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Erin

I coddiwomple through life, guided by my love of nature and insatiable curiosity.

Good Times!

I’m so very grateful for the friends who made my birthday week such a blast! Lisa, my friend since college (not going to talk about how long ago that was), flew over from Portland for the week.

We squeezed in as much exploring as possible: sunsets, dolphins, manatees, kayaking to Shell Key (thank you for the loaner, Katie), Herrmann’s Royal Lipizzans, belly dancing, live music, lots (and lots) of sunscreen, raccoons, the obligatory alligator, and, of course, a fun birthday celebration with Alyssa.

Sadly, Lisa had to leave before the Gasparilla concert yesterday but my friend Loretta came over and played pirate with me. It was an epic birthday week and now I need a little recovery time (after all, I’m not as young as I used to be).

Looks Can Be Deceiving

I found this juvenile Gafftopsail Catfish (Bagre marinus) while walking my beach last month (somehow I neglected to talk about this little guy earlier).

Just under 5″ long, this saltwater cat had recently left dad’s protection. Males of this species not only keep the eggs in their mouths while they incubate but even the fingerlings. Afterward they stay under his guardianship until 4-5″ long.

Though this small fish looked harmless I resisted the urge to pick it up with my bare hands. Instead, I carefully used my shoe to flip it back into the surf. Good thing too, since this species packs venomous spines in its fins.

Back in Business

Well, I’m a happy woman. I picked up my big lens today from the camera repair shop. It had been out of service since last August when I was caught in a downpour at Highlands Hammock State Park. Someone had a rain jacket but left it in her car when she set out on the 3 mile-loop trail, during rainy season, in Florida. Sigh.

Yes, I should’ve known better and trust me, it won’t happen again. Anyway, I stopped off at a park on my return trip today just to snap a few practice photos. It’s nice to be back in action!

DIY Cat Door

In usual cat fashion, Westley has taken over my entire house. However, all his special cat things are in the laundry room. For the first few weeks I kept the door slightly ajar so Westley could have easy access but installing a cat door was a definite necessity.

Instead of buying a small dog door I decided to get creative. For the flap, I cut the hinged lid off a storage container I picked up by the side of the road. For the closure, I used a piece of wooden cat art that I found at a thrift store.

It works and it’s Westley approved, so that’s good enough for me.

Worth a Shot

Yesterday I learned that St. Petersburg is home to the Fountain of Youth. I have no idea how that fascinating detail eluded me for so long but I headed over there today to check it out. The current fountain occupies the northwest corner of the Dali Museum parking lot marked with little fanfare.

Like its current condition, the fountain had a humble beginning. The original natural spring was tapped in 1901 by Edwin Tomlinson, who owned bayfront land just south of downtown. He allowed people to drink their fill without charge, though since it was reportedly quite sulfurous in taste I can’t imagine folks drank much of it.

Somehow, word spread that the water had healing properties and soon locals and their guests were filling up their jugs at the fountain. Seeing a moneymaking opportunity Dr. Jesse Conrad purchased the property in 1908. He installed a large Fountain of Youth sign, opened soaking pools, and started charging for the restorative water.

A hurricane in 1946 damaged the waterfront operation and the spring was piped a few blocks west. In 1971, the spring water was tested and found to contain a high level of lithium, a known mood stabilizer. The water may not have been able to turn back time but apparently, it made you worry less about aging. The water continued to bubble up until 1975 when the pipes deteriorated and the site was closed.

I wasn’t able to find out when the city reopened the site but I do know that what gurgles out today is from the municipal water system. I took a sip and filled a bottle anyway, after all, I do have a birthday coming up soon.

Spectacular Day!

I had a plethora of things on my to-do list yesterday but instead I spent the entire day exploring Fort DeSoto Park. My 9am arrival coincided with low tide which, combined with the recent full moon, meant there was a lot of exposed sand.

Which in turn led to some fun finds; Small Spine Sea Stars (Echinaster spinulosus), Atlantic Purple Sea Urchins (Arbacia punctulata), Keyhole Sand Dollars (Mellita tenuis), Atlantic Horseshoe Crab molts (Limulus polyphemus), a Giant Red Hermit Crab (Petrochirus diogenes) occupying a Horse Conch (Triplofusus giganteus), and a vibrant crimson sea pork (the most colorful one I’ve yet seen).

This was my first visit to the park in awhile, the gulf waters around the park had suffered a late-in-the-year outbreak of red tide last month. Thankfully, that seems to have subsided, though the evidence remains.

The swashline was littered with fish carcasses, I didn’t spend much time up there (though I was excited to find the mouth plate of a drum fish). You can imagine the stench (thank goodness for the strong breeze). A large flock of Turkey Vultures (nature’s cleanup crew) was on hand, happily dealing with the mess.

My friend Alyssa joined me about noon and we spent the early part of the afternoon wandering the bayside of the park. The calm waters surprised us with several large Lightning Whelks (Sinistrofulgur perversum) and some juvenile Horseshoe Crabs.

They were the smallest I’ve ever seen and one had a translucent shell, which meant it had recently molted (an indicator that the eating is good in that area since they molt as they grow). Though once prolific in this area it is now a species of concern in the state. I reported our sightings to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help with their monitoring efforts.

Afterward we took our chairs to the beach to enjoy the last of the daylight, what a spectacular day!