Monday, August 31, 2009

The Beaners

A welcome new reader, Sylvia, left a comment on one of the blog posts a few days ago, as follows: Hi, is the Bean symposium a club you have to join or can anyone come in and participate? Are kids welcome?

Gotta love a question that prompts you to talk about something near and dear to your heart - in my case, it's the Sea-Bean Symposium. We're fast approaching our 14th annual Symposium, October 16 and 17, Cocoa Beach Library. Everybody is welcome, and children (preferably well-behaved) are particularly welcome! It's free, and there are lots of displays and presentations. As we get closer to the date, I'll include a program schedule. Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer is the keynote speaker that Saturday evening - those of you that have met Curt know we'll be in for a treat. Meanwhile, look at the slideshow on the right-hand side of the blog to get an idea of last year's event, or check out the posts in October 2008. This is such a neat, mellow event - we get visitors from all over, so even if you don't live in Brevard County (Florida Cracker - I'm talking to you), plan to make it over for the Symposium. (This photo is one I took at last year's event.)
Sylvia, when you come to this year's Symposium, you can register to receive the newsletter, or read it on-line at the official sea-bean web site (see link below). Meanwhile, thanks for the question. (I've included a link to Sylvia's site below - she loves Florida plants.)

Reference Links:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's Cabbages and Kings Time

I suspect many of you are like me - Sunday night is get-ready-for-work, catch-up-with-stuff time. So let's get with it.
For you bloggers, friend David found a new toy called Screenr - if you have bloggers you follow, you can use Screenr to capture one of their posts and talk about it while scrolling through it. David is a beach blogger, so he used Screenr to "show and tell" about five of his favorite beach blogs (we were one of them :) . Follow the link below to his BlogTheBeach.
Margie sends the following news about the Skimmers: It looks as though the skimmers have abandoned the posted nesting area for good. After last weekend's high tides, which inundated parts of the site, all the families with chicks moved to a location outside the posted area. They have remained there, and have been joined by the families with chicks which hatched over last weekend or early this week. Each day there were fewer and fewer pairs still sitting on nests inside the posted area. Finally this morning there were none. There are still two nests with 3 or 4 eggs in them, apparently abandoned. There are other abandoned eggs scattered around the site. I counted 19 this morning. (Click on photos to enlarge)

Yesterday I sent one of the chicks to Florida Wildlife Hospital, after observing that it could not stand or walk and the parents were unable to feed it. The rehabilitators did not find a leg fracture, but observed that the left leg was splayed and the chick could not use it properly. He/she was kept for feeding and observation. An update email Saturday included Margie's photo of the Skimmer chick being cared for at the Wildlife Hospital and this news: Here's the skimmer chick that came from the beach on Thursday. He's eating well and his leg seems a little better. But when he tries to stand on a normal surface, his left leg still splays out, so he has a ways to go still.

For the Beaners amongst you, Margie reports finding some sea-beans, and says the beach is loaded with sand collars right now. I've been seeing them for a week or ten days, but today they showed up by the thousand. Sand collars are the egg masses of moon snails, and consist of sand grains cemented together with gelatinous stuff and embedded snail eggs. Wikipedia goes on to note that after the eggs hatch, the collars disintegrate.
Reference Links:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blinded by the light

Our Space Coast sky lit up at 11:59 p.m. last night with the launch of STS-128. This graphic is courtesy of NASA TV. For a moment, think about what it must be like to be an astronaut when this thing fires up, sitting atop a firecracker comprised of parts purchased from the lowest bidders (as some astronaut so wisely noted back in the early days). All astronauts are heros in my mind, but there were a couple of side stories that I particularly liked about members of the STS crew.

Astronaut Jose Hernandez grew up in Mexico and California, the son of migrant farm workers who put an emphasis on education. When he was nine years old, he and his family watched the moon landing on a small tv with rabbit ears (you young folks used to cable will have to ask your parents about those), and as the youngest child, he was assigned the task of holding on to the rabbit ears to improve reception during the moon walk. He jokes that he became an astronaut through osmosis. There are interviews with all the astronauts - I've included a link to his under Reference Links. Good stuff. He twitters, by the way.

