Last Sunday, I headed out to Ft. Pickens (on my day off) to meet up with a park biologist (on her day off) for a story about birds. A hurricane 2004 washed away the dunes along with the only access road on this small barrier island. At first it seemed like devastation, but as it turned out, shorebirds love the huge areas of flat wetland that were left by the storm.
My spectacular guide knew a lot about the birds, but her true passion was sea turtles.
When we passed a turtle nest in some of the remaining dunes, she noticed that a ghost crab had burrowed into the top of it. This was totally unacceptable, and next thing I knew, she was shoulder deep in the nest, rooting around for the crab.
She never did find the crab, but while she was rooting around for it, she discovered that the sea turtles had hatched, and were slowly digging to the surface. She said that they would have to start camping out at the nest at night, because the babies wait until the sand is cool before they break surface and head for the water.
Even though the road is gone, the campgrounds at the park are still open to people willing to venture down the four or five miles of beach. Some folks ride bikes out, and others, like this fellow, strike out like they are crossing the Sahara.
This guy was from Mississippi, and he flagged us down to chat. He had made several trips to the park in the past, and was wondering what kind of shape it was in now that the road was gone. They usually have generators running out there to pump up fresh water, but they weren’t running because they were taken off the island during Gustav, and hadn’t been trailered back out there yet.
That cracked bit of road in the foreground there…it was just unearthed by hurricane Gustav. Hurricane Ivan buried it four years ago, and people had forgotten it was there.
While we were talking to him, two pods of dolphins started splashing around in the water just off shore. They jumped completely out of the water several times, but I never got quite the shot I wanted.
It was a cool day. Actually, there was a bunch of really cool stuff that happened that I wish I could have worked into the story, but it really didn’t belong, and space wouldn’t allow. (Even though I did take some liberties and write this one out to 15 inches).
As I type this up, I’m thinking it would be really cool to be able to link this blog entry to the story so that if someone wanted to know more about what was going on at Ft. Pickens, they would be able to get a general idea what I experienced out there.
This really is one of the coolest jobs ever, and even though space and time is the name of the game, I think we might be able to inject something back into the communities we work in if we have just an hour or two a day to blog about the story behind the story.
See all the photos from my day at the beach after the jump.