Monday, May 25, 2009

Are You Man Enough? - Attack A Shark Edition

Descartes once said "I drink therefore I fish". It was later in his life and he would have said anything to stay relevant French masses.

For me - I don't drink beer - therefore I don't fish. I don't have the patience to fish nor the inclination/demons to drink. I also don't have to prove my manhood but duping a large-toothy cartilaginous fish into thinking it's going to get a meal and than yanking it out of the water by it's face.
On June 6th and 7th - insecure people will have the opportunity to fish for sharks during the "Are You Man Enough? Shark Challenge" on Fort Myers Beach. Click on the link and you get an idea of the foolishness involved here.

And keep in mind that Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Beach are the main draw for tourists here in Lee County. Promoting shark fishing off our shores can't be good for tourism, but I'm not so naive to think the sharks are not there. They are. In truth the tournament sends boaters up to Boca Grande where sharks are far more prevalent. Up until the protests (by groups like Shark Safe) started last week, there was no rule against killing the sharks. After public outcry, fisherman will be encouraged to catch and release.

Although I don't fish I'm not anti-sport fishing. I just take exception to the testosterone-fueled marketing campaign that demonizes sharks. I will give them credit for listening to the public and elected officials and I understand marketing is about getting attention but I call into question any one's manhood that feels the need to catch the biggest fish to prove themselves a man.

A few things to consider - there have been 7 confirmed shark attacks in Lee County since 1882!

The global threats humans cause sharks and the diminishing populations of most shark species around the world suggest we should be protecting rather than harming sharks.

For more on Shark Conservation go here -

For moron Shark fishing go here -

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Orange & Purple - Royally Flamboyant

Few trees are as showy as the Royal Poinciana. Although not native to the U.S., the Poinciana is a beautiful shade tree that was introduced to Florida and elsewhere decades ago. It's a nice enough tree through out the year, but as the rainy season kicks into full gear, the Poinciana - also known as the "Flamboyant Tree", bursts with showy orange blossoms and gives color to a dessicated and bland "winter" landscape here in south Florida.
Cruising around the island of Everglades City, this particular tree was unanimously voted the most beautiful Poinciana around by everyone on our boat. To top it off, the local residents were active and showy themselves. Purple Martins ducked in and out of their condo and gourd-shaped homes.
The largest member of the Swallow family, the Purple Martins spend the winter in South America before returning to North America for the breeding season. Scouts arrive in January to south Florida and conclude nesting around this time of the year before heading home.

White apparently is the most attractive color to paint a Purple Martin house. I would assume they don't mind Orange either.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


We're starting a new feature here that will hopefully be popular and if enough people like it we'll try doing VIDEO shorts once a week. The following was done with little planning - just a film crew following me into a cypress dome to see what we could find. If you like it - leave a COMMENT by clicking COMMENTS on the bottom of this post. You don't need to register if you don't wish - just toggle the "Name/URL" or "anonymous" button and type away. I hope you like.

Lubber Grasshopper hatchlings

After a few instars (growth stages), the Lubber has grown quite large.

Eventually it molts and takes on its adult form. The colors are a good indication to potential predators that the Lubbers taste disgusting. Short, vestigial wings are used to flair flamboyant orange and pink flashes - if predators hadn't noticed the warning signs before, they usually get the idea now.

The Lubbers are North America's largest grasshoppers reaching lengths over 4 inches long. Like cicadas or locusts, the Lubbers hatch out in cycles - some years being much worse than others. 2007 and 2008 were big years and you couldn't drive through the Everglades without crushing hundreds of them. Although unfortunate, there is no escaping escorting a few of them into grasshopper afterlife, but part of the strategy of some species is to put a lot of offspring out there and hope that at least a few survive to pass on Lubber genes.

Monday, May 11, 2009

ValuJet Flight 592

On May 11th, 1996, ValuJet Flight 592 plunged into the Everglades at 500 MPH, slamming into sawgrass and mud-covered bedrock over a quarter of a mile from the nearest road. None of the 110 passengers and crew survived.
The 27 year old DC-9 aircraft owned and operated by the 3 year old and budding, low-cost carrier was bound for Atlanta when a fire broke out in the cabin. Improperly stored oxygen generators created enough heat to start the fire and subsequently feed the fire more oxygen. Smoke filled the cabin, the plane turned back towards Miami International and met its fate in the marsh.
Today an inauspicious memorial can be found just across the Tamiami Trail canal. If you were not starring at the roadside as you zipped along at 60 MPH you could easily miss it. Each concrete pillar represents a life lost that day.

