Consider Me Chuffed!

While strolling the beach earlier this week I chanced upon my first Banded Tulip Snail (Cinctura lilium hunteria) shell. Carefully, I picked it up and turned it over. Most of the time when I find gastropod shells they are still in use by the sea snail. Other times they have been claimed by hermit crabs. In either case, I fling them back into the water so they can go about their lives in the sublittoral zone.

As decorative as it was, I was thrilled that this three inch long shell was devoid of inhabitants. There’s a lot going on with this shell: a thin, brown line spirals around the whorl while mauve and blue-gray streaks contrast against a creamy white background. Talk about eye-catching!

It now has a prominent place among my ever-growing shell collection. Did you know? A shell expert is a conchologist (if you were a researcher working with the live animals you’d be a malacologist).

Mercurial

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my two+ years living here, it’s that summertime weather in Florida is unpredictable. It will be sunny and hot and humid – that’s a given. But at any moment a storm could blow in. The thing that I’m the most concerned about is lightning.

Shortly after I moved here, a dad and his son were lounging on my favorite beach one sunny afternoon. They were struck by lightning, which killed the son and put the father in ICU. There was a distant storm far to the east that day. Here’s a PSA for you, did you know lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from the storm?

As a result, I check the forecast first thing every morning, I have two weather apps on my phone, and I’ve signed up for severe weather alerts from Pinellas County. Even with all that information, I only truly know the weather when I step outside. And, as they say down here, if I don’t like it, I can wait 15 minutes.

My, What Big Eyes You Have!

While relaxing in my hammock recently at Fort De Soto Park, I felt someone watching me. Turning carefully around, I encountered this intriguing-looking insect.

Despite the common name of Eastern Eyed Click Beetle (Alaus oculatus), the ovate white rings are not sensory organs. Instead, they are an example of a defensive mechanism designed to thwart predation.

At roughly two inches long this is not a tiny insect and those false eyes certainly make it appear larger. But that’s not all, as a click beetle it can also spring away quickly (which makes a loud clicking sound). I wish I had witnessed this action. Maybe next time!

The Passage of Time

I drove up to Ohio last month for my second cousin’s high school graduation party. The passage of time flabbergasts me, how in the world is Frankie old enough to head off to college? I definitely wanted to help celebrate that milestone, especially after a (non-voluntary) three year hiatus.

It was lovely to be back up in the farm country visiting with family, if a bit too brief. Hopefully it won’t be another three years before I return!

It Flies! It Walks! It Croaks!

Sea Robin, Treasure Island, Florida June 2022

Meet the Sea Robin aka Gurnard (Prionotus carolinus), a bottom-dwelling fish. The first common name honors their wing-like pectoral fins. These special fins not only help them “fly’ through the water but the three modified fin-rays (visible in the photo above) help them “walk” along the sea floor. The second moniker mimics the croaking sound the fish makes during mating season (or when it is pulled from the water).

The three inch long fish in my photo is a juvenile while adults can reach about 17 inches. Long considered a trash fish or unwanted bycatch, this mild tasting, light, flaky fish is now gaining in popularity in the kitchen. Maybe someday I’ll get to try one.

Welcome to Summer

I have a joke for you on this wonderful summer solstice:

“What’s Irish and comes out in the summer?

Paddy O’Furniture!”

Yeah, I know, I won’t quit my day job. Weather-wise, the first day of summer means nothing to me since I live in Florida. It’s been hot and sunny for months now, the only difference is that hurricane season has officially begun. It kicked off earlier this month with Tropical Storm Alex, which thankfully passed well south of me.

I’ve collected a few memes for you that may help explain summer in Florida: