Turtle Eggs

Turtle at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, FL laying eggs.

Today I went to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine to see what was happening.  I went late in the day hoping to catch some birds coming in to roost for the evening.  Instead, I had the pleasure of watching one of their turtles dig a hole, lay eggs, and cover it up.  There weren’t many people there.  A few stopped to watch briefly, but then left.  I stayed until the turtle almost covered the eggs.  It was getting close to closing time by then anyway.  In my excitement, I forgot to find out what kind of turtle it was.  The first video below shows the turtle laying eggs and the second video shows her covering them.



A Reason for Optimism

Rose in Washington Oaks Gardens, Florida.

I recently started volunteering at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve or GTM Reserve for short.  There are 29 similar reserves in the U.S. with 3 in Florida.  Many agencies are involved in managing the reserve but the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the lead.  The reserve is set aside for research, education, and stewardship.  I have been helping with education.  Regis and I participated in a beach cleanup recently and next week I start to support some research.  It has been rewarding to be involved in this organization.

A few days ago, I participated in a seining educational opportunity with some high school students from a Jacksonville, Florida high school.  The students participate in real research.  They must follow standard research protocols.  For this effort, they pull a large net through the water and identify, count, and sometimes measure the wildlife that they find.  We did the work in the brackish Guana River.  That means the water is a mixture of fresh and salt water.  The students were smart, enthusiastic, and a joy to be with.  They did a great job with all students participating and respecting each other and the environment.  They caught so many shrimp it was impossible to count.  Since some shrimp fell out of the net onto the shore, students rushed to rescue the little shrimp.  It was very dirty and wet work.  It did not dampen their enthusiasm.  One of the young ladies, after leaving the water after being chest deep holding a seining net, asked what type of  hard science area she should major in to be able to continue doing work like this.  The future is in good hands with young people like this out there.

Brown Pelican at the beach.
Sanderling at the beach.
Bird looking for something to eat at the beach.

I also recently attended a lecture at Marineland about Right Whales.  North Atlantic Right Whales hang out off the coast of New England and Nova Scotia in the summer.  At this time of year, mother’s head down the coast to calve off the coast of northeast Florida and Georgia.  There are less than 500 Right Whales left and they are struggling to make a comeback.  They are slow whales and tend to hang around the surface.  This makes it easy for them to get his by ships and boats.  Fortunately, based on a lot of research and regulations put in place, Right Whales are not getting hit as often.  Right Whales hang around near shore, so they are easy to spot from the shore.  Volunteers spend 10 weeks during prime calving season in Florida looking for the whales.  This helps researchers conduct research and also allows for the information on their location to be sent to ships in the area.  It’s a great way to save a whale!! The biggest problem the whales now have are getting caught in fishing gear.  Fishing gear is now made so well, it doesn’t break.  Once the whales get entangled, they cannot break themselves free.  Work is being done with the rope industry to try to make fishing rope that is strong enough to support the fishery needs while weak enough to allow a whale to eventually break free.  Let’s hope they are successful.  (The first Right Whale of the season has been spotted off the coast of South Carolina.)

I visited some of the Marineland residents:

Tiger Sand Shark at Marineland, Florida.
Dolphin at Marineland, Florida.
Sleeping sea turtle at Marineland, Florida.

The weather is unbelievable right now.  I can’t get used to wearing shorts on Thanksgiving Day.  After taking Dart for a walk awhile ago, I can see that frying Turkeys is the thing to do here.  There are quite a few turkey fryers located on the sidewalk up and down the street.  I feel like I’m at a street fair.

I hope everyone has a great day with friends and family.  I am grateful for my wonderful friends and family and this beautiful planet we live on.


The Dilemmas

Distressed duck on the beach. The duck is alive in this picture but died shortly after. It appeared to be suffering from a gunshot wound.

I have two dilemmas to speak to in this post.  First, I struggle about whether I should mention “sad” things in our posts.  In our travels, we take lots of pictures of wildlife.  Sometimes, the wildlife have issues.  There are times we don’t notice until we review the pictures later.  That occurs mostly when I use the 400 mm telephoto lens.  I don’t always notice through the viewfinder.  Then, I see it when I load the pictures to my laptop.  We have never posted pictures of animals that have visible medical problems.

I’m wondering whether that is the right thing to do.  Today has brought it forefront to my mind again.  All the lovely pictures we see in magazines, etc. show us the beauty of the world around us.  I think that is good.  But, we don’t often see the other side.

We went for a 5 mile walk along the beach today.  I saw a duck in distress next to the surf.  My first thought was that this poor duck was exhausted from migration.  I picked up the duck to place it above the wrack line to give it a chance to recover.  It is then that I noticed the duck was bleeding and was the apparent victim of a gunshot wound.  The stretch of beach we walk is next to a Wildlife Management Area that is now having hunting season.  This duck was probably shot in the WMA and wound up at the beach.  I was struggling to decide whether to take the duck to a vet (there is a local vet that saves wildlife), but it seemed so near death.  It took a couple minutes and I decided to take off my sweatshirt and wrap the duck in the shirt and take it to the vet.  Who knows, but maybe it would make it.  By the time, I took off the sweatshirt and got back to the duck, it had died.  I cried.  If it had died from exhaustion, I could have handled it better.  Since it had died from being shot, I had a hard time with it.

