My Gulf Coast

I lift up my prayers to God for the Gulf of Mexico.

Please God, find someone on earth that knows what they’re doing and get the oil well capped. Amen.

Meanwhile, the forecast for the oil spill and Mobile Bay: http://blog.al.com/live/2010/05/latest_gulf_oil_spill_forecast_15.html

Nature Notes for May 28, 2010

The Snowy Plovers on Siesta Key are doing ok.  We visited them and watched the little chicks scurry around their nesting area.  If you’re a Snowy fan check them out on Twitter @ Snowy Plover SRQ.  Michelle is posting notes frequently as to their status.   

Snowy Plover on Siesta Key

2 Snowy Plover chicks on Siesta Key

Little Snowy Plover nest. Two more eggs were added later that day.

Snowy Plover on Siesta Key

This is a critical weekend for the Snowys.  The beach will be busy with vacationers this holiday weekend who, for the most part, don’t really care or understand that they even need to care, about the endangered birds.  They’ll play catch, throw cheese puffs in the air at the seagulls and crows, build castles or just set up their seats and blankets near the roped buffer areas without reading the posted signs.  They won’t even know that the chicks, the size of their big toenail and the color of the beach, will be running from buffered area to the waterline during the day.  The chicks will be easy to step on.  Please, please, please be careful around these areas, no matter what beach you are on.  It’s important that these birds survive; they’re currently endangered.  Please don’t throw food at the gulls or crows.  They’ll fly above the nesting areas and spot movement below; they’ve dive in and grab a chick or an egg.  Please stay out of the roped areas; they’re federally protected and you could be arrested or fined. Play ball far enough away from the buffer areas so you don’t risk the ball going into it.   They’re will be Audubon volunteers patrolling the areas; beach employees patrolling the area.  Please enjoy yourself today on the beach, but respect our efforts to protect endangered species.

No oil on our beaches here in FL and both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach AL are clean, too.  Please come visit.  Stores we’ve visited here in Sarasota have told us that even though this is typically a slow time (between the snowbirds and the summer vacationers), it has been even slower this year.  The oil in the Gulf has caused many people to cancel their reservations for vacations along the coast.  To me it’s silly.  The oil is so far away from most beaches and there are plenty of other things to do on our coast, even if the oil was lapping our shorelines.  Please come and visit.  Florida is open for business and so is Alabama.  Check out this website for updated info in Alabama: http://www.gulfshores.com/issues/.

Nature Notes for May 22, 2010

I am so proud of the work my friend Michelle, along with some other bird lovers, have done in Siesta Key to protect the endangered snowy plover.  You can read about it by following this link: http://pelicanpress.org/content/2115_1.php.  She emailed me today that there are 3 hatchlings now.  Oh, how I’m praying they survive.  So far they haven’t on Lido this year; they didn’t on either Key last year.  I’ll be sure to give an update. 

Oil has now reached Bayou La Batre AL, lapping at it’s shores.  That’s way too close to home, although anywhere along the Gulf Coast is too close to home for oil to be coming ashore.  Follow this link to Gulf Shores.com which provides daily updates on the oil slick:  http://www.gulfshores.com/issues/

I don’t even have the words to express my sadness over this.  Here’s some information I found about cleaning the wetlands, or rather, not cleaning them:  http://blog.al.com/live/2010/05/cleaning_oil-soaked_wetlands_m.html

The love bugs and dragonflies are in full force here in Sarasota on Lido Key.  I noticed the dragonflies were thick in the air early in the morning and then after sunset.  I hope they’re eating the love bugs; they’re a huge nusiance.  Here’s an article from Floridatoday.com about the invasion: http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20100522/NEWS01/5220311/1006/Love+bug+invasion+leaves+a+mess.  Check out what I’ve written previously about them: https://lifealongthegulfcoast.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/love-bugs-and-damsel-flies/

This afternoon a fish crow, one of many scoping out the little birds around the condo, attacked a juvenile dove and pulled it’s tail feathers out.  The little dove hid under the bushes by our patio door and slowly walked along the building to a thicker group of bushes.  I lost sight of him there.  I think the crows did, too.  Hope it survives.

Awesome sunset:

Lido Key Sunset

Endangered Species

Yesterday was Endangered Species Day.
Some of my favorite creatures, and probably your’s too, are on the Endangered list or are protected under the Threatened label: Snowy Plovers, Kemp’s ridley turtles, and bats are on the top of my list.  What are yours?
Read this link to find out about the white-nose fungus that is killing off the bat population around the world:  http://www.batcon.org/index.php/what-we-do/white-nose-syndrome.html

No oil on Siesta Key or Lido Key

I’m here for my annual visit since we moved away.  The beaches are still beautiful, and the air is still salty and humid, and the Gulf water is still clear.  No oil here, and praise God for that. 

