Shell Key is a magnet for recreation in the hottest months of summer. The kids are out of school, you’ve given the boat some TLC and the water calls to you for a cool respite from the oppressive summer heat. Being out on the water is simply the best thing about living in Florida. And yet, people are not the only critters who flock to Shell Key this time of year. The estuary’s waters are teeming with sea life and the island is also visited by nesting shorebirds. Summer provides plenty of opportunities for fun – and also some reasons to be a little more mindful while visiting the island.
Nesting Sea Birds
At this time of year, you may encounter parts of the public use areas marked with posts and tape to protect nesting shorebirds. Bird nests are easily disturbed, so we ask everyone to give these areas a wide berth while they wean their young. Hats off to all the county volunteers for their ongoing efforts to protect these avian visitors.
Sandspurs out in force
Yea – sandspurs are in full bloom at this time. These nasty grasses (also known as ‘sandburs’) have taken over large parts of the public use areas. Early summer means the burs are still green so you can pull them out of your skin with less likelihood of leaving a splinter. Don’t forget your water shoes. And don’t forget to take off your shoes and scrape off the sandspurs before getting back in your boat.
In most parts of the country, summer time is camping season. Not so in Florida. While some hardy, heat loving people do camp in the doldrums of August, you won’t catch me pitching a tent this time of year. With high temperatures, humidity and swarming populations of sand fleas and no-see-ums, summer is just not the best time to beach camp in Florida. If I do get talked in to camping this time of year, I sleep on my boat. Anchoring several yards off shore helps make a summer night on Shell Key much more comfortable.
Summer rains and lightning storms occur almost daily along our coast at this time of year. In the hot summer sun, the land >warms faster than the water. This causes air to rise over the land and sink over the waters. This pattern is called a sea breeze front. The front creates humid winds moving on shore. ‘Unstable lift’ occurs once all that moisture moves over the warmer land. The warm humid air rises, cools and precipitates – giving us the perfect recipe for afternoon storms. These afternoon storms usually dissipate once the temperatures between land and sea begin to equalize in the early evening.
Our Brother’s Keeper
We talk a lot on this site about the need to clean other people’s trash. It’s a core part of our mission. Litterbugs are a small minority of visitors to the island. But larger crowds in the summer bring a little more trash than usual. Our deepest appreciation goes out to everyone that helps carry out a part of this burden.
Please be aware of the rules in this preserve and enjoy your visit to Shell Key this summer!