If your one of my followers, you know my husband and I winter on St George Island, Florida. We volunteer at the State Campground doing general maintenance, picking up trash, painting and other tasks. Thsi year Michael hit the island with a 12 foot storm surge. The residential area is built on pilings. The damage is great.
This is the main gate entrance.
The road that extends 10 miles through the park is gone along with the dunes.
The way is impassable except for four wheel drive vehicles.
Thank God, the rangers who live on-sight evacuated and their homes which are on pillars remain. None of them were hurt.
I know many people have worst damage. And I send them my prayers and sympathy. But I will miss seeing everyone this winter.
I’m on St George Island in the Gulf, a lovely place on the great migratory bird route. I wake every morning to a hundred different bird calls and wish I knew more about the birds making them.
There is a section of the dunes where the ‘bird’ people rope off the already forbidden area. Birds nest on the ground here.
This is already a 15 mile per hour area, but who wouldn’t want to be extra cautious–
These flightless birds are on the endangered list and need protection to survive.
Despite the lower than average temperatures and 20 to 30 mile per hour winds over the past month. the blue herons have set-up housekeeping in the fresh-water ponds.
I counted six nests this morning. I think it must be a record of some kind. The birds fly to the slash pine area, pluck up dry twigs and build their nest. They are so graceful I could watch for hours.
The turtle patrol goes out at dawn. Not a bad time to hit the white sand beach. I checked my alarm clock several times during the night. I didn’t want to oversleep and miss this opportunity. Not everyone can go on patrol, but I’m a volunteer on St George Island State Park and allowed.
The birds fly low over the water and the sand as our four-wheel drive gator crosses the beach. We need to stay close to the water’s edge so the tide wipes away the tracks, but at times the trash left by inconsiderate tourists has us crossing close to the dunes. Another duty for the volunteers is keeping the area clean.
The turtle expert is explaining to me what to look for, but I’m too excited to listen. She’s attended hours of class and been certified to hunt and mark turtle nests.
We’ll be checking over nine miles of beach for the turtles. The first tracks we find circle erratically, not normal unless the turtle is disturbed. Then we find someone’s sandle prints and paw-prints from a large dog. Someone took his dog for a walk after dark where he’s not allowed and it harassed the Loggerhead Turtle.
We still need to check for eggs. A nest can contain from one to one hundred and fifty
eggs. Maybe it didn’t lay, but if it did the nest needs to be covered with screen to thwart predators and posted with warnings.
We kneel in the sand and poke our hands into the sand. It is hard a couple inches down if it’s undisturbed. A soft place indicates the turtle dug down to deposit eggs. And there is a distinct odor from the turtle’s body fluids. After searching for an hour, we write-up a report that we didn’t find eggs, then the hunter notices a dead weed and swarming flies. Determined to be sure, she digs again. She finds the
nest underneath and carefully shows me the golf-ball sized eggs. I am thrilled.
We cover the nest and move on. Another track crosses to the dunes. An experienced ranger claims that nests in the dunes indicate a rough hurricane season ahead. The turtles instinctively shelter their eggs.
The second nest is covered and marked and we continue down the beach. Last year there were forty nine nests on this section of St George Island beach. This year we’ve found a Green Turtle nest along with the Loggerheads.
I spot a shell and stop to pick it up. A sunray is pretty and a keeper.
We don’t go shelling since it’s not allowed with a gator, but the trip itself has been an adventure.
I told my guide I’d love to do it again. Maybe after the fifty-five to seventy days it takes for the baby turtles to hatch.
Watching the tiny turtles head for the open water under the moon must be worth staying up all night.
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The camper is set-up, the screen-room ready, the folding chairs and tables arranged for watching the world go by on St George Island State Campground. I’m putting away the stuff in the kitchen when my husband calls me.
“Com’on out and see this.” Knowing the drill, I grab my camera and tiptoe outside. He laughs and points at the camper’s roof. At first I didn’t see it. Then, “What is that on the roof?” I exclaim.
St George Island is five miles into the Gulf of Mexico across a long causeway. It’s one of the major stops for migratory birds and has one of the top ten rated beaches in the United States. So birds are common. I saw a bald eagle on a telephone pole. An albatross winged alongside the car during our trip over the causeway and miles of dunes are fenced to keep the nesting birds safe.
I’m not a birdwatcher. I can identify the common birds like cardinals and crows. The rest are just pretty objects to watch. I have several Audubon bird identity books and we looked up the visitor. An egret sat on my roof.
“Glad it’s not a stork making a delivery,” he quips with a wink. Did I mention he thinks he’s a comedian? See photo of crab?
The next day I saw the egret in the next campsite and wondered if it was lost or hunting. For many years egrets were hunted almost to extinction for their curly feathers. Turns out it was hunting. I knew they ate frogs and fish. I learned they also will snatch a swamp rat from the md and eat it. That time I didn’t have my camera.
So what does St George Island have to do with my writing? I’m planning on sitting in the screen room and finishing my next book.