Hurricane Gustav

We’ve had some rainy moments here on Siesta Key but that’s about it, thank God.  Let’s pray for all those in Cuba and the northern Gulf coast that Hurricane Gustav has and will tragically effect.

After a bit of rain this morning, I headed to Lido Key with my husband.  I just figured with Siesta Key’s sandbar, the waves (if any) wouldn’t be that exciting.  Just north of the public beach parking lot, at the northern most lifeguard stand, we parked and headed out.  There were about 2 dozen surfers in one spot waiting for the best wave to ride in on.  The waves were large but were crashing close to shore.  Farther north you could see them crashing out away from the coastline.

My husband was body surfing and had a great time.  I stood by beachcombing.  The waves were coming in so fast one after another that when I’d spot a cool shell it was swept out faster than I could reach for it.  Nonetheless, I did get a few little specimens and an awesome chunk of coral that looks like someones arthritic hand.  The wind picked up and the loose sand started blasting the backs of my legs.   I had to stand firmly bracing myself in the wind.  Lesson learned: even if its not sunny, wear sunglasses on the beach during high wind or don’t wear your contacts.  We stayed about an hour.

Later in the day we had a big gust of wind from the south with torrential rain.  The power went out around 5pm but was restored before 6pm.  Yeah Florida Power & Light!  I called FPL to report the outtage.  What an awesome automated system.  They knew who I was from my phone I called on (its good to have a fully charged cell phone when there’s a hurricane nearby), they estimated when power would be restored and even called me back to say what exactly had caused the outtage.  Cool!

I’m a coastal person.  I’ve lived on the Atlantic coast (Surfside Beach SC), Baltimore MD (hung out in Ocean City and Annapolis in my youth), and the Gulf coast (Mobile AL, Houston TX and now Siesta Key).  I’ve evacuated for many many hurricanes and tropical storms.  No matter what anyone says about it, I still enjoy this over being inland.  With a hurricane, you know what’s coming, and you can leave.  You can take responsibility for your self and your property by properly insuring and protecting it otherwise.  Our inland life (though brief) brings back memories of ice storms, blizzards, hiding in closets during tornado warnings, and stressing over whether the next earthquake would be in your community.  For me, the coast is where I want to be, whatever the weather.

Here comes another band of heavy rain.  Gotta go.

Advertisements

Roseate Spoonbills on Siesta Key

On weekends we go to the beach before lunch.  Gary and the boys swim while I take a walk.  This morning I was so amazed by the birds.  There are always lots of birds near the lagoon but today I’m thankful I had my camera and binoculars.  There in front of me were 4 unbelievably beautiful Roseate Spoonbills.  I watched as they waded northward sweeping their bills through the water.  When they do this their spoon-shaped bills sift through shallow water for insects and small fish.  They walked the edge of the lagoon and returned to their starting spot.  Then I watched as they preened themselves before settled in for a nap.

 The first time I saw a Roseate Spoonbill, I was in Texas.  There was a former rice field near the house we were renting last summer.  I had pulled out of my street and straight ahead was a small flock of pink things sweeping their heads in the shallow puddles (it rained a lot in Houston last summer so puddles were plentiful).  I was so amazed because I had only heard of them and figured I’d never see one.  They hung out for a couple weeks in the same area so I took advantage of the spotting and visited them often.  Apparently they nest in colonies mixed with Herons and they are related to the Ibis.  

The other birds I saw this morning by the lagoon included Great Egrets, a Reddish Egret, several types of plovers, somes Willets, a Ruddy Turnstone, a smorgasbord of terns and gulls including my favorite the Royal Tern and 4 black skimmers.

Low Tide

At the north bridge to Siesta Key you can pull over in a small parking lot, fish, watch the sunset or whatever.  I’ve even seen a little webber cooking someone’s dinner at this parking lot.  At low tide you can walk across a sandbar on this little part of Roberts Bay toward someone’s back yard.  There are usually lots of birds, welks, and fiddler crabs.  I’ve never seen a boat moored in this area until this week.  First there was one sailboat, then another, then 2 canoes.  As you can see the one sailboat moored too close to the sandbar. 

Turtle Beach shark teeth

I checked it out about the shark teeth.  Apparently they are found on Turtle Beach, on the south end of Siesta Key.  But not on the fine, white beaches.  I’ve been there several times and never found a tooth.  Now, across the pass and a little further down on Casey Key I’ve found tons, just by setting down in my beach chair and looking around.  I suppose that man I met today on Siesta with the shark teeth was just lucky.  But I’ll keep hunting for them.

Shark teeth on Siesta Key?

Well, I went to take my usual pre-dinner walk on the beach from access 5 south and back.  As I’m scanning the shoreline, which was so huge today at low tide, a man stopped me to show me his shark teeth.  He said the surf has been rough the past two days and they’re coming on shore.  Just then he picked up another.  I think he had about 6 in his hand and those teeth were large.

If you, the reader, are from the area or visit this Key regularly please let me know if you’ve found or hear of shark teeth on Siesta Key.  When we moved here last fall I had inquired of all the quirky things about each beach.  Shark teeth, I was told by a lifeguard, are only on Venice Beach and some smaller ones around Nokomis Beach (Casey Key).  Well, I looked and looked.  I only went to access 10 (near the sailboats) and back north and didn’t see one.  So I’m anxious to hear some tales, honest ones.