There's no twitter link for astronaut Nicole Stott, but she blogs (see Reference Links). She worked for NASA at the Cape as an engineer before being accepted into the astronaut corps, so we consider her "local" talent. She'll live at the International Space Station for the next four months, so I'm sure she'll have some interesting blogs! (I was unable to add her link to my Google Reader - have sent an inquiry off to NASA.)

This is a 13-day mission. Discovery will dock with the International Space Station on Sunday. Amongst other things that will be left at the Station is a C.O.L.B.E.R.T. treadmill named in a contest after comedian Stephen Colbert. The Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill is designed to keep the international crew healthy while in orbit and prepare them for return to Earth. It is also a testament to NASA's ability to turn almost anything into an acronym.

Bruce Springsteen wrote "Blinded by the Light" in the 1970's - I didn't understand it then, and I still don't, but the title is what came to mind when I sat down to write this, so ...

Reference Links: (main NASA site) (mission news) (Jose Hernandez interview) (Nicole Stott's blog) (Colbert story)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Over the Rainbow

Ann walks the beach early each morning as part of her Sea Turtle Preservation Society (STPS) volunteerism. As she said in yesterday's email that accompanied these photos, Wanted to send you a picture of what we saw on nest survey this morning. Just one of the benefits of being up early to walk the beach at 6:30 am!

Isn't Ann's rainbow just pure bliss? Be sure to click to enlarge it.

The STPS is gearing up for another season of monthly membership meetings (open to the public). There's an impressive list of speakers, and I was delighted to see that Terry O'Toole leads off with a talk on Thursday, September 3. Terry is a Park Ranger at Sebastian Inlet State Park, and he'll talk about sea turtle activities at the Park. The adult loggerhead photo on our sea turtle reference cards is Terry's, and we are most appreciative of his allowing us to use it these past two years. Jim, Matt, and I will certainly be there to listen to his presentation - 7:30, Melbourne Beach Community Center, Thursday, September 3 (will somebody please tell me where June, July, and August went?).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You know you're a Floridian if....

I suspect every state has its own list. My daughter-in-law sent me this one, and I got a kick out of it - hope you do, too!

You know you're a Floridian if....

Socks are only for bowling.
You run the A/C so you can have a fire in the fireplace.

You never use an umbrella because you know the rain will be over in five minutes.

A good parking place has nothing to do with distance from the store, but everything to do with shade.

Your winter coat is made of denim.

You can tell the difference between fire ant bites and mosquito bites.

Anything under 70 degrees is plain chilly.

You've driven through Yeehaw Junction.

You know that no other grocery store can compare to Publix.

Every other house in your neighborhood had blue roofs in 2004-2005.

You dread love bug season.

You are on a first name basis with the hurricane list. They aren't Hurricane Charley or Hurricane Frances. You know them as Andrew, Charley , Frances , Ivan and Jeanne.

You know what a snowbird is and when they'll leave.

'Down South' means Key West ..

Flip-flops are everyday wear. Shoes are for business meetings and church, but you HAVE worn flip flops to church before.

You have a drawer full of bathing suits, and just one sweatshirt.

A mountain is any hill 100 feet above sea level.

You know the four seasons really are: hurricane season, love bug season, tourist season and summer.

You've hosted or been to a hurricane party.

You can pronounce Okeechobee, Kissimmee , Withlacoochee and Micanopy.

You understand why it's better to have a friend with a boat, than have a boat yourself.

You've worn shorts, and had the A/C on, between Christmas and New Years

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hurricane Bill - The good, the bad, and the waves

If you're a surfer, Hurricane Bill passing our shores (albeit far to the east, thankfully) was cause for celebration. Our intrepid beach reporter Margie is not given to hyperbole, but she described Friday as
Glorious day. Surfer heaven. Wave watcher paradise.
(Photo by Margie Mitchell - click photos to enlarge)

There's a downside, of course. Dangerous rip currents (powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore) resulted in one death in Volusia County. The rough seas could also sweep sea turtle hatchlings headed for the Sargasso back to shore (hence the term washbacks). So far, Sea Turtle Preservation Society volunteer Ann has not reported a washback event resulting from Bill, and we'll keep our flippers crossed that none occur. (We'll have a complete post on washbacks soon.)

