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Author Archive

Eazy-Breezy DIY Outdoor Beach House Shower! *No Plumbing Necessary!*

Posted by Greg on November 3, 2017

An outdoor shower was on the list of must-haves even before we started searching for a beach house. Not that a bungalow near the beach had to have one before we would buy it, but we planned to install one once we found the perfect seaside escape. We did eventually find our little piece of paradise and have been making it “ours” ever since. The latest step was to add the essential outdoor shower for all of those sandy feet!

completed shower ©Jody Diehl

Our new outdoor shower. Goodbye sandy feet!

After researching the existing options, which ranged from inexpensive and flimsy (and according to reviews, leaky) to extremely expensive, we decided to build one to our own design. Jody has a knack for knowing exactly what she wants and relating that to me. I have a knack for asking questions of home improvement store personnel to find the best way to accomplish her designs. The following is the result of that effort.

First of all, we had to have a stable base and mount. The inexpensive showers had a portable base but were not very stable. The expensive ones were fastened to a stable base that had probably already existed (a deck, exterior wall, or the like). We didn’t want the shower to be too close to the house foundation so our first thought was to use a freestanding 4×4 treated post. They are durable and very stable when concreted in. They are however, pretty ugly. To resolve the ugly part we decided to cover it with a vinyl post sleeve (easily found at home improvement stores). Next, we needed to make a decision on the plumbing. We chose PVC for ease of assembly, looks, and pricing. Then came the drawing phase to determine how many and what parts we would need and how to arrange the valves so that we could use either the foot shower, head shower or both. The following was our shopping list (We prefer shopping at Lowes because they honor veterans with a 10% discount).

outdoor shower parts ©Jody Diehl

Oops! We bought one too many 90° elbows.

  • 1- 10 foot 4×4 treated post
  • 1- 8 foot vinyl fence post sleeve
  • 1- Fence post sleeve cap
  • 1 bag of redi-mix concrete
  • 1- 10 foot ½ inch PVC Charlotte Pipe (thick walled for durability)
  • 2- ½ inch PVC double sleeve type globe valves
  • 1- ½ inch PVC all sleeve type T
  • 3- ½ inch PVC all sleeve type 90 degree elbows
  • 2- ½ inch PVC all sleeve type 45 degree fittings
  • 3- ½ inch sleeve to ½ inch thread PVC fittings
  • 2- shower heads (whatever you like)
  • 1- ½ inch PVC female threaded to female hose threaded fitting (Apollo makes this one and it’s in the drip irrigation section of the store)
  • Construction screws, torx head (stronger and easier with no pre-drilling necessary).
  • PVC glue and primer pack (you need both so the combined pack is easiest)
  • 1- can of white semi-gloss spray paint suitable for plastic
  • 1- bag of ½ inch galvanized strap fasteners (we used 6 straps)
  • Teflon tape
  • Concrete pavers or other footing to stand on under shower (this of course is optional)


  • PVC cutter or hack saw (I didn’t use a PVC cutter because they’re a bit pricy, but they will save a lot of time, give cleaner cuts and make the cut much easier. I used a hack saw.)
  • Ladder, level, shovel, powered screwdriver, measuring tape, disposable nitrile gloves for glue application, bucket for mixing concrete

Sound expensive? Minus the paint, cutter, screws and glue (all of which I already had) the total was $69.65 after tax (with my 10% veterans discount). You can see that you too can have your very own outdoor shower for well under $100.00!

First pick the spot you want to permanently install your shower. Use a shovel or post-hole digger to dig a little over a 2 foot deep hole with a sufficient diameter to allow for the concrete. The wider the hole, the more concrete you will need. (The hole I dug was about a foot across.) Place the 4×4 post in the hole and check the depth of the hole is sufficient by standing the fence sleeve next to it. The sleeve should stand 2 or 3 inches higher than the 4×4 post. Adjust as necessary.  Mix the concrete according to instructions and fill the hole around the pole at least half full while checking with a level for straightness on 2 adjacent sides. Use bracing if it won’t stand level on its own. Let the concrete sit overnight to set up.

