I hope this will not seem like the proverbial student September essay. My husband and I recently escaped gray and frozen Maine for two weeks in Florida, aptly nicknamed the Sunshine State. We saw only a few clouds our entire stay. For most of time we were on Marco Island on the Gulf coast, our third stay there. We love the wide, powdery sand beach, and nearby are other places to visit.
One of my favorite things to do on the beach is watch people. As a writer, I count it as character study. I also like to watch the shore birds, but that’s just for my enjoyment. Every morning, along with many other people, we walked the beach before plopping down to enjoy the water and warmth.
On our treks, we passed flocks of royal terns (white bodies, black heads) and black skimmers (mostly black with orange and black bills) staking their patch of sand, each breed in its own group but near the other. Somewhat like humans, I suppose. They didn’t seem to mind our presence even when I stepped closer to take a photo—or two or three—except for the few interloper seagulls, who flapped and squawked their complaint at the intrusion.
The white ibises fascinated me. So elegant and distinctive. Their long, curved bills have sensitive hairs on the tips that sense tasty morsels in the sand.
Of course, there were entire clans beneath umbrellas and tents or stretched out in the sun and others frolicking in the surf and playing in the sand. The most interesting sand castle I ran across had either been left unfinished or designed to look like a ruin.
Along the shore, people fishing staked out their territory with stands in the water for their poles. This man was there every day. I saw him catch a large fish, which turned out to be a small shark. He carefully removed the hook and released it into the water. After that, he persisted, but I never saw him catch anything.
The seashells lining the beach meant tricky barefoot walking but enticed collectors of all types. Some came armed with buckets and baskets. Others were more casual. I didn’t conduct interrogations, but one woman told me she was looking for the tiniest intact shells she could find—just for something to do. My back ached in sympathy as she spent a long time bent over in her search for what looked like only a handful of shells. Gathered on our morning walks, we deemed these three as collectible.
Florida is a wintering haven for burrowing owls. I’ve been a fan of owls and of burrowing owls specifically for ages. In past years we’ve seen roped-off burrows on the island, but never spotted an owl at one. Either we were too late and they’d abandoned the burrow after the owlets fledged or there were none at that burrow. Not this time. Up the street from our rental, the owls were active. This is the first time I’ve seen burrowing owls live. Adult birds are only about ten inches high. In this photo, the parent birds are on guard. And if you look closely, on the lower left, you can see their owlet, fully feathered and nearly ready to fledge. There might have been more than one, but I glimpsed only the one.
Another day, we drove to Naples to the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which we’d visited before, but is always worth the trip. The photos tell the story.
And I’ll leave you with a movie review. Marco Movies is unlike any other movie theater in my experience. It’s small, with cushy executive-type swivel chairs at tables and counters. A server took our order for drinks and popcorn and brought them promptly. Sorry the photo is so dim. It’s because they were about to start the film.
We watched THE BATMAN in comfort, essential because the film is nearly three (yes, 3!) hours long. The plot was strong, the acting excellent, and the action and special effects riveting. But long! Did I say it was long? As an author and editor, I itched to pare down that script. Remember what Alfred Hitchcock said, “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder,” about an hour and a half. Nevertheless, I do recommend the film.
Thank you so much for reading today’s post. I hope you enjoyed it. Primal Obsession will be free later this month for a limited time. For exact dates, follow me on Facebook or sign up for my newsletter at susanvaughan.com.
I’ll leave you with one of the spectacular Marco Island sunsets. If you have questions or recommendations for our next winter vacation, please comment!
Welcome home to juuuust a little more snow! Your break looks lovely! We’ve spent some time in Clearwater Beach in past winters, which was a nice change.
Thanks, Maggie. We’ve visited Clearwater Beach too, back when my parents lived nearby. That’s a lovely beach too.
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You captured everything perfectly. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to see burrowing owls and their fluffy owlet. I keep searching this trip but no babies so far.
On our two previous visits, we saw the burrow, but no owls. I read that Cape Coral has the largest population of them in FL. If you feel like a drive, you could search for them. I don’t know if they stay at the burrow after the owlet(s) can fly, which may be about now.
Looks lovely – Marco was one of my favorite places when we lived in Florida. The beach is gorgeous – if you love shells and birds, and Florida, I highly recommend Sanibel for your next year consideration.
I have never heard the Hitchcock quote. Perfect. So like him.
Kait, thanks for the recommendation. I was on Sanibel briefly many years ago, so maybe should go back. We’re considering going somewhere other than Marco after 3 years.
Nice details and wonderful photos, Susan! (Do you hear envy in my voice? Oh yes you do.)
Brenda, I’m sorry you aren’t getting a break from winter, but happy you enjoyed the post.
Hey, Susan. Gosh two weeks in paradise. Very special. Loved your pics, especially of the burrowing owls. I’ve never heard anyone write about those except you. Happy you had such a great vaca. I shared. 🙂
Marsha, thanks for the share. Glad you enjoyed the post.