Sunday, July 27, 2008

Walk #13

This morning we left for the beach with anticipation because one of our nests is due to hatch Tuesday. In my mind, I had visions of walking up near that nest today and seeing tiny little turtles running for the water. So, we hurried out to begin our walk. (Plus, I had a new toy to try out; a new cell phone with a better camera than my last one. The phone is much handier than carrying a camera because I always have it in my pocket anyway and with carrying bags of trash, hands full, etc…….you know the story.)

There were lots of dark clouds, and we could hear thunder as we left to go to the beach. This was the first time we had been threatened with rain on one of our ‘Turtle Walk’ mornings.

When we arrived, there was just a hint of pink showing behind the silhouette of the palms. There was not much breeze to meet us and there was a lot of humidity in the air, making the temperature feel pretty warm.

The sun was still hidden just below the horizon, with clouds in the way; so it took a little longer for it to peek out today.

The waves were small this morning and didn’t seem to be bringing in any shells. There was seaweed scattered in the tide lines.

I heard thunder once again and looked toward the north and saw the edge of some rain clouds. Somehow the sun rays were shining under part of the clouds, making it look like the sun was actually hiding behind it.

Looking toward the west, there were more clouds. Again the sun made it look as though it was hiding in the middle, peaking out. The clouds were much darker near the horizon.

Turning toward the south, I was surprised that it once again looked like the sun was shining through clouds. Today’s sunrise made a beautiful panorama for our viewing pleasure.

Surprisingly, there was little trash from where we began until the light house area. Most of it was small things, like plastic bags, cellophane wrappers, straws, little sand shovel, tiny little flip flops, t shirt, etc.

There were holes dug here and there on the beach, but not as many as there had been on previous walks.

There was one humongous pile of sand that was shaped to look like a huge alligator lying in a basin. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken to dig and pile all the sand that had been moved. The entire alligator had a row of seaweed from its head to the tip of its tail.

As I looked back at the Alligator, whose name I think was Sandy, I noticed the dark clouds were beginning to catch up to us, so we picked up our pace a little. There were several people on the beach, some walking and jogging, others searching for shells. I noticed a few of them looking up at the clouds too.

Straight ahead, the sun was still working to climb up from behind clouds.

As we got near the light house, the clouds hiding the sun had finally moved enough for it to glow brighter and brighter.

We checked our last nest at this point and it looked fine; just as the other two had. There was no hatch, no tiny turtle tracks anywhere.

The tide was in, and as we started around the tip of the island, the beach area was entirely covered with water. We had to turn around and walk back a little way to use a narrow path that takes you around the houses , to the other side of the light house.

After leaving the light house area, we kept taking paths back and forth between trees and bushes, but couldn’t walk on the beach again until very near the fishing pier.

On one of those little paths, there was a man nearly hidden by the bushes, as he set up his tripod and camera to take pictures.

Looking at the clouds as we approached the fishing pier was a little daunting. There was a need to hurry even faster now!

Even as the clouds kept moving closer, it didn’t seem to bother the fishermen.

It looked like the clouds were just going to come right down onto the pier.

We stopped to pick up some fishing line lying on the sand with a hook still attached. That should save someone’s bare foot. As I looked up again, the clouds seemed to be hovering over the bay and the causeway.

Two young men were, standing waist deep in the water, fishing. As we got closer, I realized they were the same guys that had been there fishing when we saw the little camp set up a couple of weeks before. There had been a lady and a child sleeping there as we passed by. That time they left all of their empty beer bottles, soda cans, water bottles, at least 50 tissues scattered under the bushes, and other trash. There had been fishing line tangled in the bushes, as if they had changed the line on their poles and just left the old line behind.

I think smoke may have started coming out of my ears, when I got closer and saw their tent and campsite there once again. The lady and child were in the little tent, sleeping once again. Cans and bottles were scattered on the sand, along with stuff hanging on the limbs. I went past and then turned around to go back. I stood there looking at those two men, looked back at the trash, and then took another picture, this time of the camp site and their mess. The men looked at me and one of them yelled out, “Hello”. I said hello back and then asked if they would do me a favor. They smiled and shook their heads yes. I asked them if they would please pick up all of their trash before they left. They smiled and assured me that they certainly would and that they always do. I told them that I knew they didn’t because when they were in that same spot a couple weeks ago; we had to pick up all the trash they left behind. They got a strange look on their face and said they were sorry and would make sure they got it all cleaned up this time. Of course after having picked up all those tissues last time, that just didn’t seem good enough, so I said, "The things you leave behind, endanger the lives of wildlife and it is also, simply inconsiderate. I’m sure you know it’s illegal to camp on the beach, and sooner or later, you will get caught.” Ok, after that it was time to walk away and cool off!

Just past the seawalls, there were two men in a boat using a cast net. The birds were flying around and one landed on the front of their boat and stood there waiting for a hand out.

