Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
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.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
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 ...
http://www.NASA.gov/ (main NASA site)
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/index.html (mission news)
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts128/interview_hernandez.html (Jose Hernandez interview)
http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/1831 (Nicole Stott's blog)
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/behindscenes/colbert_feature.html (Colbert story)
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
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
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)
Rip Currents (NOAA web site - a good explanation)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
Saturday, August 1, 2009
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.
Oceanic Wilderness (Misti's blog)
NASA (Shuttle landing story)