The next day you can fill in the rest of the hole with the dirt from digging the hole. Pack it well so the surface won’t sink later. Use a ladder to place the sleeve over the post. Don’t forget to place the cap on the sleeve first! The sleeve is 5×5 and the post is 4×4, so expect slop. We dealt with that when we mounted the plumbing and will cover that when we get there.

preassembly ©Jody Diehl

Fits together like a puzzle. Just add three connectors.

Now you can start assembling the plumbing. The following measurements are for the height we chose for our top shower head (7 feet). First cut 5- 2inch pieces from your 10 foot pipe. These will be used as connectors. Then a 6 inch, a 21 inch, a 23 inch, a 32 inch, and a 5 ½ inch piece.

I put the whole apparatus together to be sure I was on the right track – and then took it apart for the gluing process.

Follow the directions for your PVC glue kit. Be very careful when you start to glue these together to make them as straight as you can as you only have seconds to adjust them. NOTE: Any twisting after a minute or so runs the risk of not sealing properly and leaking at a later time. Start by priming and gluing the ½” sleeve to ½” thread fitting to the 6” inch piece. This will be the bottom and where the garden hose fitting will go.

hose connection ©Jody Diehl

Completed bottom hose fitting.

Prime and glue a 90 degree elbow to the other end of the 6” pipe piece. Prime and glue a 2” connector to the other end of the elbow. Set aside for now. Prime and glue a 90 degree elbow to one end of the 21” piece of pipe. Now you will have enough pipe to better judge vertical straightness. To this point straightness isn’t a concern. Here after it will be. You need to decide which side of the pole you want your garden hose fitting before you move on.  Take up the first parts with the already primed connector piece and glue it to the already primed elbow from the 21” pipe. Check that it stands straight up with the first assembly flat on the floor and the bottom angles around to the side you picked. Give it a few seconds to set up. Next I assembled the foot shower stem so I would have more area to judge straightness. To do this prime and glue a ½” sleeve to ½” thread fitting to a 2” connector piece. Prime and glue the 45 degree piece to the other end. Prime and glue a 2” connector to the other end of the 45 and then the globe valve to that. Try to keep the valve handle where you’re going to finally want it (I kept ours facing up). Prime and glue a 2” connector to the other end of the valve. Screw your shower head onto the treaded end and your ready for the next step. Prime all three ports of the T connector to prepare it. NOTE: (Look carefully at the T. See how 2 ends are pass-through and one end is tie in.). Without applying glue, put the foot shower assembly into the tie-in port of the T connector. Apply the glue to the already primed 21” vertical pipe and place a pass through side of the T connector on it so the foot shower assembly is straight out. Give it a minute to set up. Remove the foot shower assembly from the T, apply glue and reinsert it making sure it faces straight down.

foot shower complete ©Jody Diehl

Completed foot shower section

Prime and glue the 23” pipe to the top of the T connector. Prime and glue the second globe valve to the other end making sure the valve handle faces the same direction as the foot showerhead. (You don’t have choices here as the pole would interfere with operation if not facing out.) Prime and glue the 32” pipe to the top of the valve. Next assemble the top showerhead assembly by priming and gluing the last ½” sleeve to ½” thread fitting to the last connector piece. Glue that to the last 45 degree fitting and that to the 5 ½” pipe. Without gluing, put the last 90 degree elbow onto the top showerhead assembly. Apply glue to the top of the 32” pipe and put the showerhead assembly elbow onto it making sure it’s straight over the foot wash. Wait a minute for that to set up then remove the overhead shower assembly from the elbow, apply glue to the pipe and reinstall it into the elbow making sure it’s facing down. Wait 5 or 10 minutes after last glue application for everything to set up.

upper shower ©Jody Diehl

Completed upper shower assembly

Now you can attach the assembly to the pole. Here is where you deal with the sleeve slop. This will depend on which side you placed the garden hose attachment. We took it to the right as you faced the pole, so we pushed the sleeve back and to the left to put the front and right sides of the sleeve tight to the faces of the 4×4 pole underneath.

