Archive for May 30th, 2009

May 30, 2009

Cleanups Are Better With Friends


Its been a hard few weeks here in central Florida. The torrential rains made it hard to work, hard to drive, and especially hard to carry out cleanups. Thankfully the skies parted this morning and a joint cleanup, including data collection for the Ocean Conservancy, got off to a good start out on the MINWR’s Playalinda Beach. I discovered something very interesting today: cleanups are better with friends. I’ve had a semi-dismal outlook on the human species for the last month as I’ve continued to pull dozens of pounds of debris out of the Indian River Lagoon system. But when you’ve got friends around to spy trash, help with the pickup, take photos, and tell hilarious stories.. well.. its just such a different beast to tame.

We were rewarded this morning with a slew of wildlife on the refuge system as well. The gators must be glad for the rain. We saw several – including a two foot juvenile and a five foot adult – cross the road. (Don’t even ponder if that chicken joke applies.) A large softshell turtle crossed as well. Up in the sky we sighted juvenile and adult brown pelican, red shouldered hawks, scrub jays, kingfishers, egrets, cormorants, turkey vultures, and plenty of snowy egrets.

In the water we were in for quite a shock. I’ve never seen manta rays in person and we actually had a very large ray – perhaps a manta perhaps a devil – sweep right by the beach in water shallow enough to clearly see the outline of the body. My fellow crazy-naturalists estimate his size at ten feet across the disc/wings. Truly a huge animal. Unfortunately all I saw were some splashes and the sideline of a right pectoral fin as it swept out of the water once. Not exactly enough for a proper ID, but given that the group is full of fish nerds like myself, well, I believe their sighting.

I did get lucky enough to spot pilot whales about a football field off the beachline. Which, for me, is truly fantastic since they are one of my favorites!

After cleaning out the beach line we headed off to Haulover Canal to spot some manatees. A few friendlier ones were hanging out beneath a couple of very adventurous kayakers at the canal. Most of the ones we could sight at the surface had watercraft strike scars. I’ve yet to see a manatee outside of a zoo or aquarium that did not have such scars, in fact.

All in all an excellent outing and quite a large collection of debris generated. The strangest thing we found? A rusted out grill. Probably left behind last summer.