You'll remember Bree Varda, Brevard's entry into the Tour de Turtles. Well, Bree is in third place, and apparently endorses the philosophy that discretion is the better part of valor. Florida Today reports: Bree Varda seems to be getting out of Dodge. She swam well west of Hurricane Bill on Thursday, the last time she surfaced long enough for trackers to get a satellite signal. She had covered about 314 miles in 19 days and was heading south toward Grand Bahama. She trails in the race behind two leatherback turtles, a much larger species. Those two turtles, Naya and Luna, seem on a collision course with Bill. (Photo by Jim Angy)

The good news - Rocio Johnson of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation notes: Being sea turtles, the racers in this event are ably equipped to survive the gauntlet of storms, but scientists with Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), who are tracking the turtles by satellite, are excited at the opportunity to learn more about how endangered sea turtles are able to navigate through major ocean storms during their migrations.

The increased tides were not good news for our Black Skimmer families - Margie says a lot of the skimmer nests were overwashed. I suppose the eggs are still viable and the birds are trying to reorganize, so maybe they'll be ok. It also looked to me like a lot of eggs hatched last night. There were absolutely more chicks out there this morning than yesterday, and I saw quite a few little tiny ones. A scientist from Florida Fish and Wildlife Species Conservation Planning Section has been tracking the Skimmer nesting all summer and was on hand Friday to photograph the nests and the birds. Margie says she moved the the eastern boundary of the posted skimmer nesting area as far back as she could without putting eggs outside the stakes, but you can see from the wrack line how far up the beach the waves have come. (Photo by Margie Mitchell)

Reference Links:
Rip Currents (NOAA web site - a good explanation)
Tour de Turtles (Track the racers - neat graphics)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wrack 'em up!

This beautiful little sooty tern is resting amongst the wrack on Cocoa Beach. For the non-beach folks, wrack is a line of dried seaweed deposited on the beach by the waves. Beaner folks know that wrack is where you're most likely to find sea-beans. When Margie sent this photo yesterday, she reported Fall is coming! Sargassum has been coming in for several days now with a persistent east wind. Seabeans started coming in today. Not a lot, but this weather pattern is supposed to stay in place, so maybe there'll be more. (Click on photos to enlarge)

But birds, wrack, and seabeans were not all Margie found on the beach. Monday's early-morning launch of a Delta II rocket with a Navstar GPS satellite was a beauty, but Margie says she's still picking up rocket flotsam like the piece of foam shown here. She's saving this piece for Curt Ebbesmeyer, who will be here for the Sea-Bean Symposium, of course (mid-October). He'll love it.

The skimmers are reclaiming their homeland, apparently! Margie's photo shows not only the adults and fast-growing chicks, but an "unrelated" juvenile has snuck into the photo, also (lower right). She tells us The oldest three chicks are definitely flying. Whenever the flock takes off as a group, they go right along. The nest with 4 chicks in it has now increased to 5! There was a new little one this morning. But the biggest sibling was beating up on it quite a bit, so I don't know if it will survive. If it does, I'll be interested to see how one pair of parents deals with five youngsters. (Ed. note: They'll probably get their own reality show.)

Other good news - acquisition of the Coastal Jewel property we wrote about a couple of seeks ago was approved by the County Commission. You can read all about it on our Space Coast Eco site.

Gotta love good news!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lightning strikes more than twice

Our state, out of all 50 states, is the lightning capital of the country. The area stretching across central Florida from Tampa to Titusville receives more lightning strikes than any other location in the state. (Hazardous Weather: A Florida Guide)

We've had some bad lightning storms this summer. Did that stop Matt from taking a lightning video at the beach? Nooooo. I asked him why he didn't just hold the tripod above his head and play Ben Franklin. However, since he survived, and since the video is pretty cool, I'm sharing it with you. In the interests of complete disclosure, Matt asked me to mention that this was originally about 10 minutes worth of video, but he edited out the "boring" parts to bring you this short clip:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Skimmer chicks update

A good skimmer chick story to end the work week. Margie writes: The original three chicks are growing tails and starting to try out their flight skills. I watched one this morning take a couple of experimental flights, more hopping than flying, but coming along. (Click on photo to enlarge)

The second wave of nests has been hatching steadily for about a week now. This morning I counted at least five, but I think seven tiny chicks moving around in the posted area. Still more birds sitting on nests. And still more pairs mating.