Get the right fit! ©Jody Diehl

Adjust the sleeve to the pole. Be sure to raise the hose connector section off the ground before you add the straps.

You really need someone to help with this. They can hold the sleeve and the assembly for you while you screw in the clamps. *Make sure the bottom of the shower piping is a placed couple inches off the ground so you have room to attach a hose.* Center the assembly and start screwing on the clamps. Keep them close (but not too close. 2 inches is good) to the valve fittings for stability and strength. You don’t have to overdo it just place the clamps wherever you feel you need them so the piping doesn’t move when you turn valve handles or adjust shower heads. You will need to unscrew the shower heads, apply Teflon tape and reinstall them. Also use the Teflon tape when you screw the ½” tread to garden hose fitting on the bottom.

shower strapping ©Jody Diehl

Shower strapping

Now is a great time to stand back and admire your handiwork, but you’re not quite done yet. That issue I mentioned earlier about PVC usage has to be dealt with. PVC is very susceptible to UV (sunlight). To make your beautiful work last and deal with all that purple from the primer (not to mention the printing on the pipe) you need to paint it. Not the whole sleeve, just the front pipes and clamps. That is why you use the semi-gloss paint, to match the sheen on the rest of the sleeve. Tape off the valve handles first. Carefully spray paint the pipes, clamps and screw heads. Don’t try to cover everything first coat or it will drip. Put a few coats on until you’re happy with the results. Note: give the shower assembly 2 hours to fully cure before you apply water pressure. Place your pavers, or whatever you chose, for the footing. After all, there is no sense in having a muddy base for a foot shower!

foot shower ©Jody Diehl

New foot shower!

Now you are ready to enjoy your new outdoor shower!

*This tutorial is for personal use only. No permission is given to repackage these plans and/or sell this tutorial.*

Complete outdoor shower©Jody Diehl

Completed Outdoor Shower

Bring on those sandy feet, and hands, and ears, and …


Posted in Beach House Home Improvement, Monday Miscellaneous | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Cruisin’ The Coast

Posted by Greg on October 9, 2016

There is a celebration we didn’t know about when we moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast a couple months ago. It’s not something people usually think about when they say, “Lets go to the beach!”.  Touted as “America’s Largest Block Party,” Cruisin’ The Coast is winding up its 20th anniversary year this weekend. According to the Cruisin’ The Coast web site, “Cruisin’ The Coast® has become the biggest special event in the state of Mississippi. As Cruisin’ The Coast® has grown, the honors and awards have followed suit.”

From the reports I’ve heard, this year there are between 6,000 and 7,000 registered classic cars and many more that are not registered. I haven’t seen final numbers yet, but last year there was a record 7,639 registered cruisers that participated in the event. Cruisers and spectators come from all over – packing hotels and setting up camp along Beach Boulevard. If you love classic and custom cars this is the week-long (8 days, really) event to attend. And even if you don’t love cars it’s still one heck of a  party at the beach!  Jody will freely tell you she doesn’t know a Edsel from a Studebaker and she thoroughly enjoyed the nightly parade of cruisers along Beach Boulevard, aka: Hwy. 90.

This is a collage of some of the photos we took as the sun set last night. Classics were represented from a wide range of years up to 1989 (the newest models the organization considers classic), with a huge number of 1950’s Chevys in the mix.

Ya’ll can start planning for next year’s event with a little help from the following sites:

Cruisin’ The Coast

Visit Mississippi: Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau

Welcome to the coast!

Wishing you safe cruising! ~ From a motorhead of yesteryear, Greg

Posted in Gulf of Mexico Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Masked Boobies: Largest of the Boobies

Posted by Greg on November 14, 2012

Masked Booby With Chick. (Photo by Duncan Wright: PD-USGov-FSA)

Surprisingly, no comic book superhero or super-villain has yet claimed the name “The Masked Booby.” It may only be a matter of time!

The Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) is the largest of the boobies, measuring up to a meter (39 inches) long with a 5 to 6 foot wing span. The term “Masked Boobies” once represented a larger group of birds, but recently it has been divided into two separate species. The birds that are no longer called Masked Boobies are now called the Nazca Boobies (Sula granti).  Those boobies are mostly seen on the Galapagos, they are slightly smaller, and they have a redish-pink to orange bill instead of the Masked Boobies’ yellow bill. Both groups have white bodies with dark brown to black feathers on their tails and on the trailing edges of their wings.

According to BirdLife International, the masked booby “favors smaller oceanic islands for roosting and breeding, especially those that are flat with un-forested terrain, including low, sandy cays, coral beaches, and arid volcanic islands, both bare and with zerophytic scrub.”

NHPT Nature Works says, “The masked booby breeds in the Caribbean, across the Pacific Ocean, to Hawaii, Australia, and Indonesia. Occasionally, it can be found in the Gulf states of Louisiana, Texas and Florida. It winters in open ocean waters. The masked booby plunges head first into the ocean to catch flying fish and squid. It can dive from distances of over 90 feet.”

As you can see in this video below, the masked boobies are as unconcerned about the presence of people as their red and blue footed brothers.

Unlike the blue footed booby, the masked booby only raises one chick at a time. The female sometimes will lay two eggs with only one hatching. If both hatch, one will hatch 4 to 7 days before the other. The older and larger chick will push the sibling out of the nest. The parents do not protect the ejected chick from opportunistic predators. It is thought that this process may insure success to have at least one hatchling since their eggs hatch about 60% of the time, and since they are best equipped to take care of only one chick, the ejection helps insure the success of the first born. Both parents share the incubation duties, and like the other boobies, they use their feet to warm the eggs which hatch in 38 to 49 days. The young make first flight in 109 to 151 days but return to the nest to be fed by the parents for another month or two (kind of like when your kids leave the nest but come home to raid the fridge or grab a free hot meal).

Well, what do you think?  What sort of super power might “The Masked Booby” possess?  Maybe flying and diving fast enough to snatch up Aquaman’s loyal minions from the sea?  Feel free to take a gander (yes, that is a waterfowl pun) and tell us your own ideas on the subject.

Happy beach birdwatching!


Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Travel Theme: Animals – Tidepooling in Bandon, Oregon

Posted by Greg on October 10, 2012

This way to the beach! Sunset in Bandon, Oregon

Jody and I just returned from the Oregon coast where we did two of my favorite things: exploring tidepools and seeing the grandkids (more on that soon)! The best tidepools we were able to visit close to low tide were in Bandon, a small sea coast town in southwestern Oregon, about 90 miles north of the California boarder. We stayed at a nice motel right at the beach on Coquille Point,  where we,  in shorts and water sandals, were able to head right down the stairs to investigate the beach. The late evening air and cold ocean water combined to create a numbing effect. Boy, did we freeze our fingers and toes! We were undeterred, though. The landscape was amazing, and the amount of life in the tidepools was impressive.

Take a closer look! Do you see the sea stars already?

These were the brightest green sea anemones I had ever seen. It looked like the sea stars enjoyed the real estate around the anemones, because large quantities had settled in between them. I was like a kid in a candy store! There were caves and passages in and through the huge rocks, and they were all full of tidepool animals.

We hope you enjoy these photos as much as we enjoyed taking them!

Go ahead, get even closer!

You’ll have to get your feet wet here.

Bandon’s tidepools and rocks are teeming with colorful marine life!

Sea stars, sea anemones, mussels and barnacles in Bandon’s tide pools.

Colorful sea stars and sea anemones on Bandon’s beach.

How many sea stars?

