Candy Wreath

What will you do with all of that Halloween Candy?  Maybe you can add it to all of the Easter candy you still have or, better yet, make a candy wreath.  Here’s an idea from Living on a Dime newsletter: a Christmas candy wreath.  http://www.livingonadime.com/ebooks/candy-wreath-freebie.html

November and December in Baldwin County AL 2009

LOOK FOR A 2010 EVENTS UPDATE COMING SOON

This is the busiest time of year everywhere: parties, symphonies, festivals, parades, tree lightings and more. I’ll try to get as much as I can in this blog. Stay tuned because I’ll be adding things as we go through the month.  If you know of anything else, please write and I’ll include it.  What I won’t include is directions to Grandma’s house for turkey…find your own!

Every Tuesday night you can listen to Bluegrass music at the “Bluegrass By the Tracks Concert Series at Wales West Light Railway. This concert series continues through March of 2010. For $5 you can enjoy music, refreshments and a train ride. www.waleswest.com

And, don’t forget First Friday Artwalk each month in Fairhope from 6pm-8pm.  You can get a map at the Art Center.

Nov 1: Celtic festival at the Daphne Civic Center Plaza. 251-621-3703

The weekend of Nov 6th through 8th:
The 9th Annual Heritage Harbor Day in Foley. It’s a free, 3-day event in Heritage Park by the Depot. Friday night there’s a free concert. www.heritageharbordays.com  

Jitterbug Theatre presents Disney’s Mulan Jr.  751-2935

Market Days at St. Paul’s in Magnolia Springs from 8am – 4pm. They’ll have food, crafts etc. Proceeds go to the preservation of the historic chapel and the church’s programs. www.stpaulsms.org

The Annual Angel Ride Friday and Saturday.  www.angel-ride.com

The whole weekend is the South Alabama Film Festival.  www.southalabamafilmfestival.org

Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile has lots of activities this weekend.  Call: 251-973-2217

The Fall Festival for Autism on Saturday from 9am-1pm.  Proceeds go to Autism society of Alabama.  Call Malbis Parkway Pediatric Dentistry for more info: 251-626-9924

Nov 8th: Photographer Chip Cooper will speak on his photo exhibit titled “Havana” which is hanging at the Patina Galleries in Fairhope. The lecture is at USAFairhope in the Performance Center and then you can go to the gallery for a reception. Starts at 8pm. 251-928-8133

Weekend of Nov 12th through 14th:

Nov 12 through 22: Frank Brown International Songwriter’s Festival.  http://fbisf.com/

On the 12th in Mobile you can attend the Annual Christmas Jubilee at the Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds.  Sponsored by the Junior League, check out their website for more info: www.juniorleaguemobile.org

Now I know that Monroeville is a bit of a drive, but I couldn’t resist putting this item on my list.  After all what is Christmas without fruitcake?  Nov 12-14 Fruitcake Festival and Mockingbird Market.  Of course it’s a celebration of Truman Capote as well as the upcoming holidays.  So what does he have to do with fruitcake?  “It’s fruitcake weather” was one of his catch phrases and more recently a book was written filled with fruitcake recipes belonging to his aunt.  Great book: Fruitcake, Memories of Truman Capote and Sook. For more info:  http://www.alabamafrontporches.com/blog/2009/10/fruitcake-monroeville-alabama.html or you can call 251-743-2879.

Nov 13: Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show in Pensacola.

Also, starting the 13th and running through Dec 23 is the Annual Trim A Tree event in Foley at the Performing Arts Center. www.foleyartcenter.com

Nov 14: Junior Fishing Tournament www.wolfbaywatch.org  has registration forms and more info.

Also on the 14th is the Mamma Mia Cook-off in Daphne.   Sounds yummy and it raises money to support the Daphne public schools and Christ the King Catholic School (we have friends there so I’m plugging this for them).    Check out www.seedsindaphne.org for more info.

Nov 19:  Tree lighting ceremony in Downtown Fairhope at 5:30pm  251-929-1466

Nov 19: American Red Cross CPR training classes.   Info: www.redcrossalcoast.org  or 251-436-7940

Nov 20: BARC Christmas by the Bay, sponsored by the Humane Society, 6-9pm at the Fairhope Civic Center. tickets are $50 per person.  www.baldwinhumane.org

Also this night at 6:30 at the Faith Baptist Church in Fairhope, the Creative and Performing Arts Club (a local 4H club) will perform Robin Hood.  Its free, just get there in time for a seat.  Refreshments will be on sale during intermission as a fundraiser.

