Oil Spill Pictures

I don’t know who “TED” is (I never checked) but I saw this site and the pictures speak so loudly about the damage to our Gulf and our shoreline.   I only have my measly pictures I took while at Orange Beach the other day that hardly attest to the large-scale damage done by the oil spill.  I don’t have access to a plane and a camera to take pictures from above so this site and its pictures are what I can offer you.  Please check it out with hanky in hand:  http://tedxoilspill.com/2010/06/25/what-have-they-done-to-the-earth-what-have-they-done-to-our-fair-sister/

Beach Oil Reports for Florida Gulf Coast

If you are looking for beach conditions and reports of oil spill impacts on Siesta Key, Lido Key, Manasota Key, Nokomis Beach, Venice Beach and the Venice North Jetty area, then subscribe to MOTE Marine Laboratory’s beach conditions report. You can subscribe by going here: http://www.mote.org/index.php?src=gendocs&ref=beach%20conditions%20reports&category=Main

They also have an interactive map with beach conditions and oil spill impact  for the other beaches in Southwest FL and the Panhandle at www.coolgate.mote.org/beachconditions/

If you do make it to Sarasota, stop at MOTE Marine Laboratory (www.mote.org) and visit their aquarium and the research center with the dolphins and sea turtles.  We’ve always enjoyed it.

Tar Balls on Beaches of the Gulf

We went to Orange Beach today to see the mess that’s coming on shore. 

I did see the shoreline; it’s gross.  A mixture of chocolatey crud and white sand is not pretty.  Workers were shoveling, bagging and shoveling the same spot again.  It just keeps washing up.

I noticed one thing that I feel I have to caution everyone on: the boardwalk we took to get from the parking lot to the beach was covered in tar balls.  No they didn’t wash up to the boardwalk, they were carried there by people’s shoes, wheeled-carts that people carry their beach stuff in, beach chairs that are dragged to the car and I’m sure carried there by other means as well.  I sent the boys back to the car not wanting that stuff on their shoes and I tip-toed to the shoreline missing what I could.  I didn’t get very close to the water; there were a bunch of tarball splashes lining the beach.   Please be careful walking around there and be sure to clean up your shoes before you get back into the car.

Blue Jays

I have a ton of Blue Jays in my neighborhood (a pine/live oak forest) and I never gave them much thought until recently. 

Today I watched from my back porch as two flew around the yard chasing each other.  Then, starting on the ground beneath a live oak they followed each other up the tree, branch to branch.  They went inside near the trunk, then hopped along each branch to the end only to start again at the next branch near the tree’s trunk.  One Jay stopped, the other continued and hopped around a nest at the top of the tree that has been there from previous seasons.  The Jay hopped around the nest, climbing higher, looking down, then climbing into the nest.  It finally flew to the hedge along the back of my yard.  The other stayed on it’s branch the whole time.  Within a couple minutes they flew off together. 

Jays have a collection of songs and calls.  I usually think of the original Scooby Doo cartoon when I hear them.  They’re deafening sometimes and tend to drown out the smaller songs of the other birds that share this forest. 

I enjoy watching them in the bird bath in my backyard.  I keep it filled with fresh water each day in hopes of eliminating mosquito eggs.  The Jays visit several times.  In the morning, they perch on the sides after I refresh it and take their drinks.  In the afternoon, I’ve noticed during the height of the heat, they visit the bird bath in groups; taking turns in the water, splashing around violently.  After the bath, each Jay perches on the tree’s branches above the bath to preen.  When I first saw this I went to the bath to check if there was still any water in it.  Surprisingly there was.  They splash a lot. 

I’ve come to like them.  Jays are very smart.  Take some time real soon and watch them in your yard.

For some great info on Blue Jays: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Blue_Jay/id

Florida Sunsets

Sunset on Siesta Key

We hung out on Siesta Key one evening waiting for the sun to set.  It was beautiful.

SK sunset

How lovely!

Beached to see the sunset

We just waiting around to watch it set.

me and the boys

Gary and the boys

 There’s something about a sunset, even on a cloudy evening.  At the beach, people set up as if a party is about to begin, yet they sit or stand facing the same direction…sunward.  Hardly anyone talks.  They wait and stare as the sun slips into the sea.  Some drink wine or a cocktail.  Some ready their camera for the ultimate picture while others snap constant shots or videos.  On a particular night you can see a green flash.  Most nights you can hear someone or some group applauding after the last bit of orange disappears.  It is a beautiful thing to watch a sunset and a brilliant one is just spiritual.  A sunset is good for any spirit. 

Most nights we had a clear sky but on a cloudy night the sunset was still beautiful.

Cloudy, yet beautiful, sunset

Boating with Beggar

While in Sarasota, we went boating with our good friends Bob and Catherine, on the Bay.  Our destination was Midnight Pass (which is closed) to anchor, eat lunch and swim on the beach.  We also know that Megalodon teeth have been found in that area so we thought we’d try to find some.  Catherine had witnesses a young girl pull one out of her scoop of sand one day and there are countless other stories of large shark teeth found in the area.  We had no luck with the teeth but had a gorgeous, sunny day and lots of fun. 

