Category Archives: Florida

Posts related directly to the state of Florida.

Royal Terns

Florida Shore Birds I’ve Seen

I will admit that I am not a big bird-watcher. And I am the worst wildlife photographer on the planet. Taking pictures of wildlife usually makes me mad. Animals don’t cooperate or wait for me to get the shot, so I rarely try to capture anything in the wild – except for mollusks, which move slow enough for me!

While out on the water I have come across typical Florida birds, which have ended up in my photos.  These photos were taken using my iPhone, using the zoom, so they are not very good.  I have made some good guesses as to what these birds are, but then again, they are guesses.

These Terns stood in formation along the sandy island we visited recently. I think they are Royal Terns.

Royal Terns
Royal Terns
Royal Tern shore bird
Royal Terns all lined up

(Below) Late in the afternoon my sons and I were fishing and beach-combing at Ponce Inlet and this white bird ended up beside me. As I walked down the shore, he followed me and stayed close by. Maybe he thought I was fishing, or picking up something yummy from the sand to share with him… I don’t know.
I also have no idea what he is. He looks like a snowy egret without the long legs and neck!

Please help, if you can identify this one.

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This white bird followed me along the beach

The little birds in my video are probably Sanderlings.  They raced around picking at the sand as the sea came back up onto the sand.

(Below) When we pulled up behind Disappearing Island these birds were walking in the shallows. Because the big one has a curved bill, I identified it as a White Ibis. The little one with it could be a juvenile of the same breed.  That other little bird (behind the white one) could be a plover or sandpiper, I suppose.

White Ibis and baby
White Ibis and Baby – My best guess

Out in the backwater we see many other types of birds, but usually we are riding in the boat, which means I am holding onto my hat and can’t get a photo.  I will try to get more pictures to add to this page.

Whenever we pull up to an island and I see birds, I remind myself that I am invading their territory. They are either living there or have stopped to find food or even to rest. There is precious little wilderness left in Florida for all kinds of wildlife, and I don’t want to stress them out by being too close.

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beach sand at low tide

Collecting New Types of Shells in a Deserted Area

Our beaches on the East coast of Florida are not as well known for shell collecting as they are over on the Gulf Coast. Visit Sanibel Island and you are likely to go home with a fabulous assortment of beautiful seashells.

We have to work harder to find shells on the East coast beaches, and then, many shells are the same. Arks, clams and coquina shells can usually be collected in the New Smryna Beach area.  But, travel off the beaten path – out to the islands and backwater – and it’s possible to find something more unique.  Only boats can reach this place, and tourists don’t come out here.  It’s the best part of Florida.

beach sand at low tide
An island created by low tide

We took the boat out toward Ponce Inlet and stopped at a sandy island which appears when the tide is out.  The water was just beginning to come back in when we dropped anchor in the shallow water.

I love to be out here, away from people… as you can see, we had the place to ourselves.  It helped that the weather forecast was cloudy with possible storms – and it was the middle of the week.  Most boaters stayed home….lucky us.

Across the waterway, to the left of this photo (above), is Disappearing Island.  It’s like this place, only larger, and the name says it all.  At high tide these islands “disappear” beneath the ocean, with only some of the scrub trees left above the waterline – or so I think.   I’ve never been here at high tide.

I waded ashore and began to scour the shoreline, searching in all that grass, hoping to find a cool shell.

seashells in marsh grass
I found most of these shells up along this grassy edge of the island.

I found a lot of large clams, partially buried in the sand. In fact, most of the shells were either whole, or pieces of big clams.   Also the Southern quahogs were numerous, which are white with vertical lines along the shell.

clam shell in sand
Big clam shell buried in sand

But I did find a nice Dosinia shell. It’s the flat, roundish shell at the bottom of the photo below.  I also happened upon that cute little shark’s eye which was partially buried.  It was pure luck that I noticed it!  I’ve come across much bigger ones, but they always have a hermit crab inside.