Nov 22: Fairhope holds an open house in it’s shopping district from 1pm-5pm.  They’ll provide music, and refreshments.   251-929-1466

Nov 27:  Tree lighting at the Wharf, 6pm, Gulf Shores

Nov 28: Wales West Arctic Express runs through December 24th.  www.waleswest.com

DECEMBER:

For a list of fun things to do this month in Gulf Shores AL: http://www.resortquestal.com/events-december.htm

Here’s a list of events for the first weekend of December.  Mark your calendars with these events for the weekend of Dec 4-6:

Friday December 4 Parades and events:

Daphne Christmas Parade 6pm followed by the tree lighting at City Hall.

Bayshore Ballet Academy and Theatre present The Nutcracker: two shows on Saturday and one on Sunday at the Fairhope Civic Center.  Call now for your tickets: 251-952-8628

7pm Christmas in the Park in Foley.  Music, Santa and Christmas Tree lighting. 

Also at 7pm: Fairhope Christmas Parade

Saturday December 5th Parades and events:

9am-2pm Annual Christmas Bazaar at St Margaret’s Catholic Church.  251-955-1370

Santa visits the Fairhope Welcome Center

At 9am Spanish Fort holds its Christmas Parade at the Eastern Shore Center

At 10am Christmas Parade in Foley.  Check the local paper for the route or stay tuned here for more info.

At 11am-3pm “Let it Snow” at the Foley Heritage Park by the Depot.  Free admission; entertainment, music etc.  251-943-1200

Bay Minette’s Christmas parade is at 1:30pm

Robertsdale’s Christmas parade is at 6:30pm

December 12: Gulf Shores Boat Parade

Monk Parakeet Swept to Daphne, AL by a Storm ?

A friend of mine sent me an email asking that I identify a bird for her.  She said it just appeared in the neighborhood this morning and was pecking at a neighbor’s front window.  The neighbor let the bird in and, thinking it’s someone’s pet, sent out a note that she had it.  The bird is in Lake Forest/Daphne, AL.found pet bird

It’s a Monk Parakeet.  They live in South America, Northeast and Midwest Texas, and South Florida.  Our recent weather which consisted of a storm from Texas heading eastward,  could have caught this bird off guard.  The storm passed through lower Alabama early this morning around 5am with strong winds and heavy rain.  The bird showed up after the storm.

Birders often wait until a front goes through during spring and fall migration for the chance to spot a bird that normally doesn’t fly in their area.  I get bird reports from one Audubon Society along the coast and love reading the list of what’s been seen after a front passes through and how the birders all flocked to certain areas where a particular bird was spotted.  They’ll even drive across the state or to another state to see the bird.

Well, I gave my friend the phone number to some Audubon people here in Baldwin County.  I suggested that unless the bird is exhausted, it might be injured and should be looked at; perhaps banded and released.  Anyway, I hope it finds its way.

Edited October 25, 2009, 3:50pm: Now for “the rest of the story”…turns out this Monk is named Sebastian and lives in a cage 1/4 west of where it was found.  The owner is happy to have it back.  How it got out I don’t know.  I was really hoping it was a bird that had gotten here via storm.  It’s just makes for a cool story.  I’m not a fan of caged birds.  I had a canary named Puffy when I was 5 and couldn’t stand the thing.  I enjoy the wild birds.

Bird Banding at Ft. Morgan October 2009

Today we went with some friends to Ft Morgan AL to watch the bird banding.  The group doing the banding is set up until the 22nd, we’re told. 

Ft Morgan AL

Ft Morgan AL

Ft Morgan info with scenic view

Ft Morgan info with scenic view

We got to the fort and searched for the banding without luck.  So, meanwhile we looked around the fort; the boys ran from room to room, over hills, around corners, up stairs and ladders, stopped for a few brief photos and finally said, “let’s find the birds.”

