A special place

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, it is a special place where I spend my afternoon."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Updates - Monarchs and Oysters

The "daisy" weed

    Well, I was mistaken when I said the monarch butterflies were on their way out. Their population has more than doubled!  I've found myself swerving on the bridge, trying to avoid them.
    At the end of September, the monarchs had been here about a week. Then, it seemed as if they had moved on. That wasn't the case. In the next two weeks, thousands more monarchs had taken over the island.
Lantana is also a popular source of nectar
   As beautiful as they are, people are starting to see them as just something else that they have to clean off the windshield and pick out of the grill of the car. The novelty has definitely worn off. And it's true, from a distance, they're not much to look at. But by stopping and taking a closer look, you see things that you wouldn't have noticed with a quick glance. Like this peculiar looking one. It's not exactly your typical looking monarch. 
An albino monarch?
    Now that the temperatures are cooling, I think they're probably ready to move on. Only time will tell. Personally, I think they've made a beautiful showing of themselves while they've been here and they can stay as long as they like.

   The situation with the oysters isn't nearly as pretty as the butterflies.
    I have a friend that works for the local EPA (environmental protection agency), and she has shed some light on the high mortality rate of the oysters. It's not a subject that's been discussed a lot publicly simply because mistakes have been made and at the present time, there is no real plan of action in place to remedy the situation.  
   There seem to be two reasons for the lack of oysters in the bay. The first being the over harvesting that took place when the bp oil spill occurred in 2010.

   As I said before, in an earlier post, (Trouble in the Bay), there was no way of knowing what kind of impact the oil spill would have on the oysters. So to play it safe, the bay was stripped of all viable oysters. The idea was to save the oysters before the oil got here. This panic proved to be unwarranted and disastrous. The oil never got close enough to harm the oysters. Just like there was no way of predicting how close the oil would get, there was no way to predict the droughts that would effect Atlanta, Georgia in the coming years. The droughts effected the fresh water supply that comes from the Apalachicola River to feed the oysters. The combination of these two factors, over harvesting, and not getting enough fresh water, created a situation that the oysters haven't been able to overcome.
The boats aren't this full these days
    Atlanta depends on Lake Lanier for it's water supply. The lake was created in the 1950's by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by building Buford Dam in the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, and Flint river basin. In 1988, when the corps wanted to divert 20% of the water that was approved for hydropower, flood control and navigation, to Atlanta's drinking water supply, the Tri State Water War began.
    Alabama and Florida argued that it would be environmentally harmful to allocate so much water from the reservoir for Atlanta's drinking supply. The argument has proved to be valid. The oysters are not receiving enough fresh water from the river to survive. And using the water for Atlanta's daily drinking supply has never approved by Congress. 
    A U.S. district judge ordered that Georgia and the corps resolve this issue by July 12th of this year. And if an agreement could not be reached between the three states by then, Atlanta's water withdrawals would revert back to what they were receiving in the 1970's. There are 3 million people now that depend on Lake Lanier for their water. They were facing an impending disaster. But, in June, 2011  the 11th Circuit District Court overturned the ruling.  So now Florida and Alabama are hoping the supreme court will hear their appeal.
   Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama issued a strong statement saying "For too long, the corps ignored the law and the needs of those downstream to protect unrestricted, unauthorized, and unplanned growth in Atlanta. Alabama and Florida can't be expected to bear the brunt of Georgia's poor lack of planning for Atlanta's expanding drinking water use". Atlanta has been illegally siphoning water from the reservoir for decades and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible.
  Here's a little irony to the story. Atlanta refused to fund the dam when the corps built it stating that at that time, they didn't foresee a need for the water the lake provided. Therefore the lake was federally funded. And now Atlanta has grown to be the largest city in the U.S. that is not near a major body of water.
One to rake, one to tong, one to cull
    So now, in order to try to protect  the oyster beds, many parts of Apalachicola Bay are closed for harvesting. Out of desperation, men have resorted to poaching in illegal areas at night causing  many citations to be issued. Since the amount of money that is made depends on the amount of bags that are filled, and the money is split between the men on the boat, most boats now only have one man per boat instead of three.   
   One solution that's been discussed is closing the cut between the main island and Cape St. George to cut down on the salt water coming into the bay from the gulf. This would help to keep the balance that is necessary for the oysters to grow. This would be a huge project so I'm sure they're exploring all the options.
    We can only hope that this issue will be resolved soon. If history is any indication, this is not likely. It appears we're in for a long battle.
* The Army Corp visited the bay today (10/22) to inspect first hand the damage that's been done by restricting  the fresh water supply. In 30 minutes time, they only harvested a hand full of live oysters.

