Walking behind these girls last night on the beach. The mom called out, “Hurry up, Carson, we’ve got to go!”

As Carson took off running she yelled to her mom, “But, can’t we have a little fun along the way?”

The scene stopped me in my tracks, because, of course, Carson is absolutely right. It seems to me that’s pretty much the entire point of living.

Oh sure, one must work and fulfill other daily obligations but beyond that? I truly believe we are meant to savor those sunsets, laugh with friends, dance barefoot in the sand, stop to smell the flowers, share sweet kisses, and enjoy life while we have it.

Thanks for the reminder, Carson!

Little Gift

I found this tiny gem (less than an inch long) on my doorstep this morning. There’s been a pair of Blue Jays visiting my yard regularly, they are quite fond of my bird feeder but even more so of the bird bath. I clean it daily and fill it with fresh water, which they take turns frolicking in.

I wonder if this token was from them? They have been known to do such things. I’ll be on the lookout for more treats in the future. For now, Poubelle*, will have a spot on my kitchen windowsill where she can watch the Blue Jays every day.

*Poubelle is French for trash can. It was also a friend of mine’s nickname during her childhood (given with affectionate by her grandfather). Besides, it’s a fun word to say!

Island Project

This morning, I answered a Facebook plea for volunteers to help clean up a nearby island. I tend to pitch in when I can but I’ll be honest, the added enticement of a boat ride made me even more eager.

Both Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserves and Keep Pinellas Beautiful teamed up to host this event. I was familiar with KPB’s work but it was my first time learning about TBAP (they are mainly in charge of submerged areas but in some cases of high priority, they manage islands, too).

Our worksite was a three-acre island with the incredibly romantic name of BC 21 (Boca Ciega Bay, near marker 21). Our job, removing flotsam and jetsam, was made a bit easier since a crew had already cleared out invasive trees, like Brazilian Pepper and Australian Pine.

We collected over 1,000 pounds of trash in just a few hours, clearing the entire western side of the island. The debris on the eastern side of the island will have to wait for another day. Fittingly, for the upcoming holiday weekend, I found some stars and stripes related items.

Once the rainy season starts (hopefully soon), TBAP will be back out to plant native species, restoring the tree canopy for migrating birds and other animals. Speaking of wildlife, we crossed paths with a couple Marsh Rabbits and a shy snake in the mangroves while out in the shallows, a young dolphin was learning to fish from its mom.

Not a bad way to spend a morning!

Not as Pretty as It Looks

Tropical Milkweed (Asclepius curassavica)

I snapped this photo last month in a nature preserve. The showy bloom caught my eye and I was pretty certain it was a milkweed. Since I’m looking to add some milkweed to my front yard I thought this might be a contender.

Sadly, a bit of online research proved me wrong. It is a milkweed but not a native one. Tropical Milkweed is a year-round bloomer, originally from Mexico.

It is quite popular with caterpillars but unfortunately, also a favorable home for the parasite, Ophryocystsis elektrosirrha. Many monarch butterflies already play host to the parasite and transmit them when laying their eggs.

The difference is that native species of milkweed die back during cooler weather, thereby reducing or eliminating the number of Oe on the plant. Tropical Milkweed does not, so when the hungry caterpillars emerge and start devouring the plant they ingest extra Oe. Most species can successfully tolerate some parasites but when the balance tips it becomes a problem.

This bright specimen will not be added to my pollinator garden but thankfully, there are 21 native species for me to choose from.

Good Fella

Recently shared the trail with this Eastern Ratsnake (Panterophis alleghaniensis). As the common name implies this species feeds on small rodents (as well as lizards and occasionally, bird eggs). Not only is it handsome but it is a beneficial serpent to have around.

Though they are non-venomous these snakes will strike if harassed. Thankfully, their first line of defense is to remain still. A behavior that allowed me an opportunity to take its portrait (with a zoom lens from a safe distance away).

Slither on, my good man, slither on.