Thursday, December 29, 2016

Houston.... We have PIP!


We've been glued to this live feed the last few days (with 50,000 others) waiting for Eaglets 9 & 10 to hatch.

The PIP is the first poke through to the outside and begins the hatching process which can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to complete. 

Harriet and M15 are probably more anxious than the rest of us!  Check it out and tune in to watch two of our newest National Emblems grow up.



Monday, December 26, 2016

And Some Birds, Too.

Living in one place has changed our camera work a bit.  Even when we walk down a trail or explore a new area we rarely take our camera with us.  Instead we just enjoy being where we are and appreciate that it is not temporary.  There is something less "touristy" about knowing you'll be here for a long time and we don't feel the need to capture things so much as we know we'll see them again pretty much anytime we want to.

We have taken to keeping our old camera in the van however and that gives us the opportunity to take a shot now and then.  Mostly, we snag photos of birds sitting here or there.  The majority are familiar birds but they are still fun to spot.  We have unexpectedly seen three lifers though and that's pretty cool.

The neat thing about the birds in this area is that they have their "spots".  So, it is a sure bet we will see them again if we just go to where we saw them last time.  A few times we remembered to actually take a photo.

There is a Kingfisher that sits on the wire just past the Surf Shop.  Under him you will usually find Ibis, Little Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron and the occasional Wood Stork.  Just around the corner, on the other side of Publix, on a wire overlooking her own little piece of hunting land is this beautiful American Kestrel.


Annie thought moving to Florida meant no more mountains.  But we must cross two to get to the beach.  One of these days we'll remember to have the camera ready as we crest the first bridge over the river.  The view is wonderful and you can see across the river, across the Intracoastal and all the way to the ocean.  In the meantime, this shot of the second mountain (as we jokingly call it) will have to suffice.


There is a small 'beach' at this location and here we can spot four 'resident' birds on a regular basis.

This Osprey usually sits on this perch and repeatedly announces our disturbance of his territory.

                    One day though Nicole caught him in the middle of his bath!

The Great Blue Heron and Brown Pelican that regularly reside in this area remove themselves immediately and quite boisterously upon our arrival.  This Little Blue Heron is more extroverted though.  Nicole captured a shot of him with her archaic flip phone camera (below).  He will walk the shoreline with you and talk the whole time.


A few non-regular surprises have popped up at this location, too.  A Great Egret, a Snowy Egret and the bird in the photo below.

                                     It was a Red-Breasted Merganser.

Traveling up the island one day with Nicole's brother we saw a Bald Eagle.  Although they are prevalent in Florida, it was surprising to see one hanging out on the telephone pole with the Turkey Vultures. 

Heading toward the US Sailing Center, this Broad-winged Hawk was spotted one day.


At the beach we regularly see Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Rudy Turnstones, Terns, Snowy Egrets, Osprey, Willets and Pelicans. 



We don't typically carry our camera or phones on the beach with us.

One day, however, Nicole had to watch the time and so she had her
phone and snapped this shot of one of the Magnificent Frigates that
hangs out in the area (lifer!).  Hint:  Look at the tiny black spot above the house.

This Common Ground Dove is also lifer for us.  We spotted it in the beach parking lot.

Speaking of the beach and our parking lot.  Here is a shot of one of the many reasons that we love ours.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Flotsam Army-Plastic Drifters-Can You Hear Me Now?

Just a quick post with little to no background information, words, etc.  A nice break for you all!

Here's the latest shot of our Flotsam Army defending the beginnings of a pretty decent castle set-up. 

                             We're on the lookout for new recruits every day.

                  A few have been battling longer than any one plastic man should.

Nicole's brother has started his own regimen down south.  Perhaps we'll join forces one day.

      Our random floaters collection looking twice as big thanks to the mirror in the back.
                                      Still, it has grown by leaps and bounds. 

                           Here's the rest of the sand toys and ball collection.
             They say that the ping pong balls typically come from cruise ships.

                  We must highlight something unique from the above group.

22 (3)
Do any of you know what this is?  Well, we can tell you one thing.  It is NOT the disgusting
eyeball covered in sea slime that Nicole originally thought it was.

22 (2)
It is WAY cooler!  It is a miniature Magic 8 Ball.  You can just barely make out the tell-tale
fortune-telling triangle.  Magic-8: Was this the neatest find ever?  "It is decidedly so."

What else is neat and yet somewhat sad about this find?

22 (1)
It is neat because.... Well, those are turtle bite marks.  It is sad because... if we don't fool
ourselves into thinking he was just trying to shake the Magic 8 and ask it a question, we face the reality that he was most likely trying to eat it and could have been killed as a result.

Something else in our flotsam collection that has taken on a life of its own is our barrette collection. 

