Thursday, October 27, 2016

Rough Water and Green Pier

When we first arrived on the Gulf Coast, the water was completely calm and flat. During the last two days, however, the yellow warning flags are up, and the waves begin to break far away from the beach. The roar is nice to listen to, but I have no desire to go into the water. I don't like water that moves while I'm in it.
The Okaloosa Island fishing pier in Ft. Walton is a great place to visit even when you don't fish. We saw a sea turtle, dolphins and lots of birds looking for a handout from the fishermen. The original Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier was built in 1972 and extended 962 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. The current pier opened in 1998 and now goes out 1262 feet, which is almost 1/4 mile. An octagon at the end greatly increases the fishing area and lets anglers fight the big fish. However, notice the large lights on high poles. They provide a perch for the birds, but shed far too much light when sea turtles may be trying to nest on the beach nearby.
Today we drove down to Navarre Beach and walked on the fishing pier there. The first thing we noticed was the lack of tall light posts. The newly constructed Navarre Beach Pier opened to the public on June 5, 2010. After five long years of back-breaking work, this pristine pier has loads of new features to make it not only sturdier, but more resilient to future hurricanes. For example, the original “T” shape at the end of the pier is now an octagonal shape with a surface area pushing 3,800 square feet. The deck of the pier has over 800 breakaway boards built into it to help the integrity of the pier during high wave action during hurricanes. If high waves start to pound on the pier, these boards are made to detach themselves from the pier to help relieve the pressure, and therefore, saving the rest of the pier from extensive damage.

Navarre Pier is equipped with over 90 low wattage bulbs and concrete bollards to help protect sea turtles nesting in their natural habitats around the pier. The Santa Rosa County official website also pledges to keep the wildlife around the pier as undisturbed as possible by making sure guests know the proper steps to take in order to keep the wildlife flourishing in this part of the Gulf. It states that “signs are posted with safe fishing guidelines for the protection of sea turtles, birds and dolphins. In the event that a sea turtle, bird or dolphin is hooked or entangled in line, phone numbers to call are posted on the signs. The pier is located in a federally designated critical habitat for the Gulf Sturgeon. Signage is located on the pier educating fishermen about the Gulf Sturgeon. Discarding fish wastes, bait and monofilament line is prohibited. Monofilament recycling stations are located on the pier.”
The steady winds allowed the gulls to simply spread their wings and hover in the air, hoping a fisherman would have something for them.
A few brave young men brought their surf boards to catch a wave. You could easily tell who knew what he was doing and who was a novice.
The purple flags were for dangerous marine life - mainly the jellyfish washing ashore. I didn't take any chances and avoided stepping on them, which is hard when they are broken up into lots of pieces!
Somehow we seem to be between the migration seasons. A little early for the northern breeders, and a little late for the birds heading on south to Central America. We saw a couple Ospreys this morning. Along the bay, we heard a bird I've never heard before. It sounded like it was mimicking some other birds, but it clearly wasn't a Mockingbird. Looking at the photo when we got home, it's clearly a Northern Shrike. Not a life bird, but a good one to add to the list for the week.
Tomorrow we are heading home from this relaxing vacation. Next one? Going to the Space Coast Birding Festival in Titusville, FL next January!

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