Early January (2010) has been unusually cold on Anna Maria Island. So cold that we came alarmingly close to that Florida “four letter word”: snow. Early one morning I looked outside and it was raining. The outdoor thermometer registered 32 degrees. Although it did snow just to the north of Tampa, we were spared.
Still, the temperatures remained low for most of a week, barely making it into the forties for a daytime high. We were less cold than much of the country, but still cold enough to want to stay inside. We left the heat off at night, and the house temperature dropped into the low fifties. One morning it was 48 degrees.
It was sad to see the effects of this coldest spell in ten years on the wildlife. One morning we saw lots of large fish swimming in strange circular motions near the surface of the water. These jack crevalles were suffering and most of them died, along with snook and many other tropical species.
We have seen a dead pelican float by, and a dead egret floating across the bay. We marvel at the dedication and endurance of a parent great blue heron who has continued to sit in its nest through these frigid times. We wonder what has happened to the eggs or tiny chicks that may have been in the nest when the temperatures dropped. In general, it’s disturbing to think of what might happen to the birds’ food supply with thousands of fish now dead from the cold.
We have heard reports that manatees are having a hard time, as are sea turtles. There are some wonderful people trying to help these species, but it’s not an easy proposition.
We are about to head back up into a more usual temperature range for Anna Maria Island in winter. When that happens, there is no doubt that the snow birds will not be the only ones appreciating our relatively balmy winter climate. Many islanders will feel renewed appreciation for the warmer temperatures, too.