Category Archives: Beach

What’s going on in the Carolinas?

Charleston Wine and Food Festival will be held March 4 – 12 in Charleston, SC. Some of the best chefs in America can be found in the Lowcountry, so this is a great opportunity to sample their cuisine. www.charlestonwineandfood.com

Or check out the Wilmington Wine and Chocolate Festival (February 3-5) at the Coast Line Event Center in the historic district of Wilmington, NC. www.wilmingtonwineandchocolatefestival.com

IronMan 3 will be filmed in Wilmington, NC starting this summer and throughout 2012. The movie will come out in 2013.

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher will unveil a new outdoor “Adventure Reef” in late spring that features a climbable reef with a moray eel slide, giant octopus, and more. In late 2012, a new whale and dolphin exhibit will be added. www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher

The 65th Annual Azalea Festival will take place April 11-15. It is one of the biggest annual events along the North Carolina coast. www.ncazaleafestival.org

A contract was awarded to a Colorado company to design a new cruise ship terminal for Charleston, SC. This will make Charleston much more competitive with Norfolk and Fort Lauderdale.

Guest blogger Terrance Zepke
Author of Coastal North Carolina and Coastal South Carolina: Welcome to the Lowcountry
www.terrancezepke.com

1 Comment

Filed under Beach, Guest blogger

Recap of Jan 25th’s #flkeys chat

Do the Florida Keys really have it all?

They do! Jimmy Buffett has the right idea. We learned all about the best restaurants, best beaches, and best coffee in the Florida Keys yesterday during the first #flkeys chat.

We met so many great people and got some wonderful ideas about dining and beaches. I was just blown away by the participation, thanks everybody! Claudia Miller (@KeysClaudia) was a fabulous host and shared many wonderful pics. We talked about Bahia Honda, the Dry Tortugas, Sombrero Beach, Coco Plum, and Zachary Taylor. We also learned about Seven Fish’s great meatloaf, Hawks Cay Resort’s flaming coffee, and key lime margaritas. This is the link to the Storify archive and here’s a video recap:

We can’t wait till next month’s chat on Feb 29th at 2p EST. Use hashtag #flkeys to participate. Won’t you join us?

Leave a comment

Filed under #flkeys chat, Beach, Florida, Travel

Wildlife Rescuers—Responding to Human Impacts

A guest blog by Bonnie Nickel, author of Those Mischievous Monkeys.

There are wildlife rescue groups throughout the state of Florida and beyond, including our own Wildlife Center of Venice, started in 2004. Ours, like many, operates solely on donations from the community, receives no government funding, and is staffed almost entirely by dedicated volunteers.

The facility sits just outside of town and on my research trip, all was quiet with the exception of the rustling wings of a flock of opportunistic vultures looking for a free handout. By mid-day, breakfast had been served and the sick had been tended to. When I arrived, one of the founders and licensed rehabilitators, Linda, was feeding the newest drop-off, a young southern flying squirrel, mauled by a domestic cat.

Young squirrels, rabbits, and birds are frequent patients of the center. When asked, center volunteers said that keeping domestic cats indoors would prevent many injuries they treat. Birds in particular are well-represented at the center. A variety of injuries, from golf ball strikes and fishing line entanglements, to a direct and deliberate strike by a kayak paddle (no kidding), land birds at the center. Over half the birds recover and can be released to the wild. The scores of orphaned squirrels, raccoons, and other mammals have a higher release rate and are often released in the groups in which they have been raised. Occasionally, a rehabilitated but unreleasable bird or animal will be sent to another facility to provide companionship for another unreleasable critter of the same species.

On the day I visited, the center housed herons, anhingas, pelicans (including the unreleasable blind pelican hit by a paddle), eagles, a hawk, a northern gannet, a frigate bird, an owl or two, a purple gallinule, a sandhill crane, 30+ raccoons, an equal number of squirrels, and a tortoise. Since the objective is to return wildlife to its habitat, encounters with humans are minimized and the center is only open to those dropping off injured wildlife.

After years of work, the infrastructure of the center is really taking shape. Donated metal shelters for raccoons replace older wire and wooden enclosures. Eagle scouts have constructed several individual structures for squirrels and large birds. Plans are being hatched for a new hospital structure and a 100-foot flyway for rehabilitating larger bird species. The latter project is next on the to-do list and will be accomplished with help from the Sarasota Bay Parrot Head Club—they are hosting a Casino Night fundraiser on January 20, 2012 with donations going to the Center.

