Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Walk #4

Arrived at the Buttonwood access on the east end of the island, around 6:15 AM. The sky in the east was already getting pink. It was warm this morning, around 78. With a SW wind, it didn't seem that warm.

I saw the first turtle nest in our zone, as soon as I walked out on the beach. We checked to make sure it hadn't been disturbed. It was found Thursday, May 21, in front of The Colony Beach Estates. There have now been a total of 5 false crawls in our zone, as well.

It was obvious that there was a lot of traffic on this part of the beach over the holiday weekend. Plenty of kiddie items were left behind, scattered here and there, most all were broken and just left where they fell. A beach ball was hiding in the dunes. There were also a few cans, bottles, plastic bags, tissues and other items. There was one nice lady walking on the beach, carrying a large plastic bag, she was putting trash in. Thank you lady!! The critters and I thank you!

This was strange.

After a closer look, it was still strange! The square hole was about around 4 feet deep and 10 feet on each side. On the right and left sides, there are small palm trees that had been cut off, laying on the sand. They still had the green palm fronds at the top, so they hadn't been cut because they were dying. Talk about a turtle trap! So, will this be there until Florida freezes over, or what? Also had to dump this one in the Permittee's hands.

I got to see what I'm pretty sure was a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

I found another Orange ?? shell ?? :-)

Now, I have seen a Common Egg Cockle shell, a Morton's Egg Cockle shell, but this is obviously half of an Easter Egg Cockle shell. :-)

I think this is a sea turtle who has just completed a 'false crawl'.

These sand sculptures in front of Sanibel Arms West, were very cute. Someone had spent a lot of time and effort making them. But, it's a shame they didn't take into consideration the fact it's sea turtle nesting season. They are right in front of the dune area, which is where turtles usually nest. They should have been taken down, but I didn't have the heart to do it. We did tell our Permittee, so they can do what they think should be done. We did fill quite a few holes on the beach today. I believe that someone from SCCF has been driving the beach lately, checking for holes and filling them. A friend of mine saw them a couple of times on the beach in the West Gulf Drive area.

The sun finally rising from behind the clouds.

The Gulf was pretty calm and wasn't bringing in many shells at all.

This pelican flew right over my head and surprised me by diving into very shallow water. It did get it's catch for breakfast. Just as a seagull landed right by it's head, I saw him swallow it down. The seagull had to go find his own breakfast.

I love the sunrises!

The mermaid looks as though she had a rough weekend.

About half way back, we spotted the Snowy Plovers again and thought they were the same two young ones that we saw last week hiding under their mother's wings. She was still with them or their father was, but they have really grown. They were also wandering farther away now, but the parent was still keeping a close watch.

We weren't sure if this was the Mother or Father Plover, but it looked like it was missing a foot. It had a limp as it walked, but still was able to get where it wanted to go. There was a band on its other leg. You can tell in this video, how fast they run across the sand. It is hard to spot them because their color is nearly the same as the sand. If you take your eyes off them, you can't quickly find them back again. They are very cute and fun to watch.

After spotting the little chicks running around last week, we sent an email and link to that video to Cara Faillace, who is the Snowy Plover Technician with SCCF Snowy Plover Project. She replied, saying that it look like the brood from nest 003 and thanked us for sharing the video. Today we sent another link to this video. She promptly responded with this interesting information: Those chicks are in our records as officially fledged. the adult in the video is the male from that nest- he is indeed missing a foot and has been since 2006. I believe he was banded as a chick in 2005. In 2007 he successfully fledged 2 chicks, in 2008 he fledged 1 chick and this year he has another 2. He's also a favorite with staff and plover volunteers. The female from this nest is banded as white over green on the right leg and silver over green on the left.

I did see one turtle on the beach, it was crawling toward the dunes. But, it wasn't a sea turtle. It was a Florida Box turtle, who was kind enough to let me get a picture before he hid in the vegetation.

There was also a skate egg case, sometimes called a mermaid's purse, left at a high tide line. You may remember that I have posted photos of these before. A skate is related to the Stingray.

At the end of the walk, this is what we had collected. Next stop.....dumpster in Lighthouse Beach parking area.

These are the small shells I picked up today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Turtle Walk # 3

This was a chilly morning for an early turtle walk. It was very cloudy, 68 degrees and a strong NE wind. I was wearing shorts and short sleeve shirt, was barefoot and wished I had a jacket.

It was pretty dark, on arrival at the beach. The Ft Myers Beach lights were shining brightly across the water, as was the beacon in our lighthouse.

In only a few minutes, there was enough light to start walking. It's important for any of you beach walkers to wait until it's light enough, because of all the holes, that are not easily seen. It's somewhat encouraging to know that the Sanibel PD is increasing their enforcement of beach ordinances. Holes on the beach are becoming more of a problem. Any large holes in a turtle walker's zone are to be reported. SCCF is working with the city to document the problem and find a solution.

All along the way, I kept noticing how many lights were on. During 'Turtle Nesting Season', there are notices in each condo, requesting that you keep the blinds or curtains closed if you have lights on during the dark hours. Keeping lights turned off on the lanais and by condo doors is also important. But, as dark as it still was, lights seemed to be glowing everywhere in this zone. I was thinking that if I was a sea turtle, I would most definitely turn around and try to find another place to lay my eggs. It is really surprising that people can be so thoughtless or uncaring.

There were so many clouds still hanging around this morning, that I never got a glimpse of the sun.

