Thursday, October 22, 2009

Can You Spot the Copperhead?

As the leaves fall, be careful. Snakes like copperheads are very good at blending in.

Look closely in the yellow outline.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Prehistoric Indian Artifacts - Interview with Steve Valentine

Interested in prehistoric Indian artifacts? Check out my interview with Steve Valentine and see photos from his 15,000 piece collection.

Prehistoric Indian Artifacts - Interview with Steve Valentine

Scrapers, Arrowheads, Blades, Beads, Stone Tools, Bone Tools, Hammerstones, Drilled Pieces, Pottery... Read how an expert with forty years experience finds them.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Interview with David Schneider of Odyssey Sea Glass

One of the interesting and colorful characters with a wide knowledge about the region is Bill Coleman, who I had the pleasure of getting to know recently. After learning a little about his stomping grounds on his site about Gulf Shores, Alabama, I decided to get some firsthand information about this beautiful beach area. The following interview is the result. Read the entire interview here:

Odyssey Sea Glass - Gulf Shores Interview

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oxford Alabama Indian Mound

There's an ongoing argument in Oxford, Alabama (near Anniston). The city is so pleased that a new Sam's Wholesale is coming to town that it has given them permission to use a prehistoric Indian mound for foundation fill dirt.

In an "Anniston Star" report, Oxford Mayor Leon Smith said leveling the mound is no big deal because it was only used for sending smoke signals. How would he know?

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Coral Snake in Coosa County Alabama

There was an interesting article in the June 29 edition of the Birmingham News. A coral snake was captured and released in Coosa County, Alabama. They are rare in coastal Alabama and very rarely have been sighted this far north.

Coral snakes have the most toxic venom of any snake in North America. However, they are less likely to strike than pit vipers like rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins.

The saying is "red, then yellow, kill a fellow; red, then black, you're OK, Jack." I think I'd second guess myself with the rhyme. I'd just take a picture from a distance.

Here's a blog account of the story:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Where I've Been - Chart Your Travel Map

I have found an interesting site.

Here you can chart your travels, places you've lived, and places you want to go. Its even got a free picture and video positing section.

Here's my profile:

Here's my "Where I've Been Map."

Haven't listed all of the cities that I've visited. That will take quite awhile.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Find Lakes Anywhere in the United States

With this Google map application, find over 40,000 lake, reservoir and pond locations. Shows street and highway access, as well as satellite and aerial photo imagery. Zoom in and pan out.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Never Before Caught a Stingray This Way

I've caught many stingrays on the Alabama Gulf Coast. If you're fishing the beaches and bays with natural baits its impossible not to catch them.

On our last trip to Gulf Shores, I hooked one. I knew it was a ray because my line suddenly went tight. I couldn't budge it. Like many do, this one had buried himself up in the sand. Even small ones are hard to drag out when they do this, and usually the fisherman has no choice but to cut the line, as I did.

I re-rigged and made a cast. I had a hit, but didn't hook the fish. While reeling in I noticed that I had hooked a line. I grabbed the line and pulled the stingray in by hand that I lost.

Notice the barb in the last picture. Even small stingrays like this one have prominent barbs that can be dangerous. Stingrays are gentile and non-aggressive, but they can be dangerous if you invade their space.

Read more about stingrays here

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kayaking - Bon Secour River, Alabama Gulf Coast

Our son Chris was going to be married in Old Pensacola. Family members were going to be driving and flying in from as far west as Colorado and as far south as Orlando for the wedding on May 30th. My wife and I wanted to do some things before the reunion got in full swing. One of those things on our list was some kayaking on the Bon Secour River. Until I struck up a friendship on Twitter with one of the owners of Beach'n'River, I had no idea that canoes and kayaks could be rented directly on the river. There are several places to rent in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, but that is "big water" and though you can get to the creeks and rivers from there, launching a kayak on the river gets you quickly to a part of the Alabama Gulf Coast that very few visitors have an opportunity to see.

Upon our arrival at Beach'n'River we were greeted by the owners, Jerry and Shelly. We had a nice conversation about the how they got into the business and why they enjoy it so much. Shelly showed us her herb garden and Jerry showed us his roosters.