Any wildlife center is, by necessity, a community effort. Besides frequent fundraisers, and dozens of volunteers, our center relies on professionals in the community for veterinary care, and local businesses for food and services. The center participates in a program with the local community college allowing students to earn course credit while volunteering at the center.  This is an excellent opportunity to develop the next generation of wildlife rescuers and enthusiasts.

The center counts 20 volunteers among it wildlife rescuers—those that actually trap or capture injured wildlife. Some of the most effective rescuers are former hunters. They have the skills required to trap an injured bird or animal and a mindset now focused on conservation. The thrill of the chase still exists but the stakes are higher. For the bird with the fishing line wrapped around its beak, or the fledgling eagle that has lost its parents, the rescue can be a matter of life or death. And the rescuers are persistent. One rescuer responded over 15 times before conditions were just right to trap an injured bird. The great blue heron required a foot amputation because of ever-tightening fishing line around its leg. So far, it is responding well and will likely be released.

One of the center’s few paid employees (funds donated by a local foundation) fields 30-60 calls per day. Not all are rescue requests. Some callers seek information about wildlife in their yard giving the center an opportunity to educate residents about local fauna. The staff and volunteers view community education as one of their critical missions. A little curiosity about our natural surroundings, along with the knowledge imparted by wildlife enthusiasts, can go a long way toward adjusting our actions in ways that will prevent many of the injuries seen at the center. Small actions like properly disposing of fishing line, keeping domestic cats indoors, and refraining from feeding wildlife are simple and effective. Oh yeah, and don’t hit birds with your paddle.

At the center, there are always animals to feed, laundry and dishes to be washed, buildings to maintain, wildlife to capture and transport, events to plan, presentations to give, articles to write, the list goes on. No skill goes unused. Hands-on help, donations of supplies, monetary donations, or attendance at fundraisers like the Casino Night are all helpful. Check the website of the center nearest you to see how you can help.

This is critical work, but in the end, are we just tinkering around the margins by rescuing individual birds and mammals? Maybe, but until there’s a sea change in how we treat nature, wildlife centers help maintain endangered, threatened, and keystone species that may otherwise disappear from the planet. The individuals who engage in this noble work deserve our deepest thanks and whatever support we can afford.

Good news on the global conservation front has been scant lately. I ask myself, is it worth itemizing the good news when it’s vastly outnumbered by the bad? I think so. It’s that little thing called hope—focusing on the good bits while we work on ways to negate the bad. Fortunately there’s been some good news around the world lately about reassessing human priorities. Success in this area may translate into good news for the natural world. In the meantime, here are some glimmers of hope:

Leave a comment

Filed under Beach, Guest blogger, Our Town, Sarasota

Guest Post by Bonnie Nickel: Saving Wildlife

One Hatchling at a Time

Sea turtle nesting season is winding down. It begins in early May and goes strong until the end of June or early July. Some turtles continue to lay eggs in August, occasionally September; the season varies slightly by species. Eggs incubate for 50-55 days so hatching begins in earnest mid-July. Turtles lay about 100 golf ball—size eggs in each nest. The same turtle can nest several times each year, the most recorded being eight. That’s a lot of eggs. Scientists estimate 1 in 1000 hatchlings survive to adulthood. And since not all eggs result in hatchlings, mama turtle is trying to increase her odds of success.

All sea turtle species are either threatened or endangered. (Read about a recent decision on the status of the loggerhead here.) Because human activity is the major cause of their decline, we are obligated to help increase their survival odds. This explains why hundreds of volunteers in Florida (and beyond) are on the beaches at dawn looking for telltale turtle signs.

Early in the season we look for adult tracks and nesting activity. Nests are located, marked, and where necessary, protected by cages or other devices to hinder coyotes, raccoons, and other animals that would love to make a tasty (and messy) meal out of the newly laid eggs. (You can learn how to identify the tracks yourself with this video from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Bonus: the narrator is Pineapple author Blair Witherington!)

Detailed nesting records are maintained for two conservation programs run by FWC. Throughout the incubation period records are kept of predator activity, beach erosion, and nest flooding during storms or unusually high tides. After 50 days volunteers keep a keen eye out for hatchling tracks. Three days after a hatch, when presumably all able hatchlings have departed the nest, each nest is excavated. Once again, records are kept—of hatched and unhatched eggs, live hatchlings still in the nest, or sadly, some that didn’t make it out.

Any volunteer will tell you there’s nothing quite like rescuing a live hatchling that couldn’t make it out of the nest. You release it with the hope that it will be the one in a thousand that makes it to adulthood!

You can check out the Sea Turtle Conservancy website to learn more about what volunteers are doing. You can even become a sea turtle fan on Facebook! The Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch site is also worth a visit for some awesome photos.

