Monday, May 31, 2010

The widening beach

The western end of the beach which seasonally erodes quite a bit in winter is rebuilding itself. It's a beautiful wide stretch of sugar white sand. Typically there is little foot traffic in this area of my patrol, but as you can see in this photo several people checked it out over the Memorial Day Weekend.

UFO - unidentified floating object

Do any of my blog readers know what this odd boat is and its purpose? It is located a few miles west of Bob Sikes Bridge in the Intracoastal Waterway. I haven't seen anything like it in this area before, but I've only been here a few years. You may click on the photo to enlarge it.

Great Blue Heron

A beautiful Great Blue Heron watches Pensacola Pass from the western tip of Santa Rosa Island.

The herons in this area seem much less intimidated by people due to the fisherman around Ft. Pickens who either ignore them or give them handouts.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dolphin escort

I had a dolphin escort for at least half a mile on my Ft. Pickens patrol this morning. It was so close -- less than 15 feet from me -- and traveling at my speed; I feared perhaps it was sick. A couple of sudden maneuvers to grab a snack convinced me otherwise and from that point on I simply enjoyed the company until we neared some fisherman just past the old Ranger Station and it bid me adieu.

What a beautiful way to start my day.

Pensacola Beach Memorial Day Weekend

Here it is the last weekend of May and this is about all I've seen in the way of turtles this month. Where are our sea turtles!!!

But there were literally thousands of people on the beach at Park East and tents two and three deep as far as you could see!

I was unable to hike from my house to Park East last year due to a broken foot, but I was excited to visit and see the decorated tents again this year.

I was a bit disappointed, however, to discover that although many more people were here this year than two years ago, a much lower percentage of them participated in decorating this time. You can compare 2010 to 2008 by clicking HERE.

But, wow, what a crowd at both Park East and Casino Beach. Pensacola Beach appreciates the business our Memorial Day Weekend crowd brings every year, not to mention the respect they typically show the beach by leaving it so clean when they head back home.

Although the oil spill has not reached our beach, it has definitely affected our hotels and beach businesses due to reservation cancellations by many who thought it had. Maybe this weekend will end the month on a high note.

Ah ha! Reminded again that I wanted a beach umbrella like the 'straw hut'.

Finally I came upon an area at Park East which had decorated a bit.

Ken and Ken?

This way you don't have to worry about stingrays or minnows nibbling at your toes.

Oooooohhhh, I want one of these for when our family visits.

What a cool pink flamingo! I'll take a dozen of its fine feathered friends, please!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

John & Anita

Meet John and Anita from Asheville, NC, whom I met on the beach today. They are part of a large team working with the Fish and Wildlife Service, conducting aerial and ground surveys to assess the damage of the oil spill along the coastline (or in our case establishing a baseline for when/if the oil arrives on our beach), and recovering oiled or injured wildlife to be cleaned, healed and released in safe locations.

I wish their time here was for enjoyment rather than an environmental catastrophe such as the oil spill.

Let's hope they get to keep walking along a beautiful, clean shoreline and enjoying the view such as we had today.

Water Volleyball

Volleyball, anyone?

Isn't our water beautiful?!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May Rays

While on patrol yesterday morning I finally caught a glimpse of what some people refer to as May rays. Considerably smaller in size than the ones I see in the fall, possibly the May rays are juveniles coming near shore to feed.

Later in the day when I visited my friend Nancy at Portofino, she said she had been watching large groups of them feeding along the shoreline. Unfortunately my visit did not coincide with their feeding schedule. I would have enjoyed showing you photos of how large the school of rays can be.

But what a gorgeous day!!! Just look at our beautiful water. I never get tired of the stunning views at Portofino.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Black Skimmers

Now that's a big yawn!

Black Skimmers such as these are nesting within Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

At the beach!

Sugar white sand, beautiful water, complete stress release...this is why we love Pensacola Beach!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Delicate balance

Sometimes the photos I take are simply archival for my catalog. I can look back and see how certain areas have changed, season to season, year to year.

This photo, taken about a mile and a half east of the old Ranger house in the Ft. Pickens area of Gulf Islands National Seashore shows you how close the road is to the surf and how easily it is washed over. It doesn't even take a tropical storm for this to happen, but a high tide which coincides with a period of high surf. Life on a barrier island is a delicate balancing act, which is why we strive never to take it for granted.

This also makes the drive one of the most beautiful you'll ever see. You are so close to the water's edge and feel as though you're driving right at sea level. Actually, you almost are!

Take time to visit this lovely area of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Least Terns, Black Skimmers, Osprey and Great Blue Herons are all nesting. Many of them are busy fishing to feed their chicks. The speed limit is only 20 mph in some areas, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the view. It is also easy to spot the large nests of the Osprey and Great Blue Heron from the road and you can get an even closer view of some nests near the campgrounds or at Battery Worth. Just be sure to pack a pair of binoculars.

At sunrise

The sun begins to rise over the tranquil Ft. Pickens area of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Feeding the soul

"The soul, like the body, lives by what it feeds on."