As I said the beach was so incredibly wide, the tide was incredibly low and there was another sandbar out past the markers now.  The waves were crashing out there and I saw someone walking on it, water about mid-thigh deep.

The only shells I found were Atlantic Giant Cockles.  Most still had the critter inside.  The book I have notes the maximum size being 5.2 inches (13.2 cm).  Most of what I spotted were around 4 inches.  The largest one we have in our collection is 4.5 inches. 

I love our beach.  Everyday brings something new…sandbars, shells, birds, waves, no waves, starfish and gorgeous sunsets.

Trip to Sanibel and Tropical Storm Fay

We took a long weekend trip south to Naples, Sanibel, Captiva and San Marcos.  Tropical Storm Fay had left its mark on the area in terms of flooded fields and parking lots but everything else looked ok to us.  We were just happy to be traveling around for a change.  Fay did try to ruin our time causing bands of rain and some thunderstorms but she didn’t win.  We had a great time!

Our first stop, after checking in at the Lemon Tree Inn near the historic downtown section of Naples, was the beach at the end of 5th Street S.  The waves were fierce, ending in a froth along the shoreline.  The wind was actually carrying some of the foam up the beach.  Some foam smashed into my younger son’s leg which totally grossed him out.  Seaweed, foam and some small shells littered the beach.  We decided after 15 minutes to explore elsewhere so we headed to San Marco.  We drove around looking at the town and decided to stop at the public beach.  We paid our $6 entry fee and it starting pouring.  There was another park we could visit on the same $6 so we drove there.  We drove through the rain to the spot with the blue sky above.  No foam, no seaweed this time…just shells.  We collected a full beach bucket before deciding to head back to the car.

Saturday we drove to Sanibel for some shelling at low tide.  Oh, I was in heaven!  This is what I remember post-hurricane beaches to look like.  I figured out that you found more if you dug a little.  There were top snails, ceriths, fighting conch and hawk-wing conch, shark eyes, tritons, nutmegs and tulip snails, spindle shells and welks, murex, lettered olives and Florida cones.  We found mossy arks and turkey wings, mussels galore. Scallops, jingle shells and really large cockle shells.  We filled the bucket several times.  And that was just Sanibel. 

We had lunch on Captiva, a quick swim and then headed back to stop at the shops.  The one shell I’ve been dying to find is the purple snail shell. I heard that is not just hard to find, but most likely to be found along the lower Florida Keys.  I don’t know when we’ll get there so when I found one in a shell shop, I bought it.  Is that cheating?  Well, if it is that’s ok…I’ve got one now.

Our last stop was the Sanibel Lighthouse.  Of course we hit the beach.  It was so full of oysters it stunk, but the wind was so strong it didn’t matter.  We collected some beautiful pen shells, and an unbroken Atlantic figsnail.

Before leaving on Sunday we made one last stop to the end of 5th Street S for a walk to the pier.  I added to my collection a handful of painted egg cockles and the flat valve of a orange round-rib scallop shell. 

Someone I met while shelling on Sanibel told me she hadn’t seen this many shells in a long time.  She lives in Naples and beachcombs often, so I rest my case about great shelling after a tropical storm or hurricane.  I am, in no way, in a hurry for another storm, but I do enjoy the abundance of shells such storms provide.  Thanks Fay.

A last note on Tropical Storm Fay

Well, it sure left nothing to write about as far as Siesta Key is concerned.  And I’m thankful for that.  No power outages, no downed trees, no flooding, no broken windows (we don’t have boards for them) and no need to evacuate.  Fay stayed away from us.  I was told, when we first moved here last year, that we just don’t have bad storms because the spirits of the dead Indians that once roamed this area still protect it.  That story makes for easy conversation over a drink but I have to believe that Fay just headed elsewhere.

My husband, children and I did go to the beach once the boys had finished their school work.  It was windy, out of the north, and cloudy but that’s about it.   We walked from access #5 south to the public beach.  The lifeguard stands were moved inland several yards.  The lagoon, which had been full, was shrunk (probably from wind).  Pelicans and terns were diving for their early dinner. People were strolling the waters edge.  Kids were skim boarding and one man was way out near the markers doing the backstroke. 

Beach combing wasn’t as thrilling as I wanted it to be.  I bet farther down the coast and along the east side of Florida it was much better.  I have to face the fact that the Siesta Key beach is not known for its shells.  When you can find them, they’re tiny samples.  There was one week, I think in February but don’t quote me on this, that a cold front had come through and brought with it an abundance of shells of all types along the Siesta Key beaches.  I had found out about it a day later and headed down just as the sun was setting so I didn’t get to pick through them, but I did make it home with my first sand dollar.  Yeah!  Anyway, aside from 2 dead crabs, 2 sea urchins (one dead, one alive), 4 turkey wing arks,  a tinted cantharus snail shell, and a broken plastic Scooby Doo toy, there wasn’t much to pick through.  But I had a great time.