Jerry and Shelly both told us the story behind their vacation rental home, while pointing to it across the creek. We didn't have time on this vacation to stay at the river home rental, but after spending some time on the river neither of us would mind spending a few busy days and quiet nights there.

Jerry helped me drag our kayaks a short distance down to the tributary that leads to the Bon Secour River. They told us a few things we might see on different routes. Then we took our shoes off and launched the kayaks. Almost anybody can enjoy kayaking. It only takes seconds to learn the basics and on Bon Secour River all you need to know is the basics. We immediately began seeing beautiful scenery, and after a few minutes I was taking photos. The water was shallow and crystal clear, so we could easily see the white sandy river bottom.

Soon we entered the deeper waters of the river and stopped for a few minutes to watch some kids who were climbing trees to swing into the water from dangling ropes.

We turned left and followed the river and almost immediate noticed a smell (a nice one). The bank was lined with blooming gardenias. Most likely they were remnants of homes from an earlier time.

We paddled for close tp thirty minutes down the river, and then we decided to turn around a paddle in the opposite direction towards Bon Secour Bay. Before we got close to the noise of the kids swinging into the water, I spotted a squirrel jumping from limb to limb to cross the creek and watched several turtles slide into the water.

We couldn't look in any direction without seeing beautiful scenery. Flowers, ferns, Southern magnolias, saw palmetto palms, wax myrtles, and yaupon hollies all under a canopy of live oaks was a common scene.

Much of the trip was through wilderness, but in other areas both mansions and rustic retreats were on the waterfront. This Southern mansion sets high and probably dry during even major hurricanes.

Kudzu covers the steep banks of the river and Spanish moss hangs from the trees on the mansion property. If you take a camera on your trip it is going to be impossible not to pause to snap some photos.

I was usually a few hundred feet in front of Kathy, but every once in awhile I would slow up and let her catch up with me so that we could float side-by-side for awhile.

Mallards were common on the river, but this group resting on a log made a particularly nice photo.

The closer to Bon Secour Bay, the more saltwater fish species mix with freshwater fish. It is possible to catch a largemouth bass on one cast and a redfish on the next. Other freshwater species in the river include, bass, bream, and alligator gar. Other saltwater species include flounder, speckled trout, white trout, and bluefish.

Blue herons are huge birds and are almost always on the river. Blue herons nest together, but away from the nest they are usually solitary birds.

We spotted this small bird on his nest. We thought we were would frighten her while moving closer for a picture, but she remained on the nest even while we were directly under it.

Huge elephant ears are common on the river.

As we got closer to the bay, the boats got bigger. It is possible to dock your boat and have lunch or dinner while kayaking. The Galley is located here and serves that purpose well.

We paddled for about thirty minutes longer. The skies were getting darker, and I knew Kathy wasn't going to paddle into the bay under dark skies and light rain. We turned around and the trip back was as enjoyable as the trip out. If we had have paddled into the bay, we could have more than likely had dolphins swimming very close to us. As close as we were to the water in our kayaks, that would have been a lot of fun.

Upon arriving at Beach'n'River, I pulled the kayaks out of the water. Soon Jerry and Shelly were at the creek bank, asking us if we had a good time. We had a great time. I can honestly recommend kayaking the Bon Secour River, and there is no better place to begin than at Beach'n'River.

For more information on kayaking the Bon Secour River:

Beach'n'River Canoe and Kayak Rentals

Friday, March 13, 2009

Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

We recognize that your privacy is important. This document outlines the types of personal information we receive and collect when you use Billco's Outdoors, as well as some of the steps we take to safeguard information. We hope this will help you make an informed decision about sharing personal information with us.

Billco's Outdoors strives to maintain the highest standards of decency, fairness and integrity in all our operations. Likewise, we are dedicated to protecting our customers', consumers' and online visitors' privacy on our website.

Personal Information

Billco's Outdoors collects personally identifiable information from the visitors to our website only on a voluntary basis. Personal information collected on a voluntary basis may include name, postal address, email address, company name and telephone number.

This information is collected if you request information from us, participate in a contest or sweepstakes, and sign up to join our email list or request some other service or information from us. The information collected is internally reviewed, used to improve the content of our website, notify our visitors of updates, and respond to visitor inquiries.

