Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sandy Hands, Sandy Feet & Sandy Hearts

How do you like these pictures? One is a snapshot of a few moments of my life this past Sunday at Hands Across the Sand. The other picture is a snapshot of why I went to this demonstration. Talk about a picture worth 1000 words.

Hands Across the Sand is a grassroots effort to make a statement by joining hands on a beach with like minded people, standing up and saying "no" to oil drilling. I realize our oil habit won't go away overnight, for many reasons. I realize holding hands with other people who care won't make oil go away either. I do think it boosts morale, lets suffering people know they're not alone, makes a statement in solidarity and hope, and is important.

I believe we're far too overdue in making long term plans for more sustainable sources of energy, and really working towards implementing those plans. On Sunday, I found myself in the company of like minded people. It made me feel good.

I was listening to a well respected national radio broadcaster who was interviewing a panel of energy experts (including someone from the oil industry). The general consensus was basically that "we'll get there (to renewable energy, and off oil), eventually." Its more a matter of how much kicking and screaming there will be between now and then. Interesting take.

Back to my sandy hands.

This event was held across the country, and throughout the world. At least, that was the plan. I think it worked out.

I'm sure there were beaches that didn't have someone there to lift them up for the event. I know for a fact that there was at least 1 beach that had "only" 1 person for the event. "Only." That's a powerful world. I read it can mean "merely"or it can mean "entirely." I like "entirely" in this case. One of my facebook friends posted she was the "only" one to show up at her Sandy Hands. Well, I think its then even more important that she went. I'm very proud of my 1 friend who went and stood alone. See, the point of this is solidarity, gratitude, respect, fortitude,and hope. I was not alone, but the thought did cross my mind along with the others I was around. "What about the lonely beaches" and "what about those beaches with 1." So many of us together thought about those things, had a moment of silence, said blessings, and simply gave thanks for what is on this place we call Earth. Those unattended beaches, and those attended "only" by 1 were more than the sum total of 1.

Its really important, I think, to be part of things that are bigger than ourselves. I think the best in humankind is brought out when we're bigger than ourselves. Its important, very important, to stand for something, especially when its a matter of justice. Justice is underrated these days.

Together we stood for a few moments, linked hand in hand. I wish we had more hands joined, there's never enough. I wish we were holding hands across the planet, covered completely with no missing links. But, it wasn't that way. Then again, I do believe a great man named Martin Luther King, Jr. said something like "you don't have to see the rest of the staircase to take the first step." Its thoughts like that which make me pause and give thanks for the driving force behind Hands Across the Sand, my sandy feet, and in the end made my heart a happy, sandy heart.

See you next time, Hands Across the Sand - 2011.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"x" marks the bucket list

A bucket list. Many people have one. I have one, but didn't know to call it a bucket list until a movie came out called... you guessed it: "The Bucket List."

Last night I had the opportunity to cross something off my bucket list. I went for a sunset/moon rise kayak tour. I'm not sure why something as simple as a kayak ride actually made it onto my list especially when I have such a fear of water, but there it sat. Its been on "the list" almost since I moved here.

There's a person by the name of Capt. Bill Keogh who owns & operates Big Pine Kayak Adventures ( on the other side of the island. I've met Bill a few times. Bill wrote a book (Paddling the Florida Keys, which is truly THE go to guide for down here), and must love animals, as he has a dog (that means he's already "approved" in my book!) Capt. Bill donates his time towards charity for an event he runs almost every month, conditions permitting. The proceeds are for a charity called Friends & Volunteers of the Refuge (Key Deer Refuge). The event is a sunset/full moon rise kayak tour. Bill has managed to combine some of my favorite things: sunset, full moon, moon rise, charity fundraising, and Key deer. Toss in a kayak trip, and poof, another addition to my bucket list.

Unfortunately since moving here, its never been in the cards for me to take that tour. Often I'm working, exhausted, or more likely the tour is full. Here at Deer Run, we also make sure any guests who want to be on that tour get a spot, of course, before we do, so that's another reason things never worked out before for me.

