Stump Pass Beach State Park

 

Stump Pass Beach State Park, located in Englewood Florida, ranks high as one of my all-time favorite spots in the Sunshine State.  There’s no camping..but for a day visit and a wild beach..it’s awesome.  The park is at the southern end of Manasota Key, with the Gulf on Mexico on one side and Lemon Bay on the other.

On a recent visit there, I came upon this gopher tortoise enjoying its lunch.  The tortoise was a bit of a ham and didn’t mind being photographed while it ate.

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Stump Pass is a great quiet beach, only 60 or so cars are allowed in the parking lot and if you don’t mind walking toward the tip, you can find yourself on a very private and quiet spot either on the Gulf or on Lemon Bay.  The hitch is the Ranger closes the park gates immediately after sunset..so if your car is left behind, so are you. Best to check at the gate for park closing time and plan to be there.

New Year, New RV, New Life

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I have a friend back in New Jersey that usually begins her phone calls to me with “so where are you living now?”  She says I’m never in the same place very long, and she doesn’t understand how I can do that.  She’s a Virgo though, so I suppose anything out of the normal routine is difficult for her to comprehend. I mean, she alphabetizes her vegetables. Seriously?

On the other hand, she was brave enough to venture south from NJ with me in 1995, in my brand new old 1977 Coachmen Leprechaun.  It was my first full-time RV and my ticket to Florida. It was very orange. We only broke down twice on the relocation trip..all minor stuff though I can’t recall now what the problem was. I do recall spending one night in a service garage in North or South Carolina.  Needless to say, I did not do much actual going in that RV, though I did name it Boldly Go.

When I arrived in Florida,  I promptly redecorated, replacing orange shag carpeting with white vinyl flooring; painting cabinets white, and recovering cushions with a bright tropical print.  I lived in that RV for about a year, then put her in storage when I moved into an apartment.  I sold that RV a few years later, always with the thought of returning to the RV lifestyle someday.

Fast forward to Dec. 2015, and a spontaneous not-so-serious visit to a local RV dealer,  just to see what RVs looked like nowadays and if a good old used one would ever loom large in my future.  The short version of what happened next?  I happened to stumble upon their end-of-month-end-of-year  have-to-meet-sales-quotas…etc. etc. etc.

Granted..most people don’t make such a decision spontaneously, and certainly not over the span of 2 days…but hey, how bad could it be? Next thing I knew…Voila! Boldly Go II and Happy New Year to me!

On Dec. 31st I took delivery of Boldly Go II and by Jan. 2nd was moved out of my apartment and into a new life.

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I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a whole new blog, but after a few attempts, I decided to just continue now with Natural Notes.  I’ll write when I have wifi service, from where ever I happen to be at the moment.

My New Sidekick

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Mia

I’m the first one to admit it – things just haven’t been the same since my old pal Boomer died in 2008.  So here’s my new sidekick, 6 pounds of pure terror who will take on the grizzly bears on television and chase greyhounds at the dog park.  She is small enough to take along most places I go, she’ll fit into the basket on my bike, and she’s right there on my lap when I’m sitting around doing nothing.  We’re looking forward to cooler weather and lots of adventures together.

In other news, I’ve just received a notice from the Bird Banding Lab about a band recovery.  It seems that an American Robin I banded at Raccoon Ridge in northern NJ on May 25, 2008 was found as a roadkill on August 11, 2014, in Avon, Monmouth County, NJ.  The person who found the bird turned in the band.  Although a little sad – I much prefer a report about a bird caught live by another bander – it’s nice to know this one survived for six years.

Pelican Update

And of course, other things have kept me from posting regularly.  The pelican was treated and released just a few days after its rescue.  All is well.

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.

Spotted Sea Hares

I am in awe of the diversity and just plain bizarro nature of many of the ocean animals easily (and some not so easily) observed on any given day.  Went for a short walk along the bayfront earlier this week and discovered a couple of squishy-looking somethings caught in the tide line.   After a bit of research, which included asking a very knowledgeable source “what the heck is that”  I can safely say these animals are spotted sea hares.

Sea Hare

Sea Hare

Sea hares are in the mollusk family – related to snails, slugs and nudibranchs.  That’s the simple explanation. Why they are called hares, however, remains a mystery.  One story says when first observed, the animal reminded that person of a hare.  Say what?  Of course there’s also the story that says early sailors mistook manatees for mermaids…so I’m thinking that possibly a lot of rum was involved in both observations.

These animals really look more like a slug than a rabbit.  Their shell..if they have one, is internal and not fully developed.  Wing-like extensions along the foot propel the sea hare through the water as it swims. It feeds on algae.

In the spring, the hermaphroditic sea hares move into the shallow bay waters to breed, deposit their eggs in the seaweed and grasses, and then die.  There were two sea hares washed up on the bayfront after a few days of warm weather..so I’m guessing this may be an early sign of spring. Life is sometimes weird…but good.

Frost on the Turtles

Whoa! If this keeps up I’m moving to Florida..oh wait,  this IS Florida.  But there was frost in the grass outside my window this morning! There is something definitely wrong with that picture.  Fortunately, because this is the Sunshine State..it quickly warmed up into the 70s today, so a friend and I headed out to Jelks Preserve for a hike.

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Neither one of us had been to this preserve before.  After a quick look at the  map we started on the 3-mile loop trail. This is a lovely preserve, part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, with a variety of habitats.  Oak hammocks, scrub and pine flatwoods dominate..at least this time of year when little rainfall dries up the marshes and wetlands. The preserve is part of the Myakka River watershed.

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There are 614 acres in this preserve, with about 8 miles of trails.  We apparently took a wrong turn somewhere, because our 3-mile loop turned into about a 5-mile loop before we made it back to the parking area. But if we hadn’t done that, we would have missed this little fellow, soaking up the sunshine:

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I’m not really up to speed on land turtles (I must say, I’m pretty good on sea turtles!) but I think this one is a Florida red-bellied turtle…found only in Florida.  That makes it a little more special.  I did not handle the turtle so did not really do a close inspection, but the descriptions seem to fit.

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And of course, we came across a couple of armadillos…nice to see them on their feet and walking around instead of belly-up in the road.  Sadly, the little buggers are all too often the victims of speeding cars.

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After hiking around black bear- infested NJ for a few years, I found myself in the habit of keeping a watchful eye out into the palmettos and on the trail ahead.  Actually, there are black beasties in Florida..but in this area they are porcine.  Non-native, wild hogs populate much of the area preserves.  They root through the vegetation, causing a lot of damage and destruction to native plants.  We didn’t encounter any hogs, but the whole length of the trails bore evidence of their recent diggings.  In a few that we saw, the deeper ruts still had wet sand in them.

We had a great day and plan to return here spring rains restore the marsh and wetlands.  Life is good.

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