Black and White Warbler

I had heard that a bunch of warblers have been passing through the Key on their migration.  I kept an ear and eye out this week hoping to find some in my trees.

To my delight I saw a pair of Black and White Warblers in the Banyan tree out front.  They were scooting all over and around the branches like a nuthatch would. 

I read that the Black-and-white is a winter resident in Florida…a true snow “bird”.  I was glad to have them in my yard.

I like to use the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website for information.  Here’s the link so you can learn more about this little bird: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-and-white_Warbler/lifehistory

Eating Ice Cream

I love to watch kids eat ice cream. 

We went to Big Olaf’s on Siesta Key tonight.  As we sat outside eating our cream, a family sat down on the next bench with 2 little boys.  The youngest was busy eating his; he had a nice grown-up style.  His older brother, probably only 5 years old, walked around with the vanilla ice cream and cone at a 35 degree angle before settling himself down on the bench.  Then, as he was savoring each lick, he’d swing the cone around, probably unintentionally.  Lick, swing around, hold at a 30 degree angle, lick, swing around, hold at a 40 degree angle…you get the picture.  How that ice cream stayed on the cone I’ll never know, but it did, to the last lick.  What a cutie pie. 

Now, had it been chocolate ice cream his face would have been quite coated … like my 12 year old’s face.  Travis has a blast eating food and you could tell from his adventure tonight.   He eats with gusto, holding the cone upright, but missing all the dripping ice cream rolling down the other side.  It’s ok if his hand gets messy with the dripping because there are always napkins around.  By the time he was finished his chocolate deluge in a chocolate dipped cone with sprinkles, his face and nose were covered.  Yum!

Changing the FL State Bird

I wrote about the last November.  Children around the state voted on what they thought the state bird of Florida, if changed, should be.  The kids had voted on the Osprey.  I hadn’t heard anything so I wrote to the Fl Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and here’s what they told me:

Changing the state bird from the mockingbird to the osprey was introduced into the legislature via the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s legislative package. But, it didn’t make it this year due to other more pressing legislative issues namely the budget. Plans for next year are uncertain at this time, but we ask that you continue to check our Web site for any updates. 

The website is http://myfwc.com/

Laying eggs

A note from my friend, Michelle, who watches out for the snowy plovers on Siesta Key:

“On Saturday morning, most of the Access 7 nest site buffer was destroyed and local resident Eileen Naaman and her husband Jim bought supplies at Siesta Hardware and reposted the area (I filled in with FWC signage afterwards).  The nest that was due to hatch April 15th was destroyed two weeks ago, but the pair have been showing signs of renesting and were observed inside the buffer, including numerous prints along the back path.

This morning I saw the pair in the foredune to the immediate north of their prior nest location.  The female was obviously gravid, and the male was close by as several laughing and ring-billed gulls were “stalking” them.  I chased off the gulls, and the SNPL pair took advantage to run to the back area where I discovered they had one egg along the back path.  Then, as I watched, the female laid a second egg – what a treat to watch as her mate looked after her (see photos) and I’m so grateful to have shooed off the gulls which surely were keeping them from their “task at hand”.”

That had to have been the coolest thing, a once in a life-time thing for one in a million to see: a wild bird laying an egg. 

Soapbox: please be careful and respectful around the nesting sites on the beach.   These birds are on the threatened list; let’s all try to keep them from the endangered list.

A Revolution in the Fish Tank

This means war!

I guess the sea urchins didn’t like the sea weed I gave them and they took it out on the Tulip Snail.  The urchins we currently have are the ones that are semi poisonous so over night they attacked and killed my sweet little snail (it was actually quite huge).  101_2538I’m glad I wasn’t awake to witness the struggle, the pain, or hear the cries of the sweet little snail calling out to me for help.  All I saw this morning was a cloudy fish tank and, where there was once a vibrant, lively and happy little snail, an upside-down shell with goo seeping out.  (That pink thing is it’s body)

Ok…it was pretty bad and disgusting, but oh well.  That’s nature.  I gathered the lump of death and threw it into a jar of rubbing alcohol.  Maybe the kids and I can dissect it next week…maybe not. 

I’m not having a great week with this tank.  First the oyster died (it shouldn’t have been in the tank to begin with), now the snail.  Sadly, I was plotting on how I was going to get the snail safely to Alabama next month so it could continue living with us.  (By the way, we’re planning a move).  It was a really cool critter.  All I have is a big shell to remember it by…cool! 

