Monday morning I walk south on the beach again. It’s pitch black as I start, so I use a flashlight to see where I’m going. Ghost crabs scurry from the light.

My feet touch the water and I sigh, feeling tension wash away. Why is the first touch of ocean water on my bare feet one of the best feelings I know?

I head down the beach, stopping off at my turtle nest. (yes, it’s my nest now, even though Mike from Clearwater Marine Aquarium set the stakes and probably later counted the eggs, and of course the mother turtle herself played no small part. Nest #62 (I said# 63 in my previous post, but it’s now labeled #62) will always be my nest.)

I reach the rocks I’d aimed for the day before and explore a little. Behind the rocks a wading bird (don’t know the species) is hoping for an early breakfast. I also spot an egg case from a lightning whelk. It looks a little like a snakeskin.

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There’s a group of humans, the beach’s most extraordinary creature, doing exercises in these moments before dawn. I don’t spend too much time watching, as they tend to get skittish. Instead, I head east, away from the Gulf and toward the Boca Ciega Bay.

The bay is part of the Intracoastal Waterway, the partly manmade, continuous body of water that separates the barrier islands from the mainland. Where we stay (a place appropriately called “The Narrows”) the Intracoastal is constricted to a tiny bit of water. But anything wanting to pass from Clearwater Harbor to the north into Boca Ciega to the south must pass through here, so I’m hopeful.

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The Sun rises over a woody island directly across from me as I watch the water. I’m standing on a public pier with a veranda along its boardwalk. A Great Blue Heron, spooked by a dog to my south, flies up and lands on top. She gives me the stinkeye as she relieves herself on the point. Lovely.

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Off to the right I see something in the water. Manatee? Maybe, but it disappears and I don’t see it again. If it had been freshwater I’d guess muskrat; it seemed about that size. But I can’t be sure.

I head back toward the street. As I pass under the heron she becomes agitated at my sudden disappearance. When I reappear on the other side she seems mystified, but relieved. I keep walking.

I cross the intersection where the 694 bridge comes into Gulf Blvd. On the other side is a beautiful walkway through a mangrove forest and out to the bay itself. I watch the water and see silver-sided fish swimming just below the surface. Occasionally the light will catch one just right, sending a flash of silver into my eyes.

The mangroves send up little shoots like straws to gather oxygen. As I study them, I notice the signs of humans – beer bottles, plastic cups, and so on. It baffles me how someone can come to such a beautiful place and leave behind their garbage. Oh, well.

At the end of the walkway is a beautiful view of the bay. The 694 bridge is off to my right, with more water straight ahead and to my left. Below is the view to the left (north along the bay).

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I head back to the beach and find a couple more signs of humans, a sea turtle of sand and an amazing alligator built from shells. Nice!

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