As I mentioned in my last post, nesting numbers are up this year—at least on our small part of the beach. We won’t know if that can be said for the entire state until FWC has collated the data. I did read that numbers seemed to be up in Georgia this year as well (see the second story in the hurricane link below for details). Time will tell if the tide is turning for these lovely creatures or if this is a blip on the radar. But for now, we’ll take it as good news.

Turtles of a different kind are getting help in our more northern climes. Check out folks helping out the diamondback terrapins (among others) in Massachusetts. The August 2010 archive has a great story on a rescued Kemp’s ridley. For all things turtle (and beyond!) this is a great website.

Here’s a quick synopsis of other news on the animal conservation front this month starting with the good news that birds can navigate through hurricanes.

  • A new species of dolphin was discovered off the coast of Australia.
  • Twelve new species of frogs were discovered in India.
  • It seems we have only itemized 1.2 million out of 8.7 million species currently on the planet.
  • A marine park in Mexico demonstrates that it is possible to reverse ecological damage. The fish numbers in this National Park have quadrupled over the last ten years. (There are also some sea turtle hatchlings in this video!)

Hope you have some good news to share from your area!

Bonnie is the author of Those Mischievous Monkeys (coming January 2011). She teaches people about conservation and sustainability—how to use less water, electricity, fuel, and other stuff—so that humans, animals (including monkeys!), trees, and plants can all share the planet and pass it along to the next generation. Originally from Canada, Bonnie now lives in Florida with her husband Jim and their two mischievous dogs, Cooper and Joie.

1 Comment

Filed under Beach, books

FIVE REASONS YOU SHOULD VISIT CAPE HATTERAS LIGHTHOUSE

  1. If you make it to the top, you can say that you climbed to the top of America’s tallest lighthouse.
  2. It’s an excuse to visit the pristine Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
  3. To see where and learn how the beacon (which is the equivalent of a 12-story building) was moved. A remarkable feat!
  4. Because it is one of the few lighthouses that permits night tours and full moon climbing tours (seasonally).
  5. The view from the top offers a bird’s eye view of the lower Outer Banks.

For more on Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and all the other beacons that dot the shores of the Carolinas, check out Lighthouses of the Carolinas Second Edition, by Terrance Zepke. For more on the author and her books, visit www.terrancezepke.com


Leave a comment

Filed under Beach, books, Travel

The Beach on Anna Maria Island, Florida

I’ve been to a lot of local beaches, but Anna Maria Island‘s is one I hadn’t visited much until I met my husband. He says that his family went there a lot when he was young. It’s nice because it has a playground and bathrooms nearby. The water is really close to the parking, which is great when you are toting a lot of stuff. We went there this weekend and last, at two different spots along the beach.

The weekend before last we went to a spot that is to the right of the City Pier. Our timing was perfect, because the tide was really low and we could go out pretty far in the water—which is perfect for the kids. The water was really calm and warm and there was hardly anyone on the beach. We found lots of neat shells in the water too. This past weekend we went to the spot that is to the left of the Pier, between Rod & Reel and City Pier. This is the more populated side of the beach and it was pretty crowded. The water is a little deeper, but that’s great for the adults in the group. You can see the Sunshine State Skyway from both places, but this second spot gives a view of it and Egmont Key and Fort DeSoto. It’s pretty neat to see all these places in one spot. You can even see the glint of the light on the Egmont Key lighthouse as it slowly turns.  I wanted to take some pictures of this lovely spot but was afraid of losing the camera in the water.

The Rod & Reel has some great food, according to author Bruce Hunt (@BruceHuntImages). He’s taken some photos of the area and has some nice history and related places to visit in the area in his book, Visiting Small-Town Florida Third Edition. Next time I visit I need to go into some of the neat shops that you find along the way to the beach. I think it would be a great place to vacation as I saw many people on rented bikes and scooters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beach, Bradenton, Family travel, Our Town, Sarasota, Travel

Fort Myers Beach, Florida

I spent a lovely weekend on Fort Myers Beach, Florida at a resort on the beach. I was inspired to share some links to great places to visit in the area.

Fort Myers Beach is in southwest Florida and located near Sanibel, where there is great shelling, a lighthouse, and wonderful wildlife. A visit to J.N.Ding-Darling National Wildlife Refuge there is a must. Naples is to the south and Punta Gorda to the north, bot have great shopping and interesting restaurants. This time we stayed close to the resort, but I’ve visited all of these places before and they’re a perfect complement to a visit to this part of Florida.

