Monday, March 18, 2013

Marvelous Monday!

Though we were awakened by a huge clap of thunder and pouring rain around 7 am, the sun was shining by 8.  What are the plans for today? my active mind immediately thought.  Debbie and I were meeting to go walking.  We delayed our walk by an hour to let the docks dry.  We began our walk at 9 and ended a couple of hours later.  The walk, ostensibly for Debbie's dog Athena, morphed into coffee and a scone downtown, followed by some quick shopping.

We parted at our respective dock ramps at 11:30 with plans to meet at 1.   Another day of adventure was in the planning and executing stages.  Today's plans were to visit the Florida Oceanographic Society and if time permitted, the House of Refuge.  Well, you don't know how Debbie and I operate.  Once a plan is hatched, it happens!  We were in the car and enroute to our first stop by 1:30.  By this time, we were navigating the traffic circles like pros.   I didn't make one U-turn today!  Score!

First stop was the Florida Oceanographic Society.

We parked and just about jumped into the building!

We were in luck!  The turtle care and feeding presentation was just about to begin.  Our timing was spot on!  The presenter was quite informative and since there weren't too many other people around, we were able to ask all our questions.  The metal turtle casts below represent 3 of the 5 native turtle species found in Florida waters.

The largest turtle on the right is a leatherback.  They are endangered and rarely seen.  The size depicted here is an average size - some leatherbacks are even larger.  The middle turtle is a green turtle and also endangered.  The picture below shows one of the green turtles that the Oceanographic Society rescued. Note the 3 silver rings on the turtles back.  These rings are meant to help keep the turtle's back end submerged.  This turtle was hit by a boat, severing its spinal column.  The accident made it impossible for the turtle to move efficiently due to its back end rising up out of the water.

The smallest turtle on the left is a loggerhead, named for its thick, log-like neck.  This turtle is not yet endangered, but getting close.  Construction, run-off and increased boating activity in its native habitat is bringing the loggerhead close to the endangered list.  The plaque below lists the turtle types and their habitats.  The group we visited today rehabilitates small sea animals - they are maintained in carefully controlled water temperature, fed regularly and given the medication they need to live long, healthy lives.

Our next stop was to watch the lagoon fish feeding.  The water was so clear, we could easily see all the lagoon residents, helped even more by the feeding narrator.  She easily identified over 15 different species of fish.  We were fascinated by the feeding activity of all these fish, including several large nurse sharks who made a very loud sucking sound while feeding.  Over 50 lbs. of fish are fed to the lagoon residents in 2 daily feedings.

Fascinated by all the fish we saw, we took the time to read about them as we made our way to the next activity.

Next stop was to visit (and pet) the sting rays.  The stinger part had been removed from the tails, so they were harmless, lovely creatures.  You many remember this past summer I pushed kids out of the way at the Mystic Aquarium to pet these animals.  Luckily, kids were few and far between this time, so we could pet the rays for as long as we chose!

We stopped along the way to be silly...

Next stop were the sea creatures who lived in shells exhibit.  We saw all sorts of creatures - conch, sea urchins, anemones, hermit crabs, and a beautiful star fish - almost doesn't look real!

Though there were no manatees in this location, we were reminded of the many signs throughout Florida that help preserve the viability of these huge, slow moving sea creatures.

Took a pic of me in case I decide to change professions.   Sort of a drive through...

I had to stop in the gift shop to ransack it for appropriate toys for Tucker.  I left with a bulging shopping bag.   Did you actually think I would have passed the gift shop by????

By this time we were thirsty and decided to take the short drive to the beach for a soda.  We were amazed at close the Atlantic Ocean actually was to our current location.  We congratulated ourselves for making this "interim" stop.   We had no sooner parked the car, than we were treated to the sight of some sand cranes searching for a tasty morsel...

 Lured by sound of crashing waves, we made our way through beach scrub to the ocean and were greeted with a sight I will never tire of...

Since the NY forecast was predicting freezing rain and snow, I just had to bury my feet in the sand!  No one appreciates good weather in March more than us New Yorkers!

My partner and I in crime (now dubbing ourselves Thelma and Louise) realized there was still time to wring out of this precious day, so we decided to head for the House of Refuge.  By now, it was around 3:40, so we hedged our bets that this attraction would still be open.  We screeched to a halt (holding up traffic while we squeezed into a parking space), but got ourselves a spot right in front of a location sign...

We burst through the door of the museum (House of Refuge) just as the docent was reaching up to lock the door.  We talked ourselves into a private tour that turned out to be not only very enjoyable, but fun too (we provided the fun)!

We were told that 10 of these houses of refuge eventually sprouted up on the east coast of Florida to care for survivors of ship wrecks.  Aside from these homes, there was nothing for hundreds of miles to help these survivors.  So though they survived a ship wreck, they succumbed to the wilderness.  The caretakers of these houses of refuges often stayed on to raise their own families, who in turn stayed to raise future generations of house of refuge caretakers.  With today's real estate values, this piece of land straddling the ocean and bay would cost a king's ransom.

As we exited an hour later, I had to take this pic of a screen shot of the day's meterological statistics...

All I cared about is that there is no snow and the air temperature is 77 degrees!

What a fantastic day!  The fun still isn't over.  In an hour, we're meeting friends for a night on the town.  Tomorrow is our last day in Stuart, so you can be sure we will be on the move, starting with the Kadey Krogen Breakfast at Key West DIner at 8:30 am.  From there, it's off to the races!

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