January 2010


6:40 a.m.: 58 degrees with a wind 5 mph from the West/Northwest. Forecast calls for morning clouds and afternoon sun. CIVIL TWILIGHT begins at 6:59 a.m., SUNRISE at 7:24 a.m., SUNSET at 6:05 p.m., CIVIL TWILIGHT ends at 6:30 a.m. MOONRISE at 1:19 p.m., MOONSET at 3:54 a.m. (tomorrow), waxing gibbous 73% illuminated. TIDES: low 3:34 a.m., high 10:39 a.m., low 2:48 p.m., high 8:48 p.m.

7:05 a.m. at the Fishing Pier: the weather vanes with the spinners are pointing the opposite direction this morning, the spinners picking up winds coming from the direction of the sunset. 7:20 a.m. at the Town Beach: 1 WILLET, 3 SANDERLINGS, flock of noisy GULLS. While I was looking at the gulls, a FLOCK OF BLACK SKIMMERS landed among them, They’re fluttering and preening on the beach. They flew up briefly but landed again a bit farther down the beach. Again they’re fluttering and preening. They seem to be quite comfortable with the GULLS and don’t even move very much or fly up when another gull lands. The GULLS move around and fuss, but the SKIMMERS stay close together and seem focused on preening. They just flew up a second time and landed again. I wonder what makes them fly up? Nothing I can see or hear. 7:40 a.m.: SNOWY EGRET on the Cedar Cove rocks this morning where the GREAT BLUE HERON usually is. When it flew up I saw lots of feathers — mating plumage? 7:45 a.m. There’s a little bit of pink showing through one thin opening in the clouds. I guess that means the sun is up. These sunless mornings have helped me focus on SHOREBIRDS, which is good. I just noticed a new one: smaller than the WILLET, tanner, bill shorter and thicker, big black eyes, moves a few steps then stops and looks around, head erect, hint of a tan/white eyebrow, buffy speckles on the upper chest with a lighter patch in the middle. It’s moving around amidst the SANDERLINGS, GULLS, and the WILLET, but it doesn’t really seem to be with them. (BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER?)

6:35 a.m.: 65 degrees , mostly cloudy. Wind 14 mph from the East/Southeast. Forecast: isolated thunder storms and wind. CIVIL TWILIGHT begins at 7:00 a.m., SUNRISE at 7:25 a.m., SUNSET at 6:04 p.m., CIVIL TWILIGHT ends at 6:29 p.m. MOONRISE at 12:29 p.m., MOONSET at 2:50 a.m. (tomorrow), waxing gibbous 63% illuminated. TIDES: low 2:10 a.m., high 8:52 a.m., low 1:18 p.m., high 7:33 p.m.

7:10 a.m. at the Fishing Pier: Around civil twilight the sky showed some pinkish tan, but by the time I got to the end of the pier, there were some pretty pinks above the wide band of gray along the horizon. The colors shift and change, spread out and diffuse faster than I can describe them, which is as it should be. Sunrise and sunsets don’t happen to described — they should be witnessed, experienced, enjoyed, watched for pure pleasure. I guess all my describing is just my own way of staying attentive.

7:23 a.m. at the Town Beach: 1 WILLET, 2 “one-ringed” PLOVERS. I began walking very slowly toward them, and they kept moving along ahead of me, leading me halfway down the beach before the PLOVERS flew up and away. The WILLET kept on moving until it got to a clump of seaweed, where it stopped and began picking at it. I didn’t want to disturb it, so I stopped too. I noticed lots of GULLS flying around in front of Cedar Cove and wanted to see what was going on down there, so I walked carefully by the WILLET, which stayed at the clump of seaweed. I finally saw the sun through a few wispy clouds when it was well above the horizon. When I got to the Cedar Cove rocks I noticed another SMALL SHOREBIRD: tippy, white below, brown on both sides of upper breast, brown back and head, hint of light eyebrows, grayish legs, longish, sharp-looking bill with maybe a slight downturn at the sharp tip (SPOTTED SANDPIPER?)

6:15 a.m.: It’s 55 degrees with a 15 mph wind from the East/Northeast. The forecast calls for partly cloudy. CIVIL TWILIGHT begins at 7:00 a.m., SUNRISE 7:25 a.m., SUNSET 6:03 p.m., CIVIL TWILIGHT ends at 6:28 p.m.  MOON ENTERED ITS FIRST QUARTER at 5:53 a.m. this morning, MOONRISE 11:48 a.m.,  MOONSET 1:47 a.m. (tomorrow).  TIDES: low 12:55 a.m., high 7:12 a.m., low 12:17 p.m., high 6:32 p.m.

6:50 a.m. at the Fishing Pier: It’s really windy this morning. I walked out to the end of the pier and turned left to walk straight into it. I wouldn’t want to be out on the water today! 7:05 a.m.: Got to the Town Beach. It was too cold and windy to sit on the bench, so I walked the full length of the beach clear down to the Cedar Cove rocks. No shorebirds. All I saw was 3 brave DUCKS bobbing in the rough water just out from Cedar Cove. I also noticed a small flock of BLACK SKIMMERS. Walking back down the beach I saw 2 SANDERLINGS.

