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.
Watch 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.
When 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?”
Here is what they look like topside.
Anyone 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.
After 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.
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.
High and low tides occur twice a day, but unlike the sun which, in the spring, rises a little earlier each day, tides seem to come in and go out on a schedule all their own. (It has something to do with the moon.)
The last few days, the tide has been quite high at sunrise. This means that there is very little beach (at least the firmer wet part) that is easier to walk on.
Although my sandals are waterproof and perfectly capable of wading through the waves, wet feet collect a shoe full of sand walking back across the loose sand toward home.
Thus I find myself weaving along the shoreline like this flock of sandpipers who watch the waves come in, dart out to search for something special left by the receding waves, only to, a moment later, dart back to dry sand as the waves come rushing in again.
Pardon the blur, it is early morning, sandpipers are fast., and they simply refuse to stand still to have their picture taken.