Thursday, August 2 – Tampa, Anna Maria and Lido –
We started the day with a trip to Tampa to renew the car rental, a necessity after a 30-day lease. With the task completed, we drove southwest to Anna Maria Island and the Public Beach. There were no dead fish from the Red Tide but there was an odor traveling up from the south. The clouds threatened but did not send rain and we had a quick swim before heading south along Longboat Key to check on the conditions at other beaches. Holmes Beach was clean and the parking lots were full of vehicles, proof that news of a good beach travels fast. Finally, we stopped at Lido Key Beach for a return visit. From outside of the cordoned off nesting areas, we wanted to record more images of the Snowy Plovers and Black Skimmers. We had been on Lido Beach just a week before when Mote had reintroduced the Loggerhead Turtle Intrepid (Friday, July 27) to the wild. On a bright and sunny day at Lido Beach, Intrepid was released after a month-long recovery from the possible effects of the Red Tide. On that day, he immediately swam away into the Gulf of Mexico, looking like his malaise had passed.
Today, upon parking and getting out of the car, we could smell the dead fish and we were choking up when breathing. We moved forward and set up outside of the perimeter on different ends of the beach rookery. The beach was lined with dead fish of all types as well as eels. Our plan remained to concentrate on the Black Skimmers and Plovers. Daniel set up higher on the beach and I took the GoPro down to the shore for a low shot of the Black Skimmers. We had previously observed that, although they appeared to stand vigilantly guarding their territory, they moved slowly forward in small increments. Suddenly, the group would take to the air, presumably heading off in the distance to catch fish. They would reappear just as suddenly, landing back onto the higher section of the beach. Today, when I set the camera in the water, I was surrounded by dead fish with each wave that hit the shore. It was impossible to ignore and Daniel was choking up on the higher part of the beach. We decided to leave quickly and we wonder about the fate of the birds as well as the fish and mammals whose home is there. Signs posted on the beach in English and Spanish, warned of dangerous (rip tides) currents and stated that the sandbar was closed. It seemed that signs for the elephant in the room, the Red Tide, should have been posted.