This fellow is doing my kind of fishing! I hope he won't be mad if he sees himself on my blog. I just thought he was so cute, sitting there all relaxed.

There were few shells, and all were small. It was very hard to spot the ones that I picked up, while walking along. I had to stop, do the stoop, and wait a few seconds to focus on them. Hmmm, is that another sign of old age? If so, I don't like that one either. Yes.....I have others.

It wasn't difficult to spot, the all too common in the sunshine state, 'orange peel scallop'.

You've probably already guessed, this is the common 'marked float on a rope'. A 10 foot rope, to be exact.

Better when viewed on YouTube in HD, by clicking on the screen below.

There were no signs of a turtle crawl today and I was ready for a stop at the Sanibel Cafe and some hot coffee!

I cleaned my little shells when I got home. Here they are....Ta...da!


2008 Statewide Sea Turtle Survey Results

Sanibel and Captiva weren’t the only beaches
to see an increase in sea turtle nesting last year.
In 2008, there were 61,455 loggerhead nests that
produced 3,583,893 hatchlings in the state of
Florida. This is down from the 1998 peak of 85,000
nests but an increase from 2007’s all time nesting
low. Despite this increase, the decreasing trend in
loggerhead nesting continues. Nesting has decreased
41% during the last ten years. With 90%
of all U.S. loggerhead nests occurring in the state,
2008 leaves us hopeful, but still concerned for the
plight of the loggerhead.
2008 was a good year for the other sea turtle species
that nest on Florida’s beaches as well. There
were 9,228 green sea turtle nests and 727 leatherback
sea turtle nests across the state. The rare
Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill sea turtles also made
a few appearances on Florida beaches. There were
thirteen Kemp’s Ridley and four Hawksbill nests.

First Nest of the Season

This year the honor of the first nest of the season
goes to Captiva. The nest was laid
on the evening of Friday May 8. Sanibel’s first nest
was laid on Sunday May 10. The first nest in Lee County was found
the morning of May 1 on Cayo Costa.

Adopt-A-Nest Challenge

The sea turtle program is issuing a challenge!
Last year, the program received 43 nest adoptions.
We want to reach 100 adoptions this year!

A-Dopt-A-Nest form and information.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Walk #2

I was excited to do the turtle walk today, because there had been a false crawl reported in this zone yesterday morning. (A false crawl is when a turtle comes on the beach, but does not lay her eggs. Usually because conditions are not favorable there or something may have scared her away. That is determined by seeing the tracks onto the beach and back into the water.) I thought maybe it would have come back last night to lay eggs.

This morning arriving at the beach before daylight; this is how it looked, pretty dark with just a little light beginning to show in the eastern sky.

After getting on the beach, I took a couple of photos. One toward the lighthouse and one toward the west. It didn't seem hot at first; I think the temperature was around 75, but quite humid.

There were two bicycles at the Buttonwood Lane Beach Access at the 1/2 mile marker, so there were people already on the beach. After walking a short distance, I saw two men fishing.

The beach in our zone looks a little like a mine field. There are holes everywhere. It sure wouldn't be wise to walk this part of the beach in the dark, because you would end up with some broken bones or a back out of place. Could that be why the turtle chose not to lay her eggs here? Last week I noticed that there were several lights left on at condos, by doors facing the beach. Maybe that was a problem for Ms Turtle??

Very soon the sky in the east began getting pink. As it began getting more light, there were a lot of people coming out to the beach. There were joggers passing by, people walking and shelling.

There were a lot of shore birds out getting breakfast.

There were also two ducks taking a bath in the edge of the water. I had never seen ducks at the beach before, but they seemed to be having a great time.

The Snowy Plover nesting areas are still marked. There are, I think, four areas marked off in the area between Buttonwood Lane and the Sanibel Inn. After walking a while, we noticed two tiny little baby snowy plovers running around on the beach. (First time I've seen a baby one!) Their mother was trying to keep them safe and as we approached, they ran to her and she put her wings out. They quickly wiggled themselves in under her wings. You couldn't even tell they were there. It was so cute. She did it twice while we watched. Even the full grown Snowy Plovers are so small that you hardly notice them on the beach, unless they happen to scurry across the sand, in front of you.

They are right at the bottom of this photo, in the center.

Go to YouTube by clicking the screen below to watch in HD. Almost as good as being there if you watch closely.

A little further on, I saw a man quite a way out in the water, almost up to his knees. He was busy using a cast net.

The sky was a brighter pink now and in just a couple minutes the sun was coming up. It was a very pretty sunrise. It was getting pretty warm by this time and there was no breeze, so I had slowed down considerably.

The water was so calm that the sunlight made a beautiful reflection.

After reaching the 1 1/2 mile marker and the Sanibel Inn, it was time to turn around and go back.

I started noticing schools of fish in the water and then saw a couple of dolphin swimming by. There were also two very large fish swimming near the shore. They were around 2 ft long.

There was also a fish on the beach. :-)

On the way back, I walked along the water looking at the shells. It was a very slow walk because the shells were all small, so I had to do the 'Sanibel Stoop' to look them over.

When we passed the place where we had seen the baby Snowy Plovers, there were two men with heavy duty :-) camera equipment. Both men were laying on their stomachs on the sand. I'm sure they were getting some great pictures. Poor little plovers, get no peace.

There were no signs of a turtle crawl, which was disappointing, but when I left the beach, I had a pocket bulging with miniature size shells, which made me happy. I'll put a photo of them on my Lazy Days Blog tomorrow.