Humans join birds, turtles and other wildlife in an appreciation of time on the shore
On a summer day, it seems the whole neighborhood is on Nokomis Beach.
The shorebirds are back. Once again sanderlings scurry back and forth, seemingly tethered to the waves. As the water recedes, these tiny sandpipers probe the sand for crustaceans. “Where’ve you been?” I ask them. Far, far away. They nest in the Canadian Arctic or in Greenland, a migration of thousands of miles putting “winter shorebirds” to shame.
Ruddy turnstones also breed in the high Arctic. They got their name from their peculiar way of foraging for food — turning over shells and pebbles.
Royal and sandwich terns are “stay at homes.” They nest in large colonies on barrier islands such as Egmont Key and then return to Casey Key when their young have fledged. The chicks — sometimes bigger than their parents — pester them for food.
Even the neighborhood pigeons have deserted their roost by the bridge to join the party. Ghost crabs scurry into holes as I walk along the shore. Sea oats and sunflowers creep down from the back dunes, attracting dragonflies and butterflies. Exuberant railroad vine races to the water! Brown pelicans do a fly by.
Sea turtles, most likely loggerheads, make their presence known by the yellow barriers set up by Mote Marine. Turtle eggs are incubating in warm sand after being deposited by females returning to this beach; in a few weeks hatchlings will emerge and make their way to the water to begin life in this age-old ritual.
We, too, are drawn to the beach by ghosts of summers past. We shell, sit in the sun and swim. While some hesitate on this windy day, Neptune’s daughter plunges into the Gulf with her children. Tied to their boards they frolic through the waves in the face of yellow flags. Off in the distance, dolphins and their young mimic their antics. More than in any other natural setting, the lines blur between us.