Friday, April 03, 2020

Florida Day 4 - Residents of the Mote Marine Lab

Hello! I am a Burrfish!

What a face, right? 

Day 4 of our January trip to Florida was another chilly one, so we decided to head north again for a visit to the Mote Marine Lab near Sarasota. This place had been mentioned favorably by my friends who live on Anna Maria Island when we'd visited them a couple of days earlier. I think they'd mentioned it during my 2019 visit to them as well because I'd already had it in mind as someplace that might be interesting; I wasn't going to push for it but when others mentioned it I seconded the idea quickly.

The Lab was named after William Mote, a successful Sarasota businessman who loved fishing and the sea, who started supporting it in the 1960's. The lab had been opened as the Cape Haze Marine Life in Placida, Florida, in 1955 under the leadership of Dr. Eugenie Clark; under her (yes, HER, yes, in 1955, how cool is that? she must have worked so hard), the facility became noted for shark research, and that continues to be one of the things for which they're still noted today.* In fact one of my favorite exhibits there was an interactive one about how scientists use tags of various sorts to collect data about the movements and behavior of sharks and other animals. There were more different kinds of tags than I could've imagined, and then the fun interactive component was a large display screen showing the Ocearch marine animal tracker, where you can click on icons representing tagged sharks, whales, seals, sea turtles, and even alligators, seeing what kind each one is and where it's been.

It's not as shiny and fancy as some aquariums I've been to - somewhere on their website, though, they said that that's not what they're after, they're focused on the research and education. They had a really good range of exhibits and animals and lots of interesting information about the local marine environment. Unfortunately their manatee habitat had just been closed for renovations; this was the 2nd close miss for manatees, my Anna Maria Island friends had taken us somewhere where there had been manatees days earlier, but they weren't there. But we did enjoy seeing what Mote had to offer. As always, click on any photo for a better view. 

Sea zucchini!

Nah, nah, nah, just kidding. There's actually a sea cucumber in the grass, and they must like zucchini.

ENORMOUS spiny lobster

Seahorse. They had an interesting exhibit called "Oh Baby!", which gave information about how various sea creatures reproduce and care for (or don't care for) their young - I don't think this one was part of that exhibit but seahorses were of course featured, with the fathers who actually incubate and hatch their eggs in their brood pouches.

Guitar fish! This friendly fish was in an outdoor touch tank that had a deeper section in the center where any of the rays that didn't feel like interacting could go for a little alone time. Most of the rays in the tank were there but this guy was actually swimming around the edge and sticking his nose out of the water.

Shark! And some tarpon, a prized Florida game fish nicknamed "The Silver King". Handsome fish. These were in the largest of the outdoor tanks in the first of the 2 buildings. Once you were done here, you walked over to the 2nd.

Wyland wall on the outside of one of the 2 main buildings. This is where the manatees are when they're there.

In addition to shark research, Mote does a lot of turtle conservation work, and they have a turtle hospital where injured sea turtles from tiny hatchlings up to enormous adults are cared for.

They release as many as they can - 

but some end up not being able to go, like Squirt 2, who was badly injured by a boat propeller.

I think our favorite exhibit was the otters, though. They had a really nice big exhibit with a waterfall for sliding and rafts. The otters were all swimming around when we got there - 

which turned out to be just in time for feeding time. The otters, who are also all anim had some husbandry behaviors they've been trained to do, and dinnertime is reinforcement time. Maybe I'm projecting but they really seemed to enjoy this - they had an air of eager attentiveness, and nobody ever broke ranks to try to steal anyone else's goodies - and then after the session was over they all ended up playing with each other with so much enthusiasm, like they were still excited from the fun with their keeper. 

So all in all, another nice day!
Mote is closed for the pandemic, but like so many other places, they are still sharing the animals with live webcams and also special "ReMote" happy hours!

*History notes from an expanded version of the history page available in a PDF on that page.  

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Gil Hodges-Marine Parkway Memorial Bridge

Stealing this from my own post in the Church of the Double-Bladed Paddle group. The group's founder asked for a "bridge binge" recently, and I shared this photo from my "Rebel Without a Clue" paddle weekend before last, with a little information about the bridge. It occurs to me that I show this bridge here all the time, but I'm not sure I've ever told much about it. And it's kind of a good bit of NYC history, so I'm going to share it with you here, now.