When those first eggs showed up in June, I'd never have believed all this would happen. Those birds are tougher than I gave them credit for!

Margie had copied A. J. Hutson, Assistant City Manager for Cocoa Beach, on the above email, and A. J. summed up the feelings of a lot of folks with this reply: The photos just crack me up! They are really cute. I feel like lighting up a cigar!

I look at this photo and see "the look" - that mother skimmer is saying "you're not too big to spank!"

As always, our thanks to Margie for the photos and updates, and to Phyllis for her vigilence that contributed so significantly to this success story.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cabbages and Kings

"The time has come,' the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax -- Of cabbages -- and kings -- And why the sea is boiling hot -- And whether pigs have wings." (From The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll.

I've been meaning to mention the excellent post our friend David did on his Blog the Beach about sea turtle life on Anna Maria Island. I have a soft spot in my heart for AMI, as Suzi Fox (President of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch) was one of the first to purchase our sea turtle reference cards to distribute to beachgoers - she gave away 10,000 cards last year and is distributing another 5,000 this year. So I was especially pleased when David's post about his AMI visit included a photo of Suzi, as well as a good explanation about hatchling disorientation caused by artificial lighting and an excellent video about nest excavation. (See the link in Reference Links below.) This photo is of the front side of the 4" x 6" UV-coated reference card. The back side of the card includes "rules" and sea turtle rescue contact information. (Click on photo to enlarge. Suzi's card was titled Sea Turtles of Florida's West Coast, of course!)

If you live in Brevard County, I hope you'll take a moment to read the current post on our Space Coast Eco site. Last Saturday, I went on a field trip to Coastal Jewel, property our Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program folks are proposing to purchase. The proposal goes before the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, August 18. Vince Lamb organized the trip and has an excellent summary of the proposed purchase on his Friends of Ulumay site (see Reference Links below), with details about the Board meeting.

Sea Turtle Preservation Society friend Ann sent us a link to an Associated Press story about The Turtle Hospital in Marathon. We've talked about the hospital before, and the fine work it does. One of the turtles featured in the story is Rocky Thyme, the turtle Ann and friends rescued out of the Indian River Lagoon on Mother's Day (see Reference Links below). Photo of Rocky Thyme and STPS volunteer Adam by Ann Zscheile

Reference Links:

Blog the Beach (Anna Maria Island sea turtle story)

Space Coast Eco (Coastal Jewel field trip report)

Friends of Ulumay (Coastal Jewel information)

The Turtle Hospital (Associated Press story)

The Story of Rocky Thyme (Our post)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hightower Beach Park Grand Opening (and a skimmer chick update)

Our friend and colleague, Jim Angy, has always been generous in donating his photos to organizations that need them for educational purposes. You'll see Jim's work on everything from Caribbean Conservation Corporation Do Not Disturb door hangers to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge visitor guides. Recently, he donated over 50 photos to the City of Satellite Beach to use in signage for their new Hightower Beach Park. The Park opened on August 1, and Jim and Matt were there. Of course, some of the signage is related to sea turtles, and this photo shows Jim next to a sign featuring his sea turtle photos. These are the photos we use on our sea turtle reference cards distributed by hotels and sea turtle rescue organizations in Brevard County, and Jim and Matt had a stack of the cards to give away at the Park opening, too. Matt got lots of good photos, and I'll develop a slideshow soon, but meanwhile, this will give you an idea of what a great addition to Brevard's beach parks this is. (Click on photo to enlarge)

Matt and Jim were very impressed with the Park - there's 560 feet of boardwalk with educational signage, so the dunes are protected and visitors can learn something on their way to the sand.

Everything reflects the care and thought that went into the design of this Park. There's parking, restrooms, a picnic pavilion, security cameras, and an emergency call box sponsored by the Satellite Beach Women's Club - lots of people and organizations did their part in bringing this idea to fruition. The landscaping is native and beautiful.

