The past couple of weeks just flew by and I'm way behind on posting photos here. We've been trying to squeeze every minute out of our remaining summer days. Though tourists venture into the Gulf during the chilly winter months, I don't step foot in it. We'll have a few more weeks warm and balmy water temps and then it will cool down. Once it's below 80 degrees, I'm done for the season.
Nine years, on Labor Day weekend, we loaded up our belongings and drove to Florida to start our new life. Since that time we've spent countless days on the beaches of Anna Maria Island. Even after all these years, our time on the beach has never gotten boring or old, but a few of our beach days are so thrilling they stand out from all the others. A couple of weekends ago was one of those amazingly special beach days!
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It was a beautiful day, not many people on the beach, and it was low tide which meant it was a great day for shelling. An added bonus was the calm water, no big waves knocking me down, just a lazy ripple of waves that gently lapped at the shoreline. After walking the beach and gathering new treasures, I left Real Old Man on the beach taking photos as I walked out into the water to cool off. Due to the low tide I was able to walk quite a ways out. As I stood there daydreaming and I gazing out at the Gulf, suddenly several dolphins were swimming just a few feet in front of me. I didn't see them approaching- they were just suddenly there as if by magic.
I was afraid to move in fear I would scare them off so I stood perfectly still watching them with wonder and delight. After a few minutes they disappeared as quickly as they appeared. I stood there awhile longer hoping they'd return but they had moved on... far out into my beloved Gulf. I returned to the beach anxious to tell ROM about my encounter with the dolphins but as luck would have it he had spotted my visit with the dolphins and actually took some photos. Was that not some good karma? I must be living right! Though it's common to see dolphins swimming off shore, being that close to them was certainly a rare treat.
Later that afternoon both ROM and I walked as far out as we could and lolled around on our noodles. I was facing the shore as I was yakking about something or other with ROM as he faced the Gulf. He suddenly got this shocked look on his face as he said " Jezzuz Christ! What is that?" Then he reached out and pulled me towards him. I was convinced a shark was approaching and any minute it would begin mauling me. My heart was beating so hard I thought it would burst through my chest. As I turned to face the shark that I knew was going to rip me limb from limb, I felt something brush against my skin and almost died on the spot. Then I saw the huge dark form of a manatee just under the surface of the water as it slowly swam by. My terror quickly turned to pure euphoria! What a day- an encounter with dolphins and a manatee in the wild. Talk about serendipity...
This wasn't my first encounter with a manatee in the Gulf. Several years ago I had another encounter or so I was told. On calm water days I used to get on my raft and float around feeling so relaxed I would sometimes doze off. On one of such days, ROM walked across the street to get us sandwiches and drinks as I floated on my raft.
After floating and dozing for awhile, I roused myself and paddled into shore ready for that sandwich I knew was waiting for me. As I got in far enough to touch the bottom, I stood up and noticed ROM and other people standing on the beach staring at me. As I walked to the shore my mind was racing trying to imagine why they'd be staring at me? Did a tata slip out when I was dozing and sunning? But even if that happened, surely I was far enough out no one would have noticed. When I got to shore a woman excitedly asked me "What was it like?!?" Somebody else said "That was amazing!" Though I enjoy floating on my raft it's hardly amazing- a lot of people do it. What was it like? This woman had never floated on a raft? Finally I asked them what they were talking about. Someone said "Being that close to a manatee!". When I told them I had no idea what they were talking about they told me that a manatee had come right up to my raft, raised it's head out of the water and stared at me for several minute. I missed the whole freaking thing dozing! I didn't see or hear a thing.
I've been in love with manatees forever. When we lived in the midwest I would watch any nature show with manatees and read everything I could find about them. It was my dream to someday live in an area with wild manatees. Little did I know then that the day would come when my dream would come true. To miss a close encounter with a manatee in the wild just about broke my heart. I'm thrilled I didn't miss my second chance! This recent weekend will stand out in my memory forever.
Though the encounters with the dolphins and the manatee were thrilling, watching this little sandpiper shortly before we left the beach for the day was so entertaining. I don't know what he was after, but it must have been something delicious because he worked hard at it.
After sticking his entire head into the sand he must have gotten what he was after because he quickly pulled his head out and scurried down the beach looking for more treats.