Built in 1999 to mark the third anniversary of the crash, the pillars are arranged as a triangle pointed towards the crash site 8 miles north.

The memorial is a humble reminder of the lives lost that day. For those flying over - if you were not starring at the seemingly endless river of grass as you zipped along at 500 MPH you could easily miss it.

View Earthbound Locations in a larger map

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day - Thanks for the Regurgitated Fish

I wonder if Ospreys miss their mother after they leave the nest? Momma Osprey is looking after her 3 chicks (below). She's the larger of the birds looking right and the three chicks have white specks on their wings. The parents diligently prepped the nest, laid the eggs, incubated the eggs, fed the chicks and watched them grow - as we have watched on tour for the last few months. The chicks fledged this week and headed off on their own.
Chances are they won't see their parents again. Will they miss them? I would think so but I have no doubt they miss the regurgitated, partially digested fish. Happy Mother's Day. Enjoy every day with mom that you can.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vanity Jesus

Regardless of your religious persuasion most human beings surely recognize that a Jesus vanity plate is a not a reasonable offering to be included in Florida's stable of over 100 different vanity plates. I would assume it's a violation of church and state and apparently so did the Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Although the initial proposal made it as far as the state senate floor just 2 weeks ago, the crucified Jesus plate (below - yes it's real) and the stained glass window plate that read "I believe" were voted down. "I believe" referring to the sci-fi television show X-files and Fox Mulder's belief in aliens. I think.

Personally I like my "Everglades River of Grass" plate although I'm sure someone could make an argument against such a Pagan statement.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bird Massacre - A Few Bad Men

(WARNING - gruesome photo below) - During the late 19th Century and early 20th century plumage hunters infamously pillaged the bird rookeries of south Florida - killing hundreds of thousands of birds for their breeding plumage and leaving eggs unincubated and hatchlings to starve or die of exposure. The feathers were used mainly for women's hats - a trendy fashion of the time that drove the price of an ounce of feathers above that of gold. That was over a century ago and the bird populations of many bird species have not recovered.

Yesterday the State of Florida announced it would not pursue charges against three naval officers and 4 other accomplices for killing 21 birds on a nature preserve in Goodland, Florida in the Everglades.

The massacre occurred on February 17th of 2009. Fish and Wildlife officers heard gunshots and watched birds drop out of the sky. Two hours later four people walked from the rookery and three others left in a boat that was loaded with guns and ammunition.

The protected birds included 11 White Ibis, 2 Blue Herons, a Tri-colored Heron and a Snowy Egret. Also pictured but not protected is the Double-crested Cormorant.

Charges were not pursued because:
A) witnesses did not actually see anyone pull the trigger.
B) No prints were found on the weapons. The guns were presumably wiped clean of fingerprints.
C) The confession could not be used in court because the arresting officer had yet to read the person their rights
D) All four "corners" of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve must be posted with No Trespassing signs and fenced. (See map below)

February 18th article in the Naples News
May 6th article

This would not stand if it were people and I won't pretend to understand the complications of the law. There is still a federal investigation into the matter and the naval officers are suspended from active duty but it disgusts me anyway

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Prepare to Feel the Sting of the Scorpion

When Busch Gardens in Tampa unveiled the SCORPION roller coaster in 1980 it was a groundbreaking achievement in theme park engineering. The vertical loop was one of the greatest rides for thrill seekers back in the day but today, with competition from envelope pushing roller coasters like Sheikra, Montu and Kumba at Busch Gardens, it's easy to understand why park staff announce your launch on the ride with an unenthusiastic "Prepare to Feel the Sting of the Scorpion".

There's no roller coaster in the world that can get my adrenaline flowing as quickly as when I turned over a chunk of limestone to reveal a defensive and severely annoyed 4" long Hentz's Striped Scorpion.
Although the sting is nowhere near as painful (or lethal) as the Florida Tree Bark Scorpion, it still made me jump back a few feet when it flopped to the ground and scurried past my GPS unit.

I had been geocaching at Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach and had been attempting to photograph an insect when this arachnid (note the 8 legs) popped out. The sizable pincers are used to seize prey and the stinger is used to kill prey before they eat it. I could be wrong - I often am, but I think this one was a gravid female which would soon give birth to young that will ride on her back until they can fend for themselves. She seems a little wider in the middle. She ambled across the trail and disappeared into the weeds.

I'll think twice before I flip over the next rock.

A quick thanks to Robert Sobczak over at the South Florida Watershed Journal for an assist fixing the glitch in Google's blogs. You can once again click on a photo to get a bigger view.