Sea Anemones

Fellow tidepoolers enjoying a sea star supper in Bandon, Oregon.

A farewell salute from a Bandon local.

Bandon, Oregon

If you would like to read more about tide pools and tide pool animals, here are a few related posts:

Tidepool Etiquette 101 

Starfish or Sea Star?

Southern California Sea Anemones

A Visit to the Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Monument

What Will You Find in a Southern California Tide Pool?

This week’s “Travel Theme: Animals” comes from Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack?

*Another tag-team post by Greg and Jody*


Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Pacific Coast Beaches, Tide Pools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

Cormorants: Stars of the Silver Screen and Literature

Posted by Greg on August 29, 2012

Double-crested Cormorant. Photo by Mike Baird (Wikimedia Commons)

The name “cormorant” applies to a large variety of birds worldwide.  According to the USDA Wildlife Service, there are 30 different species of cormorants, both flighted and flightless, around the globe. The flightless cormorants inhabit the Galapagos Islands only.  Many reliable sources currently place cormorants in the Pelecaniformes order of birdswhich also includes gannets, pelicans, boobies and great frigates.  Of course, both the numbers and the order are subject to change as scientific discoveries are made and definitions are tweaked.

Flightless Cormorant. Photo by Charles J. Sharp (Wikimedia Commons)

According to Carolina“The Pelecaniformes order is in a state of flux. The order was originally defined to include birds that have feet with four web toes. Most members also have non functional nostril slits. They feed on fish or similar marine life. However, many of these species have obtained these features by convergent evolution and not because of common ancestry. At least one new order will probably be formed.” While researching for this post, I found the cormorants’ order listed as Suliformes in more than one trusted reference. The argument goes on.

Cormorants make their nests in a wide variety of ways and places. Britannica Online says, “Cormorants inhabit seacoasts, lakes, and some rivers. The nest may be made of seaweed and guano on a cliff or of sticks in a bush or tree. The two to four chalky eggs, pale blue when fresh, hatch in three to five weeks, and the young mature in the third year.”

Cormorants aren’t particularly spectacular looking birds. Continuing the quote from Britannica, “Cormorants have a long hook-tipped bill, patches of bare skin on the face, and a small gular sac (throat). The largest and most widespread species is the common, or great, cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo; white-cheeked, and up to 100 cm (40 inches) long, it breeds from eastern Canada to Iceland, across Eurasia to Australia and New Zealand, and in parts of Africa.”

Brandt’s cormorants and friends on the La Jolla coast

According to,The cormorant has featured prominently in many famous works of literature. In “Paradise Lost,” John Milton used the cormorant as a symbol of avarice and dishonesty as it sat in the Tree of Life as Eve entered Eden. In “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, the eponymous heroine painted a cormorant to represent a cruel woman she disliked. During medieval times, many cultures used cormorant plumage in their coat-of-arms and other heraldry.”

Jody and I recently saw the movie Master and Commander. In the film, the ship’s doctor (and nature enthusiast) discovers flightless cormorants on the Galapagos Islands but is frustrated as events prevent him from going back to collect one. As Lucky Jack reminds the good doctor in the end:

Capt. Jack Aubrey: Well, Stephen… the bird’s flightless?
Dr. Stephen Maturin: Yes.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: It’s not going anywhere.

Master and Commander

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Curious about cormorants? So is Rover!

Posted by Greg on July 11, 2012

Today’s feathered feature is the Brandt’s cormorant Jody and I met on our last trip to sunny Southern California.

The Brandt’s cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) is a sea bird common to the Pacific Coast of North America, from California to Washington. The full range, however, is from southern Alaska to Baja Mexico, wherever the food is most plentiful. This sea bird depends heavily on the California Current, which moves south along the Pacific Coast of North America, causing  upwellings of nutrients that attract the bird’s food. Its diet consists mainly of fish, along with shrimp and crabs. The Brandt’s cormorant is a great diver that descends from the water’s surface and uses its powerful webbed feet to swim masterfully. This cormorant commonly dives to depths of 40 feet, chasing prey that they grab with their hooked bill and then swallow whole.

