual numbers will be at least the same as last year.

Well, that was good news in and of itself. But then last night, I got this follow-up email regarding Jim Kriewaldt's adventures at yesterday's cleanup of Port Canaveral: 2 people, 4 hours, 9 bags trash, ~300 pounds. VERY high tide, with strong east wind, drove trash to west end of west turning basin. Carnival (cruise ship) in, so couldn't do north end of the west turning basin. Trash collected in with seaweed in other three corners. Found one interesting package that I put off to the side. Called security on way back in. Met and transferred package to Port Security Officer. She called the Brevard County Sheriff's Office, who took custody. It turned out out to be a kilo of cocaine. Today's Florida Today story about the find put the street value at $100K. That's some "square grouper!" (Photo by Jim Kriewaldt)

Our thanks to Ocean Conservancy, Keep Brevard Beautiful, and all the volunteers who spent their Saturday morning cleaning up after others and to Barb for sending us the news. Kudos to Jim for figuring out what he caught and what to do with it!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nesting Loggerhead - Drop Those Eggs Gently!

Last month, Matt and Jim went on a night beach walk in search of a nesting sea turtle. Matt was anxious to try out the video camera's night vision capability, and if there's a nesting sea turtle around, Jim will usually find it. They hooked up with the University of Central Florida students that monitor sea turtle activities in the Archie Carr Refuge, and soon the group came upon a loggerhead working her way up the beach to lay her eggs. Once she got her pit scooped out and began the egg laying process, Matt started filming, with Jim holding a low red-shielded light to augment the video cam's night vision. This is a long process - by the time the sea turtle finds a location she's happy with, scoops out her nest, lays approximately 100 eggs, covers the nest, and heads back to the ocean, it's about a two-hour process. Fortunately, Matt was able to edit the two hours down to 30 seconds so that you can see the turtle's lovely face, eggs dropping into the pit, and her heading back out to the ocean. Pay particular attention to the frames that show the little "flip" motion of her back flippers just before an egg drops. (The eggs are about the size of pingpong balls, with a leathery shell.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

So what's the big deal about sea-beans?

Last week, one of our posts featured a video about a beach walk to look for sea-beans. Pure Florida blogger Florida Cracker (aka FC) left the following comment: I never realized people were so gaga over sea beans. I just took them for granted as another cool beach oddity growing up in St. Augustine. I did plant one once, and an enormous vine grew out of it and all over my sunny bedroom. A little history about FC - he's a native Floridian, former park ranger, current school teacher, and a terrific blogger. He and his family live on the Nature Coast of Florida (west coast).

I know when I got interested in sea-beans, but FC's question made me wonder when sea-beans started to become more of a field of study and interesting to more people. So I asked Ed Perry, native Floridian, park ranger, and co-author with John Dennis of "Sea-Beans From the Tropics: A Collector's Guide to Sea-Beans and Other Tropical Drift on Atlantic Shores." The following is Ed's reply: The first interest in the science of sea-beans was probably in the 60s/70s, mainly in south Florida, and primarily because of Bob Mossman and John Dennis and the publishing of the subject's first comprehensive reference book, "World Guide to Tropical Drift Seeds and Fruits" that John co-authored with Dr. Bob Gunn. The renewed interest started in the mid-90s, here in Brevard, and was due to Cathie Katz and her books/newsletter and the sea-bean symposiums.

Ed's interest in sea-beans began at an early age when his grandmother operated the Sea Bean Boutique gift shop on the Canaveral Pier (now Cocoa Beach Pier). Ed tells us: It had nothing to do with selling sea-beans, but because of the name, people would always want to know what a sea-bean was/looked like. Thus, my grandmother would send me out on the beach when I wasn’t fishing to look for sea-beans. She would keep them in her cash drawer to show to interested visitors. She often gave them away, thus entailing more work for me when I visited her again (she gave me a quarter for each one I brought back to her). After graduating college, I came back to Brevard and started reading books by Cathie Katz. I thought, “here’s a lady as crazy as I am, picking these curious seeds off the beach!” I met Cathie and we were kindred spirits. I became involved with a loose-knit group known as “The Drifters” that studied, collected, and wrote about driftseeds on a worldwide level. (This photo by Blair Witherington shows Ed at last year's symposium.)

Since Cathie's death in 2001, Ed has spearheaded the annual symposiums and publishes the quarterly Drifting Seed newsletter that connects 500 readers in 20 countries. Ed is a life-long resident of Brevard County and has been a park ranger at Sebastian Inlet State Park for over 20 years.