The last portion of our walk was difficult because the beach area was covered with water again, so we had to detour again.

Looking back at the old ‘Guardian of the Sea’ tree, you can see we had to walk around it this morning instead of taking our usual path over its roots.

We were very fortunate to have walked all the way around, threatened by the clouds, and hadn’t felt a drop of rain. Even when there are clouds looming overhead, it’s still a beautiful day here on Sanibel.

We reached the end of our walk rather tired today because of zigzagging around the high tide, and one of us did get a little hot under the collar while acting like the 'Beach Police'.

Talk about perfect timing; five minutes later the rain started coming down. So all in all, it was a great morning, even though we didn’t get to see any turtles.

Did You Know?

Within the first 12 hours after the turtle lays her eggs, the vitelline membrane (the cell wall of the egg that plays an important role in gas exchange through the egg wall) attaches to the interior of the egg shell. If the egg is moved after the attachment forms, the membrane will detach from the egg wall and development will stop. If eggs must be moved for any reason, researchers try to move them within a few hours after a turtle has nested. If it has been six hours or more, great care must be given.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sea turtles make their way to the Gulf

Our local Ft Myers TV Station, Channel 2, ran a story,"Sea turtles make their way to the Gulf", last night on the news. Kate Eckman talked to Eve Haverfield of Turtle Time, about some new hatchlings already making their way to the water.

You can read the story and watch a video of two loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings that were just six days old. They were rescued from their nest by Haverfield. In this video you will see how she allowed some children to interact with their release to join their brothers and sisters already at sea.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tour de Turtles

Begining in August 2008, the public can follow the marathon migration of eight sea turtles, representing four different species, from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds, to see how long it takes.

For about three months, Tour de Turtles will follow with satellite-tracking devices the turtles released on nesting beaches from Florida to Panama. The first turtle to travel 2,620 kilometer (1,628 miles) wins the marathon.

Each turtle will be swimming for a cause to raise awareness about a specific threat to sea turtles. You can get involved by supporting a turtle to help raise awareness about their cause. Tour de Turtles is a multimedia experience featuring interactive online maps, videos, games and educational activities. It should be interesting to follow along to find out how long it takes each of the sea turtles.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Local Nest Numbers Increase

After two years of dismal turtle nesting seasons in Southwest Florida, there are pockets of success this year.The biggest improvement is on Sanibel and Captiva where there are more than 330 nests compared to about 150 last year.

There were 106 nests on Captiva as of Monday. There were 50 the same time last year. The west end of Sanibel has more 200, which is almost 100 more than last year, while the 30 nests on the island’s east end is about the same as last year.

Why this year is better on Sanibel is a mystery.“We have no idea. We would love to have some explanation,’’ said Amanda Bryant, a biologist with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.But she’s happy to take what is happening.

The same is true on Fort Myers Beach where 34 nests have been laid. Last year during the entire season, there were only eight nests there. “It’s quadruple,” said Eve Haverfield, president and founder of Turtle Time, a volunteer group that monitors sea turtles in this area. “It’s a turtle friendly year there.

Bonita Beach is having an average year.So far, turtles have laid 41 nests in Bonita. That’s more than the 38 nests laid during all of 2007, but fewer than the 60 to 105 nests laid between 1998 and 2004.

This year, turtles laid 165 nests on the island, compared to 105 last year. Barefoot Beach in the Collier County section of Bonita Springs boasts 53 nests, up from 36 last year, and Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples has 72 nests, much higher than the 36 in 2007.

Now it’s a waiting game to make sure the nests hatch before any major storms.

Please take the time to read the article in full at the News-Press site, and look through the amazing photo gallery they have there too. Below is an example.

Many sea turtles are found with fishing hook or fishing line injuries. I'm sure many are not found and die a horrible death. Very sad.

This 80-pound loggerhead sea turtle was rescued, wrapped in a rope and with 300-pound-test fishing line in its mouth. It was taken to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where the hook will be removed.

Turtle Nesting Statistics as of July 21, 2008

Sanibel East End, 32 nests, 46 false crawls and 1 hatch.

Sanibel West End, 217 nests, 222 false crawls and 32 hatches.

Captiva, 117 nests, 88 false crawls, and 25 hatches.

Totals: 366 nests, 356 false crawls and 58 hatches.

Looking good! :o)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Walk #12

This morning we made a quick stop by the 7/11 for coffee, and then made our way to Sanibel’s East End to begin our walk.

It was still a little dark as we started out the boardwalk. A small owl was sitting on the handrail and I think we startled each other.

As I looked to the East, you could barely see light on the horizon.