The colorful collage has grown to over an inch in depth.  One day we will lay them all out for you but for now suffice it to say that we have a lot of flowers, ribbons, bears and hearts.  But we also have some cherries, a Mickey Mouse (represent!), snails, a crab, a chicken (or two), lots of love for jesus and a ridiculous amount of hands and feet (???).

The neatest thing about flotsam is also the neatest thing about all drift items... aging or decomposition as a result of being continuously exposed to the elements.

This happy and plump little fellow has lost not only his shine but most of his facial features.

Can you guess what this barrette was?  If we hadn't found others before we would have thought just a piece of unknown plastic debris.

                                          It used to look like this.

There are some neat finds coming out of the ocean but this last one certainly takes the cake in the unique category. 

One day, Nicole was walking along picking up actual 'trash' (for the garbage) when she stumbled upon this box.

At first glance it appeared she had found just another piece of trash to add to what she had collected that day.

But this was obviously a box.  One that had been at sea a very long time and could not easily be opened.  There was also something else.... when she shook it, she could hear something inside that had survived the journey.

More investigation was definitely required!  This one wound up in the 'take home' bag.

Not knowing exactly what it was, Nicole took a delicate approach to opening it up.  At one point she could just barely peer through a quarter inch gap to see something beige that looked to be sculpted.  And there were TWO not just one!

The excitement grew although she tried to remain patient in her opening as to not damage anything of potential value.

When she finally got the box open, Nicole's building excitement exploded into uncontrollable laughter.  Of all of the dreams she had about what could be inside...

Never in her wildest did these ever come to mind!

                   Do you know what they are?

                                                    Hearing aids!

For those of you interested, Nicole did try to track down the original owner.  However, the original company has been sold twice and the current company says that the records are long gone.  Ah well, it would have been cool to find out from whence they floated and how long they have been at sea but for now we'll just have to settle for satisfaction in the uniqueness of the find.

Until the next incoming tide...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Not All Dogs Are Beagles...

... Not All Drifters Are Beans!

Thought we would introduce you to a unique drifter which most of you could say you've seen before but few of you will know by it's true identity or name. 

                                            Meet.... Spirula Spirula

Most folks we have introduced to this awesome little drifter say that they thought it was 'just a shell'.  But it is not just any shell it is the buoyancy organ of Spirula Spirula.

Spirual Spirula is also known as the Ram's Horn Squid (hint: look at the above photo to figure out why).

                   This is an awesome little guy. 
    Literally.  They don't even make it to 2" in length.

Spirula Spirula is a deep-water squid-like cephalopod mollusk.  Live specimens of this cool ocean dweller are very rarely seen due to it's preference for deep water living.

It is considered an altitudinal migrant - reaching depths of up to 3280 feet during the day and rising to between 300 and 1000 feet at night. 

Although your chances of ever seeing one of these creatures alive is probably less than none, if you wander the beaches and keep a keen eye you can take its most distinctive feature home with you.


These buoyancy organs contain gas-filled chambers that keep the spirula in a vertical, head-down position.  They are in the shape of an open planispiral (a flat spiral where in the coils do not touch each other). 

The Spirula Spriula's life span is a short 18-20 months.  Upon decomposing, their buoyancy organs float to the surface and drift with the currents ending up on beaches all over the world.

Also known as the Tail-light Squid, Spirula Spirula is capable of emitting a green light from a photophore (a light-emitting organ) located at the tip of its mantle.  It can remain lit for several hours.

From what we've gathered, scientists have yet to figure out why
Spirula Spirula has this photophore.  In other cephalopods however,
predator evasion mechanisms include photophores and bioluminescence,
which could account for the presence of this feature on Spirula Spirula.

We find it all pretty interesting.  Perhaps you do too.  So, the next time you see a little Ram's Horn shell laying on the beach maybe you'll think a bit more about this tiny creature from deep in the ocean to which it used to belong and the very long journey that it took to land at your sandy feet.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sea-Beans and Drift-Seeds 102

Our beaning has been well received and we are happy to be writing about something that may hold interest or intrigue for a few of our readers.  Especially since we've got many more beans to present.  So, thanks for the emails that let us know ya like our beans!

We'll pick up where we left off and continue on with some of our more frequent finds.

Let's start with the Mucuna family of beans.

Our current collection divided into Brown and Red with a few Purses, a Bulls Eye and a possible Holtonii thrown in since they are 'related'.

Mucuna is a rather tricky genus that requires ongoing study.  For example, a Mucuna  sloanei from Belize may be slightly different in appearance than a Mucuna sloanei from Costa Rica.

So, let's just say, you shouldn't hold us to the identifications of our found beans in this or related categories.  It is work in progress when it comes to these.  But we'll give you an introduction, at least.

About 160 species of Mucuna are recognized worldwide, most being climbing vines or shrubs.  The most common to float up on our beaches are the sloanei and urens.

Mucuna_sloanei flower
  The flower of the Mucuna Sloanei - otherwise known as the brown Hamburger Bean.