The universe was shining on my list last night. We had time time for the tour. I was actually awake and alert past 7pm. There was space for us, and the weather was good.

Off we headed to the other side of Big Pine for our tour. I thought I had everything I needed, but a hair tie would've been a good thing last night. It was quite breezy. All things considered, since that was the only thing I forgot, AND I didn't fall out of the kayak, I file this under "success."

Upon arrival, we were promptly greeted by Scupper the dog. What a sweetie pie, she's one of the most mellow pups I've ever met. She really seems to love her life, and a good life it is. Once we launched our kayak, I re-acquainted myself as best as I could with actually how to use that paddle. Off we went. There was about 30 of us last night, along with Scupper and Bill. Some boats stuck by closer than others, but as more time passed, I felt confident breaking from the group from time to time.

I suppose every full moon tour is different. Weather and tides are variable. The wind was blowing strong, we couldn't get too far out around 1 particular bend without a big fight. When its me vs. Mother Nature, I don't like to compete. Instead, we paddled around near mangroves and were treated to a show of multiple white crowned pigeons (yes, several pairs!), tri color heron, egrets, and many other shore birds. I saw lots of fish in the water too. No turtles. I was really hoping for a turtle. The grass beds were pristine, the water was crystal clear. We saw lots of horseshoe crabs, a spider crab, sponges, and so much more. The water was very warm. I confess I let my toes dangle overboard quite a bit as we sat, letting the wind push us here and there.

I think Capt. Bill must really love his job. At one point, when he was watching the boats paddle to and fro, he said he loves the way the paddles catch the light when they're up. I think that's the difference between someone who loves what they do, and someone who isn't quite as satisfied... marveling at the little things. Like how a high stick paddle catches the sun or moonlight on the bay.

The sun was setting fast. We were all searching for the moon. I was growing impatient, I wanted to see the moon rise. Almost like magic it appeared in the sky above the mangroves. The clouds parted a few times to light the water. Everything shimmered.

Scupper, Bill, and lots of others were out last night for Jen's bucket list full moon paddle. At times there was no sound around except for the "sploosh, sploosh" of our paddles slicing through the water. Other times the air was full of giggles and laughs. Heck, at one point, I even got an Italian serenade from my paddling partner. He's a good egg, that's why I keep him around, you know?

I faced down my fear of water enough to get out and have an experience I've wanted for a long time, plus it was for a really good charitable cause. It was pretty cool to have a dog named Scupper out there in the mix too. Animals really help keep things in perspective for me, even when it comes to something on my bucket list. Thanks Bill. Thanks Scupper. Thanks especially once again to the Universe. You never fail us.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Ah, summertime.

Today is summer solstice. The longest day of the year. An important day to me, my favorite day. Summertime is for breezy clothes, flip flops, sunshine, convertibles, the Shore, the boardwalk, lemon ice, beach bags and parties. Summertime is for porches, decks, beaches, trashy novels, pink toes in the sand, romances and really cold drinks. Summertime is for lightening up, cutting loose, being free and letting go.

In honor of today's summer solstice, I made cookies, took a nap, bonded with my kitties, toured my garden (found a monarch butterfly caterpillar out there!), dusted the cobwebs from my convertible and took it for a ride.

I was born and educated to love the Summer. It's a family affair all this reverence for summer. We're all the same in my family. Mom used to write the countdown to Spring on the calendar pages, while Dad used countdown to solstice silently every year. About 3 weeks before the 1st day of summer, he'd perk up and say "summer is coming!"

I remember as a child playing till well into the darkness outdoors in the neighborhood, every single day. School's out. Seemed like our house was often the collecting point for kids. Many days the play spilled into our next door neighbor's place....their brook, tree house, chicken coop (yup!) or hammock. Doors weren't locked. Kids didn't go missing. We could disappear for hours, and it was "ok" because things were different back then. Neighbors actually knew neighbors, safety & trust surrounded us all.

