It’s “unseasonally warm” according to the weatherman on the TV. It’s supposed to be in the low 70’s but instead it’s in the early 80’s. Hey, don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining but the warm winter weather has brought a few unwelcome visitors to the beach.
While Andrew went ocean fishing this morning, I decided to drive to another nearby nature reserve. Curry Hammock State Park includes about 1000 acres of hammock (forest), coral beaches and four islands; Fat Deer Key, Long Point Key, Little Crawl Key and Deer Key (I wonder who named them?).
Wandering along a deserted, pristine beach I suddenly came across this critter above (close-up below) – a Portuguese Man O’War (also known as the Bluebottle and Bluebubble). Still inflated and looking for trouble this siphonophore can give you a nasty sting with its fine tentacles (some as long as 30 feet long).
I always thought it was a type of jellyfish but apparently a siphonophore is different as it’s made up of “a colony of specialized polyps and medusoids” (what ever they are?). It survives by stinging small fish and drawing them up into it’s gastrozooid to digest them. It has no means of propulsion, relying instead on it’s air filled bladder which gets blown along by the wind. The bladder supposedly looks similar to the sails of the Portuguese Man O’War fighting ships from the 14th/15th centuries – strangest ship I’ve ever seen!
All I know is it’s VERY dangerous. So dangerous that people who’ve been stung badly have been known to die. I wasn’t about to go prodding it to find out! When Andrew got back from fishing he had seen at least twenty of them floating in the ocean. It certainly puts you off snorkelling or even paddling!
Another strange thing that I found today was a tropical rockland hammock. This forest was mostly made up of thatch palm trees. It was like walking through the palm house at Kew Gardens but more dense, dark and noisy. Enormous spider webs were everywhere (I was dreading walking into one), birds tweeting high up in the tree tops (that I couldn’t see) and stunning black and white spotted butterflies (the size of two rich-tea biscuits) flitting around my face. All that and the hammock was growing on a limestone platform.
This stone platform (above) is full of eroded holes which collect fresh water and keep many of the small mammals alive as well as providing the right growing conditions for tiny rare ferns. It’s like walking in a dark mysterious woodland moonscape. Very weird! I will be back to explore it more in the coming weeks.