Fishing buddies

Note Mr. Heron on the left, closely observing Mr. Fisherman. As I paused to watch, Mr. Fisherman got a hit and began to reel in what turned out to be a small fish. He unhooked the fish and threw it back into the Gulf instead of toward Mr. Heron who.....

became very unhappy and flew right in front of Mr. Fisherman! "Hey, dude! Didn't you see me waitin' for that fish! What the heck?"

Mr. Heron decided Mr. Fisherman (who continued to ignore him) must be extremely nearsighted and took up post right next to him.

What a character!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cutting in

The surf has cut out quite a chunk of beach at the westernmost walkover of Park East. It shifts the sea turtle patrol areas somewhat when a Mule can't get through, but the bio-techs and volunteers adjust patrols areas however they need to in order to make sure every bit of coast line is checked for sea turtle nests each morning.

Wish me luck on finding a nest next week. I'll be patrolling Fort Pickens one day and Santa Rosa another.

By the way, one tidbit for locals or those visiting Pensacola Beach in the near future. I spotted a Black Skimmer colony within the Fort Pickens area of Gulf Islands National Seashore. It is on the north shore (Intracoastal Waterway side) between the park entrance and the ranger station where they collect fees. If you are a birdwatcher you'll surely want to drive past the nesting area of this spectacular bird. Watching Black Skimmers fishing along the shore is one of my favorite sights on sea turtle patrol.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pensacola Lighthouse

These folks had a gorgeous day to sail through Pensacola Pass and get a closer view of the Pensacola lighthouse. You may learn more about our lighthouse, its history and tours by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bird watching

Our beautiful beaches are still snow white! This little sparrow -- looking a bit out of place -- stopped to enjoy the view.

Waiting for a handout

While a young man is taking a break from fishing and napping under an umbrella, this bold blue heron in stealth mode checks to see if any fish are left unguarded.

Though the heron doesn't appear to have moved a muscle, he's been slowly creeping closer, and the man wakes to see he has company a few feet away.

I think this is the same heron I've photographed several times around Ft. Pickens. It seems much more accustomed to being around people and seems to actually expect a hand-out from fisherman around the Ft. Pickens fishing pier occasionally.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I had to smile when I saw this heron during my patrol.

Click on the photo to enlarge it and you'll see why I dubbed him 'Alfalfa'

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Come on out!

It's a beautiful day on Pensacola Beach!

Through the Pass

I have been working my way through approximately 500 photos I took on the Military Fishing Expedition this past Thursday. May is Military Appreciation month on Pensacola Beach and this is one of the big events.

This photo was taken of the western tip of Santa Rosa Island around 7:00 a.m., as we made our way through Pensacola Pass on the Entertainer. As most of you know, this is my regular sea turtle patrol area, so it was great to see the area from this perspective for a change.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Short-billed Dowitchers

I spotted these beautiful shorebirds on the beach today. I'm fairly certain that they are Short-billed Dowitchers, but possibly the Long-billed variety. Whichever they are, it was fascinating to watch them skewering tiny molluscs and crustaceans for breakfast, sometimes thrusting the full length of their beak into the sand.

Be sure to click on the photo to see the striking orange color of their plumage at this time of the year.

Hat tricks

I went to Tennessee for Mother's Day weekend and brought my mother back to enjoy the beach for a few days. As you can see, I've finally taught her a hat trick -- as in wearing one!

She says she doesn't look good in a hat. I replied it wasn't her, but the style of hats she was trying on. Since I am the queen of sunhats, I pulled out several for her to try. I think she looks just beachy-keen in this one!

B.I.G. advice

Get thee to the beach!

The oil spill has thankfully moved farther from our beach at this point and there is nary a hint of anything but salt on the Gulf breezes this morning.

The water is gorgeous, no tar balls on our beach. While we have no way of knowing how long it will take to stop the oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, we do know that right now our beach is beautiful and clean.

This is the time to visit, see the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico and our sugar white beaches. Let your children and grandchildren see it, touch it, play in it. We can only hope it will still be this beautiful this time next year, but why wait?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Geronimo's Outpost

I've been meaning to post photos of the great mural recently added outside Geronimo's Outpost. Located at 69 Via de Luna, it's a interesting shop which features the work of several Gulf Coast artists -- a great place to find unique gifts.

And I love the sea turtle, of course!!!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

High chives

Don't you love chives? I need to start using them instead of just watching them grow, but the deep-lavender colored blooms are so pretty in the garden.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Do you see what I see?

You have to look very, very close to see what is special about this photo. on the photo to enlarge and look in the very middle.

Can you see it?

On the alert

Thank goodness we haven't seen any signs of the oil spill on Florida beaches, but we are on the alert!!!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Western tip of the island

This is a photo of the westernmost tip of Santa Rosa Island and what is called Pensacola Pass - the entryway into Pensacola Bay.

There has been quite a bit of erosion in this area over the winter months, but generally the beach 'heals' itself and rebuilds in the summer. For now, however, there isn't room to drive the Mule around the tip of the island at high tide, so if our patrol coincides with high tide we have to park and finish our check for sea turtle nests on foot.

I don't have a photo from last year taken in this exact stance, but I do have a few in the general area. You can see how much more beach was present at that time and several species of birds seemed to enjoy the spot. You can see last summer's photos of Pensacola Pass by clicking HERE.