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 jimkbb2005@yahoo.com.
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 http://www.pbase.com/charlie_corbeil/profile.

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.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Too cute for words!

Margie took this photo while she was at the Florida Wildlife Hospital the other day. Love the smile! Be sure to click to enlarge.