Tag Archives: Wildlife

Shelling on Florida Gulf Coast

Shells on Anna Maria Island beaches

Shells on Anna Maria Island beaches

Every evening we walk several blocks across Anna Maria Island to the Gulf Beach, where we walk along the water’s edge as the sun approaches the horizon. It’s always interesting to notice what kinds of shells are on the beach at certain times. There are some “regulars,” which are almost always there. And there are some very unusual ones that show up only every once in awhile. But even the unusual ones tend to come in groups. In other words, if there is one, there are many. This happened one evening several years ago when there were beautiful shark’s eyes suddenly on the beach in large numbers.

The shells that usually wash ashore on the beaches of Anna Maria Island include spiny jewelboxes, which are white with spikes protruding. They look like bivalves, but are, in fact gastropods. Another fairly common gastropod shell is the lettered olive, which usually measures almost 2 inches long. We also come across Florida augers quite often, which are small cone-shaped shells.

A wide variety of bivalve shells is also seen at all times. One of the most interesting and charming is the little coquina, which comes in a wide range of pastels and earth tones. There is nothing more enchanting than seeing the live creatures in tidal pools, where they move with the inflow and outflow of the water. Little cat’s paws or kitten’s paws, range in color from white to black to orange. Jingles are translucent shells that come in these same three colors. About the size of a quarter, these round shells look like they’re made of mica.

There are several bivalves with remarkable patterns on them. Although it’s not unusual to see these shells, it is unusual to find one that is not worn. The sunray Venus may be the most beautiful of these shells, with a pattern that really does give the impression of sunrays. Both calico clams and calico scallops are quite common, too. The buttercup has an appealing smooth round shape, and is the color of butter. Less beautiful but more remarkable is the turkey wing, with one very straight edge and an otherwise roughly shaped surface, striped with brown.

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Walking to the Beach

Here it is, mid summer, and we still are enjoying our daily walks over to the beach. Most of us who live on Anna Maria Island are able to walk to the beach. It is wonderful not to have to drive. The island is so narrow at the south end that the beach is never more than three or four blocks away. Farther north, the island widens and the walk increases by a few more blocks. But the only areas from which a walk to the beach would take more than just a few minutes are Key Royale and the neighborhoods near Galati Marine at the southeast end of the City of Anna Maria.

Our house is exactly a half mile from the beach. We usually make that walk and then continue along the beach, toward the setting sun before we turn and head home. The beach part of the walk is spectacular every evening. Tonight the beach was particularly wide, and the sand looked smooth and white. The temperature was extremely pleasant—amazing for mid August! The water reflected the pink/orange glow from the low sun. There was almost nobody on the beach. This is the kind of “paradise” experience for which people travel long distances. How lucky we are to be able to walk to it.

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Small Birds of Anna Maria Island

This spring we have noticed surprisingly large numbers of small birds in our yard and the nearby neighborhoods of Anna Maria Island. We become so used to the larger great blue herons, pelicans, ospreys, egrets, ibises and wood storks that the small birds have become of particular interest.

parrokeets of Anna MariaSeveral kinds of smaller birds are permanent residents of the island, or visit here often. The loud, gregarious parakeets that fly overhead seem to fluctuate in numbers. We suspect that may have to do with nesting trees being cut, in particular, along the main road in Anna Maria. For whatever the reason, it was not unusual several years ago to see large flocks of these green parakeets overhead, or on a tree or building. Now they appear much less often.

The doves can be heard cooing, and often perch on powerlines along the street. They also perch on deck railings and seem to like our Bahama shutter supports.

Mockingbirds are the state bird of Florida. If you are going to have only a limited number of songbirds in your neighborhood, it’s wonderful if one of them is a mockingbird. This cheerful-sounding bird rattles off a wide variety of songs, giving the impression that there are many kinds of birds in the area.

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Easy Island Pest Control

Pest control is an ongoing battle on Anna Maria Island, as it is in most subtropical places. Instead of pests, many Islanders like to call them critters. It sounds less disgusting or frightening than the real names for some of the creatures who share the environment and homes of most Floridians. Sometimes it’s possible to see the critters in a positive light. This article is about trying to do just that. It’s an exercise in trying to change your attitude if you can’t change the situation. Because our situation in Florida is that the critters are as determined to be here as we are.

American squirrel One critter that is considered a pest by some, but a beloved pet by others, is the squirrel. As long as their numbers are not too great, and as long as they nest in the trees and not your house, squirrels can be very entertaining little visitors. When storms blow baby squirrels out of their nests, Wildlife Education and Rehab takes in hundreds of them, and with the help of volunteers raises them until they are big enough to run wild. It’s easy for many Islanders to see squirrels in a positive light, not the target of pest control measures.

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Binoculars As Digital Camera Telephoto Lens

Here’s how to use your binoculars to take excellent distant photos without an expensive camera and telephoto lens.

I have an aging Canon PowerShot Digital ELPH camera which takes great pictures but has only a 2X optical zoom and 6X digital zoom. Sometimes I just can’t zoom in close enough to get a good shot.

Binocular as telephoto lens

But even without fine digital photography equipment, I get hundreds of great photos of the wildlife of Anna Maria Island, thanks to a clever technique. I’m not aiming to take professional quality photos to display in art shows or to market and sell. I simply want to have digital photos to capture the amazing wildlife I see on this beautiful island. Sometimes I email my photos to friends, or even to local wildlife and environmental officials.

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