Hightower Beach Park is a testament to a public-private partnership and Satellite Beach's commitment to conservation. In 1980, C. E. Hightower, a real estate broker from Ft. Lauderdale, donated the park parcel to the county. A grant from the Florida Communities Trust, an agreement between Satellite Beach and the County, a contribution from the Montecito Community Development District, and a grant from the Federal Land and Water Conservation fund all helped make the Park a reality. Many other companies and organizations and people (like Jim and friend Ed Perry, who contributed his sea-bean photos) helped. Congratulations to everybody involved!

A quick skimmer update from last Thursday (where does the time go). Margie reports: The three original chicks are still there, growing exponentially by the day and running all around. They should be flying in a week or so. A new chick appeared this morning, confirming our belief that there are more nests incubating. Still don't know how many, but it will be fun to see what happens next. I'm back to having to put circles around the tiny chick so you can see it in the photo, but at the rate they grow, I won't have to do that for long. (Click to enlarge Margie's photo)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What a difference a week makes - skimmer update

This just in from Margie: Still three chicks, all growing really, really, really fast. Now two of them are moving out of the posted area every morning and hanging out right in the tire tracks of all the beach vehicles that bypass their sheltered spot (me, turtle patrol, lifeguards, KBB). Sigh. Kids!

Oh, and I'm pretty sure there are more eggs soon to hatch. And not only that, but I actually witnessed two more pairs mating this morning. Or maybe it was just one insatiable pair.

You'll recall these chicks hatched around the 19th of July - a scant18 days ago. I'm glad we don't have to keep them in tennis shoes - we'd go broke keeping up!

As always, our thanks to Margie for keeping us updated and for providing the pix for a skimmer family photo album. (Click photos to enlarge)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Okay Mom - now what?

A possum's tail is used as a spare hand, so to speak, but sometimes when you're young, it's hard to tell what to let go of first! (Photo by Jim Angy - click to enlarge)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Talk about cryptic - a skimmer chick update

In the nature world, cryptic refers to a characteristic such as coloration that allows an animal to conceal itself against its background - critter camouflage. The little skimmer chicks that we've been talking about for several weeks could be an illustration for that definition. Margie sends the following good news, photos, and explanation: The chicks are growing fast and apparently thriving. There are three for sure. The little guy hiding in the depression in the sand shows up clearly in the photo, but in real life is so well camouflaged that you absolutely cannot see him/her. I was using max zoom for the photo. (Click on the pictures to enlarge)

Friday at 10:46 A.M., we heard the welcome twin sonic booms signaling a shuttle landing right on schedule (10:48). I was watching from work on Florida Today's live NASA TV feed. It was mesmerizing to watch the shuttle's progress on the map - that craft was flat moving! Friday night, I was reading Misti's blog (see link below) - she and husband Chris live in south Florida, somewhere near Big Cypress National Preserve. They were in Little Slough when the shuttle whizzed by. These are her words: Around 10:42 ('cause we looked at the watch right after), we heard a really loud boom, Boom! Boom!, twice in quick succession. In about a two second span of time we'd looked at each other and I thought thunder, then gunshot (which I looked around the slough for a series of men with large rifles), then atomic bomb (not that I know what an atomic bomb sounds like other than in a movie, but I thought maybe one was dropped on Miami), then I got my sanity again and we were discussing the possibilities when I remembered reading that Endeavour was supposed to return home today. Yep, it was the sonic boom from the shuttle re-entering the atmosphere over Florida. If you check that landing time at the Cape, it was five minutes after we'd heard the sound. Talk about flying through the air! It was probably just as loud or louder than thunder that occurs when lightning strikes very, very near you, in fact, probably much louder than that. I mean, we were standing there in the peaceful summer morning, not much making noise other than some locusts and some far off airplanes, when we heard it. So, talk about an interesting morning. (Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

As always, we welcome the astronauts home and congratulate NASA and all involved for yet another successful mission.

Reference Links:
Oceanic Wilderness (Misti's blog)
NASA (Shuttle landing story)