Private Beach and Dolphins

Spent three days at E.G.Simmons Park in Ruskin.  Another favorite to add to the growing list – but not surprising. This IS Florida, afterall.

Simmons is a county park.  While there are RV sites available, I chose to visit first on a $2.00 day pass and liked it so much later opted to dry camp overnight.

For most of the day, Mia and I enjoyed our own private beach.  I watched three ospreys fishing the bay, and off shore, a flock of what looked like mergansers.  Mullet were jumping, Mia settled in for a nap…and before too long I heard the blowing of dolphins. A pair came cruising by, right off our beach..went around the strip of island, and circled back out to the bay.

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When we’d had enough beach…well, that’s not really possible so let me re-phrase that.  When we decided to take a walk and see other areas of the park (that’s better) we came upon this black vulture picking at a very old carcass…probably raccoon or possum but I didn’t get close enough to really see. Some things are better observed from a distance.

 

 

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Firemen Rescue Pelican

So last night I decided to go to one of my favorite places, the North Jetty in Nokomis, to see if the ‘green flash’ would appear at sunset.  Conditions were perfect…low humidity, blue sky, no clouds in sight.  Packed up a thermos of coffee and off I go.

When I arrive however, a crowd has gathered in the parking lot and a fire truck is on the scene. My first thought was someone became ill or was injured, but it quickly became apparent that something else was going on.  Everyone was looking up, at the top of a tall pine.

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And there it was…a pelican, hanging upside-down by it’s foot (or feet, hard to tell), flapping it’s wings in an effort to free itself.  No doubt the pelican was dragging fishing line or netting, which became entangled when the bird went to roost.  It was a pitiful sight and looked pretty impossible…but the Nokomis Fire Dept. was on it.  It was a difficult rescue, as the bird was at the top of the tree.  It took the firemen several attempts to correctly position the truck and ladder..complicated by the fact that the truck with the bigger ladder was at the scene of a structure fire, so this shorter ladder would have to do.

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After sunset (which I never did see, as the gulf is behind all the focus on the rescue) the firemen were successful in getting the ladder as close as possible…which still left about a 10 foot gap between the top rung and the bird.  In the dark, one of the firemen climbed the ladder with a long hooked pole.  It took him several minutes to grab the branches and pull the exhausted pelican to him.  Of course, the pelican rewarded him by trying to bite, but the fireman was undaunted.  He finally got a grip on the bird and brought him down, to the cheers and applause of the crowd.

Once on the ground, it quickly became apparent that none of the firemen knew how to handle a pelican.  There I go (having worked in the seabird hospital and knowing how) and suddenly I find myself kneeling on the ground behind the firetruck with a very weary and injured pelican in my arms.   The bird had a nasty 2-inch fishing lure imbedded in its leg.  The lure was trailing a few feet of line, which had caught in the tree branches.

We moved the bird away from the truck, and I held it in the relative calm darkness while the firemen attempted to find a wildlife rescuer who could take the bird to the hospital.  About 45 minutes later, I handed the pelican off to the rescuer from the Wildlife Center of Venice, who responded to the call and took the bird to their hospital.  I’ll check on its progress and report here how it’s doing.

Never did see the sunset, but well worth missing it.

New Year Shelling

I stopped at one of my favorite places on my way home from my sister’s house yesterday morning, and was pleasantly surprised by a pile of shells on the beach.

nokomis0114We’ve been having several days of onshore winds, which increases the surf and chances of finding some good stuff.  Good stuff indeed!  This stretch of beach, and in particular where the surf (such as it is on the Gulf…usually very mild or flat) hits the rock jetty, almost always has a pile of shells.  I have a nice collection of shark eye moon shells from this very spot.

nokomisshells2But yesterday I hit the jackpot!  I spent about half an hour sifting through beached shells, several feet deep.  Assorted clam and cockle shells, ribbed arcs, mossy arcs,  sweet little ribbed cantharus, bits of coral, olives, tulips, scallops, a tiny moon shell, and lots of holy stones.  I found four fighting conchs…two with animals still inside, so I tossed them back into the water as far as I could.  All in all, not a bad way to spend the first day of the new year. Life is good.

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Pass-a-Grille

snappersI had some time today and decided to go explore Pass-a-Grille, at the south end of this barrier island where I live and only about 8 miles from home.  It didn’t take too long to fall in love with the place. The history of the town says that Europeans first landed at Pass-a-Grille  in 1528 when Spanish Explorer, Panfilo de Narvaez anchored his ship just off Pass-A-Grille pass.  Later, the island became a camp area for fisherman to obtain fresh water and to grill their catch. According to the stories, Pass-A-Grille derives it’s name from the French Passe aux Grilleurs.

I liked it not only because it is located where the intracoastal waterway meets the Gulf of Mexico at the end of this island, but it has also, for the most part, escaped the pseudo-mediterranean mansion invasions that seem to be everywhere else in coastal Florida.  Instead, there are older, weathered, and very quaint beach bungalows and Key West type houses with lots of charm and character.  There’s a small fishing dock and pier where a charter boat was just returning from the morning trip.  Red snappers seemed to be the catch of the day.

bandedpeli2The usual collection of pelicans were waiting on the poles.  Fish brought in from these trips are filleted on the dock, and the seabirds quickly learn where and when the boats are coming in.

Fishermen are advised not to throw heads and bones into the water for the waiting birds, but unfortunately, many of them do it anyway.  There’s a great risk to the birds when this happens.  Pelicans and other seabirds are supposed to swallow whole fish, not a skeleton.  Exposed fish bones turn into spears that can puncture internal organs.  It’s like feeding the bird a handful of needles.

Pelicans aren’t particularly bright, but they aren’t stupid either.  Notice the left leg of the peli above.  It has a band on its leg, as does the one in this photo.  That means both of these birds were former patients in the seabird hospital where I work, and were admitted in the past for some type of injury or illness.  Chances are we’ll be seeing some of these again, as they apparently have not learned their lessons about what happens when you hang around fishing piers and boats.  I guess that’s why we call some of them “pier rats.”

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This Gull’s Not Laughing

Some sicko decided to capture a laughing gull and spray-paint the bird orange.  I’m guessing the bird was grabbed by luring it with food – gulls can be a bit of a nuisance at outdoor restaurants and on the beach, which is only one reason people are encouraged NOT to feed the birds.  The paint looks a lot like the orange spray paint used by road and construction workers.  Maybe this gull snatched one lunchtime sandwich too many…

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Researchers may occasionally use paint to mark certain species of birds for study, but never more than a few primary wing feathers or small spot on the tail.  Body feathers, so critical for keeping a bird warm, cool, and dry, are never marked, and certainly not to this extent.  This was clearly someone’s idea of a joke.

I wonder if the person who did this was thinking   “Oh, the paint will wash off – no harm done.”  Well, let me re-phrase that – the person who did this obviously wasn’t thinking at all.   Harm was certainly done.  This bird will need to stay in captivity until it molts a new set of body feathers; the paint cannot be safely removed without further damaging the delicate plumage.

Without care, this bird most likely would have died from exposure, as the feathers stiff and clogged with paint cannot protect against temperature and weather.  At least now the bird has a chance for a full recovery.  It could have been so much worse.  I’m not laughing either.

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