Our own yard was ripe for dirt bomb fights, hours on end. Scuff around the lawn long enough, and kids can kill anything.... we had a large dirt patch that mom tried so hard to make nice, but with us around, no chance. So, we'd kick that dirt patch with our sneakers til there was a good amount of dust & small pebbles, then take a small Dixie cup, fill it half way, tuck the edges in, and heaven help whoever was in closest proximity. Dirt bombs. Good times.

We'd have watermelon (not bio engineered back then, they actually had pits) then spit pits at each other like idiots. We became completely enthralled when we'd find the 1 white pit in each piece (Come on, you know what I'm talking about, you KNOW it! Every piece of watermelon "back in the day" had only one white pit. Once found, of course we'd exclaim "my white pit!" as we picked our victim for that particular bullet).

Mom's big square fan at the bottom of the steps tilted back so it pointed upstairs to the bedrooms. How about that big round fan that was humming constantly in the TV room, her white curtains moving ever gently in whatever air could pass through. I still have that fan. I'm afraid to plug it in.... but yes, I still have that fan. No a/c in that house, no way.

Watching my big brother and his friend John build ramps with wood and logs, then jump over them with their bikes & skateboards (and even the brook, channeling their inner Evil Knievel I suppose).

As a young adult I was inducted into the convertible club. By about age 20 I had my 1st drop top, a 1966 Mustang with a 289V8, and pony interior. It had real chrome too, I polished it weekly. Driving my friends in that car to the Dairy Queen, acting like fools. Summertime.

As I got older, summertime meant scheduled vacations and every single weekend at the shore. Parties. Boats. Tanning. Family. Friends. Really good friends. Hopping the fence over to my neighbors, Jack & Trish's house, for food, drinks, games & conversation.

Now my summers are spent at Deer Run. The ocean temperatures are in the 80s or higher, some days the water at the edges is actually hot. Dragonflies are everywhere. The Key deer spend long hours under the giant sea grape tree resting in the heat of the day. Traffic on the highway is light, I can make it to Key West in less than a half hour. Even in the Keys, summertime somehow seems more casual, how is that even possible I wonder. I can devote hours on end to my painting in the summertime. I feel free to stop work and just "go." Go where? Who knows? Who cares. But I do whatever I want a lot more often in the summertime than other times of the year.

I look forward to Summer Solstice every year, and everything it represents. Its a joyous season, one to embrace and cherish. Time moves slower in summer, and if it doesn't you're missing out. It's here, its now. Soak it in. Do something different... shake things up. Take a risk. Play hard. Have fun. Don't waste it, don't miss it. It's ours for the taking.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Today's entry has nothing to do with Deer Run. Yet, without the person who today's entry is about, I never would be where I am today. Today's entry is about another hero of mine. I have more than 1 hero, but there can only be one "# 1." Really, by definition, "the best" means one who tops all others. This is about my #1 hero.

My #1 hero was a humble man. English was not his first language, but you'd never know it. He was born to immigrants and grew up without much money or creature comfort. But, he was born into a family with parents who loved him and provided the foundation and root values of loyalty, respect and humility.

My #1 hero was a military man. He barely spoke of this, but was proud of his service; proud to be a US Army veteran. One of the best photos I have of my #1 hero is of him, dressed in uniform, smiling. Handsome. Proud.

My #1 hero was a brilliant man. He became an engineer, and a long time "company man." He provided that company with part of his soul, he was that loyal to it. In return, he received a steady paycheck, some very good friends, good benefits, and means to raise a family.

My #1 hero was a family man. He loved his wife and family more than anything. He had 4 children who loved and admired him. He provided guidance, and was a role model. He didn't give advice too often, instead preferring his children carve their own paths, while hoping he had instilled strong enough values within them to carry them through what life would throw their way. There would be some terribly difficult curve balls thrown the way of my #1 hero and family. My #1 hero taught me "above all, family. Family first."

