Emerald Coast, Pensacola

Florida’s ‘Emerald Coast’, so named because of the greenish sea color near to its white sandy beaches, is the South shore of Florida’s ‘Panhandle’. We picked the area for a lazy few weeks of warmer weather and sunshine while we waited for the weather further North to entice us homewards. It delivered as promised, without us having to travel further South and compete with US and Canadian ‘snowbirds’ for camping spots. We stayed at Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola and, in addition to time on the beach, explored next-door Fort Pickens, and visited the National Naval Air museum and Pensacola Lighthouse nearby. We also spent an evening at Pensacola’s ‘Short Attention Span Theatre’, where we saw five  one-act plays. Colin appreciated being able to take a short nap and still enjoy the rest of the entertainment.

Life at the Beach

Our first day here was very windy so we were able to enjoy a lone kite surfer’s battle with the wind and waves. At the Fort Pickens Museum, we saw some displays showing the continuous movement of the Barrier Islands, particularly during hurricane season. Fort Pickens, built in 1834 on the edge of the narrow entrance into Pensacola Bay, is now about a mile from the channel. The fort was virtually indestructible when built and remained in Union hands throughout the Civil War.

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Although early in the season, there was plenty of birdlife here including some pairs of Blue Herons and a pair of Ospreys building nests. We heard a story from a local bird photographer that the choice of a mate is sealed when the female accepts a twig from a male. There were plenty of twig deliveries here. Colin watched the pair of Ospreys for a while, noticing that the male would disappear.  After half an hour, the female’s calls became more and more persistent until the male returned with a twig for the nest. One time Colin noticed the female sounding persistent, almost angry at the non-appearance of her mate. When the male appeared 100 yards away on a branch, he temporarily ignored his mate, casually consuming a large fish. Sharing didn’t seem to be on his agenda. In addition to these predators, there were many small birds at our campsite. In particular, we enjoyed listening to the mocking birds and their endless variety of calls.

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Naval Air Museum

The Naval Air Station at Pensacola is the main Navy pilot training facility. It’s also the site of the National Naval Air Museum where we spent several hours. The exhibits and information there were top class, all the more impressive when we learned that restoration was almost exclusively carried out by volunteers. One of the most interesting exhibits included a WWII movie about training Navy pilots on Lake Michigan to land on aircraft carriers. Still today there are many aircraft at the bottom of the lake as a result of unsuccessful landings. Despite the extreme water temperature, trainee pilots were recovered by the effective rescue service so they could continue their training. We enjoyed seeing the evolution of the seaplane with the many exquisitely restored exhibits.

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  • Gulf Breeze National Seashore

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    Gulf Breeze National Seashore, nr Pensacola, FL

  • 2 Comments on “Emerald Coast, Pensacola

    1. I was wondering where you two have been hanging out! I’m always so happy to get your blog…for both photos and commentary. I never get tired of heron photos, and these are particularly spectacular! Also loved: the night shot of your campground, the osprey photos (especially of the guy looking straight at us!), the little pygmy goat w/ Cheryl, and Colin in the seat of the airplane. Plus the wavy sand and the shadow shot!
      From Cheryl: Always such a pleasure to hear from you, and all your amazing compliments. I’m so glad that Colin has you to appreciate his photography, the hobby brings him such joy (mostly). The hours on the program Lightroom is not his most favorite thing to do. But getting the final 30 that go into a blog post is a lot of fun for both of us. You know I love all creatures that have four legs. When I saw the pygmy goat that was in our neighbors campsite, I almost lost my mind. It was just as cute as could be. And it jumped around and the sound it made was just incredible, so precious. If we get a community goat we could get goat cheese and have our weeds taken care of for free. I love the night shots also, I think they are so creative, colorful and beautiful. And of course his artsy fartsy shadow and wavy sand. I had to beg Colin to get into that airplane seat, he was not a happy camper, which is why I really appreciate you mentioning it! I’d love to seeing him in it, it was such a hoot

    2. Cheryl, tu aimes toujours autant nos amis à quatre pattes! Toujours de fantastiques photos d’oiseaux. Que de patience et de talent du photographe.
      From Cheryl: Any animal with four legs – all my favorites. The pygmy goat that we found in our next-door neighbor camp site, was just as precious as could be. I would take him home in a minute if it wasn’t for the fact that he would grow to be 3 feet tall. The amount of patience that Colin has for photography is truly amazing. Sometimes he spends hours and hours standing on a hiking trail to get just the right image of birds in particular.

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