7:30 a.m.: Walked back down to Kona Joe’s for a second cup of coffee. The whirligig at the boat launch was whirling so fast it caught my attention as I walked by. I wonder if it’s an anemometer? The sky has been gray throughout my wanderings. It’s gotten lighter out, but otherwise it’s a gray and windy day. At Kona Joe’s I overheard a fisherman saying that a DEAD DOLPHIN washed in the day it was so rainy and windy (Jan 21?)

6:30 a.m.: 62 degrees with an 8 mph wind from the West/Northwest. Forecast calls for morning clouds and afternoon sun. CIVIL TWILIGHT begins at 7:00 a.m., SUNRISE at 7:25 a.m., SUNSET at 6:02 p.m., CIVIL TWILIGHT ends 6:28 p.m. MOONRISE 11:12 a.m. (waxing crescent 42% illuminated), MOONSET at 12:46 a.m. (tomorrow).  TIDES: high 5:55 a.m., low 11:33 a.m., high 5:45 p.m.

7:10 a.m.: I’m wandering along the beach this damp and foggy morning. I can’t watch the sky, so I’m looking at the small birds scurrying along the wet sand close to the water. At first I thought they were all SANDERLINGS, but when I looked through my binoculars, I saw that at least one was a PLOVER, the kind with the white ring around its neck and one dark almost-a-ring (it’s broken in the middle of its chest) below it. I’m calling it a “one-ringed” PLOVER to distinguish it from the “two-ringed” Killdeer.

Now there’s a bigger, taller, longer legged, longer billed shorebird working toward me: white breast, longish straight dark bill, struts along but pauses evey once in a while and does a little hitch, seems to like to have its feet in the water. It’s wading along the wave line, with occasional trips up to the deposits left by high tide.

The GREAT BLUE HERON is over on this side of the Cedar Cove rocks this morning. It’s standing totally still almost up to its belly in water. It just made a loud croak and turned back toward the rocks. Some GULLS just flew by, but I’m not ready to deal with them and all their gradations of color and plumages yet. Two little SANDERLINGS scurried toward me. If I had my glasses off, I might have thought they were mice.

When I decided to look at my watch to see whether the sun might have risen yet — invisibly because of the fog — I discovered it was gone. Fortunately I hadn’t wandered very far down the beach from where it slipped off my wrist, and I found it when I turned around. I wonder if GULLS ever pick up shiny things like CROWS do? Anyhow, there it was lying on the sand at 7:20 a.m. Watched 2 SANDERLINGS and 2 of the “one-ringed” PLOVERS for a while and listened to the DOVES calling from a distance and the peepy cheeps of songbirds. I’m thinking the sun must have risen. The SANDERLINGS seem to scurry faster than the PLOVERS. The PLOVERS seem to scurry a bit, pause and think about things, and scurry some more. When they pause, they stand dead still and seem to be looking straight ahead. There’s a DEAD BIRD on the beach this morning — a CORMORANT, I think.

7:35 a.m.: Had a scare when the vision in my right eye suddenly went blurry. I took my glasses off and blinked a bit to clear my vision. My vision without my glasses seemed fine, so I looked at my glasses and discovered that the right lens was coated with salt!

6:30 a.m.: It’s 58 degrees out with a 9 mph wind from the East/Southeast. Today’s forecast calls for thunderstorms and wind. CIVIL TWILIGHT begins at 7:00 a.m., SUNRISE at 7:26 a.m., SUNSET at 6:02 p.m., CIVIL TWILIGHT ends at 6:27 p.m. MOONRISE at 10:40 a.m. (waxing crescent 33% illuminated), MOONSET at 11:49 p.m. TIDES: high 4:57 a.m., low 10:58 a.m., high 5:09 p.m., low 11:56 p.m.

Standing on the Fishing Pier at 7:00 a.m.:  There was just a hint of pink — one thin cloud well above the horizon — as civil twilight began. Sitting on my bench at the Town Beach at 7:12 a.m.: At first I thought the pink was gone, but maybe there’s still a bit spread out much higher. It’s very faint. Mostly the clouds are gray this morning, and the wind is blowing right straight at me. It feels stronger than 9 mph, but who am I to judge? There’s even a bit of “surf” this morning, so I’ve got the wind in my face, the sound it’s making as it blows through the palm leaves behind me, and the rhythmic crashing of the small wavelets to accompany my morning sun watch. A small flock of BLACK SKIMMERS just flew through. I guess in Cedar Key, this is what passes for excitement. It’s good enough for me. The BLACK SKIMMERS came back, and they’re staying longer this time. They seem to like the surf — lots of skimming as they swirl gracefully back and forth. And now they’ve landed on the beach right in front of me. Whoops — off they go again, but they seem to like what’s happening close to shore. The wind is so strong right now that it just blew my coffee cup over. 7:30 a.m.: There’s some bright sky well above where the sun rose while I was watching the SKIMMERS, and now the SKIMMERS have settled on the beach again. They’re facing straight into the wind. Do I dare theorize that days with strong East/Southeast winds are good days to watch SKIMMERS?

3:50 p.m.: Now it’s raining hard with lightning and thunder. It’s been a strange day — but kind of exciting at the moment.