My #1 hero loved the color red. Red cars especially. My #1 hero always used to say "if it goes fast, it should be red." My #1 hero loved dogs, coffee, Italian food, staying up late, sleeping late, cigarettes, British humor, the Shore, fast cars, opera, chocolate, lemon ice, hazelnuts & pistachios, ice cream, motorcycles, flying, family and friends.

My #1 hero taught me how to drive a stick shift and to parallel park. He taught me to never leave the house without money for a phone call and a soda ("just in case"), how to properly spackle and paint a wall, how to check the oil in my car, the air pressure in the tires, and even tried to teach me how to change a tire (that one didn't quite work out as well). My #1 hero taught me how to ride a bike, the multiplication tables, and the importance of having not many friends, but good friends.

My #1 hero taught me how to enjoy good food (not necessarily "fancy" food, but "good" food, you know there's a big difference, right?), how an ice cold beer goes so perfectly with a pizza, and the importance of the first day of summer.

My #1 hero, despite the fact that he was not a big risk taker himself, taught me that it's very important to have dreams, and sometimes follow them to far away places.

In return, my #1 hero received a vast collection of "#1" cards, doo-dads, gizmos, more ties than any man should ever own, silly t-shirts and hand crafted gifts. He received hugs, kisses, parties, laughter and tears. My #1 hero lived a life in which he constantly deflected praise put upon him, preferring attention going to others.

My #1 was worthy of, and received, unwavering family love and loyalty, which was the #1 thing my #1 hero taught me matters above all. My #1 hero received an abundance of love.

Today, Sunday June 20, I remember my #1 hero. My dad. The most influential person ever in my life, and someone who walked this earth as a most extraordinary man. Someone who will always be my #1 hero. Happy Father's Day Dad. Thank you for being my #1 hero and teaching me what matters.

Tomorrow is the first day of summer. I miss you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Heroes, The Coconut Telegraph & Oops

Ah, the Coconut Telegraph. The CT can get us in a pickle from time to time.

People who don't live here might wonder "what's the Coconut Telegraph?" If you live on an island for more than a week or so, you know what it is. If you don't, let me explain. The Coconut Telegraph is the term coined for how information gets around when people talk. Its about what's going on in our community. Its not written, nor is it broadcast anywhere on radio, tv or the internet. Its just the way information moves through an island community like where I live. Its different from gossip. Communicating through the Coconut Telegraph is vital when you live in a small island community. Its more about finding what might a neighbor need help with, how an acquaintance is doing with an illness and any needs that perhaps can be met for them, and so forth. I'd say basically the Coconut Telegraph is more about "helping" ways, whereas gossip is more about "hurting" ways.

So, I posted about a local hero of mine yesterday named Maya Totman. I posted that I heard Maya may be in Louisiana helping oiled birds. The reality of what's involved in working with wild animals is that there's official agencies involved, always. I know that, anyone who lives here knows that, and any wildlife rehabilitator knows it. Lots of laypeople, however, didn't know this before. Many are learning from the BP oil spill that there's so many wanting to volunteer but cannot understand why one cannot just go volunteer. There's rules, regulations, order & structure. There's a lot of misinformation out there too, when it comes to what's going on with the handling of the impacted wildlife. Many people are finding things out from the media that might not make sense because media weaves and edits so much.

When it comes to the oil spill, many people are learning for the first time that there's a huge amount of red tape involved with efforts to aid the oiled wildlife. I am aware of it, don't like it, but its a fact.

Maya called me today. When she called, she was on the road somewhere in the vicinity of St. Petersburg, heading back to our island. The Coconut Telegraph told her about my blog entry (way more people are reading this blog than I thought!) and while she was very flattered, she was concerned that I had posted misinformation. Maya explained to me she is not working with oiled birds in Louisiana, that she is not involved with Tri-State presently. She explained she went to observe & learn what is going on. She explained to me that the manner in which the wildlife cleaning is going on has a very specific chain of command, and presently she is not involved. Part of being a good wildlife rehabilitator is understanding the boundaries which exist to work under, and a large part of that is permitting. There's a lot at stake with the welfare of animals. Any good rehabilitator would never jeopardize their ability to work with animals by not obeying rules.