Friday, October 12, 2012

'Big Bird"

    There's no doubt, the birds here aren't like the birds in Kentucky. "We're not in Kansas anymore Toto". The only bird that comes to the feeder, and reminds me of Kentucky, is the cardinal.
   I've come across a lot of different birds on the island and kayaking around the area. To write about all of them in the same post would be impossible. And I wouldn't be able to put up as many of my photographs! So when a certain bird gets my attention, I'll write about it. The brown pelican will certainly get your attention. 
"Old Blue Eyes"
    Brown pelicans are very cool birds. They're not all blue eyed like this one, and it doesn't have anything to do with gender. The males and females all look alike. But some of them have blue eyes and some of them have brown eyes. 
   Compared to what I'm used to up north, these are big birds. Turkey buzzards are the constant big bird in Kentucky! And they don't float on the water. Yet this is the smallest pelican of 8 species in North America. But these "small pelicans" can have a wingspan of up to eight feet.
     I can't imagine Florida without pelicans, but at one time, the brown pelican was an endangered species. The drastic decline was the result of using DDT, an agricultural pesticide. And until 1972, when DDT was banned in the United States, the brown pelican was in danger of becoming extinct.  DDT was used in the late 1800's to control malaria and typhus among civilians and the troops of WWII. After the war, it was made available as an agricultural pesticide.  It wasn't until the 1960's that the harm it did to the ecological wildlife was discovered. Fishermen also saw the brown pelican as a threat to the fishing industry and would shoot them for their feathers, and to protect their livelihood. But the prey brown pelicans go after is, for the most part, not commercially fished. Although, I've never seen them turn down the occasional mullet or sheephead in the bay.
    Today, the brown pelican is still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, even though they don't migrate. They're here all year around. I remember a few years ago when the winter months were extremely cold. St. George Island is far enough north that the temperatures can drop pretty low. But that year, the pipes were freezing along with the fruit trees. The brown pelicans really struggled and several of them died.
    But, now the population in the United States exceeds historical levels, and the main threats are overhead wires and abandoned fishing line.
     These birds will plunge from 75ft. into the water to scoop up their meals, sometimes becoming completely submerged. The brown pelican is the only species that fishes this way. The others fish off the top of the water. Naturally, in order to make this dive, it's believed they have the strongest feather of any other water bird.

"Coming in for a landing"

     They'll glide just above the water looking for a school of fish, make their assent, then come crashing down on their victim. Sometimes with success, sometimes not. They can hold up to three gallons in their pouch at one time.(their stomachs only hold one!) When they scoop up their catch, they'll drain the water from the sides of their pouches and  then swallow the fish.    
     Brown pelicans will nest in colonies and fly in groups. They look a lot like geese when they take up flying in the V formation. 
     Their nests here, on the island, are mainly on the ground. Because of their size, they're threatened by very few predators. They'll lay 2 or 3 eggs in March or April and a month later you'll have naked little brown pelicans. The unusual thing is that they don't use their whole body to cover the eggs. They just use their  big webbed feet to keep the eggs warm.
    And there's no generation gap with these birds. You'll see the adults hanging out with the younger ones around the oyster houses, waiting for scraps. Or just sitting on the tops of posts, enjoying the day. Rain or shine, they're just content to sit and do nothing. They don't get excited about much. Until it's time to eat! The young birds don't have the yellow on the top of their head so it's easy to tell which ones are the older ones
    This is not a bird you'll see inland or on fresh water lakes, but if you're out fishing with no land in sight, and you see a pelican, the shore is not more than twenty miles away. 

    I like the brown pelican.They're a laid back bird that pretty much gets along with everybody. They're as graceful in the air as they are clumsy on land. And I like the fact that they don't migrate anywhere. It's nice having them here all year round.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

At the end of the day........

