Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sanibel Shells from January 2014

                 A portion of the shells I found the first day on a January trip to Sanibel Island, Florida

There are shark's eyes, tellins, kitten paws,scallops ceriths, augers, wormies, some coral, and different kinds of cones and conchs.

                                               Twisted and worn portion of shell on the beach

I collected a lot of imperfect shells on the beach. Some are worn away by the action of waves and water
and consequentially are smooth and almost polished. Some are broken. Both kinds often show the internal architecture of the shells. Many bivalves have holes that are round and just perfect for stringing.These holes are made by drill or auger shells that cut through the shell to consume the occupant. Using a driftwood stick, these made a mobile that is a perfect souvenir from the beach.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Not just bulbs are blooming now. Hellebores are just starting, at least mine are. This is the first year my white one has been pretty,but the rose colored ones, which I have had for a long time is beautiful also. I also have some in pots and a couple of them have buds.
Hellebores are good garden plants for several reasons. They bloom when little else is blooming, usually even before the daffodils and have a very long season of bloom. Deer do not eat them. And, they are tough as iron. They look none the worse for the bad winter we have had. They need some shade for the heat of summer to keep from blistering, but need the sunlight in the winter, so under a deciduous tree is the ideal place to situate them.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Daffodils Leaping out

 The last couple days have been extremely warm, but I was still surprised by how fast things moved along. I had no idea the daffodils were ready to bloom. This morning when I looked out side there were patches of yellow all around where the daffodils had already opened. The crocus had been open for a while, peeping over the brown leaves and around brave stray blades of grass. But really, the crocus were amazed this morning when they opened their eyes to sunny daffodils.

 Some tight pointed daffodils have not opened yet, but it won't be long, especially if these temperatures keep up.
                                                    Daffodils tower over the fairy house .

Though the Arum italicum's variegated leaves look lovely at the feet of the daffodils, I could never recommend planting it . Once you have it, you will have it forever. It is impossible to get rid of and ever year seems to grow thicker so that it crowds other things out.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sand Sculpture Mermaids, Sanibel Island

People ca't resist making sand sculptures on the beach. It used to be castles, but now I see a lot of other really elegant sculptures with beach bling to enhance them. Other beach combers enjoy looking at them,too, so it brings a lot of joy.
This Mama Mermaid has seaweed hair, and such an elegant color! Her shell necklace has a worn center from a fighting conch as a pendent and her scales are represented by dozens of bivalves.She is protected by a circle of Pen Shells.

This young mermaid was close by. Her hair is portrayed by a string of egg cases. Univalve shells like conchs, welks, and tulips lay their eggs in tough cases in long strings and attach them to some underwater feature. The attachment may not be stable and may rip loose and the waves will fling the egg cases up on the shore. Holding the cases up to the light you can see dozens of tiny shells in the cases. Most of the ones I have examined had 3 to 6 baby shells in each little disk. Each shell is typically about the size of a pin head and the disk is filled with fluid. The cases themselves are very tough and good luck on trying to break one open with your fingers.I have thrown ones that still had fluid back into the water, but without being attached, I imagine they end up back on the beach again.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pelicans at Sanibel Island

These brown pelicans are at the inlet between Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida. Pelicans seemed to be everywhere in January. I even saw some white ones at Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve, but none close enough to get a good picture with my camera. In the top picture the 2 farthest away have yellow heads and white necks which indicate mature and/or breeding plumage. Breeding plumage also includes a strong reddish brown on the sides of the neck. Immatures are grey and brownish black. I have often admired pelicans flying in formation over the water, and often seen them dive straight into the water with a great splash in pursuit of  a meal. I had never seen them fish from a floating position before. They seem to be just resting on the water, but they have their eyes trained on the water. It amused me that their eyes moved around as they studied the water and they seemed to be bowing toward the water as I  do to get a better look at things. Suddenly they jab the head under water and come up streaming water from the beak After the water is mostly strained out, they raise their skinny necks revealing a large saggy pouch attachment, and swallow whatever juicy thing they caught. I am sure this is a much easier way to fish than slamming head first into the water from a fairly great height. I understand that the slam into the water stuns the fish, and might be more effective on a school of fish, whereas float fishing might be mainly for snacks.

My favorite poem (limerick) about  pelicans by Dixon Lanier Merritt:
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Winter, But Not Resting

Spring is coming, although cold and winter precipitation is still a real possibility. Here in Alabama we know that spring is usually fickle,but reliable warmth will be here soon and we will begin complaining about heat. Seeds are ready to be released, if they have not already been and buds are swelling. The top picture is a milkweed vine, with a pod of flyaway seed characteristic of the Asclepias genus. By the way, even though this is a native plant, I do not welcome it, especially in my gardening beds. It came up in a vegetable bed one year and it took 2 years of pulling to get it all out. It twines around everything and the flowers are small and dully colored (green and maroon). It is interesting, but I advise enjoying it on the roadside and edges and don't invite it home with you. The second picture is a native azalea making nice plump blooms to open soon. Ahhh.. I can almost smell the perfume now!
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