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In some cases, we may collect information about you that is not personally identifiable. We use this information, which does not identify individual users, to analyze trends, to administer the site, to track users' movements around the site and to gather demographic information about our user base as a whole. The information collected is used solely for internal review and not shared with other organizations for commercial purposes.

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If Billco's Outdoors is sold, the information we have obtained from you through your voluntary participation in our site may transfer to the new owner as a part of the sale in order that the service being provided to you may continue. In that event, you will receive notice through our website of that change in control and practices, and we will make reasonable efforts to ensure that the purchaser honors any opt-out requests you might make of us.

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Billco's Outdoors reserves the right to make changes in this policy. We encourage you to periodically review this policy so that you will know what information we collect and how we use it.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Digging for Shells - Orange Beach, Alabama

Kathy and I spent the weekend at Orange Beach, Alabama in my parents condo. My mother is a master shell hunter. She has found tens of thousands of beautiful shells over the years. She spends hours walking the beaches picking up shells, coral, sand dollars and anything else that washes up on the beach. She even gathers abandoned T-shirts and beach towels. No relaxing with a good book for her. When she hits the beach it's all work.

She finds most of her shells by digging. Most beach tourists would love to take home just a few good shells like she finds, but very think to dig. Unless you pay a little attention to detail, digging is not likely to produce much. Find a good spot, and you can take home a bag full.

The majority of the good shells that are found digging at the Alabama Gulf Coast get deposited there by dredging. The hurricanes and tropical storms of the last few years took away most of the sand and leveled the dunes. The State of Alabama has spent millions of dollars putting the sand back, most of it by dredging the sea. Tons of sand has been deposited on the beach, and along with it all of the stuff small enough to get sucked up the dredging pipes.

Occasionally a good spot for digging can be found just by looking for spots where somebody else has dug. Most people are good about filling in their holes, but unless it has recently been smooved over by beach maintenance workers, you will still be able to spot depressions in the sand. Try first at the edges that haven't been dug and work your way back away from the depression. Lots of small broken shells on the surface indicates that there are probably better, unbroken shells underneath.

Don't dig near the shore line in the space that high tide covers. Move back aways. Don't dig in the dunes. That's not good for the beach and will get you in trouble.

You don't need big garden tools to dig in soft sand. Small tools work fine and are less likely to damage shells.

It's permissable to dig small holes on the Alabama beaches. It's not a lot different than building sand castles, Whether you're digging for holes, or building sand castles, fill in your holes when you're done. Holes on the beach can be dangerous.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Find Fish Bait with an Online Locator

Have you ever been on vacation and decided to go fishing, but didn't have any idea where you could find bait? Here's an online bait shop locator with 8,000 bait and tackle shops in the U.S. and Canada listed. Search by regions, zip codes, and bodies of water, freshwater or saltwater.

Also included are locations of fuel, ice, and groceries.

Need a guide or a charter service? Might find that information also.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gulf Shores, Alabama Photos

We took another quick trip to Gulf Shores over the weekend. Two weeks ago I cut one of my fingers while washing a drinking glass. I need to learn how to gently handle a glass. Fifteen stitches, not fun - even worse than getting them was having them taken out. Even worse it didn't heel correctly, resulting in a trip to the doctor at the beach, and one the next day, just before we arrived home.

Anyway, we made the most of the trip with the time we had.

A lot of people were fishing, but we didn't see anybody catching anything. This time of year is hit and miss from the shore, mostly miss. There are not any bait fish close to shore to attract bigger fish. Fishing structure in deep water will catch some fish on a good day this time of year. Otherwise, if fishing from a seawall like this, the occasional hungry fish swimming by will grab the bait.

This guy was perplexed as to whether he had a fish on the hook or not. He'd open his spool, and line would come off; he'd reel a little and all he could get is a tugging resistance. My experience has been that if I am fishing in current like there is here and wonder whether I have a fish on the line, I haven't got a fish on the line.

Blue herons are a common site on the coast all year. This one is resting on a seawall near a marina waiting on something tasty to come floating his way.

Canals like this weave all though Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama. Living on a canal is great if the homeowner has a boat. From here, he could be in the Gulf in minutes or in Mobile Bay in less than an hour via the Intracoastal Canal.