Misinformation is bad. Misinformation is what's causing people to hesitate from coming to the Keys. Misinformation is causing people to cancel vacations at this time when we have no impact from oil, and no oil here. I would never want to perpetuate misinformation about anything, let alone something as important as working with animals. So, for Maya's sake, and anyone else "official" reading this... please let me make it clear that Maya is not presently working with oiled birds through Tri-State. Further, at any time if and when she ever did, we all know and understand it of course would be through all Federal, State & Local authorities, with permits, supervision, authorization and I'm sure a whole lot more fancy words.

The animals mean everything to Maya. She'd never want someone to think she was doing something inappropriate, or not through a properly authorized channel. Even heroes like Maya have to file paperwork, look over their shoulders, cross the "i's" and dot the "t's." That includes making sure any information that does get out there, even through the Coconut Telegraph, is accurate. Thanks again Maya, you're the best!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


We've all got a hero, haven't we? I think most likely, yes. I have heroes, some living, some gone, but yes, I have heroes too. I'm going to post a bit about my heroes, starting with today's entry.

I went for a bike ride today. The intent was 10 miles. After less than 1 mile, I observed an injured ibis. The rule I follow with birds basically is if I see a bird where it traditionally wouldn't be, or doing something traditionally it wouldn't do, something's not right. Well, that's how I noticed today's ibis. I was pedaling down the street when a flock of ibis flew away, one was left behind. She tucked a wing under her, and sat down on the driveway. Immediately, I turned around and headed back to the inn. As soon as I got here, I announced "change of plans, get towels & the biggest animal crate we've got... bird rescue!" I then picked up the phone and called Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue on Big Pine. Two rings later the phone is answered, and plans are made for them to take the injured ibis once I capture her.

Off we go to aid the bird. She's still on the same property, but now in the mangroves. We move very slowly, birds are sensitive, and stress so easily. She's injured, so we know she's already stressed. She hops to the top of a mangrove, and then actually takes flight with her injured wing struggling. She takes a very short flight into the Coupon Bight, onto a mangrove island. We track her visually, but do not follow. She can fly. We watch her, we can still see her. She's tucking her wing, and moving it. Its not "right" but she's moving. She takes another very short flight after a few minutes around the backside of that mangrove island, and we no longer can observe her. We decide not to take a kayak out to try a water rescue. She's probably better off (we hope at least) because she can still fly.

Where does the hero come in? Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue. Maya Totman. My hero. I don't know very much about Maya outside of her professional work. Maya is our island's "bird lady." She devotes her life to assisting injured wildlife, especially birds. I have lived here several years now, and not once in these years have I ever been turned down by Maya on a rescue call. This woman works ceaselessly, often times alone, rescuing birds, and doing the best she can to help those who cannot help themselves. Maya literally works 365 days a year. She is on call 24 hours a day. She works Christmas. Thanksgiving. New Year's Day. There are no days off for Maya. She is always there when you need her. I have been with Maya on a few rescues. Its not easy work. Injured animals tend to not want to be rescued. They're terrified, and don't feel good. They retreat. You have to go to them often in very unpleasant conditions. Maya never holds back, ever, when the fate of an animal is at stake.

