Sunday, May 25, 2008

Walk # 4

Just a quick note to tell you that I had to push the entire responsibily of today's Turtle Walk onto my Turtle Walking Buddy. I had to be away due to family illness, and also visit with children and grandchildren.

I asked him to take a few photos and write a little about what he found this morning. Below are his exact words to describe the Sunday Morning Adventure!

I didn't fall asleep till after 3 AM, but got up so I could begin the walk at 5:30. It was still dark but you would still be able to see turtle tracks in the sand. I took 2 of the tall kitchen trash bags this time. One was already full before the fishing pier There were a lot of beer bottles and cans, 4 diving masks, 3 dirty diapers and a large assortment of plastic including about 20 plastic cups. There were 2 beach chairs together, I tagged one of them. Near the lighthouse there was a broken beach umbrella. I threw that in the dumpster. After the fishing pier there was a pile of beer cans and the plastic six pack retainers. Part of that old turtle shell was back in front of those condos. I took a picture of it. There was a lot of green sea grass piled up on the bay side and a lot of urchins on the gulf side. My back is killing me, I have blisters on two of my toes!

I forgot to mention that it was really humid and the noseeums were terrible. When I stopped to tag the chairs I thought I would be eaten alive before finished peeling the backing off the tag.?? A little while after I got home it got nice and breezy and the humidity disappeared.

Walk # 4 Pictures

Sorry these are probably not in the right order.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Turtle Walk #3

Our zone is Zone #1. We start our walk at the South end of Buttonwood Lane, walking around the tip of Sanibel Island to the North side, ending at the North end of Buttonwood Lane. The total distance around is nearly 2 miles, then walk back across by way of Buttonwood to the vehicle.

Turtle Walk #3
Morning came and I really didn't want to get up! But once you start moving around it isn't so bad, even got started a little earlier today. There wasn't anyone else on the streets this morning; just one lady walking her dog. I'm guessing she probably didn't want to get up either, but doody called.

Parked at the south end of Buttonwood Lane; then gathered things up to put in my pockets and it was time to begin the walk.

The sun hadn’t come up yet and at first glance up and down the beach, it looked as though there weren’t many people out yet.

Right away there was trash to pick up. It looked like someone had a picnic last night and left everything lying on the sand. There were cigarette butts all along the high tide line and also scattered in the sand where people had been sitting; we’re talking at least 50 or 60 and a couple cigar butts thrown in. I was really glad I had a rubber glove with me today since there was such a nasty assortment lying around. This trash pickup detail gives the ‘Sanibel Stoop’ a whole new meaning.  This end of the island gets a lot of people coming over just for the day, so the public beach areas can be pretty busy. We must need bigger and more explicit signage at the beach accesses about not littering and the ramifications of it.
There had to have been at least 10 plastic bags to pick up today, several small bags with, left over, snacks still in them. Don’t people understand that when those are floating out in the water they look like jelly fish to the turtles and could kill them?

When I looked up from the task at hand, a lady came jogging by. I have to wonder why, when she is so thin and looks like she could fall over any moment. Another thing that puzzles me is why do most of the runners, joggers, speed walkers, etc. look so miserable and have a pained expression on their faces? Isn’t it supposed to make you happy, healthy and keep you feeling young instead of looking like a heart attack in the making? I’ve begun to wonder if the early morning ‘Turtle Walkers’ should have a refresher course in CPR just in case.

Just ahead were the remnants of sandcastle construction and there was also sand shaped to look like a fish, but the high tide had washed some of it away. I’m guessing that some children are going to be disappointed if they come back again today.

There were two lounge chairs sitting out on the beach that had been left out there for at least two days because the walkers had marked them with a sticker previously. When we call it this morning, someone will have to come take them away. Furniture etc, left on the beach at night can keep turtles from nesting.

While I was bent over picking up more cigarette butts, I saw 8 or 10 sand dollars lying in the sand, in a neat little pile. They were still dark green in color, so had been taken alive and left high and dry on the beach.  They were all kind of small, so my guess is that someone took other live ones and these weren’t big enough, so left them behind to die. What kind of people would do that?

The sun was beginning to come up just before I reached the Light House, but there was a little cloud cover near the horizon, so it took a while before it came peeking out.