Nicholas, Travis and Austin inside a room at Ft Morgan

Nicholas, Travis and Austin inside a room at Ft Morgan

Going through the Fort tunnel

Going through the Fort tunnel

The Museum opened at 9 and we gathered our info and drove to the banding spot.  It’s really at the entrance.  Had we stopped where there were a few cars along the road we would have found it.  It wasn’t very well marked.  There were two banding areas: one at the entrance to Ft. Morgan before the ferry drive-up and one on the other side of the trees to the south of the ferry drive-up.  We found the one to the south, which we learned was the spot that was actually catching birds.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Banding tools/banding a Red-eyed Vireo

Banding tools/banding a Red-eyed Vireo

Here’s how they do it: there are nets set up on a trail along the trees.  Several of the banders walk the net path looking for birds, butterflies and dragonflies.  The butterflies and dragonflies get released but first identified and listed on a white board for the daily tally.  The birds are gently pulled from the nets and brought back to the tent/station where they are identified, measured, weighed and banded.  The information is recorded on a data base and the bird is released. 

Guess what???!!!  I got to hold and release an Acadian Flycatcher.  No one else wanted to; the boys were either too scared (or just hesitant) to touch it or too timid to admit they wanted to release it so I did to.  It was so sweet.  It was cool holding a bird.  The feet grabbing onto your finger may have made the boys uneasy.  I could see both of mine dropping it; although birds do fly so it would have saved itself. 

Me holding an Acadian Flycatcher

Me holding an Acadian Flycatcher

We hung around for another bird.  This time it was a red-eyed vireo and again, none of  the boys didn’t want to release it so another visitor did.

Their list of banded birds since they started on Saturday was impressive; including a lot of warblers, which my Life List is short on.  I’ll try to get a copy of the list and post it here.  If I remember correctly the most caught bird was the Magnolia Warbler, which I’ve never seen.  I’ll have to get there again before the fall migration ends; maybe early next week, while the banders are still there.  There is supposed to be a drop in temperatures after the weekend.  The cooler mornings might attract more birds than this hot, sticky day we just had.  Update October 17: With the cold front there should be a great amount of birds to be seen.  I heard a bunch of western strays were banded.  I don’t know which ones but I wish I had been there.  I might make another trip tomorrow.

If you go: take bug spray( if its warm), water and sunscreen.  Be prepared to pay an entrance fee to the Fort, the banding is free (no extra charge).  This weekend is the Alabama Coastal Bird Fest and there will be banding over the weekend at the Fort.  There are also other great activities including the festival on Saturday in Fairhope at Faulkner State University.  There are other non-birding related events in Fairhope that day, too.  Check out www.hummingbirdsplus.org for banding information and www.alabamacoastalbirdfest.com for festival information and other activities this weekend starting Thursday.

 Fort Morgan is really cool to check out.  From the top you can see Sand Island Lighthouse, Dauphin Island and Ft. Gaines, lots of oil rig platforms, some ships coming in and out of Mobile Bay, small craft, and the ferryboat.  Check out http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/73morgan/73morgan.htm for info about the Fort and some lesson plans.

Fluffy Caterpillars of the South

Southern Flannel Caterpillar

Southern Flannel Caterpillar

Doesn’t this little caterpillar look like something you’d like to pet?  I mean, it is fluffy and probably feels nice and soft and smooth.

NO WAY!  DO NOT TOUCH!

This fluffy, sweet thing is a stinging caterpillar whose hair can cause a really painful reaction if touched. 

I had wondered what these were but was never possessed to look it up, until now.  They “nested” around my house on Siesta Key.  In fact, some were even painted onto the house (the painter just never scraped them away).  But, no, I never touched it; thank God.  I don’t do well with pain or stupidity.  That would have been really stupid to touch it.  In fact, may I take this time to warn everyone not to touch something if you don’t know what it is ?  I’m a curious soul, but can usually find a stick or leaf to roll over a critter I want to observe.  I hope you do, too.

Southern Flannel Caterpillars (latin name: Megalopyge opercularis) have other names; Asp caterpillar (because it stings) and Puss Caterpillar (because it resembles a furry cat).  They are active year-round in deciduous forests in the south/southeast.  They transform into a really ugly furry moth.  Don’t touch the moth; it’s a stinger, too.

Bugguide.net has a bunch of pictures of this critter. 