Our beaches in AL, MS and LA are having oil or tar balls making regular visits. 

I don’t think anyone really knows what will eventually happen.  Will the oil get caught in the loop current and pass by FL or get blown onto the west coast?  Will FL get tar balls (other than the ones that landed somehow in the lower Keys)?  I heard one news report today that a worse-case scenario would be that the oil will remain uncapped until August.  They want to build a new platform next to the old collapsed one.  Who knows what will happen, when. 

Meanwhile, don’t cancel your vacation to any Gulf Coast beach.  Alabama beaches are open.  Go visit.  Learn about the nature there and how fragile it is.  Teach your children about disasters and how people work to clean-up, solve problems, help others.  Teach them about conservation, wetlands, being stewards of our  natural resources.  Learn about oil drilling…BOTH the pros AND the cons, please.  FL beaches are open.  In MS, Grand Isle is the only beach I have heard of that’s closed but always call and check first.   But do not cancel that vacation either; there are other places nearby to visit and your hotel/condo stay will keep people employed.

Support our economy here along the Gulf Coast.  Meanwhile, I will enjoy my vacation on Lido Key and when I get back to AL, I’ll do what I can to help once more. 

Remember: always clean up your trash when you leave the beach…cigarette butts included.

SHORE BIRD SURVEY

If you live along the Gulf Coast from Texas to the FL Keys here’s a great opportunity to help out the birds.  ebird.org is asking people to survey shorebirds.  Go to http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/survey-gulf-coast-birds  for information on how to help. 

 The oil spill will have an inpact on our bird population and this survey will help provide some data regarding how many birds there are now, and with a disaster, how many would be left.  Go outside and have some fun!

Dauphin Island AL

After our trip to the Auburn Shell Lab with my group of oyster gardeners, my two boys and I ventured out to see if the beach needed some cleaning.  The past few days volunteers have been all over the Alabama beaches picking up trash.  Apparently its easier to clean oil from the sand when there’s no trash mixed in.  We were surprised to see how clean the beach was.  So we walked around briefly and headed home.

Dauphin Island public beach and Gulf of Mexico

We did make one other stop.  I hadn’t been to the Shell Mounds so we checked it out.  The birding is supposed to be great.  Birding all over Dauphin Island is supposed to be great.  The boys weren’t interested in walking around so I just briefly checked out the trail.  I’ll have to come back another time with a birding friend.

Dauphin Island Indian Shell Mound Park

If you can’t read the sign it basically says that the area of the Park and the Bird Refuge dates to around AD 1100-1550.  Excavations were done in 1990 and archeologists found that the mounds had been visited seasonally and mostly during the winter and spring.  These mounds included oyster shell, charcoal, fish bones and potsherds.  The Choctaw and Creek Indians had fished the area and harvested oysters until 1830. 

Heading home we saw that workers were putting the booms around the island in anticipation of the oil spill reaching land.  Several bays, estuaries and creeks have been protected as well.  While most of the island is being protected by these booms, there are parts that just can’t be, though, since the mouth of the Mobile Bay has to stay open for shipping. 

you can see the yellow and orange booms around this marsh. This picture is taken by the ferry ramps on the east side of Dauphin Island.

We’ll be back; we forgot to visit Ft. Gaines!

Shell Lab field trip

Today my group of oyster gardeners and their families all met at the Auburn Shell Lab to see what the oyster garden and oyster reef restoration project in Mobile Bay is all about. 

After learning about how they get the oysters to spawn we visited each tank to see the progression of the oyster’s growth, starting with the blue vats where millions of the larvae get to swim around and grow without risk of preditors as they would out in the Bay.

the blue vats of oyster larvae swimming around inside

Next, we visited the bags of oyster shells that the larvae will eventually be poured onto.  At that stage the larvae will be large enough to want to set on something and continue growing.

Bags of oyster shells on which larvae will set and continue growing

Scott, our guide, showed us some baby oysters.  You can see them under the bubbles in the picture below.

small oysters

Everyone got to look at the larvae through a microscope.

looking through a microscope

Scott then showed us the different oyster cages they’re using for the oyster gardens.  Some are in the experimental stage. 

This is the cage we are using in our garden. We have 4 of them.

What a great project.  We’re looking forward to receiving our oysters and starting the garden.