Tag Archives: dolphins

Gulf of Mexico Wildlife

Wildlife in and Around the Gulf of Mexico

Sometimes, wildlife in and around the Gulf of Mexico visits you when you least expect it. Not all the dangers are in the Gulf waters, though. Alligators in mating season tend to roam, oftentimes ending up in a backyard swimming pool or taking a siesta under the family sedan.

Alligator mating season 2

Snakes are about. A friend was sleeping in his bed, felt something cold on his leg and found a black snake curled up next to him. Bears are a problem  from time to time, as well. One family’s car was torn apart when a black bear from the Ocala National Park entered it, probably searching for food, and became entrapped when the door closed behind it.

Sometimes it is man himself who harms the environment, as in the case of Beggar, the bottlenose dolphin who used to reside in this part of the Gulf of Mexico. Also known as “Mooch”, Beggar hung out in the Intracoastal, near the Albee Point Bridge and was popular with boaters who delighted in feeding him.

Beggar was a poster dolphin for man’s encroachment on animal habitat. Most dolphin cruise over large areas of the Gulf of Mexico, but Beggar hung out in the Intracoastal and became used to begging.

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Feeding dolphin is against the law, but few boaters can resist that cute face and friendly attitude (of course, Beggar probably felt no affection. He was just hoping for a handout) and unless the Marine Patrol was out and about, Beggar got fed everything from bait fish to Dorito corn chips. Drunk people would try to pour beer down his throat and worst of all, those who find themselves with no food or drink will sometimes throw a non-food item…a piece of plastic, perhaps, or a pop-top…and Beggar, who knew no better, consumed it all.

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When people buy a boa constrictor or a monitor lizard and release them into the wild, it upsets Florida’s fragile ecosystem. When they swim with the dolphins and smear their human germs on them, it harms wildlife. They toss marshmallows to alligators and then wonder why the alligator ate their dog.

Fortunately, not all encounters with Florida wildlife are so intimidating. I was awakened the other morning by a ruckus at my window. It sounded like a cat climbing the screen, probably chasing a lizard, I thought, and rolled over to go back to sleep. The scratching on the screen continued.

I got out of bed, raised the shade and came face to face with a great horned owl! It was a baby, still full of downy gray feathers, and was as surprised to see me as was to see him. I grabbed my digital camera, but it turned its head each time until I stopped and we just stared at each other. I tried one more time…

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…and succeeded. My visiting owl finally had enough and flew away.

 

 

 

Whether in or out of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida’s wildlife never ceases to amaze.

 

 

Discover the Bay Side on Dog Island

Life’s Not Always a Beach. Discover the Bay Side on Dog Island

We walked again, this time to the other side of Dog Island and the dock area where we came in. It gave us a different perspective of the island…and lots of sandspurs.

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We passed private planes and private boats, but we only saw one other person, driving away from the dock.

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Three boats were in. One was the car ferry, and when we returned a truck was parked next to the inn. We’d left the unit unlocked, but the visitors were more interested in the shells on the beach than in my wallet. “Too late!” I wanted to shout. “We picked the beach clean hours ago!”

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Dinner was much better! More dehydrated camping food: Chili Mac & Cheese. The Velveeta cheese I’d brought had gone bad, but we still had half a wheel of Gouda left over from lunch, so I tossed the Velveeta in the trash and chopped off some of the Gouda, and also used the last of the Ritz crackers we’d had for lunch to top off our bowls of warm, spicy chili. We ate on the wood deck, enjoying the cool air as the chili warmed our bellies.

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Just to be on the safe side about finding all the shells, though, we walked again after the people left in their truck, only this time we went in the other direction of Dog Island.

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The wind blew strong during the night, revealing every crack and crevice in the old building known as the Pelican Inn. Its whistle down the breezeway sounded like a child crying for help. Spooky.

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Morning dawned through open windows and we rose just before sunrise. I filled my travel mug with hot tea and grabbed a plastic bag for shells and we headed for the beach just as the sun rose.

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The tide had receded much further out and the shelling was excellent. Private planes flew in and out but the beach remained deserted. When I finished my tea and my bag was full of shells, I went back to our unit and despite the Goodwill-style dishware, I managed to whip together a three egg omelet along with toast and butter (I forgot the jam!). Why does everything taste so much better when you eat it outside? As we ate, we watched dolphin leaping and feeding on fish in the Gulf of Mexico that nearby fishermen couldn’t seem to land.

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Our stay on Dog Island would be ending soon. The sun sparkled and shimmered in the sun, undulating with each wave. Seashells littered the beach, strung out on the sand like scattered pearls from a broken necklace.

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For now, though, we drank in the scenery, pulling it deep in our souls, to save for a later day.

