Sunday, 23 November 2008

On The Road Again

By the time this post hits Bloggerland, we'll be waving goodbye to the beach for another year, and hitting the road towards The Great White North.

Five weeks by the ocean has been wonderful, but all good things come to an end. We've had cold windy weather for the past week, and the forecast for next week isn't too good either. I'm ready to go home and see my lovely family.

We're leaving here Sunday morning and we'll be at home in Canada (snowstorms willing) by Monday night.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Wings on the Wind

The Marine Science Centre at Ponce Inlet held it's 4th annual Wings on the Wind Festival last weekend.

In November the Centre holds an Open House that highlights it's coastal wildlife rehabilitation programme. Injured turtles, manatees and seabirds are provided with medical care and a safe place to recover from whatever ails them.

There were quite a few sea turtles in tanks recovering in the Sea Turtle Hospital ICU Ward. Some big, some small. This one was the biggest.

An assortment of birds of prey were on show. All of these birds had been found as orphaned fleglings, unable to care for themselves, so volunteers have stepped in as substitute parents.

This Harris's Hawk had been raised by hand since he fell out of his nest at 14 days old. He was flying free but always returned to his handler's gloved hand on command. While we watched, he caught a lizard and greedily gobbled it up.

An Eastern Screech Owl sat patiently on her handler's glove waiting for a tasty snack.

This is Priscilla, an American Kestrel. This bird is the smallest falcon ocurring in North America.
But the highlight of the afternoon is the bird release. This year there were three birds who had recovered from their injuries enough to be released back into the wild, a laughing gull, and two brown pelicans.
The birds arrived at the beach in two animal carriers, covered in a cloth. As the coverings were removed, the gull (in the smaller carrier) became very anxious to leave. "Let me outa here!"

The gull didn't waste any time on a polite "Goodbye" or "Thankyou", as soon as the door was opened he was off!

And the pelicans followed suit, making it down the beach to the water breaking the world land speed record for pelicans. It was all over in a matter of seconds. A little different from the stately decorum of last year's release.

Three more beautiful seabirds are healthy and back where they are supposed to be thanks to the good people at the MSC.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

On The Beach - and a Blogiversary!

From our little beach cottage, it's exactly 80 paces to the beach. I know, because I counted them.

Some days, the beach is full of shells, and then the tide comes in and whisks them all out to sea. Then a couple of days later, they're all back, lining the edge of the surf.

These little sandpipers spend their lives at the edge of the sea feeding on tiny crustaceans. As each wave retreats, they dash forward, frantically poking their beaks into the sand looking for dinner, but they hate to get their feet wet, so the next wave sends them scuttling back to dry land.

The gulls with the fancy hairdos are Royal Terns. They always face into the wind... wouldn't want to mess up their hair!

Every morning I walk along the beach, usually as far as the Beach Patrol Headquarters and back. The yellow flag indicates moderate surf conditions. If it's green, swimmers are fairly safe, but if it's red, watch out for high surf and rip currents that can pull an unsuspecting swimmer under.

and - A Two Year Blogiversary!
I've been rambling on this blog about whatever comes into my head for two whole years now, and in that time I've "met" and "talked to" so many interesting people all over the world. It's been such fun! Thanks to everyone who has spent time at Rook's Nest, and if you keep visiting, I'll keep posting!
.....and another special mention to gorgeous and handsome grandson Callum, who is Nine Months Old Today! Happy nine months, Callum!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Ponce de Leon Light Station

The lighthouse at Ponce de Leon Inlet has stood here since 1887.
It's the tallest lighthouse in Florida.... 203 steps will take you 175' to the top where you can look out over the Florida coastline and the Halifax River.

This lighthouse is the second on this site... you can read about it here.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Mission Home Improvement - STS-126

It was truly spectacular!

NASA Mission STS-126 "Endeavour" carrying seven astronauts lifted off from Cape Canaveral on Friday evening right on time at 7:55pm. It's heading to the International Space Station to make a few improvements to make life easier for the occupants.

And we were there to witness it! WOW!

The night before the launch, The Space Cadet spent about an hour looking at Google Earth, planning the best vantage point to see the launch. He decided Hwy 1 in Titusville, so we headed south on Friday afternoon. People and cars were everywhere, tremendous excitement in the air. We asked a group of tough looking bikers the best place and they said "Right here... just park and we'll show you where to go".

They were right, it was a bit of vacant grassland at the back of Wendy's Burgers, about 200 people had already assembled with chairs, radios, TVs, cameras, telescopes, children, etc., with a clear view across the Inland Waterway towards the launch gantry, which was lit up like a Christmas tree. You couldn't miss it.

We scrambled over a rusty fence and joined a group (including the bikers) sitting along the river bank. We had over an hour to wait, but time passed quickly, with so many people to talk to. After all, everyone was there for the same reason.

And as we waited, a gorgeous full moon rose into the clear sky.

Finally, the countdown... five... four... three... through my binoculars I could see smoke or steam billowing up... two... one... a huge burst of orange flame lit up the sky and the rocket started lifting into the night. I could hardly breathe. What an incredible sight. And a few seconds later the sound of the rocket reached us across the water... a huge rumbling boom, such power!

Cheers, applause, lots of whooping and hollering, people were celebrating a successful launch.

I followed the rocket with the binoculars as far as I could. I could even see the red hot booster rockets fall towards the sea. Incredible to think that seven human beings were sitting on top of that fiery rocket, trusting their lives to technology (and perhaps keeping their fingers crossed, knocking on wood, etc.).

