Expertly Entitled

This little crab caught my eye as it swam rapidly past me in the gulf yesterday. Since most of the crabs I’m familiar with tend to walk sideways on land (or the seafloor), my curiosity was piqued.

I used a nearby cluster of floating leaves to gently scoop up the crab and carried it to shore for a quick photo op. The crab didn’t seem all that perturbed by the detour, it occupied its time by chowing down on algae scraped from the leaves.

I’m glad I went to the effort because it was a rather handsome specimen – just look at that opalescent purple! Though I didn’t uncover a wealth of information about the species I was at least able to identify it as a male, Iridescent Swimming Crab (Portunus gibbesii). A very descriptive moniker!

And yes, he was carefully returned to the water afterwards.

Natural Imitation

While we’re still talking about Pen Shells (Atrina rigida), a friend pointed out that this one’s dark spot resembles the tail spot on Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus).

Looks to me like the mollusk had encountered a grain of sand and dealt with the irritating intruder by encapsulating it (essentially forming a small pearl). Nature is endlessly interesting!

Art or Nature?

Last weekend, after Hurricane Ida swooped by, I found one of the most complete Pen Shells (Atrina rigida) I have yet come across here along the Gulf Coast. Since it was such a nice specimen I brought it home.

I set it on my kitchen windowsill, my preferred location for recent finds that I want to spend more time examining later. In the morning light I noticed that the shell rather matched my accent tile – the interior nacre had a similar iridescent sheen and color.

As Dante Alighieri said, “Art imitates nature as well as it can…”

Fishing Fun

Living in Florida it was bound to happen sooner or later. In my case it took a mere 18 months before I finally went fishing. I haven’t fished since childhood when I’d go out on the lake with my dad and grandpa, and I’ve never done it in saltwater.

Thankfully, my fellow fisherman was experienced and knew Perico Bayou well. He worked two poles effortlessly while I contented myself by dropping a line near the pilings. We both caught a few undersized fish, most notably a couple Sheepsheads and a couple Red Drum.

I knew how to identify Sheepshead from their black and white stripes and Red Drum from the distinctive black spot near their tail. What I didn’t know until this past weekend was how gorgeous their tails could be. That bright splash of teal – wow!

I was relieved that we were using circle hooks, which are designed to catch fish in the corner of the mouth, instead of the J-hooks I used in my childhood (which have an increased chance of gut hooking).

We weren’t the only anglers out that morning; at one point there were nine Ospreys soaring and diving for fish while a Willet worked the muddy shoreline gobbling up Fiddler Crabs and worms.

Our “catch of the day” was a rather cantankerous Blue Crab. It was easy to pull the crustacean up because it refused to let go of the shrimp we were using for bait. Luckily for the crab, we both thought it too beautiful to eat (even though it was big enough to keep).

The cool thing is as a Florida resident I can fish from land (or docks/piers) for free (though I do have to register first with the FWC: Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission). If I step on a boat I’ll need a different license and there are also other special permits required for lobstering or snook fishing.

Even though we didn’t manage to catch dinner, I had a great time. As they say around here, there’s no such thing as a bad day fishing!

Smooth and Shiny

Found this sizable, deceased insect on my back porch a couple weeks ago (it measured at least an inch long). After a bit of searching I was able to identify it as a female Smooth Ox Beetle (Strategus antaeus) – the males of this species sport long horns as do other beetles in that family. It is closely related to the Rhinoceros Beetle I found last year about this time.

I wasn’t able to learn much more about the species, except that the ones found here in Florida tend to grow larger and sport darker colors compared to those living in northern climates. Presumably something to do with the 361 days of sunshine we have down here in this part of Florida?