We came across this juvenile Brandt’s cormorant on La Jolla’s beautiful coast.

Juvenile Brandt’s Cormorant enjoying the view in La Jolla, California

Brandt’s cormorants have distinctive white cheeks, making them easy to identify. According to the Channel Islands National Park, California, “Brandt’s cormorants weigh about 4.6 pounds and measure 34 inches in length, with a wingspan of about 4 feet. Sexes look similar; with short black legs, a long black body and neck, and a dark bill with a hooked tip. Breeding adults have brilliant turquoise eyes and a bright blue gular pouch-distinctive among this species of cormorant-which fades quickly after the nesting season. Their breeding plumage also includes white plumes on either side of the head, neck, and back. Like other cormorants, Brandt’s cormorants often spread their wings out to dry after a dive, as their feathers are not completely waterproof and become soaked. This helps reduce buoyancy and allows the cormorant to forage deep under water.

Juvenile Brandt’s cormorants (like the one we met) are brownish black with a lighter tan underside that forms a V-shape where the neck meets the chest.

What’s up?

The picture below shows the result of a pet owner disregarding  San Diego County beach dog laws and commonly accepted beach pet etiquette. Although the bird seemingly remained calm, cool and collected, this unexpected encounter gave Jody and me a good scare! Luckily, Rover was just curious. He didn’t get any closer to the young cormorant before his errant owner realized where he was and called him off.

Uh oh! Fido isn’t on a leash!

The inquisitive pooch was not only off-leash but was also on the beach within restricted hours. San Diego County has a very specific set of hours in which dogs are allowed on beaches, and at all times they must be kept on a leash.

Of course, our pal Rover didn’t know any better, but his human might want to consider planning a visit to one of the four special “Dog  Beaches” on the San Diego Coast. They include Dog Beach-Ocean Beach, Fiesta Island-Mission Bay, North Beach Dog Run-Coronado, and Del Mar Dog Beach-Del Mar. Each of these beaches has their own rules. Stop by the county’s Dog Beaches site for details.

“Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.”  ~Corey Ford, American humorist

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Southern California Beaches | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

American White Pelican – A Team Player

Posted by Greg on June 27, 2012

American White Pelican landing in water. (Photo: PD-USGov FWS)

The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)  is a very large bird by any standard. It stands about 4 feet tall, can have a wing span of over 9 feet, and weighs between 10 and 30 pounds. It flies north during breeding season (as far as Northern Alberta, Canada) and winters south (as far as the Gulf of Mexico and Central America).  In the continental United States, you can find American White Pelicans on lakes, streams, rivers and marshes from Minnesota, west to Northern California  in the summer months, and in the Gulf Coast States and southern California in the winter months.

American White Pelican (PD-USGov FWS)

According to Nature Works (New Hampshire Public TV): “It is entirely white except for its black-edged wings that are visible when the American white pelican is in flight. It has a long neck, a long orange bill with an expandable pouch and short orange legs with big webbed feet. In breeding season, it has a light yellowish crest on the back of its head and a nuptial tubercle or fibrous plate on the upper part of its bill. The nuptial tubercle will fall off when mating season is over and the crest will turn gray. Young American white pelicans have grayish markings on their heads and backs.

Other than shallow surface dives, the American White Pelican does not dive for its food like its cousin the Brown Pelican. He usually just dips his head into the water to scoop up his prey. Sometimes these pelicans fish cooperatively. Forming a semi circle, they splash with their feet and wings to drive the confused fish into shallow water where they can scoop them up. Sometimes they will form opposing lines, one side driving the fish to the waiting pelicans on the other side.

American White Pelicans (Photo: PD-USGov FWS.)

According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “The American White Pelican is a graceful flier, either singly, in flight formations, or soaring on thermals in flocks. They soar in different portions of thermals for different distances: wandering flights in lower portions of a thermal, commuting flights at middle heights, and cross-country flights in the upper reaches of thermal columns.