For now we have 2 urchins, 3 apple murex snails, a whelk egg case with growing whelks, and a shrimp which is almost invisible except for its really big black eye balls but it is probably in the canal across the street after we drained 3/4 of the tank and dredged for goo before replacing fresh canal water.

I hope we can find some hermit crabs again.  Wish us luck.

Edited April 27:  It really bothers me that we are having problems this week.  A few days ago the tank got really cloudy.  My husband and I emptied half the water, went to the canal across the street and brought home some new water for the tank.  The next morning the sea urchin was eating on the dead tulip snail.  Did it really attack the snail or did the snail die from the temperature of the new water?  I still need to replace another bucket full.  I think I’ll let the water sit in the bucket for an hour to get to room temperature.  Hopefully that will avoid further death, if that is actually the cause.  My husband brought some seaweed back from the beach this afternoon for the urchins to eat on.  I noticed he brought back a bunch of little fish/plankton-like critters.  Its fun to watch them.

Tourist Season

Note: I wrote this in March and forgot to publish it.  It is still a good topic even though the rush of visitors have left.  Easter week this year ended the visitor season.  Now we get a slow period until graduation vacations.

During peak tourist season (January to April) I have to schedule my time better.  I still have to be at certain places each day at the same time, but the traffic from spring breakers, snowbirds and other visitors can make me 15 minutes late when I leave my house at the usual time.  So, depending on the time of day, I figure out what route off the Key makes the best sense: straight up Higel and across the north bridge; Higel to Midnight Pass and over the Stickney Point Bridge.  Early in the day Higel to Siesta Drive is the easiest, unless I forget to time the bridge.  The Siesta Drive Bridge (I don’t know whether that is its name but it sounds good) goes up on the hour and then 20 minutes and 40 minutes after.  This cycles throughout the day.  I don’t know the schedule on the Stickney Point bridge.  Coming home in the afternoon across Siesta Drive to Higel presents other problems: folks returning to their hotel/condo after sightseeing in Sarasota, residents going home from school and work, and school buses.  101_2875

Going the other way, Higel to Midnight Pass to Stickney Point, works great in the morning.  If I need to go south, I can cruise off the Key quickly.  Everyone is coming on to the Key and heading toward the public beach.  But later in the day, while beach goers are leaving the public beach and heading toward the Stickney Point Bridge, visitors (and residents) are still coming back from the mainland to get ready for dinner.  Each car creeps slowly up Midnight Pass, but at the traffic light I can turn and continue with little to no traffic the rest of the way home. 

Any way you look at it, juggling your schedule to fit the temporary traffic jams is a must.  And, living slow is necessary.  You can not be in a hurry when you live on an island.  You’re on island time, so just enjoy.  I’ll still get the kids to their activities a little late this time of year but, oh well.

Dove Nest

A friend of mine lives on Lido Key in a condo on the beach.  At the gated entrance to her pool area, doves have previously nested in the sea grape bushes.  The bushes were wacked down by the landscapers earlier this year and so the dove has moved to another safe location: the front door to the building.  Luckily this is not the door that gets opened.101_28301

N. Myrtle Beach on Fire

My husband, children and I used to live in Myrtle Beach; Surfside Beach to be exact, but we know the Barefoot Landing area well.  That’s where the wildfire is changing lives.  How sad for those people.  My prayers go out to them.  Thankfully, no one has been hurt, as of this writing.

Here in Florida we have fire weather.  It is when conditions of dryness are ripe for fire hazards.  Florida is currently enduring a drought and, as with the dry conditions in Myrtle Beach, one spark could cause devastation.  A cigarette butt thrown out of a car or truck window along any road with vegetation, a firebowl fire in your backyard, a charcoal grill left unattended or used on a windy day could all explode into disaster. 

We have a backyard firebowl.  We’ve never used it.  Why?  If it’s not raining, it’s windy or we’re on a fire weather alert.  We live on a heavily vegetated area, like most of Florida and some of it is bone dry.  We’ve explained to the kids many times that because of the potential hazard, we just can’t use the the firebowl.  Maybe in another house with a concrete backyard we could, so long as it is not windy or raining.  Ah, Florida weather.

If this blaze could happen in Myrtle Beach it could happen here.  Please be careful with fire, grills, cigarette butts and matches.  I like Siesta Key and the surrounding area just the way it is.