How a Dolphin Sinks a Boat in Sarasota

Dolphin Sinks Boat in Sarasota Bay

Houseboats and live-aboard yachts used to dot Sarasota’s bay front, an interesting mix of the very wealthy and the working poor, sometimes alcoholic-independent-usually-hippie who lived cheaply in a leaky tub that barely floats. The yachts came and went. The houseboats stayed. The worst of the wrecks have been removed from the bay front since Sarasota started enforcing regulations.

One of the older fishermen (dubbed the “Old Salt”), unlike the other owners of broken down barges, owned a fancy dinghy that he used to row to the pier’s bar at 8 am each morning. But on one particular morning, his routine was suddenly interrupted.

It was a beautiful morning. The dolphin were chasing bait fish through the bay, changing direction the instant they did, and leaping in graceful arches through the air in an effort to close the gap between them.

One of the dolphin leaped high in the air, still chasing the bait fish, and landed, with a loud smack, in the Old Salt’s dinghy. While the folks on the yachts watched, Old Salt tried to roll/pull/push the fish out.

Unfortunately, dolphin are very large and, while not particularly slippery, they’re smooth and bulky and hey, when you have a dolphin in your boat, you know you have a challenge on your hands. One of the men on one of the yachts finally rowed over in his matching rowboat to see what he if he could help.

The fish, of course, didn’t budge, so it was decided that Old Salt would have to sink his dinghy. He transferred his gear to the rowboat, pulled the plug on his dinghy, and climbed into his neighbor’s rowboat.

As the boat quickly took on water, the dolphin swam off without a backward glance, seemingly unaware of the precarious position it had just escaped. Droplets glistened and shone like diamonds as the fish swam away.

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The two men in the rowboat watched the dinghy, now well underwater, slowly sink out of sight.

The yacht owner started to row toward Old Salt’s tug, but he shook his head and pointed to the pier, in the direction of his favorite bar. The yacht owner shrugged, pulled the rowboat around, and headed for the dock.

I guess the moral of the story is that dolphin and yacht owners don’t give a boatload of water about an Old Salt’s assets.

As always, thanks for reading. Please feel free to invite all your friends to subscribe to my blog. A strong readership impresses potential agents!

 

What Comes to Mind When You Think of Visiting Florida?

What comes to mind when you think of visiting Florida? Do you envision the international shopping at the malls in Orlando or making the scene in Miami? Perhaps your preference is for the relaxed “Old Florida” friendliness found in the panhandle or the gracious hospitality of Mount Dora. For those who feel kinship to sea life or sunbathing, our beaches stretch for miles and our coral reefs reveal stunning mysteries in gemlike colors. All things cultural tempt some to Florida’s west coast, also known as the suncoast, where a focus on the arts offers a wide variety of entertainment choices. From there, you might venture north, up the Nature coast and around the bend, feasting on scallops and oysters, or south to Seminole reservations and airboat rides in the watery Everglades.

Sport fishermen and golfers love the wide open expanses our tropical peninsula supports and water sports, from sculling and offshore racing to surfing and swimming with dolphins (or manatees, if you prefer), attract thousands here each year.

Most people, especially families, tend to visit Orlando’s tourist attractions first, and there’s good reason for it. Besides a little mouse-bonding (I highly recommend the theme-related breakfast buffets where your kids can meet Disney characters without the jostling crowd making it difficult), there’s much to be learned about our environment at Sea World (okay, and a lot of fun, too!). Islands of Adventure, Discovery Cove and Wet n Wild Orlando will help burn off any residual energy.

My Favorite Florida Spots for Relaxation

But I suggest that you also consider discovering Florida’s lesser known treasures, oftentimes a cheaper alternative with an added bonus of fewer crowds. Of all my favorite “mini-vacation” breaks, finding out-of-the-way, oftentimes unusual, restful spots in the state allows me an escape from the day to day stress of running my own business and was especially key to retaining my sanity as I helped my mother as she developed the symptoms of dementia. Now I am an empty-nester and our getaways are less rushed, giving me time to absorb the ambience of a particular setting. Rather than cramming in a lot of useless information, I hope to convey each spot’s unique “vibe”, from the wild and open gay pride parade in Key West to the nighttime sounds of the Ocala forest.

This website is not just a travel brochure or a Florida tourist attraction map, however. Along the way, peppered in amongst the descriptions and recommendations, I’ll be sharing some thoughts on nature and of life, as well as family history, from settlement in Florida before Statehood to date. Photos will range from vintage to modern, but each will tell its own story.

I’ve been asked if I worry that revealing these gems will cause a great migration that ruins ambience, but I’m not really worried, since most people will satisfy themselves with armchair daydreams. And for those brave enough to get off the beaten path and flexible enough to accept beauty in its natural state, I say, “Welcome, fellow adventurer! Glad you made it! Now, pull up a seat. The sun’s about to set and I have a story to share with you.”