Regarding the plant that FC grew in his bedroom, Ed tells us that the seeds are almost always viable. Once their shells are cracked, they're ready to grow some pretty interesting plants.

Reference Links:
Sea Bean Web Site (Paul Mikkelsen is the webmaster of this dandy site)
Drifting Seed (newsletter)
Pure Florida


Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between male and female birds, but this video makes it easy. Even a non-birder like me can tell which of the birds is the female!

The rest of the story ...

My daughter-in-law sent this to me via email - one of those forwarded and reforwarded things. I got such a kick out of it that I knew I wanted to share it, but she did not know its origin, and I could not figure out how to extract it from the email. (I knew it was an animated .gif, but you can't put those directly into a blog post.)

Faithful readers have figured out that I don't know much, but I have a lot of talented friends, so I asked Wayne Matchett if he could figure it out. Bless his retired system engineering heart, he weaseled it into an iMovie.

In an effort to give proper attribution to whomever created this cute little thing in the first place, I searched on-line and found a couple of web sites using it, but nobody that took credit for developing it. So to that nameless person, thanks for the giggle!

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Tis the season to be beaning

Debbie Harper lives in Fort Morgan, Alabama, and she's a beaner. She came to a Sea-Bean Symposium several years ago and hopes to get back for this year's symposium. During some emails with our chief beaner, Ed Perry, she sent a link to a video she made of a sea-bean walk she took about a month ago. Ed sent it to Margie, Margie sent it to me, and I got Debbie's permission to share it with you. Cactus Jack, I know you'll love this! Short Lessons in Finding Sea-Beans on the Beach
(Sea purse photo by Matt MacQueen)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Beautiful Creature

Each year, the Great Land Crabs in south Brevard leave their burrows in the Lagoon, migrate to the beach to lay their eggs, and return to the Lagoon. This worked out fine for them for a long while, then housing development and Highway A1A came along and messed up their clear path. They still migrate, but many don't make it across. Indeed, some wind up in swimming pools. (Be sure to click to enlarge this image so you can see the crab's eyes on stalks.)

It's migration time again, and Charlie Corbeil has captured some wonderful photos of these beautiful creatures. He shared this glamour shot with us, and there are others on his web site (see Reference Links below). As Charlie and I were talking about the hazards these crabs face in trying to cross the highway, I was reminded of a story I read last year about folks in Vermont helping some endangered frogs and salamanders across the road. Looking for an update, I searched on "help frogs across the road", and sure enough - there was a story about this year's Vermont rescue effort (link below - a good story).

Matt reminds me that picking up a salamander and carrying it across the road is one thing - exposing your fingers to a Great Land Crab is something else. Still, it seems a rescue process might be considered for these critters whom we have seriously inconvenienced.

Reference Links:
Charlie Corbeil
Great Land Crabs (a post we did last year)
Vermont Rescue Operation (ABC news story)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

International Coastal Cleanup Day is September 19

Please join Ocean Conservancy for the 24th Annual International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at a beach, inland waterway, lake or stream near you.

Here in Brevard, the cleanup is co-sponsored by Keep Brevard Beautiful (KBB). The Cleanup kicks off at 8:00 A.M. and goes until noon. Check-in sites are as follows:

South Area Sites
Jon Jorgensen Landing, Grant
Pelican Beach Park, Satellite Beach
Howard Futch/Paradise Beach Park, IHB
Ocean Ave Beach Park, Melbourne Beach
Coconut Point Park, Melbourne Beach
Sebastian Inlet State Park
Central Area Sites
Kelly Park, East, MI
Cherie Down Park, Cape Canaveral
Shepard Park, Cocoa Beach
Lori Wilson Park (N), Cocoa Beach
Ramp Road Park, Cocoa Beach
Pier/Central Park, SR A1A, Patrick AFB
North Area Sites
Haulover Canal, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Kennedy Point Marina (US 1), Titusville
Canaveral National Seashore, Beach 1
KBB, the Ocean Conservancy, and event sponsors will supply trash bags, gloves, data cards, pencils and sunscreen. Volunteers should bring drinking water and a snack, if desired. FREE T-SHIRTS while supplies last. For more information, please email Jim Kriewaldt at
If you don't live on the Space Coast, follow the Ocean Conservancy link below to find the nearest event.
We're especially fond of Barb Venuto, the KBB Environmental Programs Coordinator. KBB and their volunteers work long and hard to keep our county free of litter that less thoughtful folks seem to leave behind. Please join them on Saturday, September 19 - it should be fun!
Reference Links:

Monday, September 14, 2009

My new guardsnake

The other night, as I was trying to get Sugar (my Italian Greyhound princess) outside for a late-night walk via the front door, she resisted mightily. The next morning, I think I found the reason - this pretty little snake was nestled near the door, up against the doormat.