Here are some pics of the devastation: http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/SC-wildfire-burns-dozens-homes/ss/events/us/042309scwildfire

Snowy Plover update for Siesta Key

I am saddened to report that there are big problems at the snowy plover nesting sites on Siesta Key.  These little birds need our support by allowing them their space to nest, and also respect by abiding by the postings to keep out of the nest areas.  They also need our prayers so the forces of nature will be kinder to them.  Below is a report sent to me by a friend, Michelle Vandeventer (a volunteer with Audubon and FFW), about the snowys and their nesting situations.

Tivoli Beach/SCF (just north of the public beach near near the private volleyball net): 

Nest lost on Tuesday night, most likely due to heavy rains (they lost the previous nest to wind storm), but raccoon prints and cat prints were also seen very close to the nest.   For several days after the loss, the male & female rested south of the nest site near Access 10.  I haven’t seen them now since Saturday morning, but did see some snowy plover prints in the back of the buffered site this morning.  I’m trying to be optimistic, but this pair has already had 3 failed nesting attempts. 

Access 8/Catamaran:

This pair has been courting/pre-nesting since mid-February, but has endured a lot of disturbances.  Finally, the female looked ready to lay eggs this morning.  The male is sitting in one of (several) of their established scrapes at the north side of the buffered area, while the female foraged nearby.  She is very distended and I’m hoping for an egg tomorrow.

Gulf View condo area at Access 7:

Also courting since mid-February, with no eggs that I know of.  I believe it is this pair that has been scraping and copulating along the back path at Access 7 and at Gulf View, but is subject to both human disturbances and run-off by the alpha-males at the front Access 7 and catamaran sites (in fact, this morning I again saw the Access 8 male chase off the Gulf View male).  The female of this pair is also looking heavy, though not as distended as the Access 8 female.  There are scrapes at the Access 7 back path, the old Access 7 nest location and Gulf View.  Edited April 23: as of this morning both this site and the access 8 site have eggs.  Estimated hatch date Memorial Day weekend.  If you are visiting the area that weekend please respect the nesting areas.  Thank you.

Access 7 (front or directly to the north):

Tragically, this nest was lost sometime during the day on Monday, April 13th between 9:30am and 6:30pm.  Only 2-3 days before due to hatch.  I was swarmed by gulls and crows when I went to search for chicks on Wednesday morning, so I suspect gull or crow predation as a likely cause.  Beachgoers feeding the gulls near the nest site has been an ongoing issue, and last Monday was a busy beach day.  The pair were all the way down near Access 4 on Wednesday morning.  I saw the female near the nest site this morning, but did not see her mate.   She made several loud calls then flew north along the water.  This pair endured so much over the past 4 weeks, it was so sad to see them subjected to dogs, careless beachgoers, etc when so close to producing chicks.

There was also an Easter egg hunt held at Access 5 this year.  This puts the birds/nests/eggs at risk this time of year and hopefully this can be moved to another location next year.  There was also a wedding held at Access 7 in the nesting area. 

So you see, there are a lot of things (human and nature) that challenge these birds.  Please be respectful of birding areas.  You can have fun at the beach but remember its not there just for us.

Siesta Fiesta April 2009

This weekend, once again, is the famous Siesta Fiesta on Siesta Key FL.  It is April 25 to 26 in the Siesta Key Village. 

It’s nothing but art, music, food and…ah! good times 🙂

It is a fun place to roam around with your friends and family.  Stop into the shops along the way, too.  They’ve had to endure lack-luster sales this year while the road construction was happening.  Some have even gone out of business.  On Sunday we have our usual Farmer’s Market which, I believe is still happening with the Fiesta going on.  Yum…fresh veggies.  We’ve been there and it’s great but the mornings we don’t go and instead sit on the lanai drinking coffee we watch our neighbors walk to and fro carrying large bags of produce on the walk back.  I can’t say which day will be best (day without Farmer’s Market vs day with) so plan to come to both.  I’ll be there Saturday.  Its a short hop, skip and jump from my house.  By bike accident injuries are on the mend and I believe I can walk the distance now. 

Siesta Fiesta starts at 10am and ends at 5pm each day.  Don’t know what parking will be like.  That’s why I live here.  Get here early before the public lot behind the Village fills up or head straight down Midnight Pass to the Public Lot…but get there early. 

See ya at Siesta Fiesta!