We passed the Pass and headed further south to around south Casey Key to visit Beggar the bottlenose dolphin known to that area.  I’ve heard lots of stories about Beggar and this was our opportunity to see him first hand.  But, before he surfaced, a manatee passed us by.  How cool.  Beggar came around and visited our boat several times as well as others in the area.  

Beggar visits our boat

Beggar was so sweet but didn’t seem too happy that we didn’t have food for him.  He hung around, swam to another boat and came back for a second hello. 

Beggar

To get his attention you can bang your hand on the side of your boat then when you see him, raise your arm in the air.  He’ll poke his head out of the water to say hi and hopefully get a snack, but you’re not supposed to feed him. 

Midnight Pass

We anchored at Midnight Pass, ate lunch on the boat and got out to explore.  Gary got in the water; so did Bob and Travis.  Austin, Catherine and I hunted for sea shells. 

Casey Key

I had blogged a while ago about how I wanted to walk to Casey Key from Siesta Key.  I wanted to go over the sand at Midnight Pass and go straight south.  Several times the boys and I would start out at Turtle Beach and walk and walk.  We always got to the part of the beach where there were no buildings.  There was usually a ton of shells in heaps, so, being the shell addicts that we are (or rather that I am) we always stopped, picked through them and then walked back to the car with our loot.  As I stood on this beach looking north and south, I realized that we were south of where the shell heap was, and that I had fulfilled my goal of walking over Midnight Pass and onto Casey Key.  Only one time had I walked past the shell heap to where the first house stood.  That is Casey Key.  I just didn’t know it at the time.  There is no sign telling you where you are. 

My boys and I on Midnight Pass. Gary was swimming.

Don’t Cancel Your Vacation to the Gulf Coast

Why?  Because there is so much here to do. 

You can think of  it this way: what would you do if you came to the beach and it stormed all week?   

Yes, I know that there is oil on the beach in MS and now on Dauphin Island, AL.  It will probably be on Gulf Shores soon and then around Pensacola.  I know that folks from other parts of the country come here for the relaxing white beaches and the chance to swim in the Gulf, jump waves, surf. etc but perhaps this one time, if the conditions are not the best for you, you can find other great things to do.

If you can’t swim due to oil you can still sit on the beach and tan your hides (you can’t do that in the rain).  You can play in the sand; throw the football; dig holes; build sand castles.  Bring a spray bottle and lots of drinks to stay cool.  I’m sure you can find a lazy river at an amusement area.  You can swim in the Lagoon in Gulf Shores and areas not closed to swimmers.  You can take tours of the area: Ft Morgan, Ft Gaines, Weeks Bay Estuary, Pitcher Plant Bog, and the battleship among other great outdoor adventures.  You can play mini golf, rent a boat and tour around the intercoastal waterway, kayak the other waterways in our area, visit the Zoo (I bet their different than your’s back home), eat at our great restaurants (support our economy), visit the Wharf in Gulf Shores, bike ride.  There are many tour businesses that can teach you about our ecosystem, our estuary system.  Use this as a learning vacation.  Teach your kids about conservation upclose and personal.  Find a class (call the Convention and Visitors Bureau in the town you want to visit) on turtles, birdwatching.  Conduct and submit a bird survey from the beach for Ebird.org.  Visit Pensacola’s historic district (I hear the lighthouse is haunted).  Go to the NAS museum and IMAX.  Come see Fairhope (my cool hometown).  Shop the outlets in Foley.  Watch a sunset from the beach.

Think outside the box and enjoy yourself.  See y’all soon.

Death of a Hobo

True Story: when you look across the street from my former house on Siesta Key you’re looking down a canal that is part of the Grand Canal system on the Key.  Along the sides of the canal are homes.  One belonged to a family of young boys with whom mine were friends.  Next to them was a house we looked at to rent.  It had never been updated and I couldn’t live with flowered wall paper and yellow appliances so we ended up in this house at the end of the canal.  Next to that old house was an abandoned house owned by a divorcee.  The house was in disrepair but she neither lived in it nor wanted to sell it because she didn’t want a penny to go to her ex-husband.  So she held onto it. 

Meanwhile, she had a friend, who we were told was a homeless man.  Story goes he was a Vietnam Vet, very intelligent and educated from a good university.  He didn’t work because he had government benefits and a trust supporting him.  He didn’t want to own anything…except his bicycle.  He needed a place to live so this divorcee said he could live in the carport of this particular house.  An old car was parked in the driveway along with his bike and some cardboard boxes.  Daily he would leave the carport on his bike, take the bus from Siesta Key to Sarasota, bike around town and end up at the library where he would read newspapers and various books.  Sometimes he’d walk to the Village and return with a bag of groceries. He wore a scruffy hairstyle and a beard. 

Neighbors, including our friends with children, would often call the police to monitor his behavior and try to get him out of the neighborhood.  The police said he was there legally; he was a friend of the homeowner and had no record of lawbreaking.   We were told that the police did make the homeowner allow him into the home for use of water (showers, drinks). 

When we visited Sarasota this week we got together with our neighbors who told us the man had died.  As one of the boys put it, “the hobo died.”