The water was calm this morning and looked really smooth. A few people were enjoying that, as they waded around in the water searching for shells. I picked up a very small apple murex and a tiny whelk on the beach near the light house.

More people were coming onto the beach now, from the public parking area. Some were walking on the beach and others looking toward the light house and taking pictures.

Once again I had to take the path around some sea grapes etc that were growing next to the water’s edge because the tide was in, being careful not to drop anything today. 

Back on the beach again, I saw starfish in the water in several places. As I looked up at the fishing pier, I noticed there were several fishermen there this morning. Of course, along with the fishermen come the pelicans. I love watching them crashing into the water or waiting near the pier for charity from the fishermen. Thank goodness there is a big trash container next to the walkway to the pier. I dumped 2 full bags of trash just as a city employee pulled in the empty it. That was perfect timing.

A little further on, just before my favorite tree, was (I think) a small night heron. It was back in color and quite eye catching. I don’t know the names of all the Sanibel birds yet. (Note to self to read more on that.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tomorrow is 'Turtle Walk' morning!

Tomorrow is our turtle monitoring day.

I believe I explained previously that the Sanibel Beach is divided into Zones consisting of aproximately one mile each, with Zone 1 being the eastern tip and the numbers increase as you go further west. Volunteers walk the zones as far as Tarpon Bay Public Beach area. From there on the beach is monitored by SCCF with beach vehicles. There are aproximately 18 miles of beach. Nests are identified and marked for monitoring and protection. Later in the season new hatches are evaluated and recorded. The statewide collection of data helps promote programs that improve the chances for sea turtles to survive.

The first nest has been reported in Zone 5! It is located west of the Sandpiper Beach boardwalk. Each week if we have a nest in our Zone, we are to approach it and check for ants, dog and people tracks and any other evidence of a disturbance and report it. On Thursday, there was a false crawl between Poinciana and White Sands in Zone 6. On Saturday, there were two false crawls at White Sands. Most of the action seems to be in Zones 5 and 6 at this time, hopefully we will see some action in Zone 1.

Hopefully tomorrow I will have some good news to post!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Walk #2 Pictures

My T-Shirt

It's hard to see in the picture, but there was
a verticle line shining straight up which made
the sunrise have a different look.

A really small stingray

Egret walking by the water

that has a pink glow from the rising sun.

Walk #2 Pictures

The Sanibel Fishing Pier
with the sun rising behind it.
A private homeowner's dock with the
rising sun just underneath and
the big tree that has it's roots exposed
to the salt water.
A glowing streak across the water.

The red, glowing ball is nearly hidden now
behind a cloud cover.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Turtle Walk #2

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A week has flown by and it's Sunday again, time to do the second 'Turtle Walk'. The alarm went off at 5:30 and I slowly drug myself out of the bed. Once my feet were moving across the floor, I was able to speed up a little. I hurriedly did my morning rituals, then put on my shorts, turtle shirt, name tag, and beach shoes, put the sea turtle pamphlets in my back pocket (just in case anyone on the beach asks about the sea turtle thing, I'm prepared. I'll just give them one of those.), put trash bags in my other pocket (One wasn't enough last week :-( ), and that's it, ready to go!I was kind of anxious to get started because I had heard some nests had been reported from Captiva, Bonita Beach and Ft Myers Beach.

It was still dark out and wet, the humidity is back once again, with the warmer weather. The birds were the only sounds I could hear. There wasn't a car anywhere on the streets.After getting to the beach and then a few seconds of thinking, it was decided to start out this time on the South side of the island so there would be a better view of the sunrise. Last time, after getting to the East end, the sun was already up a little way. It was really beautiful out with a wonderful sea breeze.

There were only two people on the beach at first. One gentleman came up behind me, crunching shells as he jogged past. As he went by he said, "Happy Mother's Day"! Just after he said that, my phone buzzed with a text message from one of my daughters, then buzzed three more times with texts from the other two daughters and one granddaughter. Yes, it is a ‘Happy Day’!

I watched for shells, as well as turtle tracks. There sure weren’t many there today. I was only tempted to pick up one small whelk lying all by itself in the edge of the water. The sky started turning pink, so I knew the sun was about to come up.