One time, I called Maya because there was a great white heron injured, walking on our street. Again, a bird where he didn't belong, acting in ways he normally wouldn't. I called Maya, he was too big for me to even attempt to capture on my own. Within minutes of my call, Maya was on scene, leaping out of her rescue van with a net, and a list of questions for me. The heron had waded back off the street into the swampy mangroves by the time she arrived. She instructed me where to go to attempt to flush the bird out towards her... I really didn't want to do this, there were spider webs filled with spiders everywhere in this area, not to mention whatever lurked within the murky waters. I turned to Maya and crackled "spiderwebs." (Have I mentioned my bug-phobia yet on this blog?) She must've thought I'm crazy, and properly ignored my comment. She again instructed me on my tasks, and began knocking down zillions of spiderwebs with her hands, as she crept into the swamp. I'm watching her, this is not the first rescue I've witnessed and been with her on, but I was still blown away by her "LET'S GO" attitude. I took a deep breath as I picked up a stick and I began knocking down the webs to clear a path for the direction I needed to go. I followed Maya's instructions, the heron was flushed out, captured, rehabbed and released. Its a good feeling go know positive outcomes, so often its a different story.

Maya spends her life helping others. The coconut telegraph burns with the information that Maya is now in Louisiana assisting Tri-State Bird Rescue in cleaning oiled birds (Maya took training with Tri-State over Memorial Day.... remember, BP has subcontracted the wildlife cleaning out to Tri-State). She is married to a man I've only met in passing, but is supportive of her in ways that count. He's out fishing for the food to feed the birds in rehab, answering the phone when she's on a call, and I'm sure doing countless other things to be the wind beneath her own wings. Maya organizes & performs beach cleanups in sweltering heat. She picks trash out of mangrove swamps. She rescues and aids victimized wildlife. She sees some terribly tragic things as a result of the hand of man. A carelessly discarded fishing hook ends up in bird gullet, animals entangled in line & rope, thoughtlessly tossed trash ends up wrapped around a deer leg, the scenarios go on forever. Yet, Maya is there, a passion burns so deep inside her to help animals. Its so often lonely and thankless work. She is someone I completely admire, and someone I call a hero. She's a role model both by her hands on work, and her efforts to educate people, especially children, about the need to respect animals & environment. Something particular I admire about Maya is a quality I call being fearless. Perhaps inside Maya is terrified every single moment, with every single spider, and every single unknown. But, you'd never know it, she never shows it. She all over the situation in a flash, there's no time to waste, and no time for fear. Just get the job done, that's the mission.

I wish I was a more eloquent writer, as she deserves some very poetic words. But, I write from my heart. She's one in a million, and our little island would be such a different place without a hero named Maya Totman.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A love letter

Dear Florida Keys:

I love you. I love you so much I barely remember what life was like before we met. Every morning when I wake up, I see the water, the sand, and the sky. I am grateful. You embrace me with fresh air, crystal clear turquoise water, incredible varieties of life to observe & learn from. You fill my heart with joy. You provide me with endless opportunities for discovery, not just of what's here, but what's inside myself as well.

Do you remember when I first moved here? I was homesick. I felt lonely. I missed what I "lost" and did not embrace what I "found." I was separated from my family & friends, plus all that I was accustomed to. I experienced hardships & devastating illness within my family; so many perceived obstacles. Yet, during those times full of such hardship, you let me be without an agenda or a schedule. You provided me with a community of amazing people who came to help when it was desperately needed. You gently embraced me each time I returned from caregiving. You chipped away at every new challenge, and finally even devastating grief when horrible loss arrived. You lifted me with new friends, a new support system, and such incredible beauty through nature. You never asked for anything in return, you gave your gifts freely. You simply were always "there," just "being" as the layers of the onion were peeled.

As I released my old ways of thinking, the more I learned about you, the more I needed you. How can you be so perfect in every way? How do you know to have the right plants for this insect or that bird, the right tree for that crab, or the right temperature for that fish? How do you know when to send a butterfly to me when needed? How can you get the sky so blue in the day, yet so inky at night? And, what of the stars that shine so bright? The milky way that I see so often? The beautiful moon over the water? Do you too listen to the calling birds as I take my solitary runs in the heat of the day? Do you find the lush evening smells, sometimes floral, sometimes musky, as heavenly as I do when I pedal through the darkness? As humanity tries to take and take, you continue to give and give.