I do collect broken shells, because they are unique in their own way.  In my photo below you can see a broken crown conch… if it was whole, there would be a hermit crab inside, no doubt.  Crown conchs are everywhere in areas like this, but they are always inhabited.  (I found a live Fighting Conch, and hermit crab inside a little shell I couldn’t identify.  More to come about those, on a later post.)

Florida seashells
Broken Crown conch, mussel, clam, tagelus, dosinia, little shark’s eye, and tiny marsh periwinkles (one sits on top of a penny).

The little shark’s eye shell (below) has a hole drilled into the side. That is how the mollusk inside was killed. Something came along and bored into the shell to eat what was inside. The thing is, Shark’s eyes ARE predatory, and this guy would have done the same to another shell!

 

tiny sharks eye and periwinkle
Tiny Seashells (and a penny)

As the water came up, I headed up onto the sandy dune area to search among the scrub brush.  I wondered if I’d find some sort of seashell treasure up there.

And I did!  This is where I found those three little white Marsh Periwinkles (photo above) – or at least I think that is what they are.  They were all found close together and nothing was inside except sand, so I picked them up.  I’ve never seen these before, so I had new shells for my collection.  Nice….  I had to be careful not to lose them, as they are tiny!

mourning dove in sand
Mourning Dove

I found some trash, of course, and what looked like an old campfire pit, and saw some mourning doves – that was a surprise!  I really thought that all I would see were shore birds.

I came across the remains of a coconut.  It had traveled from the mainland or beach peninsula, because there were no coconut palm trees on that island.

coconut shell
Remains of a coconut, with partial outer and inner shell.

We left later in the day when the clouds were thickening up. The water had come in quite a bit by then. Soon the all that sand would be covered, until the tide began it’s journey back out to the sea.

I wonder what treasures it will leave behind.  Can’t wait to return here.

marshland island florida
Looking toward the Ocean, with a view of high-rise condos beach-side.

The Guy Who Caught The Bluefish

One late afternoon we headed over to Ponce Inlet so the boys could fish and I could search for some good seashells. It was a successful visit (for me), as I came home with lots of nice shells. I have some pictures of the seashells that I collected on my post, Take a Closer Look When Seashell Collecting.

The tide was going out, which is perfect if you are a beachcomber. The water was very rough, and the only people in the water were a couple of surfers, and some fishermen who stood thigh deep. My boys fished from the shore – and caught nothing.

One man, who was fishing out in the channel, did catch a nice big fish, and I asked his permission to take this picture. He was proud to show off his catch, and rightly so! What a gorgeous Bluefish he had!

fishing bluefish
This man caught a big bluefish

I’ve cut off his head on purpose to show the fish, yet keep his identity private. It was a long walk back to the cars, but he didn’t seem to mind that.

Now we have a boat and will be out fishing from the boat more so than onshore.  On our  second day of boat ownership, we lounged in the water around Disappearing Island which is in this same general area of this inlet.

jellyfish on beach

New Smyrna Beach Jellyfish, Seaweed, and a Bumpy Beach Drive

We are still waiting for the boat we ordered to come in and I’m dying to get out on the water.  For now I must be content with visiting the beach and river.

This morning I headed over to Flagler Ave. to see how the ocean looked.  There have been beach advisories lately because of the high winds, which cause high tides and rip currents. And sure enough, the waves were crashing and the beach was a mess.

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Messy Beach and Rough Surf

The tide was going out, so I decided to drive down Penninsula Ave. and get onto the beach from one of those drive-on spots.  The one I chose had a big puddle of sea water at the bottom of the ramp.  The toll-collector and I watched the car ahead of me navigate it along the edge, and he made it.  I have a 4-wheel drive Subaru, which always handled very well in the snow, so I was not afraid of a sea puddle (it was a BIG puddle).  I slid around a bit but made it out to the beach traffic lanes fine.  But the driving was very bumpy because of all the ruts in the sand.  For that reason I didn’t go very far before parking.

