The blog had a sleepy summer, but now it’s fall and we are on the move again.
My husband and I were driving around in the Jeep yesterday. He brought a lightweight fishing rod and I brought my camera. On Hutchinson Island, we parked at Beachwalk Pasley and went over the small dune to visit the beach before the storm.
No fish for my husband but I observed something I’ve never seen before, a short battle between two initially-peaceful Sanderlings who seemed suddenly to decide the beach was not big enough for both of them. It was like a cockfight in miniature, between a couple of birds weighing about 2 ounces each.
The battle suddenly resolved in a truce and the warriors resumed their rest.
Or are they lovers rather than fighters? Could it be a dance of a mated pair? So hard to tell!
They are native to the Bahamas but were brought to Florida early in the last century to control insect pests.
We are lucky in Martin County to have a number of simple paths like this to unguarded beaches. Parking in the sandy lots is limited but free. It is one of the reasons we chose to live in this county rather than the more densely populated counties south of us.
It was a mellow beach day, not a lot going on. This Ring-billed Gull is dozing, fat and sleek facing into the southeast breeze.
Nearby, another gull keeps an eye on me.
When wind is from the east (or southeast), especially in winter, we can get Portuguese Man O’ War washed up on the beach.
We think of them as stinging jellyfish but they are actually a species of siphonore, a colony of animals related to the jellyfish. Some people call them Blue Bottles. Do NOT step on or near them!
I walked north towards Jensen Beach, a guarded beach. You can see in the distance where Martin County ends and St. Lucie County begins. Martin County has a four-story height limit on buildings.
I got a nice look at a Willet running in the surf. They are bigger and have longer legs than the other common sandpiper-type beach birds.
Roseate Spoonbill chicks don’t have a spoon-shaped bill immediately after hatching. When they are 9 days old the bill starts to flatten, by 16 days it starts to look a bit more spoonlike, and by 39 days it is nearly full size.
In keeping with their overall color scheme, their eyes are reddish pink too.
Pink bird in morning sun.
The color comes from the foods they eat as they sweep their bills from side to side and sift for invertebrates, especially crustaceans like shrimp whose shells containing carotenoids that turn the spoonbill’s feathers pink.
Carotenoids, also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic pigments that are produced by plants and algae, as well as several bacteria and fungi. Carotenoids give the characteristic color to pumpkins, carrots, corn, tomatoes, canaries, flamingos, and daffodils.
I have a spoonbill on my Florida license plate, like the sample above. It’s a specialty plate that donates to the Everglades Trust. The money is used for “conservation and protection of the natural resources and abatement of water pollution in the Everglades.”
My unscientific observation of this chubby sandpiper, the Ruddy Turnstone, is that it is ADORABLE.
This observation was made yesterday afternoon while sitting in a beach chair on Tiger Shores Beach on Hutchinson Island. No hardship was experienced in the taking of these photos.
Highly trained German Shepherd no longer attempts to retrieve cast lures, as in days of old.
Breezy but not windy, with temps in the upper 80s and an occasional passing tropical shower. There will be no complaints here.
This bird retains its beautiful breeding plumage still.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology…
There are about 350 species of shorebirds (order Charadriiformes) in the world, but there are only 2 turnstones, the Ruddy Turnstone and the Black Turnstone, both of which occur in North America.
Young turnstones need to grow up and learn to fly quickly. They take their first flight when they are around 19 days old and fly thousands of miles to the nonbreeding grounds 2 days later. To make things harder, their parents will have departed by this time, leaving the youngsters to make their first migration on their own.
Ruddy Turnstones need to fly fast to cover the enormous distances between their breeding and nonbreeding grounds. Flight speeds of turnstones average between 27 and 47 miles per hour.
Moody morning skies and tossing sea yesterday. Bird flies low.
It’s a cormorant, landing in the churning surf.
The gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking, matte-black fishing bird with yellow-orange facial skin. Though they look like a combination of a goose and a loon, they are relatives of frigatebirds and boobies and are a common sight around fresh and salt water across North America—perhaps attracting the most attention when they stand on docks, rocky islands, and channel markers, their wings spread out to dry. These solid, heavy-boned birds are experts at diving to catch small fish.
This one was under water more than above water. Finally caught a fish, swallowed it, and flew off.
Also spotted on Santa Lucea Beach yesterday morning: a flock of fishermen. I spoke with one of them. He said they were catching big bluefish. He said he cleans them, freezes them, and when he goes home to Michigan he has a big fish fry for 200 friends. Nice tradition!
Looking south: a beach house, the House of Refuge tower, and a lone fisherman on the rocks.
It was too rough to swim but Radar had fun chasing the ball in the sand. It rained on us a few minutes after this photo.