Groin Groan

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Spotted at Johns Pass, Treasure Island, Florida January 2020

I snapped this photo because the usage of the word groin struck me as odd. Previously, I was only familiar with it anatomically. Turns out groin* has another, rather specialized meaning: beach training structure designed to interrupt the flow of sand. Don’t you just love the idea of training a beach? Sit. Stay. Good beach. As if!

It strikes me as odd, with all the traveling I’ve done and my two plus years of living coastally that this is the first time I’ve encountered this term. After doing my research, I still have a problem with this sign. Technically, a groin is shorter than a jetty and is constructed in a series to protect beachside property from erosion, while a jetty is built to protect a coastal inlet or channel.

Since this structure is on the south side of Johns Pass, helping to keep access to Boca Ciega Bay open to water traffic, it is therefore, a jetty and not a groin. Nevertheless, this sign gave me an opportunity to learn something new.

*Of course, the rest of the world uses a different spelling (which lessens confusion): groyne, from Latin for snout.

Handsome Heron

I was fortunate to be sitting on the bank of the Myakka River when this Green Heron (Butorides virescens) flew in. After assessing me keenly for a few moments, it stalked out to the end of the logjam and settled into hunting position. I waited for awhile, hoping for an action shot, but apparently, I lack the patience of a heron. Fifteen fruitless minutes later, I carefully extricated myself and wished the bird happy fishing.

In certain postures, like when the neck is stretched out, it is possible to confuse this heron with a bittern at first glance (especially with juveniles). Their binomial actually references that similarity, butor is Middle English for bittern, while “oides” means resembling in Greek. Bitterns are nowhere near as colorful, though.

Didn’t the sun highlight this heron’s beautiful plumage nicely?

Itty Bitty

This little octopus (a mere three inches, including arms) was struggling on the beach Monday afternoon. I don’t know why it washed ashore, though part of one arm was missing – perhaps an attack by a predator?

Quick aside, did you know that the correct plural of octopus is octopode? Octopi is incorrect since you can’t Latinize a Greek word. But back to our little guy, I used a nearby shell to scoop it up safely and toss it out in the surf. Good luck, little one!

 

 

Sea Pork

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Sea Pork, Treasure Island, Florida January 2020

Saturday’s wet and windy storm really churned up the shallow water here along the gulf coast of Florida. As a result, all manner of strange things washed ashore, which made today’s beach walk much more interesting.

There were hundreds of gelatinous blobs strewn on the sand. Though most were a pale tan, this coral-colored beauty stood out. My first guess, based on the pattern, was that it was a type of soft coral. An internet search corrected my thinking, sea pork is actually a colonial species of tunicate. It earned its common name because it resembles chunks of meat, not because it is edible.

 

 

 

Shadow Tail

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Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sarasota, Florida December 2019

While bird watching at a park, I came across this attractive squirrel who was people watching. Instead of scurrying off, it was gracious enough to pose nicely for me. The prolific Eastern Gray (Sciurus carolinensis) is the most common of three squirrels found here in Florida (the other two are the Fox and Southern Flying).

While this one wasn’t sporting the biggest appendage I’ve ever seen, the genus name is quite apt; the Greek root words, skia and oura, translate as shadow tail.

 

Eat It!

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Sign at Myakka River State Park, Sarasota, Florida December 2019

After working in the environmental education field for two decades (and being a bit of a word nerd), signs like this really make my skin crawl.

I’m not alone in my reaction. I recently had a chance to visit with two of my former colleagues and we ended up swapping work-related stories:┬áIn answer to a question about a mushroom on a nature hike, Jeff replied, “Well, technically, everything is edible. Once.” Which is in a similar vein as one of Julie’s favorite sayings, “The poison is in the dose.” Because even water can kill you, if you drink too much of it.

There is a huge difference between poisonous and venomous: if you bite it and it kills you, that’s poison; if it bites you* and kills you, that’s venom (so yes, you could eat a venomous animal, if you were exceptionally careful, but I don’t recommend it). Then again, you’re dead, what do you care?!

*Or breaks your skin in some other manner.