The legumes producing the beans typically are clothed in stinging hairs. 

Mucuna Sloanei
           The hairs are quite small but they are there in great numbers!

Although many plants / flowers are pollinated by bees the Mucuna's are pollinated by bats.  Their flowers hang down on a rope like stalk well below the canopy thus permitting easy access to the night flying creatures.

                 Brown Hamburger Beans or Horse Eyes - Mucuna sloanei.

The species lives in swamp forests, at borders of rivers and lakes, in savanna woodland and wet places in secondary vegetation over a vast distribution area including Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific islands.

Their pods contain a potentially toxic amino acid L-dopa. [L-dopa, precursor of the brain neurotransmitter dopamine] which is why some believe they are good for patients suffering from Parkinson's Disease.  Take caution though and do your research.

The Red Hamburger or Mucuna urens is pretty similar to the brown in looks.

There could be a few browns mixed in here but as you can see the reds are a brighter variety.  They also tend to present with spots or speckles.

Mucuna urens
The flower of the Mucuna urens or Red Hamburger Bean is a bit different than that of the brown.

Mucuna urens is distributed throughout much of the American Tropics as well as on Pacific islands.

            Red Hamburger Bean seed pod

The seed pod of the Mucuna has an enzyme called mucunain that causes itchy blisters but other components of the seed pod are used in shamanic rituals in South America to induce visions! The plant itself has many medicinal properties.  In addition to its potential to help with Parkinson's, it is believed to help with urinary tract infections, fevers, ulcers and many other ailments! These sea beans are also polished and made into jewelry.

Hamburger beans, besides looking like a burger in a bun, are most easily identified by their happiness factor.

                                            They've got dimples!

The Reds (on left) being more parentheses and the brown (on right) more bracket like.

There is another bean that we collect on our local beaches that is a close relative to the Mucuna or Hamburger.  It is the Dioclea reflexa and is commonly referred to as the Sea Purse.

The key difference between these and the hamburgers is that their "burger" or hilum is more like a thin zipper.  They also tend to have a flat section with no hilum.

The Dioclea reflexa finds itself located in the dense rain forests of places like Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Central America, South America, southeastern Africa (Madagascar) and tropical western Africa (Nigeria).

dioclea reflexa
                          The flowers of the Sea Purse plant are purple.

dioclea reflexa pod
The pods of Dioclea species tend to not have the stinging trichomes of Mucuna species.

We have not found Dioclea reflexa in as great of numbers as we have the Mucuna.

Our hamburger bean collection.  Looks like it's time for
another jar of spaghetti sauce to be opened!

We've only found six Sea Purses thus far and this butterscotch is especially coveted.

                                                She's a rare beauty!

The huge legume known as Dioclea reflexa (or sea purse) is quiet a climber and grows up to 65 feet high.  Although Sea Purses could be considered happy like hamburgers, they don't have the characteristic dimple or smiley feature.

                                       They're still pretty cute though!

We'll stay in the legume family but move on to another frequent find that is sometimes referred to as the "sea pearl".

Caesalpinia bonduc, also known as knicker bean, is probably the most commonly found bean for all beaners because it grows pretty much everywhere.  It is known as a native to Florida but is also found in Africa, the Caribbean and India.  The other reason it is very commonly found is that it is super hardy and the seeds are reportedly viable for up to 30 years.

2016-11-03 Florida, Stuart - Sprouting Nickernut Seabean (1)
                      Nicole found this hopefully bean on the beach one day.

   A pretty yellow flower blooms on this very aggressive legume.

knicker pod
If you decide to approach this plant you'll want to do it with caution. 

It is said that the Knicker-bean gets its name from the Dutch word knikker which means clay marble.  In the Caribbean they are used to play games like mancala and oware.  They also frequently used for jewelry and the Caesalpinia bonduc plant has an extensive list of medicinal uses most notably as a key ingredient in treating Malaria.

knicker pod 2
            Knicker-beans ready to leave the pod and start traveling.

2016-11-14 Florida, Stuart - Nickerbean Seabean Pod (1)
We typically only find the knicker-beans themselves mixed in with the wrack line but Nicole stumbled on these two pods one day after a storm.

Random Fact:  Hamburger Beans and Knicker Beans are also called Burning Beans because they can inflict a nasty burn when rubbed briskly on a cloth and quickly touched to the skin. (Note: We do not intended to confirm this fact.)

We don't drink so.... Looks like we need another good storm
to bring us some more cool bottles.  We're all filled up!

Before we go, there is one more use for the Knicker Bean plant and probably the best one of all.  This plant is a major food source for the larvae of Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri, the extremely rare Miami Blue butterfly. 

Miami Blue f on Painted Leaf
The Miami blue is a small butterfly that is native to coastal areas of southern Florida. Once very common throughout its range, it has become critically endangered, and may be the rarest insect in the United States.

On that note... off to the beach!