I looked to the West and saw the moon still shining brightly. Just as I looked, I saw another small bright spot, as I watched I thought I could see it moving, but I think it was up too high to be a plane. Now I’m wondering if it could have been the International Space Station or Genesis 1. My guess is the ISS because it’s supposed to be the brightest and what I saw was very bright. I looked it up later when we got home and the fly by time for our area code was at 6:12 AM, WNW; exactly right! I just wish my little cell phone camera could have captured it.

Walking out onto the beach was nice this morning because after we walked out from between the trees and bushes we were met by a cool, tropical breeze. The water was shining on the sand as the waves came and went.

I looked down to take a closer look and then took a picture of a crab that I expected to start running off sideways. But I’m afraid he was a ‘Crusty Crab’ because he didn’t move at all. (I hope it isn’t any of Hermie’s family, Chris.)

This morning, nearly the entire beach looked like a minefield that had all detonated. We’ve never seen so many holes!

There was another of those strange alien symbols too.

We were supposed to watch for red drift algae this morning and report in, as to whether we saw any or not. Everything on the tide line was sea grass until we got nearly to the light house.

Some of the things you see on the beach make you wonder. Why is a partial ear of corn with a couple of bites out of it, floating in on a wave?

Seems to me there are always coconuts floating in; but who knows from where?

The sun began to make a colorful glow in the sky that changed every few minutes. It was like watching a slide show as you looked toward the East and gradually turned to look back to the West.

Evidently some little girl was having a tea party and had to leave in a hurry.

I guess her mother had to hurry off with her!

Suddenly it was like someone turned a switch, changing the cool air to very warm. It was really strange and quite noticeable. Both of us turned to look at the other, like what happened. Very strange!

As the light house came into view, so did a HUGE pile of trash that had been left under the trees right behind one of the houses. There were two big bags and a carton full of glass beer bottles, fast food wrappers and other trash. We filled up 2 large trash bags to carry around to the dumpster.

After getting disgruntled over the trash situation, it’s always uplifting to walk back to the beach to such a beautiful view.

We noticed a couple of new signs along the edge of the beach today.

Looking through the trees at the sun as you walk along is wonderful.

Surprisingly we had not seen one person on the beach this morning until we reached the fishing pier. There were a lot of people and birds there. We had also begun to see a little more red algae mixed in with the seaweed.

On the other side of the pier there was a small amount of red algae also floating in the water.

A Snowy White Egret was limping as it walked in the water. I stood looking at it, but couldn’t see a problem with either of its legs. It must have been from an old injury. I could tell that it kept the bird from moving around as quickly as it would normally.

I looked back toward the pier and thought….maybe that’s why the Egret is here. It probably knows that the fishermen will be tossing fish back in that direction.

We had to make another stop to pull fishing line out of the bushes. It looked like someone had set up a booby trap because it had cans, bottles and other things tied into it and strung from limb to limb. Go figure!
We passed a man standing out in the water fishing. He seemed to be concentrating on the task at hand because he didn’t look up as we passed.
A little further on there was a lady sitting on a seawall sorting through a pile of tiny shells.
On the other side of the wall two children were wading in the water, along with their parents.
Just before reaching access to the street, I noticed I could still see the moon.

As we left the beach, I did my usual backward glance. The sun was so bright that I had to step around the corner to take my last picture.

As we walked up the street, I did have to take a couple more pictures, one of some of the pretty blooming flowers.

The last one was a joke for a friend.

Hmmm, did somebody take the ‘Turtle Crossing’ sign?
(Just kidding....this isn't the same one that I posted last week.)

Till next week.............

Did you know?

After incubating beneath the surface of the sand for approximately two months, the young turtles will begin to hatch out of their shells. The temperature of the sand surrounding the sea turtle eggs determines their gender. Higher temperatures produce females and lower temperatures produce males.

Hatchlings may remain within the egg chamber several days after hatching. Hatchlings found in the process of crawling out of their shell are called pipped. The movement of fully hatched and pipping turtles while in the egg chamber serves to loosen the sand, allowing it to trickle down to the bottom of the nest. This process acts as a sort of elevator: the greater the movement caused by hatchlings, the greater the amount of sand filtering down to the bottom of the nest, there by elevating the turtles closer to the surface.

Emergence occurs primarily at night. The temperature of the surface sand and sun/ambient temperature during incubation are key factors that determine when hatchlings will emerge from their nest. Once the surface layers of the beach cool after sunset or after a rain storm, the turtles will 'erupt' en mass and proceed to crawl down the beach to the water. Hatchlings orient themselves to light reflected off the water and beach, away from the darker vegetated areas typically found landward along the beach. Over a hundred hatchlings may emerge from a nest at one time. The journey from the nest to the sea can be hazardous. Crabs and birds stand by to feed on the young turtles and, once in the water, various fishes await the vulnerable young prey. Any babies still on the beach in the morning are easily picked off by predators or die in the hot sun. It’s not an easy life being a baby turtle!