What would I do without you, my beloved Florida Keys? You are me, and I am you. There's no way we are separate, even when we're apart. My heart is now yours. I hope you will grow stronger because I am here. I was sent here for you. I am here to help you, not hurt you. I will always love, protect and honor all that is you.

Thank you Florida Keys, thank you for your beauty, your generosity, your gentle encouragement, and your forgiveness towards my species. I'm forever yours.

Monday, June 7, 2010


So.... we've got MORE! More what, you ask? MORE TURTLES!

Here's a picture of another nest, this is MY nest. I found it. My very first nest. If I couldn't see this, I haven't got a right to call myself a turtle walker! Seriously, look at this photo. Smack dab in the center you see what looks like tractor tracks. There she was, Ms. 36" Loggerhead. She is the same turtle who came up this almost exact location the night prior, and did a false crawl (came up, but didn't nest). She obviously decided "this spot" was better than "that spot."

This is how my turtle walks usually go:

Pre-walk preparations: "suit up" (shorts, official beach walker shirt, boots & hat), make sure I have my official permit in hand (just in case some ne'er-do-well has the audacity to ask what am I doing), slather the sunblock on exposed parts, pack a couple empty trash bags in my bag, cell phone, measuring tape, paper, pen, beloved Costas, camera & a hopeful spirit.

Now, the actual walk: scan the beach both ways as far as I can see for any disturbance in the seaweed. If none, begin walking always to my right (no idea why I do that, but its a fact I do), and collecting trash. Searching seaweed constantly for disturbances, then scan from the tide line up to the dune the entire way. When a trash bag is full, I usually take it to the street walking through any house I know is "safe" meaning I know the people and they wouldn't mind me walking on their property. Then, go back to the spot I left off and continue the walk. When I get to the end of the designated beach, I walk back the same route. However, the walk back isn't the same, now I'm looking for sea beans and any other treasure. Once I get to my starting spot, I'll walk the other side of the beach the same way... scan the wrack line for disturbance, scan the sand all the way up to the dunes, and collect trash. Again, on the walk back, its all about sea beans & treasure.

There's other "things" that fool me on the beach sometimes. Dogs & kids love to dig holes (how annoying!) Lots of critters leave tracks, and sometimes even the way the tide came in or how waves broke can trick me into studying a segment for an extra moment or two.

So, what's the story with this photographed nest? I was walking with my bag collecting trash, and had scanned the wrack line up to a certain point. Nothing unusual noted. I walked to the end of the spot I scanned to finish the trash collecting, and began to scan the next wrack segment for disturbance. Within seconds, and without even taking another step, I spotted the crawl. Do you see how different this nest is compared to the first nest photo I posted? People often say "how can you spot these turtle tracks, they're hidden!" Not on this nest, they're not hidden at all. This is so obvious its almost ridiculous, at least for a Keys nest. The tracks show an alternating gait, meaning we've got a loggerhead. The measurement is 36" meaning a medium-size turtle. The tail drag and the measurement was the same as the false crawl the night before, meaning same turtle. Its a full scale "CSI: Turtles" investigation. Once a nest is spotted, I call the coordinator. He confirms the nest, marks it on GPS, marks it with actual tape & markers too, and does the calculations for the projected hatch. Also, we do a sketch of the scene, showing her whole trail, nest pit, and return to sea.

I'm so happy, I'm so proud. Even though this was an "easy" nest, this was MY first nest. MY FIRST NEST! This one is identified as "Jen's nest" in my beach coordinator's log (yeah, yeah, I know, my beach coordinator is my other half, and yes, he assigned a number to it as well, but he DID write "Jen's nest" to make me feel special).

Do I feel special about this nest? Maybe special isn't the right word. Protective would be more like it. Then again, I feel protective about all the nests we find down here, and all the turtles we see. Helping sea turtles survive. As Snapple likes to say "its good stuff."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Welcome Back!

