31 October 2008

Sunlight on Perdido Key

I was fascinated by the light on the water today.

I struggled to capture what I was seeing, but failed utterly. I think I need more practice! Of course, I try to limit photos to about 5 to ten minutes our of my nine hour day, so I don't have all that much time to play with except on my days off.

The way the light shone through the crashing waves was just stunning!

I was really at Perdido for a bird survey... again, they were hiding from the cold. I had to look twice at this rock (from about 100 yards away) before I realized it was a gull! He blends in pretty well from a distance!

I ended the day, as usual, at PB8201. This is getting to be a marathon nest, but since sea turtles are reptiles, this cold snap could slow down their development. We'll likely wait til at least 80 days of incubation time before we try to assess the nest. Of course, all this cool weather means the hatchlings that do emerge will most likely be male.

30 October 2008

Shorebirds and Shades of Blue

Today was a shorebird survey day near Opal Beach. As usual, the water was just this side of paradise -- it almost made me want to go for a swim!

The pavilions are battered by hurricanes over the past several years, but they are doing remarkably well!

Not many birds were about today though -- it seems they were smarter than I am, and they sought shelter from the chill wind. There were some trusty SNPLs (snowy plovers) on the north shore...

along with a DUNL (dunlin) or two, but it was fairly quiet.

The good thing about this cold weather is that it's preventing the fall red tide bloom from getting out of control, and it should keep any late season storms at bay. See, there is a silver lining in everything!

29 October 2008

Pensacola Drifts

It's been rather windy and chilly on Pensacola Beach this week.

There's sand blowing everywhere, making huge drifts that mimic snow. This one reminds me of the Sahara!

In other places, the weight of windblown sand cause mini-sand slides, leaving tiny berms behind.

Of course, our last nest has these issues as well. It's hard to keep ahead of the sand piling on top of PB8201, but it's necessary. Sand is good for insulation on these cold days, but it's also important to keep the eggs from growing too humid, and keep the distance to the surface optimal for the tiny hatchlings who are relying on stored energy from their yolk sacs until the reach offshore waters... We do still hope to see hatchlings here soon!

28 October 2008

Shore Birds Seek Shelter!

Today was a very cold day for North West Florida in late October... It was only 41 degrees when I arrived at the fire cache, and there's a freeze warning tonight for inland counties. Unheard of!

I had to really search for the birdies today. They were all seeking whatever windbreak they could from the harsh north wind, like this juvenile ring-billed gull.

These gulls and terns liked the jetty.

The snowy egret did as well...

There were others hiding from the wind over the berm, but I didn't get many photos - my hands were too numb. I did catch this juvenile Herring gull eating a lunch left by a kind fisherman.

I am definitely a warm weather girl... I know, I went overboard with the snowy egret. I couldn't decide on the best photo, and it was nearly all I took pics of today. It was that cold.

It was still beautiful at Pensacola Pass, and it might have been a tad toastier were I in the water instead of driving an ATV!

25 October 2008

Fort Pickens, A Different View

After a very cold two hour survey, I needed to get off my ATV and get some exercise so I didn't freeze before heading back east on seven miles of open beach. You may think I'm kidding, but I have a serious issue with temperatures below 80 degrees!

Warming up gave me time to take a look at Fort Pickens...

up close, from many different views...

I love the old brick arches,

that are used both inside and out...

The red brick with green trim is striking...

even in the brilliant sunshine...

and the arches persist throughout.

I have to wonder who built all of them...

And if they have some super-resistance to hurricanes. They sure have stood the test of time! (I know, these look like the same photo, but it's not if you look at the arches in the background. It's just the same window.)

I know the sea wall helps protect the buildings when storms threaten!

This reflection has to be one of my favorite shots. I wish I had captured it better, but with two sets of windows, lots of angles and limited lens options, it was the best I could do!

Piping Plover Surveys at Fort Pickens

Today was a much better day for bird surveys, though it was still a little chilly.

The birds like to point that out as they hide behind whatever windbreak there is on the mudflats. The birds, like this snowy plover (SNPL) have the right idea!

There was one banded piping plover (PIPL) near the asphalt pile,

who seemed to be quite thirsty!

Another was fighting with a sanderling (SAND). Just look at those bright orange legs.

A young eagle (BAEA) hid in the woods,

Brown pelicans (BRPE) floated on the updrafts,

and a sandwich tern (SATE) kept flying away from me. We can't officially count a bird in our survey until we pass it or it flies in the opposite direction. I followed this little guy for nearly two miles as I tried to complete my survey. I keep telling myself it's good for them to fly on cold days - it warms up their chilly muscles!

By the time I headed back east on the south shore of the island, I was running with the wind behind me and the sun was high in the sky. It was a beautiful day indeed!

24 October 2008

Storm Weather, Erosion and the Last Nest

It still was not a good day to go count piping plovers in the park, but it was a fine time to check our last loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nest near Park East.

When I was there yesterday, there was roughly 20 feet between the nest sign and the surf. This morning, the egg chamber itself was only six or seven feet from the water!

There was a lot of sand piled on the nest again as well. The sign in the middle is about 4 feet tall!

This poor nest has been through so much, with wind, waves and rain from Faye, Gustav and Ike, and now the weather this week.

It's been chilly and damp as well. All we can do is hope that some of the tiny turtle embryos are strong enough to weather the storms. That should make them great candidates for survival in the wild ocean as well.

It wasn't a good day to drive on the sand either. With so much of it shifting and washed by the waves, it's easy to sink!

Even on a stormy day, Pensacola Beach is simply stunning!

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.

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