Later, we encountered a seabird on the beach that was clearly in distress.  We try to stay clear of birds like this.  If they are exhausted, they don’t need two people and a dog to cause them alarm.  From the best I could tell, there was no obvious reason for the bird’s distress (e.g. fishing line).  If the bird was exhausted, the best thing to do was let it be in this somewhat remote section of beach.  If the bird had a man made problem, like being wrapped in fishing line, then I would feel more compelled to try to rescue it.  I could not see any fishing line.  The bird was well enough to avoid us and we were a mile and a half from our car and we had no net.  Logically, we needed to let this bird try to recover on its own.  It was in as good a place as any to do that.

Distressed seabird.
Distressed seabird.

Later, I was taking pictures of some seabirds and noticed that one bird was “missing a leg”.  Often, birds hold their leg up while standing, so it isn’t always an issue.  This bird was hopping in the surf with one leg.  I saw that it did have a leg, but it wasn’t using it.  Birds often lose their legs to fishing line.

Bird on left can’t use it’s left leg.
Bird on the right is the same bird above that can’t use it’s left leg.

Anyway, if you spend enough time outside in the natural environment, you will see some disturbing things.  Some of it is life.  Some of it are problems we cause.  I hate to see any of it, but I particularly hate to see problems we cause.

Dead fish on beach.

The two dilemmas are:  1) should I post the whole of what we see and 2) when is it appropriate to try to save a distressed animal.

To end on a brighter note, I inserted a picture of Dart running on the beach.  I promise to do a more upbeat post tomorrow for Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.

Dart enjoying the beach.



Beach walking and bronze god?


South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Ok, now that you clicked over here, there are no pictures of me in a speedo, (And this is a post from Regis to landrtravles). The 15 extra pounds are keeping that from happening, but watch this space!

I was recently at a dinner party at a house on the  beach with a bunch of really nice people. I learned about Egypt and a group called Life Makers, check them out. Several of my new friends flattered me to no end about being the handsomest man there!  Ok, I was the ONLY man there, at the end, but lets skip that part. Made me start thinking about the state of my tan. I do spend a fair amount of time outside in shorts and a tank top. So I have a modified farmer tan. I thought I should spend some time to even it out a bit. So, off to the beach I went. Hint, go to the beach during the work week and you get miles of beach to yourself, almost.

Anyway, walking to the beach at the access point I spotted something at the base  of the dune. Turtles? Wait, not this time of year. Sea turtles nest on the beach above high tide, but not this late in the year. I walked up closer (as a side note, ever see a tortoise running?) and  identified them as Gopher Tortoises. They are about the size of a volley ball  and slightly flat.  They look like a huge engorged tick.  They live on land, sometimes in dune areas. I spotted five in ten minutes.

Gopher Tortoise, South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Next afternoon, I went back with Linda and Dart and a camera.  We saw three tortoises high up on the dune. I had the wrong lens.  Dart was off  leash and had a great time! We met a lady from Colorado, and showed her the Tortoises. She said she had one last Florida animal she wanted to see – an alligator. It just so happens we had seen a fairly large gator in a corner pond not far away. Once we drew directions in the sand, she literally ran off to her car! I don’t think she could have left faster! I hope she found the gator.

Shore bird at South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Shore bird at South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Beach debris on South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Back to the beach with a camera and the correct lens.  I went back early with camera to snap some tortoise pictures. I guess I was too early (9am).  I walked for close to 3.5 miles before I saw the first tortoise! Even though this is Florida, it did get down to 53 degrees the  night before. I guess the tortoises needed to get warmed up a bit! Yeah, I can relate!

Anyway, I got some Tortoise pictures and some other shore life pictures as well.

South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL








Dart on the Beach


Dart on the beach at sunrise.

Yesterday morning we went to the beach to watch the sunrise.  I took Dart so he could pose for beach pictures.  The tripod was in the motor home, so I had to do without.  The clouds and colors were great, but most of my pictures are too blurry.  Shortly after I took the picture above, the rain passed overhead and it began to pour.  We weren’t dressed for it and I didn’t have a cover for the camera, so we had to dash back to the car before the sun rose above the horizon.

Dart on the beach at sunrise. There are a couple fishing boats on the horizon.


Windblown Dart on the beach.

Tonight, I went to the motor home to get the tripod while Regis made dinner.  As I was entering the storage lot, I realized I forgot the keys.  I headed back home and was blocked by an accident.  Route 1 was shut down.  That meant I either had to go out to 95 and loop around or head to A1A on the ocean and go to St. Augustine and then back up route 1.  The second option would take longer but it would be prettier.  The sun was going down, so I was sure to get good views of the ocean and St. Augustine.  That’s the way I went.  Regis probably thought I had been abducted by aliens because it took me at least an hour to get home this round about way.  The plan was to hit the beach again in the morning for sunrise but we are going to do sunset instead!  I still need the tripod.

This is what I came home to.  Regis knows how to make pretty meals.  They also taste great.  I think this skill runs in his family.

Regis cooked this for dinner based on an old Taste of Home recipe. Yum!

In the evening, Dart and I go for a walk around a local lake.  We almost always see bluebirds.  Here is one of the locals we get to see.

Bluebird in St. Augustine.

Sometimes, the sprinklers are running and there are a lot of bluebirds, as well as other types of birds, that bathe on the sidewalks in the water spray.  It’s great fun to watch.  There is a large fish that hangs out in the lake.  I see the top of the fish sticking out of the water while it is in the shallows, but whenever I get closer to take a look, he flips around and swims away.  He always makes a great splash but I never get to see him.