Friday, July 31, 2009

Tour de Turtles

The second annual Tour de Turtles: A Sea Turtle Migration Marathon, has begun. The actual race will begin after the last of 10 turtles is let go. Sea turtles are equipped with a satellite-transmitter so that they can be tracked. The marathon is to raise awareness about sea turtle conservation and to learn more about their migration patterns so that biologists know how best to protect the species. You can follow along to see which turtle travels 2,620 kilometers first, at .

A Loggerhead sea turtle named Bree Varda was released this morning at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge .

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Turtle Walk #13

This was the 13th turtle walk of this nesting season. We arrived at the Buttonwood Lane Access, just after first light. The eastern sky was pink from the approaching sunrise. There was a nice breeze which is always a good thing, keeping bugs away and protecting us from a meltdown.

As soon as I started walking, I came across another pvc fishing rod holder that had been driven into the sand and left behind. There are usually 3 or 4 of these within our one mile walk. This eastern end of the beach has become a real obstacle course. Walking through this area is not very pleasant, at all, due to a growing number of sand holes, trash, abandoned broken beach chairs, & sand toys. Plus the sea weed from weeks ago is still on the beach, repeatedly getting wet, and is smelling rather bad.

This hole is about 2 feet deep.

Very nice, but not turtle friendly, when left behind.

This one had piles of sand on each side and the hole was about a foot and a half deep.

This is who we can thank for that contribution. Sand holes are a real danger to people and wildlife and should be filled in before leaving the beach.

Someone had gone away and left their chicken roasting, unattended.

Yes, it's a beached boat !

AND.....A frog; belly up!

Not a prize winner today.

Oh please! Let me carry this broken chair away for you.

Your guess is probably as good as mine, on this one.

Ok, so I think it's safe to say that this shovel isn't being used by children. Especially when there were two men and one woman just a short distance away, watching as I was taking photos of their things. They probably thought I was going to make off with a camera that was left on top of this pile of chairs. Which, by the way, are not supposed to be out on the beach. I believe that shovel would be considered an excavation tool and excavation isn't legal on the beach. I looked back after walking away and one of the men had gone up to the chairs to get the camera. None of the three went back there until we had passed that area on our way back. I saw the lady looking at us when we went by, she said something to one of the men and he looked toward us too.

I'm sure they went back to their digging. There was already a 3 ft high pile of sand there.

This made me wonder if a Captain had thrown his First Mate overboard.

I noticed a few small shells, that I had to pick up. :-) These were certainly more fun picking up than the two heavy bags of trash we carried away today.

Best viewed in HD on YouTube by clicking the screen below.

We had no new turtle activity and the remaining nests in our zone aren't due to hatch until August.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sea Turtle Egg Smuggling

There is an unbelievable story about sea turtle egg theft and smuggling in Asia. You have to read it to believe it. They say the black market sale of these eggs is so lucrative that orders are taken in advance. This is all so upsetting, when such effort is put forth to save even one tiny sea turtle hatchling. :-( Thank goodness these horrible thieves are getting caught and punished.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Males or Females, That's the Question

Did you know, the sex of a sea turtle is primarily determined by the sand temperature during incubation?

For loggerhead sea turtles, the warmer eggs toward the top of the nest, closest to the sunlight, generally hatch as females while the ones in the cooler sand at the bottom of the nest generally hatch as males.

Data collected in 2002 and 2003 on Sanibel showed 20-60% of hatchlings from the monitored nests were male, higher than all other Florida beaches except for Miami Beach.

Another year of data collection is needed to statistically show Sanibel's tendency to produce males.

A total of 10 nests are being selected during the 2009 nesting season to have a temperature sensor buried in the egg chamber. The sensor records the temperature in the nest for the duration of the incubation period. Near the estimated hatch date of a nest, a cage will be placed over the egg chamber to catch the hatchlings. Ten of the strongest hatchlings will be taken for a study that is being done as part of the Sea Turtle Research, Monitoring and Protection Program at the Florida Atlantic University and the University of Alabama. Those 10 turtles will be raised in their lab until they are old enough to be sexed. The rest of the hatchlings will be released.

Hopefully those studies will help answer the question, why Sanibel produces more male Loggerhead sea turtles.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Walk #12

Began the turtle walk at 6:30 this morning. There was a nest in our zone that was due to hatch around July 10, but it hadn't hatched yet. This morning we were anxious to check on it.

It was very still out, hardly any breeze. Even after using bug spray, the noseeums were being a nuisance.

These were near the Buttonwood access and looked like snowballs, so they were sandballs?

At first, there wasn't anyone else in eye sight. But as it got a little more light out, people came flocking onto the beach.

Yes, more sand traps for baby sea turtles. :-(

I had a feeling that we might see a hole in the nest and little tiny tracks where hatchlings might have made their escape. But, what we saw was even more exciting. There was a hole in the nest, but there was also a tiny little turtle coming out of it. YEAH!! It looked like the first one, because I didn't see any other tracks. It took that little guy a long time to get out over the edge of the hole. When he did, he took a moment to look around and then headed toward the water. It amazes me that they know that is where they are supposed to go.

(Much better if you enlarge the photos.)

The hatchling had a problem when he tried to pass a shallow sand hole that had been washed over by the waves. He slid sideways and then flipped over onto his back. Poor thing tried and tried but couldn't get turned over. I finally helped him and he was once again on his way. This is a perfect example of the problem caused by leaving holes on the beach. I wish there were some signs posted at the beach accesses etc. with warnings about them. I know some people just refuse to follow rules, but I think they would help.

