Tag Archives: Wildlife

Anna Maria Island Sights

Top 5 Sightseeing Activities On Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island Beach

Anna Maria Island Beach

Anna Maria Island sightseeing is a unique experience unlike that of any other place in Florida!  While plenty of Florida cities and towns are beautiful, there is an old charm about Anna Maria Island you just don’t find anymore. There are no high-rises, parking garages or large chain stores. Anna Maria Island is truly an authentic old Florida vacation destination.

During your visit there are a few spots that you must add to your sightseeing bucket list. Check out the top five sightseeing activities on Anna Maria Island.

Visit the Piers

Anna Maria City Pier

Anna Maria City Pier

While on Anna Maria Island you must visit at least one of the three piers. Each offers a unique piece of island history, and some great fishing too! On the north end of the island you’ll find the Rod & Reel Pier and the Anna Maria City Pier. Both offer views of Tampa Bay and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. On the south end of the island you’ll find the Bradenton Beach city Pier with views of Sarasota Bay and the coastline of Cortez Fishing Village. Each of the three piers offers dining options, and is the perfect spot to catch sunrise.

The Anna Maria City Jail

Anna Maria City jail

Anna Maria City jail

It’s not a visit to the island if you don’t get your picture taken inside the old Anna Maria City Jail. Find it at the Historical Society Museum on Pine Avenue. No roof, no doors, no windows, no bar and no visitors for years and years!
Now a local tourist stop, the Anna Maria City Jail typically was used for overnight stays by “the rowdies” who had too much to drink at the local dance hall. Continue reading “Anna Maria Island Sights” »

Anna Maria Island’s Most Beautiful Visitors: White Pelicans

White Pelicans try to take a Brown Pelican's fish

White Pelicans try to take a Brown Pelican’s fish.

For my first few years living on Anna Maria Island, I had only heard of white pelicans, but never had seen them. Eventually, my curiosity prompted me to go look for them. I had heard there were some at the south part of the island in Anna Maria Sound. At first, I thought I’d found them. They looked white, but they were in many ways similar to the more common local Brown Pelicans. Soon I learned Brown Pelicans have white heads and necks when they are adults, but not breeding. This is all I had seen.

Later I learned the best place to see the American White Pelican in this area was Cortez fishing village, and this is where I found them. On the occasion of my first American White Pelican spotting, there was no question about what it was. It was gigantic compared to the local browns. The wingspan of the white is 9 feet, compared to 7 feet for the brown. The white pelican also looks completely white when it floats in the water. The black primary and secondary flight feathers on the wings are only obvious during flight.

Other than size and color, the most obvious difference between Brown Pelicans and American White Pelicans is their feeding behavior. Brown Pelicans glide in the air, then do apparently awkward dives, splashing loudly into the water with a strange twist, but usually recovering with a pouch full of fish. White pelicans do not dive; instead they forage for fish in a methodical way. Sometimes they even swim as a group in a formation, moving the fish toward the shore or into narrow areas where they can be more easily caught.

Continue reading “Anna Maria Island’s Most Beautiful Visitors: White Pelicans” »

Collecting Turtle Nests Hatch Data

It’s the time of year when sea turtle nests hatch and that means lots of work for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch. Volunteers walk the beach daily to check the status of marked nests and for tracks of hatch-lings in the sand. The hatch-lings dig their way out from under the sand, usually during the night, and attracted by the moonlight over the water make their journey to the sea.
Turtle nest staked out

Three days after the nests have hatched, licensed personnel excavate the turtle nest site to collect data. By counting the empty shells the number of hatched turtles are recorded, along with unhatched, unfertilized eggs and ones that died in the hole. Sometimes a few left behind are retrieved out of the collapsed sand, protected from day-time predators, and re-released at night.

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Baby Sea Turtles Hatch

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch is a 28-year-old organization of volunteers who have followed the latest accepted methods for protecting the nests of sea turtles on this 7-mile-long island. Years ago, these methods involved removing all the eggs from the beach so they could hatch in total safety. In more recent years the scientific community has realized that all aspects of the turtles’ natural experience are important, and there now is much less human intervention. Eggs are not relocated unless absolutely necessary, and, even then, it is to another location under the sand, near the original nest.

Sea turtle nests and moonlight

Sea turtle nests and moonlight

Gulf beaches, and even some on the bay side, are monitored. This island is unusual in having sea turtle activity on the bay side; nests are found in the areas of the piers of the city of Anna Maria. The efforts and practices of AMITW are coordinated with county, state and federal efforts. Nearby Mote Marine Laboratory acts as an additional information resource and, occasionally, a destination for rescued sea turtles in need of medical attention.

Five species of sea turtle are active around Anna Maria Island, but almost all the nests here are loggerhead turtles. This year is unusual in that there have been two nests of green turtles.

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What Not to Collect on Anna Maria Island: Live Sand Dollars

Illegally collected live Sand Dollars discarded on beach

Illegally collected live Sand Dollars discarded on beach

Sand dollars are not even beautiful when they are alive. Their whiteness comes only after the outer layer of skin and small spines has disappeared. It is the endoskeleton that is beautiful. I’m sure trying to clean a live sand dollar is not worth the smelly effort. It makes no sense to kill these creatures.

This member of the sea urchin family has the five sections of a sea urchin, but a flattened form. The very small spines allow it to move along the sandy bottom of the sea, and to burrow in. They also move food into the mouth. They eat mostly crustacean larvae, algae, diatoms and detritus.

A few years ago, scientists discovered something remarkable about sand dollars. They reproduce sexually, through external fertilization. However, their larvae have the ability to clone themselves and are likely to do this when threatened by a predator. The outcome is twice the number of larvae, with each one half the size. In some ways this is advantageous from a survival point of view.

Aside from general ethical reasons not to kill living creatures unnecessarily, there are laws in Manatee County, backed by the state of Florida, in relation to taking live shells. First of all, one must have a recreational salt water fishing license. And then only two of any particular species may be taken alive. There are some exceptions, such as oysters, several kinds of clams and coquinas, which may be taken in larger numbers.

Continue reading “What Not to Collect on Anna Maria Island: Live Sand Dollars” »