   One of the most beautiful things on the island is the sunsets. It doesn't matter how long you live here, you'll never say, "It's just another sunset". Each one has a unique quality that will take your breath away. It's a photographer's dream.

A "red moon"  sunset
      This particular sunset was a magnificent sight. As much as I like this picture, it falls short of doing the real thing justice. This "red moon" sunset was taken in January 2008. Unlike the "blue moon", this moon was truly a blood red color when it first got above the horizon. But, the sun sets so fast that in order to get a shot of both the sun and the moon I had to stay in the same location. The houses prevented me from catching the moon when it was just above the horizon.

The "red moon"
      A "red moon" will usually occur when it's time for the "hunter's moon". So if you want to check it out this year, the "hunter's moon" will occur on October 27th. But there's no guarantee there will be a "red moon" at that time. But it does always occur during a full moon.
    I've been told, when you watch the sun set over the water, on a clear night, the second the entire sun goes below the horizon, you can see a flash of blue light. You have to be looking at the exact moment the sun disappears and it happens in an instant. I've tried it but I'm not seeing any flash of light. It may be that my timing is off. If it does occur, the problem with seeing it is you have to be looking at just the right moment when the last bit of sun is gone. And I really don't want to stare at the sun, even for a few seconds.

A "sunset cruise"
    The sunsets over the beach are generally red. This is because of the high concentration of salt particles suspended in the air over the ocean..Without getting too technical, the density of atmospheric particles determines the type of sunset you may see. The less particles, the less color.
    In the mountains where the incoming sunlight is encountering fewer assorted particles, the sunsets are generally white. I didn't know this when I took this picture over the bay. I just thought it was an unusual sunset. (I don't alter any of my photographs. What I see is what you see).  

    During the winter months the sun will  position itself ever closer to the gulf side of the island. So the beach dwellers can walk out their back doors and enjoy the beauty of the sunsets from their seat on the  beach. 
 But during the summer months, I have the best place on all of St. George to enjoy the sunsets. I can sit on my back deck and watch it set over different parts on the bay. And even when I can't see the sun going below the horizon, the colors it leaves behind are incredible. The above picture of the bay was taken just last night.  


  When the "blue moon" occurred, it rose on the gulf side of the island. So if you chose to see the moon rise, you were going to miss the sunset on the bay side, which was also a beautiful sight  that night. Just like with the "red moon"  most of the time, you're going to miss one or the other due to the houses in the middle of the island.
   But, for a short time during the winter, you can watch the sun rise and set and never leave your place on the beach. There's not many places you can do that.
    I probably have more pictures of sunsets than anything else. Some of them are easier to capture in a photograph than others. But there are no pictures that can give you the sensation that seeing it in person can. The sun setting over the water gives you a sense of peace like nothing else. 
    So if you decide to plan a trip to St George Island, or maybe, by chance, fate just happens to bring you here, make sure to get a good seat for the sunsets. You won't want to miss them!

   It's a wonderful way to end the day.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


    If you don't already know my husband, John, it's time you meet him He plays a big part in my island life and he'll be here soon. So he's sure to be in posts to come. He's come to love St.George Island as much as I do. And although he doesn't spend as much time here as I do, he gets the most out of every day.

Life's full of surprises!
     So let me try to give you some insight into his character and show you, with pictures, how he completes my life on the island.

John's first racehorse, "Dave" is born
Going to the races is one of his favorite pastimes
    John was born and raised in the capital city of Kentucky, so Kentucky's the place he'll always call home. But he'll be the first to tell you that life is too short for cold weather. So when the days get cold and it's twenty shades of gray in the bluegrass state, he's island bound.

     There's no doubt our lifestyle is unique. He likes to spend his summers in Kentucky and he's getting to be a regular in Brazil. (He's even learning to speak Portuguese!) So when he gets to the island, we make the most of our time together.

   These .pictures can tell you a lot about John. He's an animal lover. They'll follow him anywhere! And he loves the outdoors.
   Those are just are just a couple of  qualities that sparked my interest. He makes me laugh and  my life is brighter with him in it  He captured my heart  thirty-two years ago and the rest is history.

  So I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. They really are worth a thousand words! I know I'll never have a better friend..

          With John the sky is the limit.

So keep dancin' honey,and you'll never grow old.



  I'm blessed to be sharing my life with such a wonderful guy.