It'ss commonly known as the Marine Park Bridge, after the Brooklyn neighborhood on the north end of the bridge, but its real name is the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. I'm not a big baseball fan, but it's a neat NYC story - Gil Hodges played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, beginning the same year as Jackie Robinson, and then years later was the manager of the 1969 "Miracle Mets". A bridge between Brooklyn and Queens (where the Mets play) is the perfect tribute.

Another neat thing about this bridge - there is a pair of peregrine falcons who nest in the south tower. I got to see one of them once when I was so early for a whalewatching trip (yes, we have whalewatching now in NYC, how cool is that?) that I had time for a walk from Riis Landing up to the south tower and back.

Read more about Gil Hodges on Wikipedia. Very interesting guy!

Friday, March 27, 2020

It's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (of Midwood, Brooklyn)

I just found out yesterday morning I'm being furloughed for 2 weeks starting Monday, so I'm in absolute scramble mode trying to wrap everything up before I start, but it was an absolutely glorious day outside and I did give myself a lunch hour stroll. I've been meaning to take a photo of the magnolia tree I would pass on my way to work, back when my work commute was a little longer than going the bedroom to the living room, and once I was outside with my camera I pretty much had to keep going.

Midwood, Brooklyn is a lovely neighborhood and it's all springety-spring-spring-spring right now. Got back to my desk with the Mr. Rogers theme song running through my head.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Last Paddle Before Lockdown - Rebel Without A Clue

Snuck out with a friend today for what turns out to be the last paddle until this thing runs its course. I'd figured it would be the last time I would take public transportation for a while - trains and buses have been pretty sparsely populated and I took the chance for a couple of short trips this weekend, after being a model citizen for 3 days, but as of 8:00 tonight NYC's directions have gotten stricter, with instructions to stay off of public transportation unless it's necessary. I thought TQ and I would still be able to go to the club in his car, though, but as it was it turns out that even this paddle was illicit - the Parks Department had sent out an email today saying that marinas were to close immediately, but by the time the directive was forwarded to members, we were already at the club getting ready. Oops.

One of the more experienced club members had shared an article from about paddling using social distancing practices - we actually did that, travelling separately, staying at a distance, handling our own gear and definitely not sharing snacks. Definitely a little odd on land but not a problem.

And it was a beautiful last paddle. Currents were good for a trip out to Dead Horse Bay and back; it was a sparkly blue day, there were kids building a sandcastle under the Paerdegat Basin bridge, horses and riders on the beach to the west, we saw 3 loons pretty close up (sorry no pictures, they dove as I was trying to get my camera), and it was so quiet out there.

And the spring birds I was looking for last week were here this time - plus an amazing bonus! Here was the first oystercatcher of Spring, just outside of the Marine Park Bridge - terrible photo as it took flight just as I was getting but I always love hearing that first shrill "Wheeeet!" of Spring, and I just can't resist sharing even a lousy photo. Click for a better view - there he goes!
We also heard an osprey, they also have a very distinctive call, and I spotted it a moment later - but I didn't get a picture because just as I saw it, there was a bit of a kerfuffle among some nearby gulls and we looked that way just in time to see a bald eagle catch a fish that it had terrorized a poor gull into dropping!

Bald eagles have been seen on the bay within the recent past - there was one hanging out in a park in Broad Channel last Fall, I think it was, and the birder friend with whom I did the Christmas Bird Count last year had seen one perched on an osprey nest platform in the marshes not long before the count (unfortunately we didn't see it the day we went out for the count), and the bay is not that big as the eagle flies - but somehow I just never expected to see a bald eagle right there at Floyd Bennett Field! It actually took a moment for it to actually register what we were seeing, because it just wasn't expected - but I had my camera out and did manage to grab a photo as it flew over our heads! Sorry, crummy picture again, but again, too exciting to not share. Definitely click on this one for a better view!

So that's officially it for paddling (or anything more than toodling about the neighborhood, exercise is considered an essential activity so I do plan to be going out for brisk walks...maybe even trying a little running...I'm glad I live in a fairly scenic neighborhood) until whenever. Glad I got the 4 good paddles in that I did.

Suspect this blog is going to become a blog about trips I did a while ago but never got around to blogging - I have some Florida left, and hey, did I ever share any pictures from the whitewater class that was part of my 50th birthday celebration in Colorado?

