13 June 2008

Sunbursts, Waterspouts and Rainbows (and yes, turtles and birds too)

It was quite the weather day in Pensacola Beach and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The morning skies were cloudy in patches, and brilliant in others. The interplay lead to an astonishingly tumultuous and vibrant morning.

There was a cloud-bridge effect created by the sun-colored cloud in the background between two growing thunderheads.

Waddling Black skimmer chicks (Rhynchops niger) ran to avoid the coming rain (and the arriving biologist). The image is a little fuzzy -- I need a better camera that can follow his mad dash up the beach!

More sedate chicks hung out in tire ruts -- that always scares me! At times, I think I watch the 'road' more than the turtle tracks to be sure I don't hit a chick!

Mama skimmers stood watch over their broods.

They took to wing when they felt the chicks were threatened.

In the distance, the surf was calm, the skies sun-kissed, the storm clouds brewing...

A waterspout erupted offshore...

After the morning cloudburst, the heavens relented, and the sun burst through the clouds.

Later, the still repentant sun sent a few rainbows our way.

There's been an explosion of rainbows this week. Is that new beginnings, or promises of riches to come? Who wants to find the gold at the rainbows end?

And that was all before 7 am... Maybe I need to sleep in a little later :) Jay Bonano had a sea turtle nest for me on Perdido Key.

The rain already made the crawl a bit indistinct, but it was pretty easy to locate the 106 eggs. It was more of a challenge to protect them, and myself, from the lightning storm! The lightning was so close that I had goosebumps.

Unfortunately, the passing thunderstorms made me put my camera away. We had over and inch of rain this morning! It took a little patience and good timing, but I was finally able to resettle the likely Kemp's (Lepidochelys kempi) eggs in the dunes. The mama had only crawled 9 feet from the surf -- that section of beach may be gone temporarily with the full moon tide next week!

For those of you who are counting, that makes 17 nests, with two more possible. The more I think about it, the more I think I gave up too early on those two body pits... there were eggs there. I know it in my bones...

*** A special thank you to the good-Samaratin couple walking on Pensacola Beach this morning that helped me get "unstuck" when the SRIA gator couldn't manage the berm. It gets hard out there -- the beach changes overnight! I would have been there for hours without your help :) We'll have to name some hatchlings for you if I can find out your names...

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