No matter the beach or water’s edge you happen to be on, these magnificent birds are a real joy to watch.

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

“The Beachmaker” – Turning Shells into Sand

Posted by Greg on June 4, 2012

Have you seen the billboards and signs posted around lakes, beaches and boat ramps asking boaters to wash their boat to prevent transporting unwanted hitchhikers from lake to lake? Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are one of the hitchhikers they are talking about!

Zebra Mussel Shells (Photo: Greg Books,©Beachmakers LLC 2012)

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources :Zebra mussels and a related species, the Quagga mussel, are small, fingernail-sized animals that attach to solid surfaces in water. Adults are 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches long and have D-shaped shells with alternating yellow and brownish colored stripes. Female zebra mussels can produce 100,000- 500,000 eggs per year. These develop into microscopic, free-living larvae (called veligers) that begin to form shells. After two-three weeks, the microscopic veligers start to settle and attach to any firm surface using “byssal threads”. It is the only freshwater mussel that can attach to objects. They are native to Eastern Europe and Western Russia and were brought over to the Great Lakes in ballast water of freighters… Zebra mussels can cause problems for lakeshore residents and recreationists. Homeowners that take lake water to water lawns can have their intakes clogged. Mussels may attach to motors and possibly clog cooling water areas. Shells can cause cuts and scrapes if they grow large enough on rocks, swim rafts and ladders. Anglers may lose tackle as the shells can cut fishing line. Zebra mussels can also attach to native mussels, killing them.

Zebra mussel shells lining the lake shore (Photo: Greg Books,©Beachmakers LLC 2012)

How does the zebra mussel infestation affect beachgoers, specifically? The massive amounts of razor sharp shells washing up onto a lake’s shore makes walking barefoot on the beach nearly impossible.

Zebra mussel beach on Green Bay, Wisconsin (Photo: Greg Books,©Beachmakers LLC 2012)

What’s being done about this beachy menace? R.J. Elsing of Beachmakers L.L.C. (Pulaski, Wisconsin) has invented a machine that sucks up the piles of shells left behind on shores of lakes infested with zebra mussels and turns them into beach sand. According to an article by, The machine sucks up shells through a large hose, which sends them into a chamber where a ‘tornado effect’ spins the shells around, crushing them as they are tossed against the interior walls, until they disintegrate into sand…Elsing said the machine he was using can crush about 17 cubic yards — or one dump truck load — of zebra mussels per hour, though he’s working on a machine that would process the shells three times faster.

How cool is that?  Good old American ingenuity – turning menacing zebra mussel shells into beach sand!

Want to see how it works? Here’s a Fox 11 News clip.

Here’s to a summer full of  barefoot days at the beach!

Posted in Great Lakes Beaches, Monday Miscellaneous, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

No ~Hula~ for the Red-Footed Booby!

Posted by Greg on April 25, 2012

Often seen perched on coastal trees and shrubs, the colorful Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) lives and breeds on tropical and subtropical islands and atolls of the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and the three seas north of Australia.

Adult Red-Footed Booby With Chick. (Photo:GSH1967/Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies don’t have an elaborate mating dance. Nesting on land, these handsome sea birds breed throughout the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWMI) and at limited sites on the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI).  Red-footed boobies, or ′ā (as they are known in Hawaii), are the only boobies that commonly nest in small trees and shrubs. Egg laying usually peaks from February through April, with the ′ā producing only one egg per season. Equal opportunity guardians, both the males and females share in incubation duties. The young are ready to fly around September. The doting parents feed their young for up to 4 months after fledging (developing wing feathers large enough for flight).

White Morph Red-footed Booby in Flight Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

White Morph Red-footed Booby (Photo:PD-USGov-FWS)

Red-footed boobies have been known to follow, and sometimes land, on ships and fishing boats. They feed mostly on squid and fish and can snatch a flying fish, their favorite food, out of the air. Like their blue-footed relatives, they are great divers and have keen eyesight to spot their prey. They can dive from as high as 26 feet to capture their dinner.