Speed reached 1,000mph in just a few seconds.
It's going 1,500mph within 5 miles from the launch.
By the time it's gone 73 miles, the speed is 4,000mph.
By the time it reaches 10,000mph, it's 64 miles up.
By the time it reaches 16,000mph, it's 66 miles up, and has travelled 760 miles.

Space shuttle vapour trail lit up by a beautiful full moon.
What a sight.
First pic borrowed from NASA web site, other pics taken by The Space Cadet.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Sea Turtle Nest N201

Soon after we first arrived at Ormond Beach, I noticed this turtle nest had been marked and tagged.
The turtle nesting season in Volusia County ends on October 31.

The total count for 2008 was 649 nests on this part of the Florida sea coast, mostly of Loggerhead turtles.

This nest was laid on August 23 2008, and was numbered N201 and dated by the Beach Turtle Patrol. Incubation takes approximately 55 days, so the baby turtles should have hatched a few days before we arrived.

The female turtle lays 85 - 110 eggs in the sandy nest, which she digs with her hind flippers. After she covers her eggs, she returns to the sea, leaving her babies to take care of themselves and find their own way to the ocean.

I walked past the nest site most mornings but didn't see any sign of hatching. No baby turtle footprints to be seen. Turtle Patrol people wait at least 70 days before investigating if there has been a successful hatch.

A couple of days ago Turtle Patrol dug the nest site.

They found 108 unhatched eggs, some with partially developed embryos. Turtle Patrol told me that the nest probably got overwashed too many times by the high tides.
The odds are stacked against baby turtles surviving the hazardous journey to adulthood. First they have to make their way from the nest to the sea, many of them are disoriented by beach lighting and head in the wrong direction.
Then they have to avoid being swept onto beaches by storms or high tides, or becoming dinner for a larger hungry sea creature.
Only about .01% of the hatchlings survive to return to the same beach as adults to lay their eggs.
Better luck next time, Mama Turtle.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Riverboat.... or Car Wash? You decide.

Driving along Route 1 through St Augustine, it's quite a surprise to see an old fashioned steamboat by the side of the road.
It's nowhere near it's natural habitat, muddy river water, unless you count the 6' deep, 8' wide moat that surrounds it.
But is it a real steamboat that somehow lost it's way?

Or could it be....

... a CAR WASH????

Showboat Car Wash was built in 2005 and offers a full wash service, washing about 13,000 cars a month. You drive over a bridge to enter and leave the carwash. There are chimneys and staircases and flags and it looks just like the real thing.
Mark Twain, eat your heart out.
Apparently, the car wash guys wear shirts embroidered with a ship's steering wheel. I wonder if they wear Captain's hats too.

We didn't get a wash, but we did fill up at the gas station next door.
Oh well, next time.
First two pics stolen borrowed from here. Third pic taken by Moi as we drove by.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

St. Augustine

Today we took our bikes to St Augustine.

St Augustine is the oldest continuously settled city established by Europeans in the continental United States. It's full of tiny streets and ancient houses, narrow brick laneways and lush vegetation.

Unfortunately, it's also full of tourists.

We biked around the narrow streets, trying to stay well away from the commercial part of town and found houses that are full of contrasts, from the tiny and colourful...

... to the very grand, like this one, Lion's View, built in 1890.

The city was founded by Don Pedro Menéndez de Avriles in 1565, and here he is, standing proudly on his pedestal outside the Lightner Museum.

The Lightner Museum occupies part of the former Hotel Alcazar, built by Henry Flagler in 1887 in the Spanish Renaissance style. This impressive building is an early example of a poured concrete building. This solemn gentleman caught my eye in the courtyard.

I love the mosaic floor in the main entrance lobby, in fact I want one just like it......

...... and then I looked up at the ceiling, I want one like this too!

Shady corridors offer a refuge from the hot sun.

The courtyard is surrounded on four sides with high walls, and in the centre is a fishpond crossed by an arched stone bridge. This must have been the height of elegance in it's heyday.

More to come....

Friday, 7 November 2008

Me and My Buddies

Met up with these two at Alfie's in Ormond Beach.

McCain looks kinda sad, don't you think?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Floundering About

This chap looks pretty pleased with himself. He was fishing from the Ormond Beach boardwalk at the Intracoastal Waterway when he reeled in this 6 pound flounder.

Quite a catch!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A Very Special Day

Today is a very special day.
The Fourth Day of November, Two Thousand and Eight.
A date to remember.
A date for celebrations.
A date for congratulations.
A date for special messages... and this is the very special message I received today!

Yes, it's my Birthday today. Thank you Callum, I love you lots and lots and lots!

And I believe there's something else VERY SPECIAL going on in the USA today too...

Monday, 3 November 2008


We were biking along Beach Street which runs along the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway, when, "What's happened up ahead? Look at all those flashing lights!"

Uhoh. Somebody took the curve a little too fast. He was well and truly at sea.

I think the driver was talking on his cell phone, or perhaps text messaging when he took to the water. Certainly not concentrating on his driving, that's for sure. He seemed to be extremely unperturbed about the situation. He even posed for my camera!
When we left, a huge tow truck had arrived, but the vehicle was too far offshore to reach, and they were calling for a mobile crane to lift him out.
Sounds like mega$$$$$$ to me. I hope he had insurance.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Meet the McGurks

Just a very small corner of the McGurk's front yard.