The weather was perfect on Saturday, which allowed for a long walk on the beach. We saw some great specimens of shells, both alive and dead. I’ve never seen so many starfish in one place before and cute little crabs were everywhere! We left them where they lay of course, but it was a real treat to see them up close. I have to say I wished we had Florida’s Living Beaches with us, because I wanted to be able to identify exactly what we were seeing.

I also stopped by the Shell Factory on the way home for a shell-shopping treat and found some new surprises! They have a fun arcade and an interesting collection of stuffed wildlife now.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beach, Family travel, Travel

Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, Florida

So Siesta Beach was voted America’s best beach by Dr. Beach!! Here’s the link to the article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20110526/ARTICLE/110529580/2055/NEWS?Title=Siesta-Beach-in-Sarasota-No-1-in-nation-on-list-by-Dr-Beach-

I feel so blessed to be so close to such a beautiful area, with the whitest sand you’ll ever see. Having grown up here–it was a bit of a disappointment to go to other beaches. The sand was always so brown and coarse. There’s no excuse now…you have to visit Sarasota!! You won’t believe the sand.

2 Comments

Filed under Beach, Family travel, Our Town, Sarasota, Travel

A Great Time for the Family at Ken Thompson Park in Sarasota, Florida

This past weekend I took my family to Ken Thompson Park on City Island in Sarasota. The weather was gorgeous, with sunny skies and a gentle breeze. I knew that the park would be the perfect place for a picnic and an afternoon of play. We stopped for a picnic lunch right by the water and saw this beautiful scene before us.

While we ate, we saw children frolicking in the water while their parents fished or read or talked with family. It was easy to see that everyone was enjoying the nature surrounding them on this beautiful day. My son was excited to see  kayakers—some with their fishing gear and some just paddling through the brisk water. He excitedly told me that he wants to get his fishing license so he can wade fish and then get a kayak to fish from too! There are lots of small rocks near the shore, and he enjoyed tossing them in to see how the water moved around them.

We moved on to the two playgrounds that sit near the water. This equipment is in excellent shape and attracts both small and older children. Once you finish with the slides and rock-climbing wall, you can move on to the next playground that has monkey bars and swings. These are nicely situated by the restrooms, always a plus when you go somewhere with children. After some of the energy wore off, we went on to explore the neat boardwalk nature trail that follows the water.

This well-kept path usually has lots of fiddler crabs to keep you company, but we didn’t see any this visit. You meander amidst the mangroves until you come across the walkway that juts out into the water. We stopped there for a while and watched the boats and traffic on the bridge.

After this side-trip, you hop back into the mangroves and find your way to the sidewalks near the boat ramp. We kept on walking to the free water ski show put on by the Sarasota Ski-A-Rees. This is always a favorite Sunday adventure. My son thinks he might want to try waterskiing when he is bigger. It’s fun to watch them leap and jump and twist and make pyramids in their energetic show. We ended our trip to the island after the show, but one could always visit Mote Marine or the Save Our Seabirds sanctuary or grab a bite to eat at the Old Salty Dog. I highly recommend this day trip to any local resident or visitor. Don’t miss experiencing this beautiful site.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beach, Family travel, Our Town

A Guest Blog: Winter at Lido Beach in Sarasota, Florida

Views

To take a trip to the beach is to experience the expanse of it all – the wide blue sky that meets the rolling water where you can see the curve of the horizon.

But really, without the sand beneath your feet, the salt in the air, the warmth of the sun against the chill of the February breeze, and the sound of the water…the photos are, well, a little flat in comparison. Beautifully blue though.

There is one other spectacle at the beach, in addition to the beautiful vista. Walking along the water’s edge there is a trail of artifacts deposited by the Gulf tides.


Shore

There are bits of white-on-white where shells have washed up, some delicate, some ragged.

Feathers, pen shells, cockles, sand dollars.

Shreds of seaweed half-buried in the sand by the tide.


Gulls

And there are crazy birds standing face-on into the crisp wind or wading in the water (that was too cold for me to venture into, even just up to my toes).

Florida Snow

And this is for y’all up north where it’s still (actually) cold…here’s a glimpse of Florida’s version of snow. Powdery white sand, drifted up to form the hills of Florida.


Krystyna Sznurkowski, Pen and Paperie

I am an [intern] architect-by-day/ink-painter-and-card-maker-by-night. Being a native Floridian I have to admit, I take the proximity of the beach for granted sometimes. But the shore is a source of inspiration for me and so I do go wander along it as often as I can. You should too! I have a little online shop at www.penandpaperie.etsy.com and also sell my arts and cards at Wanderlust KW in Key West, Florida.

1 Comment

Filed under Beach, Guest blogger, Our Town