You can't tell from the photo, but this little guy is only about eight inches long. I sent a photo to Dawn, who replied as follows: That’s a ringneck snake. Those are one of the few I will handle. It’s a nice little Florida native.
According to the Florida Museum of Natural History web site, Average adult size is 6-10 inches. Adults are small and slender-bodied with a black body and yellow, cream, or orange ring across the neck. The belly is bright yellow, orange, or red with a single row of half-moon spots down the center. They are harmless terrestrial burrowers, frequently found in or underneath logs or other debris.
I gently urged him back into the jungle that comprises one corner of my courtyard. I hope he stays around - if he ventures out again, I'll get some better photos of him.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jellyfish Update

In yesterday's post about jellyfish, I didn't address what to do if you get a jellyfish sting. I was reminded of that when David did an excellent post today about a jellyfish sting product that he has found to very effective. His post includes a testimonial by the Chief of Ocean Rescue, Brevard County, Florida Fire Rescue. (The link below will take you directly to that post, but take the time to wander through his site.)

I was also reminded of a conversation with Jim Angy, long-time Brevard beach rat, in which he said white vinegar has been a standby remedy for years, but many locals would recommend just peeing on the sting. An interesting ABC News story noted that using vinegar would get you fewer strange looks!

David's post and the ABC News story are both excellent resources for information on how to inactivate the stinger and eventually remove it. Best advise is, of course, don't mess with a jellyfish!

(Photo of moon jellyfish by Ann Zscheile - click to enlarge)

Reference Links:
Blog the Beach (David's post about a jellyfish sting neutralizing gel)
Old Wive's Tale? Urine as a Jellyfish Sting Remedy (ABC News story)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

There's always room for jellyfish

Last weekend, we heard of jellyfish on Daytona's beaches. On Labor Day, Margie reported: The jellyfish that invaded Daytona last week seem to have found their way down here to Cocoa Beach. There were a lot of moon jellies washed up. I didn't see anything that looked like a box jelly, but I didn't poke anything unidentified with my foot either. Those things are nasty. On the other hand, there were people in the water and I heard no screaming, as was the case the last time we had box jellies out there. I saw quite a few blue buttons along with the jellyfish, and one sea pansy. (Margie's photo shows a moon jellyfish.)

Apparently the winds were blowing the critters south - on Wednesday, Ann sent photos from her early morning sea turtle nest monitoring walk on Satellite Beach - love how the sunrise colors are reflected by this in the moon jellyfish and the sand.

So I got to wondering how long a beached jellyfish will live, can they survive long enough to wash back out to sea in the next tide, what happens if you step on a dead one, etc. etc. etc. I put those questions out to friends and beach experts Blair and Dawn Witherington, and of course got a an excellent explanation from Blair, as follows:
Medusae (bell-and-tentacle form of jellyfish) are pretty fragile animals. When bad luck brings them to a beach, they are done for. However, their nematocysts (stinging cells) can fire after death. This is why one can still receive a sting from a jelly blob on the beach. Few should be troubled by this prospect. Foot bottoms are thick enough to defend us from this assault, and only a few of our local jellies have a significantly painful sting. One of these was in your photos, a sea nettle, identified by reddish-brown radiating rays. Might want to step around that one. (Shown below in Ann's photo)