The following is from an article from www.ag.Auburn.edu which identifies stinging caterpillars in Alabama:

The puss caterpillar (the adult is called southern flannel moth) is our most “dangerous” stinging caterpillar. Contact may produce severe reactions including: intense burning and nettling of the skin; severe pain; reddening and inflammation; development of pustules and other lesions; numbness; swelling, which may sometimes be extensive; and nausea. Pain may persist from one to twelve or more hours. In some instances, victims have required medical attention. The larva is urticating in all stages, but severity of the reaction is generally proportional to size. Also, newly molted skins retain stinging capabilities.

The caterpillar is thickly covered with fine, long, tan, grayish to brown hairs, among which are hidden venomous setae. Hairs peak roof-like over the back and taper rearward to form a “tail”. Hairs along the “ridge” of the back occur in small tufts; on each side are small patches of white. The full-grown larva is about 1 inch long, but with its hairy coat, appears to be much larger.

Puss caterpillars feed on foliage of a variety of broadleaf trees and shrubs. Some common tree hosts are apple, elm, hackberry, maple, oak, pecan, and sycamore. Two larval broods likely occur each season in Alabama, one in spring and early summer and one in late summer and fall. It is the caterpillars of the second brood that are most often encountered.

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2009

imagesWhat an important month.  We celebrate life of cancer survivors; mourn those that lost the fight; pledge to help fight the disease; pray for all families impacted by breast cancer.

Some of us get athletic: 5K Runs/Walks are scheduled everywhere this month. 

Some of us give: donating money to cancer research organizations or families that need help paying for treatment. 

Some of us eat: “dine-out” nights held at restaurants whose profits, that night, go to breast cancer research; and then there’s Yoplait yogurt lids that you can send in to Yoplait and they’ll send money to a breast cancer organization. 

Some of us get creative: making products that, when purchased, have part or all of the profit donated to a breast cancer prevention organization.

Breast cancer is detectable early through regular self examinations and annual mammograms after a certain age, as recommended by your doctor.  A product called Breast Chek Kit can help you with this task of self examination.  It is kind of like “a magnifying glass for your fingers.”  You can find this product by emailing Sandy@sunshineeveryday.com.  Also available to wear your support for a breast cancer cure is a “HOPE Everyday” tshirt.  A portion of the sale will be donated to breast cancer research.  More information about these two items are on this link:  http://www.sunshineeveryday.com/category-s/41.htm 

I’ve had some dear friends with breast cancer.  One very sweet friend, Catherine, is a recent survivor.  Detected extremely early, the cancer was removed and she’s doing fine.  It really pays to self-check and have a regular mammogram.  Mine’s next month.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, I’m not making a cent by recommending Breast Chek Kit or HOPE Everyday.

Lighthouses Along the Gulf Coast

I started thinking about lighthouses on the Gulf when I read an article about the local bureaucrats wanting to move the Middle Bay Lighthouse from Mobile Bay inland.  They’d do some restoration and then open it to the public.  Currently it seems to have weathered the storms and is only viewable from a boat.  But, so is the Sand Island Lighthouse.  I think they should all stay were they are.  

So I made a list of lighthouses, from Texas to Florida’s Dry Tortugas, that are still standing.   Some may not be working but they’re still standing.  The Louisiana list was confusing because there are so many lights listed (many of which have fallen) and some replaced, not by another light “house” but by a light on a pyramid-shaped skeleton tower.  I don’t know how to classify that so I left you the website I liked and you can figure out how you’d like to classify them.  Unfortunately, it seems while other states have a historic preservation fund or organization to repair and maintain the lighthouses, Louisiana doesn’t.  Some towns have taken it upon themselves to fix/restore/move lighthouses in their vicinity.  I applaud them.  Many were lost to Katrina either during the storm or later as a result of damage.  

Here’s my list:

Alabama has 3: Mobile Point Lighthouse, Sand Island Lighthouse  and Middle Bay Lighthouse.  The website is www.alabamalighthouses.com

Mississippi has 3: Round Island, Biloxi Light and Ship Island.