Red-footed boobies are the smallest of all the boobies. They measure 28 to 30 inches in length and have a wing span of  around 4 1/2  feet. Unlike their blue-footed relatives, they aren’t very uniform in appearance.  Almost all Hawaiian birds of this species are white, however, according to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “The Red-footed Booby comes in a confusing array of color morphs, ranging from individuals that are all white except for blackish on the wing, to individuals that are entirely dark brown. Some birds fail to fit neatly into any of the typical color morph categories, and many variations exist. Color morphs do not segregate reproductively or geographically; individuals representing several morphs breed in a single colony.”

Like their booby cousins, they are unafraid of people and easy to capture. In some areas these birds are used for food. Poaching, coupled with other encroachments on their habitat (e.g., insects, rats and feral cats), is resulting in the appearance of declining numbers.

Red-Footed Booby, Kauai, Hawaii (Photo:DickDaniels/Wikimedia Commons)

Jody and I hope that our next Hawaiian vacation will take us to the island of Kauai. We’ll definitely plan a visit to Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, where we now know to be on the lookout for these very interesting and beautiful coastal birds!

-Now, can someone please tell me how to pronounce ′ā?

Have a great day birding at the beach! Aloha! 

Related links: Hawaii’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Boobies? Seriously, Boobies, Blue-Footed Booby

National Geographic, Red-Footed Booby

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Beaches of The Hawaiian Islands | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tufted Puffins, Birds With “Do”s

Posted by Greg on April 4, 2012

Tufted Puffin. Photo by Jeff Foote (NOAA Photo Library)

Here’s a great bit of news for those who want to see puffins but can’t go to Newfoundland or Europe. They’re coming to Oregon! Cannon Beach no less! According to the Coast Explorer, “Each spring, colorful Tufted Puffins return to Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock to lay eggs and raise their chicks, offering the Northwest’s most accessible location to see nesting puffins. Throughout the spring and summer months, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program is on the beach at Haystack Rock offering interpretive information about the rock and the habitat it provides for intertidal creatures and birds. The program offers spotting scopes focused on nesting Tufted Puffins to offer visitors a look at the colorful birds.” This is definitely going on my to-do list.

Misty Morning at Haystack Rock

The Seattle Audubon Society tells us, “Tufted Puffins can be found in many coastal habitats adjacent to the Washington coast and elsewhere in the northern Pacific, with the exception of estuaries. They breed in colonies on islands with steep, grassy slopes or on cliff tops.

Tufted Puffin (Photo:Mike Boylan/PD-USgov-NOAA) Nice "do"

Winter habitat is well offshore, in mid-ocean.They dive and swim underwater, using their wings to paddle and their feet to steer their way through schools of small fish, which they catch in their bills. They can be seen carrying fish crosswise in their bills (sometimes 12 or more), which they take back to their young.

Tufted Puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) are a Northern Pacific sea bird. They are found along the Pacific Rim from the islands of Japan to Central California. Their average height is 15.5 inches, and these puffins have a relatively short wingspan. They are a stocky bird and need a running start to take off. Flight is difficult for them, but their wings aid them in swimming. They carry fish for their young to the nest in their bills, but they eat their own meals while under water.

The Alaska SeaLife Center explains: “During the summer breeding season, adults have dark bodies and white faces. Their legs are orange and their large triangular shaped bill is red-orange, with a buff or olive green plate at the top. The Tufted Puffin is distinguished by the long, straw colored tufts that curve backward from their red-ringed eyes. In the winter, they shed that buffy bill sheath and plumes and their face becomes dusky.”

I haven’t been to Cannon Beach, Oregon, in a while. Now seems like a good time to go, and what a great excuse to get away to the beach!

Happy coastal bird watching!

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Pacific Coast Beaches | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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