Beach Jerky

Clearwater Beach on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico is becoming my go-to beach. Our first day there we gazed out the window of our seventh-floor condo and were amazed at all the birds. I felt like I was watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie. They were having feeding frenzies up and down the beach. I had to get down there!

We were a little hesitant to swim. So many birds feeding can only mean one thing. Fish. There were thousands of them. We stood knee-deep in the water and gazed down as they swam past (and sometimes into) us. Of course, large schools of little fish mean bigger fish had to be around, but we only saw a few, and they weren’t the kind that eat you. We were cautious because we are familiar with the food chain. We didn’t want to meet the guys at the top of it.

The feeding frenzy lasted a few mornings. By Day #2, I decided to throw caution to the tropical breezes and fulfill my quest to be in the 86-degree water. Plus, I figured I may never get a bird-watching opportunity like this again. I could be right out there with the gulls, the least terns, and the pelicans.

Majestic brown pelicans flew in formation just a foot or two over my head. I became quite chummy with them – not to be confused with the kind of chum that one uses while fishing. One older guy (you can tell by the white on his head and front of his neck) seemed to enjoy floating near me as much as I enjoyed being close to him. I could have reached out and touched him, but I didn’t. He’s a big boy. Did you know they have a wingspan of 6 ½ feet? Plus, at 50 inches high and having the webbed feet that I lack, he’s nothing to mess around with. We studied each other for half an hour. We chatted, well I chatted. He just listened.

The pelicans have much more self-control than the gulls and terns. Those two breeds seem to live to eat while the opposite could be said of the pelican. The pelicans were also non-imposing with a kind of live-and-let-live mentality. The gulls would land on top of the pelicans during feeding frenzy and try to take food from their mouth. They were real jerks.

The least terns were cute. In my mind they made eating a game and didn’t take life too seriously, unlike those jerk gulls. They would dive right next to us to snatch up some bait fish. It was quite a show.

While watching all of this, I kept an eye out for dorsal fins. I thought the water was too warm for sharks, but you never know. My big hope was to see a dolphin up close. We saw them from our condo, but I wanted more.

And I got it. I was floating around and a beautiful Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin swam right past me, not 10 feet away. I almost wet my pants! I was in the water so you’ll never know! By the end of the day, that dolphin or one of her buddies swam past me three times. None quite as close as that first time though.

On occasion, I had to leave the water to hydrate and reapply sunscreen. Once, I fell asleep in my chair, clearly exhausted from keeping up with all that nature. After a few minutes, I jerked awake, looked out in the water, and saw the dolphin and her calf swim past again. Bob’s convinced I have a dolphin-sense. Maybe he’s right! I saw them daily – from the room, from the beach, while in the water, and in the causeway as we drove over the bridge. I saw them when nobody else did, which called my dolphin-sighting integrity into question, but I would never feign finding a dolphin. I wouldn’t have been surprised if one was waiting for me in our pool when we got home. Okay, I would have been a little surprised.

We also came upon beds of sand dollars when we swam out to the sandbar. I kept wondering what was so rough below my feet. I used my toes like tongs and came up with one after another. They were everywhere. Most of them were the size of a quarter, and we put them back. Picking them up was like eating M&Ms – it’s hard to stop once you start. When my toes cramped and our hands turned yellow from what looks like sand dollar pee and we began to feel like those jerk gulls bothering other sea life, we took that as our cue. By the way, did you know it’s illegal to collect live specimens from the beach? We should have known that, but we did not. We didn’t get into trouble, but we could possibly have contributed to the delinquency of a minor in our sand dollar excitement. I’m not saying we did, but kids like to look at sand dollars. It was an educational trip. I’ll leave it at that.

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4 Comments

  1. I prefer my beaches to have waves. But, the birds are interesting to watch.

    Reply
    • We have options here. Two hours to the gulf and one to the ocean. I like both. We always took the kids to the ocean because it’s closer. But that time at the beach with all those interesting birds really swayed me towards the gulf. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  2. Leslie Richardson

     /  September 29, 2019

    I’ve never experienced the birds, but have seen the dolphins. Since moving to Florida, I have fallen in love with the gulf and would take it over the ocean any day. ❤️

    Reply

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