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Portuguese man-o-war 

The first thing I noticed, besides all the seaweed, was the blue jellyfish.  Yes, man-of-war jellyfish were scattered along the beach.  I got a couple of pictures and didn’t know what type they were until I got home and showed the picture to my son.  He knew right away it was a man-of-war.  Believe it or not, people (tourists?) were still going in the water!

I walked the high tide line of sand hoping to find some cool shells, but all I found was the regular variety.  My goal was to get close to the jetty and boardwalk of the Smyrna Dunes Park down by Ponce Inlet, but it was too far to drive on that bumpy sand.  I may end up getting a pass so I can drive to the park and walk along the boardwalks.

sea bird on beach
Sea Bird in the Sand

I did see something odd though.  A sea bird was plopped down in the sand.  At first I thought it was dead, but it wasn’t.  I’ve never been to the beach when a bird was nestled in the dune area.  I snapped a photo without getting too close.

beach shells

The shells I found were the regular arks.  I was hoping to find some unusual seashells because of the high tide and rough surf.  I didn’t find any super unique shells, but I did collect a little slipper shell, a black rock, and a Sea Purse Bean (photo below).

There are a lot of sea beans mentioned in my “Florida’s Living Beaches” book.  Some have a much thicker ring, but they are all hard and roundish in shape.  This is the first time I have collected a sea bean.

sea bean

 

Late in the Day Trip to Smyrna Dunes Park

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One of the long boardwalks that make up the park.

Recently I went to Smyrna Dunes State Park to walk, visit the beach, and take photos. My camera was full, so I had to keep deleting photos to take more, which was annoying.   I would have taken a lot more photos.

My son had his girlfriend visiting over the Christmas break. She lives in New Hampshire and had never been to Florida. Well, the Christmas break is NOT the time to visit as everyone in the world is visiting Florida then…. or they are waiting to come for the spring break, which is also a horrible (touristy) time to come here.

We went to Smyrna Dunes Park late in the day and had to leave by 6:00PM or be locked in, so I was constantly checking the time. I was the odd man (woman) out accompanying the young sweethearts on a romantic stroll among the dunes, but I did come in handy when it came to photo taking.

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We ended up on the west side by the Intracoastal (Indian River) where the sun was beginning to set and my son wanted pictures. So I used the girlfriend’s cell phone to take most of them, and got some very good photos (if I do say so myself). The sun was setting and they posed in silhouette… ah, young love!

The Park is a long boardwalk over the dunes that leads to the ocean and river  in several places, and Ponce Inlet. I had visited this place years ago – probably 15 or 16 – and it has changed. Now there are trails just for dog walkers, and there were many people taking advantage. The dogs are not allowed on the boardwalks except at certain places.

seashells

At one point we walked down to the beach by the rocky jetty. The tide was out, and lots of little shells were caught in seaweed along the beach. My picture here shows some of the seashells I found. Pieces of shells that were once quite big, and the regular finds of the incongruous arks and cross barred venus clam.

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We saw a gopher turtle (tortoise) snacking on some weeds in the dunes (no photo, camera issues), and I was reminded of the one that used to live in the corner of my yard. They are big turtles and slide down into their dens that are a maze of underground tunnels. My daughter volunteered at the Central Florida Zoo (named differently now) and learned all about them. They are quite amazing wild animals. With all the building going on constantly in this state, they are threatened. The gopher turtle, like much wildlife in this state, has lost a lot of it’s natural habitat.

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Ponce Inlet lighthouse and beach at the end of the boardwalk.

We had a lovely time walking the boardwalk, and I was sorry I didn’t just buy the $20 yearly pass. I may go back and use this place as my exercise area. But I do have a beach pass, so I can drive onto the beach and then use the boardwalk, or simply walk along the beach. I’m lucky to live so close to this beautiful area.