Blair goes on to say: Not many animals eat jellyfish. The short list includes leatherback sea turtles, molas (ocean sunfish), some sea birds, and humans. Yes, the group of jellyfish containing the cannonball jelly is edible. I’ve tried it. Not bad with the right seasoning. Animals that specialize on a diet of jelly (like leatherbacks) have to eat a lot of them. Most jellyfish are about 95% water. By contrast, we are about 65% water.
Blair and Dawn's book, Florida's Living Beaches - a Guide for the Curious Beachcomber, has a good section on jellyfish. If you don't have their book (you should), you'll be able to get an autographed copy at the Sea-Bean Symposium, October16 and 17 (see Reference Link below for symposium information).
David McRee has an excellent post about jellyfish on his BeachHunter site (see Reference Links). David will be at the Sea-Bean Symposium with his book, Florida Beaches - Finding Your Paradise on the Lower Gulf Coast.
Blair and Dawn are experts on the "technical aspects" of Florida's beaches (critter identification, dunes, tides, etc), and David is a "destination" expert (lodging, can I bring my dog, what is the most romantic beach, where do I eat, etc.), so the symposium will offer a great opportunity to pick some excellent minds about all aspects of Florida beaches.
As always, thanks to Margie, Ann, Blair, Dawn, and David for sharing their expertise and photos. These are folks that are on the beach daily - it is "home" to them, and they see nuances and events that escape the casual beachgoer (like me). That's one of the things that makes the Sea-Bean Symposium such a neat experience - the presenters and exhibiters love what they do and what they study, and they get great delight in exchanging ideas and knowledge with others. It's a mellow time - make plans to attend.
Reference Links:
BeachHunter (David McRee's post on jellyfish)
Blog the Beach (David's post about jellyfish sting neutralizing gel)
Sea-Bean Site (Paul has updated the official sea-bean site with lots of symposium information)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Our September Beach

Margie sends this lovely sunrise photo, along with this news: The fall mullet run looks to be in full swing. The pelicans were diving like crazy at sunrise and later we watched a huge bait school working its way south with little fish jumping in terror all over the place as the big guys tore into them.

And Ann provided this harbinger of hope for you sea-beaners - a hamburger bean she found while searching through the wrack for hatchlings. The hamburger bean comes from pods hanging on vines in the tropical rain forest. That dark band is the seed’s hilum, where the seed was attached to the pod.

Who says that Florida does not have seasonal changes!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shooting Stars Explained

Friend Dick, web master of our Deadwood High School Classmates site that keeps us Deadwood Bears alum "together though apart", sent this video that answers the question that I'm sure astronauts most dread hearing - how do you go to the bathroom in space? His email added: I worked in Huntsville AL during the Space Station development early years. Boeing had a mock up of the Station, and I would visit it often. They also had extra urine container collectors in mens/womens room if you wanted to help contribute. The system in space converts waste water back into potable drinking water.

I don't watch much TV, but I always watch The Big Bang Theory (if you like nerds, you'll love this show). As luck would have it, last night's episode involved the toilet on the International Space Station. I had to switch away from the Miami/FL State game for 30 minutes to watch it, but it was worth it - having seen this video, it was even funnier.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day through Charlie Corbeil's Lens

Charlie added this comment: Both Labor Day 2009 Posters are pictures taken at the new Health First Hospital under construction in Viera. These pictures honor all the workers building this new health facility. Charlie

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day 2009, Part 1

Labor Day is celebrated the first Monday in September and is typically viewed as a holiday marking the end of summer vacation, the beginning of a new school year, and kickoff for college football.
According to the Department of Labor web site, Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union.
Faithful readers know that photographer extraordinaire Charlie Corbeil has provided us with many holiday-related photographs. For this Labor Day holiday, he provided two photographs, and I could not choose between them. So, you get one today and one tomorrow. Both are lovely and symbolize the laborers this holiday is meant to honor. You can see more of Charlie's photos at

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Accessories make the outfit

Margie knew this beautiful, unusual bird on the beach was some sort of Laughing Gull, but the orange legs and bill are not typical, so she sent the pic off to Phyllis, who sent it on to an expert, who came back with this explanation: It is an adult Laughing Gull in basic plumage, but with aberrant soft-parts' colors. Every so often a Laughing Gull shows up with an orange bill, legs and feet. They are probably more prevalent in the Gulf because there are more breeding colonies and more Laughing Gulls there than along our Atlantic coast. Laughing Gulls normally have a red mouth-lining when they breed, so they likely have carotene underlying the melanin of the normally dark legs, feet and bill. When the melanin pigment is absent, probably due to a genetics anomaly, it exposes the underlying color that appears as orange rather than red, because red is usually the result of increased vascularization during the breeding season; this bird, as are most found, is not in breeding condition. (Thanks to Bruce Anderson, amongst other things the Regional Coeditor, Florida Region, "North American Birds", for this great explanation.)

This photo by Jim Angy shows a more typical Laughing Gull in summer plumage (in the winter, the head is frequently grey-white).
About a year ago, Margie sent a photo that allowed me to use the term "many ribbed hydromedusa" in a sentence. We will add "aberrant soft parts" to the list of things you don't often get to say, although in thinking about it, this new term might well work its way into a conversation :) Meanwhile, we'll continue to think of Margie's Laughing Gull as a tricked-out chick with great accessories.