A few more people were beginning to appear on the beach near the light house. A couple of ladies were walking in the water, bent over in the infamous ‘Sanibel Stoop’. A little further on there was a man who was knee deep in the water, walking along with head phones on and moving a metal detector back and forth. Hmmm, I suppose he was searching for buried pirate treasure. I’m still wondering if he found anything. I hope he had better luck than I. My only finds today were in the form of trash on the sand.

At the tip of the island and light house, I had to take a sandy path around part of the beach because the high tide caused the water to be all the way up to some trees, and driftwood. After the slight detour, it was back to the beach again.

There were several small starfish that had been left high and dry on the sand, so I put each of them back into the water, hoping they wouldn’t die.As I got nearer to the fishing pier, there was a small stingray, swimming about a foot out in the water. Just after that I noticed a dark colored fin sticking up out of the water. I first thought maybe it was a shark, but a second later, I could tell it was a large dolphin. I watched it swimming around for a while and then went on with a smile on my face.

The sun was coming up now, a bright red. No matter how many times I see it, I always think it’s the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen.

Because the tide was in, I had to bend way over to get under the walkway to the fishing pier. There were no fishermen there this morning. But someone had been there earlier because they left a wet t-shirt and pair of socks scattered on the sand for me to pick up. Just took a few steps further and found a child’s little beach shoe. Somebody’s mommy is probably mad this morning!

I looked back toward the fishing pier to see the sun shining brightly in the background; I had to stop to take another picture. Just after turning around it was time to crawl over a sea wall. Just past that, there was a shell of a small sea turtle and whatever was left of it. Someone had obviously already called in to report it because the shell had been marked with spray paint to show that it had already been documented.

There is a big, old tree standing all alone, near a private homeowners dock. The salt water has washed all the soil and sand away from it’s roots. I wonder how old it is, how long it will be able to stand and how many storms it has survived. I climbed up over it’s bare roots to travel on down the beach.

There was a young man walking along in the water with a dip net. Not sure what he was trying to catch. It was about that time, I realized the two red marker flags I had been carrying, were missing. I must have dropped them somewhere along the way! Darn, here I was at the end of the walk and now I needed to go back to look for them. To keep from making this long story any longer, I found them right where I had left the beach on that sandy trail detour. Someone had picked them up and stuck them in the sand.

So, this day’s adventure was over. Sadly there was no turtle crawl or nest to discover; maybe next time. There was a full bag of trash to carry away though.

Till next time……. you can keep track of the nesting statistics if you'd like.

Posted by Tootie at Sunday, May 11, 2008 2 comments

Turtle Walk #1

Sunday, May 4, 2008


First I think I should tell you, I have a habit of not going to bed until the wee hours of the morning. But, because of this early morning adventure, I had decided to get to bed earlier so I could get up by 5:30. I'm not sure if it was because of habit or the anticipation of my first 'Turtle Walk', I couldn't sleep. Consequently I only got 3 hours of sleep before the alarm went off. No problem though, it was exciting to be up and out before daylight. I had already layed my 'turtle walking' clothes out, so quickly jumped into shorts, turtle volunteer t-shirt, put on my crocks, washed my face, brushed my teeth, combed my hair, grabbed a couple of red flags,(just incase there is a nest) stuffed some things in my pockets and I was ready!

After a quick stop at the 7 Eleven, arrived at the appointed beach access (East tip of Sanibel Island, beginning on bay side) by 6:15. It's really very beautiful out at that hour. It was barely light enough to see when starting out. Right next to the access and facing San Carlos Bay I got my first view of the most beautiful home! Somehow I had missed this particular spot when walking the beach before. Wow, how they must love sitting on their comfy patio furniture or staring out their huge windows and watching the boats sailing by.

There were lots of birds out; I guess it must be true that the 'early bird gets the worm'. There were Snowy Plovers running around on the beach. They are also considered endangered and the SCCF has organized volunteers to help by marking off their nesting areas, monitoring, etc. There is information about their efforts and more about the Snowy Plovers on their website. It was fun watching them scamper around on the sand. You had to look very carefully because of their color and size they are nearly invisible if you aren't watching for them.

I began to notice a few lights coming on in some of the homes. I guess some folks have a habit of rising early to enjoy the beautiful sunrise. The water was really calm, hardly any waves at all.