This man wasn't catching anything either. If he were in that same spot a couple months from now it would probably be a different story. It's nice to be on the water on a pretty last day of January. Always nice to bring a fish home though.

It is hard to tell by this photo, but this is Robinson Island.

Robinson Island is part of a three island chain near where Terry Cove meets Perdido Pass. The other islands are Bird Island and Walker Island. In 2004 the City of Orange Beach bought Robinson Island for $3.46 million. The previous owner had tried unsuccessfully for several years to get all of the necessary government approvals so that he could develop the island. He wanted to build an island community - no bridge; the owners would have to be ferried from the mainland. Anybody who would pay what it would cost to live on a barrier island at the mouth of Perdido Pass would have had to have been crazy (IMO). The city will keep it in its natural state for the good of both wildlife and boaters. In the summer these island beaches are very popular.

Perddio Pass Bridge

The new Turquoise Place on the Gulf is in the background. The Turquoise was originally going to consist of four towers. The state of the economy, including plunging coastal real estate values, has put the other two on indefinite hold. The four towers were going to be built to varying heights - the tallest at 33 stories. One sold preconstruction in the first tower for $4.3 million. Others were selling for as little as $2.5 million. The patios of these condos are bigger than most beach condos once were on the Alabama Gulf Coast. I'm not sure how much one could be purchased for today from a motivated seller, but it might be considerably less.

We didn't see many shells on the beach, but on her last trip, my mother must have. She has shell collecting down to a science. Out of tens of thousands of shells she has picked up, she hasn't found one artifact. I would guess that she has her eyes trained for shells, not rocks and metal. She doesn't care. She loves shells.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Alabama

We visited Gulf Shores and Orange Beach on the Alabama Gulf Coast this weekend. I needed some photos for my new site. The weather was a lot better there than it was here. So, off we went.

The State of Alabama is constantly replenishing the beaches with sand. When we first began spending a lot of time on the Alabama Coast in the early 1990's, sand dunes covered with sea oats were plentiful. Hurricanes and tropical storms coming in, one right after the other, has pretty much wiped them from the beach. Dredging and spreading has put thousands of tons of sand on the beach, but the dunes are slow to build. They usually get leveled before they are strong enough to hold up against even weak tropical storms. Fences like these are strung out across the beach to hold the sand in place long enough for vegetation to build the dunes from the bottom, up.

Hurricane forecasters are predicting a strong hurricane season this year. If that's the case, and they come ashore anywhere near Gulf Shores, what little dunes have been built will be swept out to sea yet again.

Until we began building out the beaches it was impossible to lose them. They just moved from one place to the other. Now we've plunked down billion dollar developments on the sand and decided nature should stay still.

Because our trip would be short, I didn't take my rods this time. Winter isn't the best time for surf fishing, but if you sit long enough something will hit - in January, usually whiting.

While I was taking pictures, Kathy was picking up shells.

Yes, believe it or not, people actually surf in Alabama. Here's a surfing family.

This one's caught a wave, albeit one that won't be confused with the smallest waves in Waikiki. The Alabama surf can get rough though, a lot rougher than most people think. While some coastal residents have moved inland to higher ground before a hurricane's landfall, others are hitting the beach with their surfboards.

The Perdido Pass Bridge is a favorite place to fish in winter.

The dolphin cruises guarantee that you will see a dolphin. That's an easy guarantee. Dolphins are always in the back bays. This one is in Terry Cove.

No problem finding a brown pelican either. Hard to believe that these birds were almost extinct at the early part of the last century. All big coastal birds were almost wiped out to put feathers in the hats of stylish women.

Mardi Gras trees have been catching on at the coast. Businesses and restaurants just take down the Christmas lights and out up Mardi Gras colored ornaments. I imagine there are some homeowners who do the same.

This is advertised as being the biggest Ferris Wheel in the southeast. It is at the Wharf, a new development in Orange Beach on the Intracoastal Canal at the toll bridge. We took a ride on it before the development was officially open. You can see all the way to the beach from the top.

The Wharf has been open a little over two years. Since Orange Beach doesn't have a city center, this was supposed to be it. There is shopping, movies, restaurants, entertainment, a marina, condos on the canal and even a amphitheater. Its taking off slow, largely due to the real estate crash. The poor (putting it mildly) economy isn't going to help it either.