Beyond Breezy

Today’s afternoon beach stroll was more of a forced march into the wind. West central Florida is under a Wind Advisory through tomorrow morning. The high winds (20-25 mph with gusts up to 45 mph) even prompted the closure of the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which will snarl commuter traffic for anyone heading south from the St. Petersburg/Tampa area. Thank goodness I live and work locally!

On the plus side, I had the beach to myself. Though in places it was hard to recognize my beach under the coating of foam. Some of the foam had a sticky enough composition that it actually picked up sand particles as it rolled along, forming weird, lumpy sand sculptures.

Now I must hit the shower in order to get the sand out of my hair and ears and every other exposed body part!

 

 

Scute

I found this turtle scute on the beach after one of the recent storms. Fear not, my finding of this scute does not imply that a sea turtle died. Aquatic turtles can shed their individual scutes, unlike their terrestrial relatives.

If I was a better researcher I could not only pinpoint the species this scute came from (as each species has uniquely shaped ones) but also its exact position on the carapace. Suffice it to say, it came from one of these three species that frequent Florida’s Gulf Coast: Loggerhead, Green, or Kemp’s Ridley. I omitted the Leatherback as it does not have scutes and also the Hawksbill as it would be recognizable since it is so decorative (items labeled tortoiseshell are derived from this species).

The barnacle cones on both sides of this scute mean that it has been detached for quite some time. I’m surprised that this keratinous structure could survive so long.

Skim Boarding

After a few chilly, gray, and drizzly days it was nice to get out on the beach again. While waiting for sunset I was entertained by this enthusiastic group of skim boarders. The Gulf Coast of Florida doesn’t have great waves for surfing but the small bend in the coast near my house creates just enough action for skim boarding.

Chromatic

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Shell Interior, Myakka River State Park, Sarasota, Florida December 2019

Over 300 native species of freshwater mussels and clams have been documented in the US. Of those, 200 are now either endangered or extinct. All of Florida’s 60 native species are protected to a degree; some are completely off-limits while others have harvest limits of 10 per person per day. The Florida Shiny Spike Mussel (Elliptio buckleyi) falls in the latter category.

There were many of these shells scattered along the banks of the Myakka River during my visit last month. Apparently, the park’s Limpkins find them quite tasty (and more prevalent) than their usual snail fare. I was particularly enamored with the rich, coppery iridescence on the interior of the shells. In case you were wondering, the elliptical shape of the shell is reflected in the Genus name, Elliptio.

Wintery Skies

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Treasure Island Afternoon, Florida January 2020

Every once in awhile the weather decides to remind Floridians, that yes, winter is a season and yes, winter is cold (full disclosure: cold down here means anything under 60 degrees).

As these “seasonal disturbances” blow through and interrupt our sunshine state of mind they create some rather striking designs in the firmament. And though I have to put on extra clothing for my afternoon ramble, I really have nothing to complain about. After all, I’m still living near the beach!

Still a Chance

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Todd Snider, Centro Asturiano de Tampa, Tampa, Florida January 2020

I recently had the Good Fortune* to win tickets to see one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Todd Snider. I was introduced to TS when he opened for John Prine in Tucson over a dozen years ago and immediately fell in love with his laid-back vibe (he’s often barefoot on stage) and his self-deprecating lyrics. The trick is, Todd is an optical illusion. He comes off as a simple, stoner dude but his words carry the sharp bite of a keen intellect that sees through bullshit.

I’ve caught a handful of shows over the years but it had been five years since my last one. So I was over the moon to get this opportunity (especially since it was on my birthday weekend). TS didn’t disappoint! In between songs he wove in stories from his life as a traveling troubadour: which often involved late nights, a bit of trouble, and a cast of unruly characters (many of them fellow musicians – looking at you, Jerry Jeff Walker).

I highly recommend catching a show when he comes your way!

*Another excellent TS song.

 

Sunset Salutation

Every Sunday afternoon a drum circle forms on the beach near me. I’m not sure how  or when it started but it is now a local tradition where everyone is welcome. Don’t have a drum? Use a tin can, old pot, or five gallon bucket. Can’t play a percussion instrument but still want to participate? Go ahead and hula hoop, belly dance, juggle, blow bubbles, or just move with the flow of the music.

Just want to relax and watch? Bring a blanket or chair and your favorite beverage. Really, anything goes. The circle ebbs and flows for the two hours leading up to the main event. As the sun dips into the water everyone turns to the west and cheers. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of week. Yet another reason why I really like it here!

 

 

ID-10-T Problem

Anyone who spends time trying to capture moments in nature knows that things do not always go as planned. Weather and uncooperative subjects often pose challenges and then there’s just plain old photographer error.

My recent encounter with a tiny octopus was one such frustrating example. After gently tossing it out into the surf I videoed its progress as it swam away. Or, at least, I thought I did.

Apparently, in my excitement I neglected to press that one important button (same button for start/stop). Instead, I captured my reaction to my epic fail, which I am sharing for your enjoyment (you’re not laughing at me, you’re laughing with me). As they say in the computer industry, it was an ID-10-T problem (remove the hyphens, you’ll get it).