While walking along on a narrow beach, it was necessary to step over some limbs now and then, driftwood and sea walls. This could be pretty difficult if the tide isn't lower like it was this morning. But, it is a beautiful area to walk, so it can be dealt with somehow.

There were two small starfish that had been left stranded when the tide went out, so I put them back into the water. I also looked at the shells while walking along, just in case a treasure was laying in wait. But, no luck there.

I think I mentioned in the earlier post that we are to carry bags with us to put trash in. Before the fishing pier,which was about the half-way mark, there was already a growing assortment in the bag, one size HUGE man's beach shoe full of sand (did an idiot go home with one shoe on) , one pair of child's underwear, one face mask, one man's soggy tank top, a beat up rubber bathing cap, kids platic beach hoe, another beach toy, plastic bags of left over snacks and dozens of tissues, among other nasty stuff.Sorry, got a little off track there, so back to the story......

It was just barely light out when a fisherman passed, carrying all his gear. His head was hanging as he said hello, in passing. Hmm, not smiling? I'm guessing, no fish this morning!

As the Fishing Pier came into view, it was obvious that a very bright light shines on the beach there at night. Hmmm, isn't that a no,no that might keep turtles from coming onto the beach there? Will have to ask the Permitee about that, when calling in after the walk.

It's light out now and there is a lady a little way out in the water, doing the Sanibel Stoop. She looked up,smiled and said, "Good Morning", then went right back to her search for shells.

The light house is welcoming with it's blinking light; wonder if the light goes out after the sun comes up, or is it on 24/7? After going around the tip of the island, the sun came up. WOW a big beautiful red sun!

More and more people come into sight doing the ritual of their morning walks, or trying to find the first good shells of the day. There were many spots along this public beach area where someone had attempted a sand castle build, but obviously failed. There were also several huge holes, probably dug yesterday by energetic children. Kind of makes you get that fuzzy feeling, thinking about them having such a good time in paradise. But the opposite of that was the amount of trash laying on the beach. It's so sad to think people would be that careless. There was a big beach umbrella that had been left, that needed a tag put on it. The permittee will check at a later time, if it's still there, they will trash it.

The access where this zone ends is in sight. Thank goodness because the trash bag was running over! No signs of a turtle crawl today. The time is exactly 7:15 and time to call the Permittee with a report that is to be done before 7:30. Now it's either do the walk back by way of the beach again or a quick walk across by the street. For today, it's the quick route.

There was a First Turtle Walk Day Celebration in the form of breakfast at Jerry's. :-) Then home for a nap. What a beautiful morning!!!

Posted by Tootie at Sunday, May 04, 2008 2 comments

Begining The Turtle Walks.......

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Tomorrow morning will be the first 'turtle walk' for me. As one of aproximately 100 volunteers, I will be helping the SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation), with their continuing Sea Turtle Research and Monitoring Progam. The beaches here at Sanibel and Captiva Islands are a nesting area for the endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtles, one of the worlds oldest creatures. Each day just before dawn, volunteers check designated zones of beach. Some areas of the beach are patrolled by beach vehicles and persons who are are a part of the research team. As a volunteer, my job is to look for a turtle crawl. When a turtle comes up on the beach, it leaves tracks in the sand as it looks for a nesting spot. If the turtle does make a nest, a volunteer places a flag near it, then calls a permitee, who is authorized to go out to mark off the nest to help protect it. It is then monitored. Later in the season the hatches are recorded to add to the statewide collection of data. For more interesting information and statistics about the sea turtles, check out the link for SCCF. More interesting information can be viewed about Loggerhead Turtles here.

As volunteers, we are expected to walk aproximately a 1 mile stretch of beach one morning each week during the turtle nesting season which begins May 1 and ends by Nov l. We are to look for signs of nesting, watch for any beach furniture that may have been left out overnight (putting a sticker on it, notifying owner to remove it), also be aware if any lighting is directed toward the beach that might be confusing to the turtles. And of course, pick up any trash that might be laying on the beach. Many turtle deaths have been attributed to mistaking plastic bags, etc. for food.

I'm really excited about possibly seeing a sea turtle, or a nest; but most of all, anticipating the sight of little baby turtles heading out to sea for the first time.