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Siesta Key Thursday, Sep. 1, 2011 8 years ago

Island Beat: Human visitors declining, but avian ones increasing

by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor

With the start of the Sarasota County school year last week, the crowds finally are thinning at Siesta Public Beach.

Sgt. Scott Osborne, who leads the community policing station in the Village, said last week a person could drive to the public beach parking lot at 2 or 3 p.m. and find it only half full.

“It hasn’t been like that in a long time,” he said, referring to the crowds drawn to the No. 1 beach in the country.

Just as the human visitor count is declining, the number of avian visitors is growing, Dr. Allan Worms, a retired wildlife biologist, told me last week.

A retired University of Kentucky professor who lives just off the Key, Worms has been watching out for the migrant birds drawn to the abundance of waterways in the area, as they head south for the winter. Now through October is the best time to spot them.

“We’ve had a few pass through already,” he said.

Worms is on the lookout for snow and blue geese, numerous species of duck and sandpipers. One of his favorites, he said, is the Red Knot, a medium-size shorebird.

“They’re long-distance migrants,” he said.

Red Knots nest in the Arctic in the summer then return to Tierra del Fuego, in the southern part of South America, a trip of 9,300 miles, according to

“There’s an awful lot to be seen out there and learned,” Worms said of the Siesta Public Beach. Anyone interested in bird watching is welcome to join him, he said. “Just look for an old geezer with an ugly hat.”

Not just the birds
Worms said birds aren’t the only creatures leaving tracks on the beach. Last week, the Pelican Press published photos of a mother bobcat and her kittens taken by Siesta resident Tatiana Staats.

“I’ve seen cat tracks on the north end of the beach only one time (about 18 months ago),” he said.

And speaking of the cats, Staats told me last week she spied her first bobcat July 26, 2005, on the south end of the Key. To this day, she said, a number of Siesta residents continue to think of the felines as mythical creatures.

Whenever she encounters one of those folks, she said, she is quick to talk about her photographic evidence that the cats are fact, not fancy.

A closing and an expansion
Because of one owner’s health problems, I am told, Café Continental Patisserie, 5221 Ocean Blvd., closed a few weeks ago. Although this was sad news for that restaurant’s patrons, it portends good news for fans of Bella Roma Italian Restaurant, located in the same shopping center: Bella Roma will be expanding into the café’s space.

Stay tuned for details.

SDA fundraiser set
On Oct. 6, The Daiquiri Deck in the Village will host the 11th annual Onto-Paw-Fest for Sarasota in Defense of Animals. The organization’s president, Elise Matthes, is mother of Daiquiri Deck partner Russell Matthes.

SDA’s mission is to save animals from homelessness, suffering and death. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Funds are needed to defray the organization’s expenses for medicine, veterinary medical services, food and daily workers to clean and feed the more than 300 animals who receive lifetime care at the SDA sanctuary.

Elise Matthes is seeking sponsorships for the fundraiser as well as donations of items suitable for auction. Sponsorships are available for $350, $500, $650, $1,000 and $1,500. Anyone interested in helping out may contact Russell Matthes, 915-0302. Supporters will receive written receipts for their contributions.

Stop that littering!
Residents on the Key may have noticed the two signs on the north end to prevent littering.

During the August Siesta Key Association meeting, board member Michael Shay said that SKA and SKVA members who participated in the early-July Adopt-A-Road Program cleanup had noticed “a number of locations very heavily filled with garbage.” As soon as some drivers pass Treasure Boat Way, as they head out of the Village, he said, “They throw (litter) in the trench.”

Shay reported during a previous meeting he was wary of adding to the sign pollution in the community, but if new warnings would cut down on the roadside garbage, he felt they would be worthwhile.

One sign is posted just north of the Treasure Boat Way/Ocean Boulevard intersection; the other is in the vicinity of the Ocean Boulevard/Higel Avenue intersection. Shay said he appreciated county officials being so cooperative with the effort.

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