29 November 2007

Another Stranding...

There was yet another stranding today. Sabrina Bowen came out from NOAA to help me. We did a pretty complete necropsy and reviewed some of our recent strandings. The one we had Saturday, the Dwarf Sperm Whale, was pregnant. How sad.

There's really not much to say; the red tide continues to take it's toll on the marine life in the area. The best we can do is learn as much as possible from each stranding.

It was great to spend time with someone who does this all the time -- I finally felt like I was really learning EXACTLY what we're supposed to do. Onward and upward!

28 November 2007

Gopher Tortoises and Sea Turtle Friendly Lighting

We spent most of today traipsing through the woods in an endless search for gopher tortoises. We did actually find one new burrow, about 15 feet off the trail, and not buried under fallen trees, Smilax vines etc.

We finally got in to talk to people about lighting! We've set a few ideas in motion regarding the whole project, and I'm starting to feel as if I know what's happening. Not really, but it's a start.

27 November 2007

Tangled Gull Anyone?

I spent most of the day today searching for a gull tangled in fishing line. Thankfully, I also had time to do a south shore bird survey and replace about 20 poles on the road, otherwise, my day would have seemed fruitless. I couldn't find the bird...

I did find this lovely tug and barge set up nosed onto the north shore, however. I wonder how they plan to get off later?

25 November 2007

The Weekend has Arrived...

I was a little wrong about yesterday. We did spend a few hours on the boat, looking for hunters in the Santa Rosa area of the park. We had to pull the boat from the water a little early though as law enforcement called to let us know about a whale stranding on Pensacola Beach.

We're still not sure if it's a Pygmy or a Dwarf Sperm whale -- we're waiting on genetics from s skin sample. There were pleats in the lower jaw, typical of a dwarf spermwhale, but the dorsal fin didn't seem quite right. There weren't enough teeth still in the lower jaw to determine, and it's length fit both species, so all we know is that it's a Kogia spp.

There's a storm brewing today -- the skies are gray and cloudy, and there's a cold front moving in. Though it's only 10 degrees above freezing, we're supposed to have severe thunder storms today and tonight. It seems so surreal!

24 November 2007

Flowers and Trees

I really meant to post this yesterday... I spent a fanastic work day on Perdido Key, doing bird surveys, searching for coyote and fox dens and just having a blast. I took so many pictures! The beach was a symphony of sound and color.

There were cloud-flowers:

and fallen trees:

tree rattles in small groups (these came out a little fuzzy as they were shaking in the north wind):

and in thunderous chorus:

a green "Dr. Seuss" tree:

and sea oat whistles:

Christmas trees:

and Christmas colors:

fields of gold:

and plants of wind-blown lace:

Holly berries:

crashing waves:

and brilliant sunshine.

That almost looks like a well-decorated tree... It's amazing what you see when you're looking up at the skylight instead of down at these feet of clay.

The seven mile beach was practically empty due to the chilly weather, but that made it even better!

Today, I'm going out in the boat with my boss, Mark, to survey hunters on Perdido and Santa Rosa. It's only 42, so it's going to be quite a wake-up call!

Make a wish...

21 November 2007

Happy Day

I can't believe it's been almost three weeks since I posted! I've been so bogged down with negativity at work, uncertainty about whether to accept the offer to stay, ad infinitum, that I forgot to take pictures and post. Even a few minutes in the field with my camera capturing in interesting cloud formation, a butterfly or a new plant pushing through the hurricane debris, lifts my spirits tremendously. Makes me wonder why I don't remember to do so on a daily basis!

That said, I have almost 200 random pictures from the last three weeks that I'll post some of over the next few days.

For now, I'm just posting this great cloud in a beautiful blue sky. It's raining today, and the red tide is back, so this cheers me up!

OK, I lied -- these sea stars washed up on Fort Pickens last week in a mild red tide. The images were just priceless. I really need to get a good camera.

02 November 2007

Picture Day

Fall is here, momentarily, the red tide has dissipated, and the day dawned clear and bright. It was still winter weather, for me, til about 10am, but it was gorgeous by 2 -- in the high seventies, with lots of sun, sea breezes and great birds and flowers everywhere. For some reason, I took lots of pictures looking up -- the sky was just stunning. After a week tromping through the forest trimming fire trails and gopher tortoise fencing, it was great to be back on the beach!

The Spanish Bayonet is in bloom at Fort Pickens. It's rare to find it, and there are several in a clump by the old fort. It's so much fun to wander around there now -- most of the post-Ivan repairs are complete, but the road is still breached in two places so few visitors venture out to the fort. The 14 mile round-trip hike is a little much, even in the cooler fall weather. Here's some of what they're missing:

I don't know what this is, but I seem to be attracted to yellow flowers. Maybe it's my constant need for a pick-me-up, to try to see the brighter side of things. I need it especially now that my job is ended (thanks GWB...). Somehow, things always work out for the best -- and sights like these help me believe it when things seem scary.

I think this may be a variety of holly. There are two in the region -- the thorny American Holly that's a Christmas staple, and the unthorned Yaupon Holly, which is abundant in the sandy forests of the south. Legends indicate that native Americans used holly berries (Ilex vomitoria) to poison their enemies -- if you eat enough, you can get quite a bellyache!

The birds were out in force today too. A few days ago, I announced, to no one in particular in the office, that I wanted to see an avocet. Today, I saw six! There were black bellied plovers, sanderlings, and assorted other peeps in attendance as well.

As always, the stately Egrets and Great Blue Herons stopped by as well... I can never resist taking a picture when they're around. Wish it were a more attractive marsh, but it's a new wetland, courtesy of Ivan and Dennis, that's still maturing. Hurricanes can help maintain wetlands, prevent them from being developed, and create habitat for all these lovely animals.

It's wonderful to see how well the shorebirds and migrating waterfowl utilize the new habitat. I wonder what will happen to them when the road re-opens.

International Coastal Clean-Up!

The 2008 Coastal Clean-Up on Santa Rosa Island was a great success, but we can work together to make everyday a Coastal Clean-up Day... Help us keep our beaches beautiful!

For details on the 2009 coastal clean-up efforts in Pensacola or in your area, or other ways you can help, click here.

Hello World!

Hello World!
Which way to the sea?