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St Pete Beach Nature You Will See in September

St Pete Beach Nature You Will See in September

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Published by stpetebeachtoday
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Published by: stpetebeachtoday on Oct 09, 2009
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 Nature You Will See In September  by: Cleo RobertsonSeptember is looking good so far because we've had no serious hurricane warnings,which makes everyone happy. The biggest hurricane to ever hit the coast of the UnitedStates landed on September 22, 1938 in northern England which happens to be my birthday. No wonder I’m always in a whirl! September can be awesomely beautiful or stormy, cool and clear or wet and cloudy. Whatever way it is though, it is also a greatmonth to watch wildlife. Osprey, dolphins, snook and crabs are all enjoying life, so keepa lookout for what is around.Fish and animals: As of September 1, snook season is open. Snook are all around, readyto be frustrating to even the best fisherperson, and mullet are schooling on top of thewater in large numbers. Bait fish are plentiful and I see people catching fish off theseawalls and piers all the time. We are blessed at the moment with no red tide and lots of fish and other wildlife around us.Cownose Rays are usually sighted this month. So if you're lucky enough to see them, juststand still in the water & they'll go around you. Or, put on a snorkel and mask and swimwith them like I do : )I have not, however, seen any Southern Stingrays off shore birthing their young. It may be that because of the way our shoreline changes with dredging that they are avoiding usthis year. Hopefully they get straightened out and come back to our shores. They are partof the balance of nature just like the coquinas on the shoreline which feed many thingsand the seaweed that washes up on the beach and nourishes the dunes.The skimmer bird made a great show this year, skimming along the shoreline with their dislocateable jaw. If they hit a rock or shell, it simply snaps back into place—the wondersof nature. And who says fishermen aren’t compassionate? One year I saw a man catch ahuge snook at the point of Pass-a-Grille in September and was most pleased when I sawhim de-hook it and return it to the Gulf. He said he had enough fish for the day.If you’ve been walking the beach or a golf course, I am sure you have seen the Ibis poking around the ground for coquinas, worms, grubs…you name it. Sometimes you’llsee a flock of them flying which is quite a sight. At other times you might see themcarefully aerating grass or picking at the shoreline for coquinas as they find their eveningmeal.Which fish has the head of a horse and the tail of a monkey? The seahorse of course. Thisis an unusual fish, with a head shaped like the knight in a chess set. It holds its’ bodyupright and swims along by waving its’ back fins. It uses its’ long, curling tail to anchor itself in the seaweed, while it searches for small creatures to eat. Its’ eyes can swivelindependently, so the seahorse can hunt for food, and watch out for enemies at the sametime. Seahorses have extraordinary breeding habits. The female lays her eggs in a little
 pouch on the male seahorses’ belly. The eggs develop in the safety of the pouch. About amonth later, an amazing sight occurs as the male ‘gives birth’ to hundreds of tinyseahorses.My personal experience with seahorses was scooping them up with a net when I was akid and hanging them from our earlobes. When I returned to Pass-a-Grille after beinggone for 38 years, I spent a lot of time at Merry Pier checking out what people werecatching. One day I was there when a party boat came in and I stood around to watch theKing Mackerels be cleaned. As the man cleaning the fish slit open the belly of one, heexclaimed, “Looks like there’s a crab in there.” I said, “Crab, heck, that’s a seahorse” andsure enough as he emptied the belly out a 6” mildly green seahorse appeared—it lookedlike it had been caught within hours. I still have that seahorse hanging on the wall of mykitchen.Have the stingrays gone? This is a question I am often asked at this time of year. No, theyare not gone. In fact the Atlantic stingray may still be birthing and since the babystingrays don’t know to be afraid of a shuffle or noise, shadow or disturbance, they justeat away thinking they are safe. Hey, they were just born, how do they know in a minutesomeone is going to stomp on them? So they do what you or I would do if someone didthat to us—hit back. My only advice is to shuffle with your big toes down in the sand soif one is close, your toe will lift its’ wing and then it will scoot. Stingrays that are a fewmonths older are much smarter and scoot as soon as you are in their area, but that doesn’tmean you don’t shuffle anyway. I do, every time I get in the water all year long. Better safe than sorry is my motto.Shells you might see: My experience with shells, and I look for shells about 10 hours per week, is that they appear in bunches at different times of the year. For instance, if I find aLettered Olive, which looks like a bullet about 2 to 3” long with black markings thatmake it look like lettering, I usually will find many of these lovely shells. In the early partof August, I found three perfect, shiny ones without animals in them along the shore as Istood watching the surf roll in off the Paradise Grille in Pass-a-Grille (one of the bestshelling spots on the whole Gulf, as far as I am concerned). These lovely shells willcontinue to roll in from time to time in bunches, so keep your eyes out. You can mostoften find them along the shoreline where the waves break, or within 5’ of the shoreline.Fruit you can eat: Ever notice those big, or sometimes medium sized trees with big leavesand grapes hanging off them? Those are seagrape trees and the fruit is wonderful to eat—  just wait until they turn dark purple and then go for it. In the old days we used to putthem in a cut-off stocking and strain all the juice and make jelly. But these days it’s all Ican do to get them home…I usually have eaten my fill along the way. Other fruit that isfinishing up are mangoes and papayas. I have a papaya tree that volunteered in my yardand I have about six more big ones before they are done for this season. I take them down just before they start to turn yellow and I put them in my grill to ripen. That way the ratsdon’t get them first and they are ready to eat within five days usually.

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