So much is happening down here, time gets away. I have so many different topics to post about, let's get going, shall we?

First, let me tell you the update on the oil here. There is none. Its beautiful down here, the waters are warm, clear & safe. The air is often times heavy with humidity and various floral fragrances. The Key deer are sweetly roaming. Update done.

Next, let me tell you the update on turtles. There's more!!! Yes, and I promise that's my next entry, because I've got a photo to go with it that's beautiful.

More news: Running in the Florida Keys in early summer is hard. Very hard. I'm committed though (or maybe its more appropriate if I said "I should be committed" but maybe no one else thinks that's funny?) So.... what's the point about today's run? WHITE CROWNED PIGEONS! That's my point. I take off in the blistering heat all ready to do my whole 5 miles, and 20 steps into my run a pair of white crowned pigeons blasts out of a tree literally next to me. It was awesome!! Of course I stopped and watched. They flew out of the trees (I believe they were near some poisonwood, which I think they like), and landed onto overhead wires, sat there and looked towards me. I said "hi," and welcomed them back for the season. They flew off together, I'll bet they had a great day.

Have you ever seen this species? Most likely, you have not. Why is that? Well, its because they are a "threatened" species, which means close to "endangered" status. We get lots of birders down here depending on the time of year.... migrations and such. Many people have white crowned pigeons on their "life list" and many people go home from here never seeing them. In our country, they are only found in the most extreme Southern Florida mainland, and the Florida Keys. I see them every year, but not in large quantities, not by a long shot. Usually, I see one pair a year. That's it. Understand that I spend a lot of time observing nature outside, and to say I only see 1 pair a year is very sad. I'll spot them often, that one annual pair, as once I know they're back, I look carefully for them. They really stand out from the crowd. Just as the name says, they have a beautiful head crowned of white, upon a dark body. They're about the size of a mourning dove. Birding experts, forgive my inaccuracies, if any. I'm just a city girl who ended up transplanted to this wild foreign land within my owned beloved country.

So, I see a pair of year, which at least means a chance for offspring. The numbers maybe miraculously will somehow stop declining, and hopefully rebound. White crowned pigeons are considered "red watchlisted" by the National Audubon Society, meaning their population is rapidly declining, and is of global concern.

Something to note with white crowned pigeons is the widespread use of pesticides in the past has greatly effected their populations. In the United States, it is said that a more responsible approach to pesticide use in recent years is helping them rebound. However, the same cannot be said for the Caribbean where their numbers continue to plummet. Here at Deer Run, our eco-friendly approach to life means NO harsh pesticides on our grounds. We DO have regular visits from our most admired pest control man (his name is John, he loves yoga & goji berries by the way) and he helps meet our needs with eco-appropriate repellents, and never killing critters. I am convinced the lack of chemicals used here means we get a greater variety of life passing through, and perhaps this helps explain why at least I always see a pair of WCP's every year.

I wish I could run with my camera, but its not practical. I'm pretty sure I could've gotten a great shot of that beautiful pair of white crowned pigeons, as well as the incredible sight of a large number of Great White Herons roosting out in the Bight. They're so huge, the sight of just one is something to behold, but when you see several in a group, look out world! But, there they were, hanging out in the Bight as I plodded along my street doing my run in the middle of the day. Some were fishing, and some were in the mangroves. They look like Christmas ornaments when they roost in trees, the shock of the pure white against the thick tangled green mangroves is always special. The only way I can remember to tell the difference is egrets have black legs, Herons have yellow legs. I saw several egrets today too, hanging out in Pop's yard.

Part of me wants to run with music, but so far I have resisted. There's so many interesting sounds made by all these birds and wildlife, its part of the experience for me. If I was running with music today, I would've missed the rustling sound in the trees that erupted just before the white crowned pigeons burst forth. So, maybe I wouldn't have seen them at all today. That would've been quite a shame.

Welcome back white crowned pigeons, I've been waiting for you. See you tomorrow?