The videos are not the greatest quality because they are from my phone. (There is a problem with the video camera, as it was dropped and in need of serious repair.) You can view these in HQ on YouTube.

Follow the tiny turtle as he makes the remainder of his walk to the water. Just after the first wave came in near him, it looked like he hesitated and then thought, I've got to do this, and went for it. I saw his head come up four times at the top of each wave and then he was gone.

After the little turtle swam away, I looked around and saw that the sun had just come up.

There were tidal pools along the way, a lot of seaweed that smelled a little and had LOTS of tiny flies and bugs in it. The beach walk itself, was not too pleasant this morning.

You already know what I'm thinking. :-(

A basketball star was here and left his flip flops?

Is this nasty, or what? Now this person had kept their butts nice and neat, all in one pile, but they couldn't take them away. These are not the kinds of things you want to pick up, but you do what you gotta do.

These were left on the beach from last night. They were supposed to be at a pool near a condo building. Another thing to cause false crawls or for a turtle to get trapped in.

Mmm, Hmm, somebody dropped their noodle.

We see a lot of these little shell piles near the beach accesses. Tourists dispose of their rejects before leaving. I've seen other people thrilled to find them. :-)

This hole was about a foot and a half deep.

Is it a sign??? Does it mean anything to you?

Someones lost flip.

After we walked back, we stopped to check the turtle nest again. Since it was more light out, we could see several other little tracks around the hole and also the rain marks all over the sand. Possibly the nest hatched during the night and rain hid most of the tracks. Could we have seen the very last little turtle that came out? In three days, our permittee will dig the nest to make sure there are none that were not able to get out and also count the empty egg sacks. Then we will know how many hatched. I hope I get to be there when it is dug.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sea Turtle Eggs Being Stolen

Since this years sea turtle nesting season began, there have been stories about nests being disturbed and eggs stolen.

The only people legally allowed to handle sea turtles or eggs include those associated with aquariums, marine facilities, museums, conservation societies, research institutions, universities or colleges or those who have obtained proper accreditation and necessary licenses for working with marine reptiles. If you are not working with a respected or accredited organization you will be prosecuted for handling or disturbing sea turtle eggs.

Besides taking eggs, other offenses include any action that kills, harms, or injures marine turtles. It also involves any activity that disturbs the nesting grounds, breeding places, or natural immediate habitat of marine turtles. It is against Florida law to take, disturb, mutilate, destroy, sell, transfer, molest, or harass sea turtles, sea turtle eggs, or sea turtle nests.

It is a felony crime in the state of Florida to disturb sea turtle nests or to remove sea turtle eggs. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has legal authority to investigate any cases of sea turtle poaching, abuse, theft, or disturbance.

Sea Turtles protected by Florida law are: Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill , and the Ridley Turtle.

Penalties for violating Florida’s, Marine Turtle Protection Act include a fine of $100.00 per egg. Possession of 11 or fewer sea turtle eggs is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor and those charged will face punishment according to Florida law. Second and third offenses may result in prison time and much larger fines.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Walk #11

Today was our 11 th turtle walk. We have a nest in our zone that should be hatching any day now. There were some big clouds hanging around, the water was very calm, and there was no breeze at all. I sprayed myself with Deep Woods OFF, knowing I would probably be fighting off noseeums. The spray helped, but there was no way I could stand still, or they would start landing on me. There was a lot of leg slapping going on when I stopped to talk to two different ladies. Our conversations were very short, to say the least.

One lady told me that she had been coming to the beach everyday to see if that nest had hatched yet. The other lady said that we had a turtle crawl in our zone; but as it turned out, it was a little way further and in the next zone.

Walking out the Buttonwood access I could see a big cloud, hanging pretty low over the water.

View looking toward the Sanibel Lighthouse.

There was a lot of seaweed on the beach, not red algae but almost the same color. I think it is Sargassum, but it looks more red than what we've been seeing. I also saw more Manatee Grass in a few areas. There were hundreds of tiny flies around the seaweed. A lady walking past me said, "It's a buggy morning."

This hole was 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep. It wouldn't be safe to walk on the beach in this area because you could loose a leg. There were several of these scattered around, making the beach look like an obstacle course.

MAN DOWN!!! I knew eventually someone would get down in one of those sand holes.

Two race cars had collided, flipping one over on it's side. I hope no one was hurt.

I picked up three plastic sand pail handles and one sand pail. This turtle was ready to eat one, but I grabbed it, just in time, to add to my growing collection of trash. Items found most often are: tissues, baby wipes, foil juice containers, the straws and cellophane wrapper, popsicle wrapper, gum wrappers, broken beach toys, and flip flops.

I picked up another fillet of sole. I sure hope you don't need a permit to do that.

I think this is deserving of the title of sand and shell art.

Yesterday when my grandsons were out in the water they picked up some chunks of sargassum and found a tiny crab and 3 very tiny fish, hiding in it. It shows you how important this seaweed is to wildlife.

You can make up your own conclusions for this one. A candle and two empty bottles on the beach???

Best viewed in HD on YouTube by clicking the screen below.

We were hoping to see tiny turtle tracks heading toward the Gulf, but the nest still hasn't hatched.