Note the following Tuesday - I shared this with friends at Sebago. "Renegade!" one of them responded, to which I answered "Yep, rebel without a clue!". I liked that enough to add it to the title of this post.

That's it for this writeup, here are more photos - click on any photo for a slideshow view.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Strange times, and a social isolation paddle

Interesting times continue. This was my last look at the intersection of Broadway and Houston Street in SoHo on Tuesday, St. Patrick's Day. It had been a drizzly morning but was clearing up nicely by the time I was heading home, and ordinarily this would've been busy, but things were already well wound down. 

This was my office earlier in the day. There were actually a couple of people besides me on this floor, but it was definitely a ghost town. Scholastic had encouraged staff to start working from home starting the Friday before; I was a little behind the curve because although I wouldn't call myself a technophobe, as far as connection speed and upgrades and what have you, I'm definitely a techno-meh. I've also resisted the work-from-home thing for my entire business life; I know a lot of people who like it but I've always preferred to keep a very clear boundary between work and home. That all being the case, it took a couple of extra days. I'd meant to start on Tuesday but couldn't get onto TQ's wifi, and after a good honest attempt with him trying to help me from work, I decided I would just go on in (we were encouraged to work from home but the office was open, so that wasn't any trouble) and we could sort things out when we were both home in the evening. That worked out fine and I'm now 2 surprisingly ordinary days into working from home.

Strange seeing such an empty SoHo.

Also strange suddenly having the Sebago early season go away - April is usually the time when things start happening, but of course big gatherings in the clubhouse are off the table for the time being.

Paddling is still a fine social distance type sport, though, and I did jump on a very empty bus to Canarsie on Sunday. The week before had left me seriously on edge and very worried about the working from home thing. I barely did anything on Saturday - maybe laundry? - but I'd been itching all week to get out on Jamaica Bay and on Sunday afternoon I managed a most satisfying Social Isolation Paddle. I wouldn't actually have been opposed to having friends join me, but I just wasn't organized enough, and sometimes a solo paddle can be the best unwind - you do have to be more careful, but you can just go as far as you want, at whatever pace you want.

We've been seeing seals at Ruffle Bar regularly, and during the week I'd been thinking I would take my binoculars & go see if I could watch them without disturbing them (they are very skittish about kayaks when they're hauled out), but I ended up deciding not to bother them and go look for spring birds on Canarsie Pol and Broad Channel Island instead. Oystercatchers could be back already, but I didn't see or hear any. It's definitely a little bit early for the ospreys who use the Canarsie Pol nest platform, and I could see from halfway down the island that they weren't back yet, the cormorants were still hanging out on the pier next to the platform. They like that as a nice spot to perch and dry their feathers in the wintertime, but the ospreys are very territorial and once they get back those cormorants have to find another spot.

But it was still a lovely day, and it was great seeing the new flowers at the club (the daffodils, crocuses, and cherry blossoms in the last post were there), and hey, you can't get much more socially isolated than this without actually leaving NYC.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Today We Have Spring.

Hi! Been just a tad busy as things have gotten weird here in NYC. So this is just a quick post to say hello.

So funny to have just shared 2015's frozen Paerdegat last week and now this. But as one of my neighbors said to me as we passed in the lobby this weekend - hey, with everything that's going on, we deserve this!

Time to turn in now, I do still have to get up for work even though I'm not going to work. So strange. But look. FLOWERS. Click on any photo for slideshow view - and enjoy!

Saturday, March 07, 2020

5 Years Ago Today, We Had This Thing Called "WINTER"

Wow! This popped up as today's FB Memory. Impressive to see because winter just hasn't really wintered this this year, we've more just had this long slow segue from fall to spring. There were a couple of short cold snaps but just a few days each, and I don't think we've been below 20 degrees all winter.

This was on March 7th in 2015. I'd gone to the Caribbean earlier in the winter, come back, and gotten a cold that took weeks to get rid of. I'd gone to the club and discovered that I apparently hadn't missed out on too much paddling in that time!

I don't remember the specific statistics for the winter of 2015, but it must've been a lot winterier than this winter has been!

I'm frustrated that I haven't done more paddling this year - temperatures have been positively balmy but weekend weather hasn't been conducive, windy and/or rainy. Hope to get out there more in March!