15 Things You Might Find at the Beach

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What is the most interesting thing you have found at the beach?

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Jumpin’ Jellies

Stormy here today.

When storms churn the surf, the beach is often nearly devoid of creatures of the human variety. Yet there is always wildlife aplenty — the usual assortment of shorebirds skittering along, pelicans swooping low over the waves, and the heron patiently plying the surf for a meal. The sand is dotted with holes, large and small, harboring clams and crabs. And after a big storm jellies (aka jelly fish – which they are not – fish that is) get washed ashore and litter the sand like transparent deflated balloons.

After a recent storm, Portuguese Man-o-War lay on the beach like clear snack bags filled with deep blue liquid. The Portuguese Man-o-War looks like a jelly, but according to National Geographic they are actually a colony of organisms that float on the currents and deliver a powerful sting that can paralyze and kill small fish.

img_7642-qprWatch out for their tentacles; even when lying dead on the beach they can still deliver a painful sting to the unwary beach walker. And sometimes, they may still be alive hoping to catch an errant wave back out to sea.

Crabby

Crab at Cocoa Beach, FloridaWhen you enter the beach there is often evidence of a colony of crabs under the sand. Usually all you see is their holes, large and small. I managed to catch this one just as it scrambled back inside to hide.

The next morning there was the shell of a sea urchin outside its door. Do you think it is in its hole saying, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing?”

Sea urchin lunch outside crab hole, Cocoa Beach, FloridaHere is what they look like topside.

Ghost crab, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Canaveral National Seashore

As I mentioned in the last post, acres and acres of the land around  NASA’s Kennedy Space Center not needed for space agency business is preserved partly as a wildlife preserve (Merritt Island) and partly as a wild, natural seashore (Canaveral National Seashore.)

I spent most of a day, walking trails, visiting historical locations, and getting coated in the salt spray from storm tossed waves. I even got rained on but it was well worth it. Another national treasure just waiting to be explored.

Here are a few images for you to enjoy. More on the historical locations another time.

If you are near Florida’s Space Coast, be sure to take some time to take a walk on the wild side.

By the way, all this was happening while they launched a SpaceX rocket from the Kennedy Space Center.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Blue Bear at Merritt Island National Wildlife RefugeAnyone who knows me knows that getting out into the wide open spaces to view the beauty of an unspoiled landscape and the creatures that call it home is a passion.

NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, FloridaAfter leaving Cocoa Beach, where my only real escape from the chaos of that over-developed tourist community was the beach in the early morning, I headed to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore. This large expanse of Florida estuary, salt marsh, mud flats, and hammocks, literally in the shadow of the NASA vehicle assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center, provide breeding grounds and refuge for many threatened and endangered species.

I would love to hike, bike, or kayak in this area but since it was mid-afternoon before I got there I had to be content with what I could see quickly, mostly from my car. The National Park Service accommodates this need (and provides those who cannot or do not want to get out of the car) with the Black Point Wildlife Drive — a 7-mile drive that winds through spectacularly unspoiled Florida scenery. Take a video tour here.

Here are a few creatures I met along the way.

Next scenes from Canaveral National Seashore.

Pretty as a Peacock

I went out with some friends one day not long ago and was told we were going to the “peacock neighborhood.” Neighborhoods in Florida, as in most places these days, seem to all have themes — palms, seashells, etc.

So I was totally unprepared for this —

Apparently, this neighborhood in Cape Canaveral used to be the home of a wildlife sanctuary. When the sanctuary closed some of the peafowl refused to leave. Love them or hate them (because of their raucous cry and other birdbrain habits) — you have to admit they sure are pretty.

 

St. Augustine

St Augustine bannerI could not be in NE Florida without at least stopping at our oldest city, St. Augustine. This city dates back to the 1500s when folks like Christopher Columbus and Ponce de Leon (of fountain of youth fame) claimed this land for Spain. They were not the only ones, the French and English were here too, before the good ole USA either bought or fought their way to claiming all east coast lands from Maine to Florida.

Castle-like turret, St Augustine, Florida

Back to the Spanish —

Pedro Menendez, the founder of the first European colony in what is now the US, landed here in 1565 (40 years before Plymouth Rock), met up with the Timucua people, indigenous to the area, and set about creating a thriving society that at once enriched the coffers of Spain and inadvertently decimated the native peoples (by giving them European diseases to which they had no immunity.) The city’s architecture still maintains a very Old World, Spanish feel, with tabby (a cement made with oyster shells) walls and tile roofs, at least in the historic downtown area. If you like history, you will find it in St. Augustine, in all its fascinating and commercialized glory.

Dominating the downtown is the old Hotel Ponce de Leon (now the home of Flagler College). Built in the Spanish Renaissance style and covering an entire city block, it was one of America’s most impressive resorts when it opened in 1888, and is no less impressive today with its beautiful courtyard and stained glass designed by Tiffany.

Across the street is another Flagler hotel, the Alcazar (now the city hall and home of the Lightner Museum), also in the Spanish Renaissance style, and a few steps away is Villa Zoyada, a 1/10th scale of a section of the Alhambra Palace in Spain.

If you tire of opulence and Spanish Renaissance architecture, the parklike square offers glimpses of life in the old city — the old market and well, along with tall ships in the harbor, the historic bridge of lions, not one but two historic forts, the city’s lighthouse, and numerous “attractions” that interpret the city’s history.

I was going to take a picture of the fountain of youth for y’all but since everything came with a price, this is as close as you get unless you come yourself.

Fountain of Youth, St Augustine, Florida

 

Sunrise – St. Augustine Beach

Sunrise, St. Augustine Beach, FloridaEver since I left Cocoa Beach on Thursday, I have been dodging storms. There is a massive storm system that spans northern Florida and reaches up beyond Charleston, South Carolina, and west, past Asheville, North Carolina (exactly the path I had hoped to take.)

I have been getting up to greet the sunrise at the beach only to find that the sun is obscured. Usually, it will make an attempt to peak through the clouds 20, 30 or even 60 minutes late, like this morning (pictured above.)

These storms are too big to go around, so I am just staying put, more or less, moving at a snail’s pace.Since the weather report calls for more rain tonight and tomorrow morning, I hope you will forgive me for sleeping in tomorrow.