Florida has : Pensacola Light (which I hear is haunted), St. Joseph Point, Cape San Blas, Cape St. George, Dog island, Crooked River Light, St. Marks, Cedar Keys Light, Anclote Key Ligh, Egmont Key Lighthouse, Gasparilla Lighthouse, Boca Grand Lighthouse,

Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum

Boca Grande Lighthouse and Museum

Sanibel island Lighthouse, Alligator Reef, Sombrero Key, American Shoal, Key West Lighthouse, Sand Key Lighthouse, Northwest Passage, Rebecca Light, Shoal Harbor, Tortugas, Dry Tortugas and Old Dry Torgugas Light. 

Sanibel Light

Sanibel Light

Check out www.floridalighthouses.org for a map of all the state’s lighthouses.  Of course, there are more along the east coast, but I write about the Gulf Coast.

Texas has 5: Aransas Pass, Half Moon Reef,  Bolivar Point, Matagorda Island, and Point Isabel. Sabine Pass Light was demolished in 2002 but the lantern and watchroom were restored and are on display in Sabine Pass. 

Louisiana has 12:  New Canal Light, Pass A L’Outre Light, Pass Manchac Light , Port Ponchartrain, Southwest Reef Light, Ship Shoal, Tchefuncte River,  1839 Southwest Pass Light, 1871 Southwest Pass  Entrance Light,  Southwest Pass 2, Sabine Pass Lighthouse , Hibernia Bank Light.  There are others but I don’t know if you’d call them lighthouses or just lights.  They are skeletons on a platform with a light at the top.  You decide.  You’ll find more detailed info about the lighthouses, current skeleton-frame lights and the fate of many on this website: http://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/lighthouse/la.htm  

The website listed above is The Lighthouse Directory and has stories about lighthouses and lights around the globe.  Simply scroll to the bottom of the Louisiana page and click the link to the index.  Also I’ve found www.lighthousefriends.com to be fairly accurate and interesting.

If you collect lighthouse items, the Post Office has a series of lighthouse stamps.  I like them.

Edited 3/14/10 (Pi Day): I recently saw an article in the local paper about the Middle Bay Lighthouse.  It has been decided the lighthouse will stay where it is and will undergo some restoration.  Check out this link for the article: http://blog.al.com/live/2010/02/middle_bay_lighthouse.html

Sea Grass in Sarasota Bay

 The end of June 2009 newspapers and internet news services all around the world were reporting that the sea grass beds in our oceans was disappearing.  Several studies, it seems, were conducted; all leading to this conclusion.  You can find one of these articles here from sciencedaily.com : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090629200630.htm

This week, I was reading on line, the latest issue of the Pelican Press, the local Siesta Key newspaper.  In it I found that the Sarasota Bay sea grass beds are increasing.  I’m really excited about that and applaud the area residents for whatever they are doing to allow this to naturally happen. You can find that article here:  http://pelicanpress.org/content/1426_1.php

As you probably know, if you read my other posts, my family keeps a marine fish tank.  Of the critters we keep, they all come from the sea grass beds around the Sarasota Bay.  Without the sea grass beds these critters would have to migrate somewhere else or just not exist.  Sea urchins, especially, need the sea grass for nourishment.  I keep bags of dried kelp from the beach and give a handful each day per urchin.  

Other critters in need of the sea grass beds include hermit crabs, snails, some species of fish and seahorses.  The grasses not only provide nourishment but also security from preditors.  The endangered seahorse, especially, hide among the grass.

Sea Urchin Grows Back Its Spines!

Sea urchins do grown back their broken spines and I have proof.  I’ve been watching it happen with my own eyes. The sea urchin in our fish tank was looking a bit frail this past month and then most of its spines just fell off.  The spines on the bottom remained, so I was confused as to whether it was going to die or not.

It didn’t.  Rather it has slowly been regrowing its spines.  Other urchins we’ve raised have simply died when their spines fell off.  Their bottom spines had also come off.  From my observations,  that would make it almost impossible for it move and gather food to eat.   But, this urchin has kept its bottom spines.  It’s been very active and eating well during this time.  I have bags of dried seaweed from Gulf Shores that I’m feeding to it. 

The spines are growing out of the base of the old spines.  It resembles a starfish arm that you can see growing back.  There’s the base and then a new “shoot” coming out of it at the end.  It is really amazing and cool to watch.

It is really interesting to read about nature and science but it is really cool to see it in action.