Monday, July 27, 2015

Flamingo's fleeting visit at Ding

If you are looking to see a Flamingo, then you are bound to be as disappointed as I was when I went looking for the Flamingo visiting the refuge - it was seen by several people - but it wasn't supposed to be on my watch.
But, as you know, any day birding makes for a great day and along those multiple visits, I managed to see other feathered friends and that's swell by me.
Rain, rain, go away....come back another day! The tides have been super high and the rain constant for several days however the birds seem to like those 'free' showers.
I would imagine that it helps to facilitate cleaning their feathers and removing the mites.

Along the Wildlife Drive in the refuge, multiple young Yellow-crowned Night Herons are seen feasting on Mangrove crabs.

A lone Least Sanpiper was seen along the edge of the drive - foraging for food.

One of the benefit of extra water is that it brings the birds closer to the road - such as this Roseate Spoonbill.

This older Roseate was a tad bit further - look at those colors!! the older they are the more colorful they become.

As I got back on the road - a flurry of activity slowed me way down - a Downy was seen and heard as well as....

 a dozen or so of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers....
I missed those guys....they are more common inland than on the island during the summer time.

A pair of Mottle Ducks resting together. 
By the water structure #5 a Reddish Egret was feeding in a different style.

He also had a companion by his side - a Snowy Egret.

He patiently watched and waited for fish to come by - no dance or shadow wing motion involved.

Oh....there they come....

"Got one!"

Ready for more .... waiting.....

BTW, this is one of the Reddish Egret that has been tagged. You may want to check the ARCI  web site for tracking info and from there you can follow the path of a Reddish Egret being tracked by those solar powered transmitter.

Along the Wulfert Point - several more Yellow-crowned Night Herons were feasting on Mangrove Crabs.

A first year Little Blue was watching its surrounding.

At the very end of the point - I could see a Spotted Sandpiper - he got spooked and flew off with his 5 other compatriots.

I made a quick stop at the Caloosa Shell Mound Trail and was granted views of a Carolina Wren - just long enough before I had to retreat from yet another rain storm.

My E-Bird List for today

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It is hatching time - Sea Turtle part 2

After I've discovered and identified a sea turtle's crawl, I determine whether it is a nest or not and if it is, then I go ahead and verify where the chamber is, apply a self-releasing screen and give it a number. From then on we keep our eyes on the nest and give it a daily look/see - making sure that all is well until it is hatching time - a nest will hatch anytime from day 45 to 70.
Most days begins with a gorgeous view - how very fortunate we are to have this in our back yard!

And the journey begins - a predation is discovered....

Sometimes the coyotes beat us to the punch and have a feast with total disregard to the sea turtle population. When this happen we take an inventory of the eaten/damaged eggs and clean up the chamber as well as we can - we then fill it up with fresh sand and hope that the rest of the clutch will continue to incubate and be successful.

With field guide at hand - the prints are correctly identified and recorded.
 Also, part of the patrol is being on the lookout for anything and everything that could be of danger to the sea turtles. During the season it is crucial to clean up the beach after using it - such as removing canopy, chairs, toys etc but most
importantly to fill up holes such as these because they are hazardous to the adult but especially for the hatchlings.
As the season progress - the excitements starts to build up, as you can see here this was a nest that went unnoticed and hatched on its own - look at all those tiny crawls heading to the ocean!

 Here you see another - this one had been labeled and screened. We love to see all those prints heading in the right direction, a sure sign of a successful hatch.
 We then allow several days to pass - giving ample time for the hatchling to get out before we conduct an inventory - this particular nest had 64 eggshells (hatched), 36 unhatched, 1 dead hatchling, 3 live hatchlings, 0 pipped live and 5 pipped dead - making this a 106 egg clutch.
Sometimes we find live hatchlings in the chamber, if it is early enough and safe - we let the hatchlings go - otherwise we hold them until night time at which time we release them in the ocean at the location where they were born. The imprint on the beach helps them to come back to the same area some 20+ years later to lay their own eggs. Also, notice how one of the hatchling looks slightly different from the others - it turns out that the female sea turtle gets sperms from many males and after data study it has been determined that a clutch has many different dads - pretty cool, hey?
And so, we wish them luck on their incredible journey - 1 in 1000 will make it to adulthood - they need all the help they can get.
And if you are ever at Ding Darling, make sure to stop in the Visitor Center and look at the Sea Turtle interactive display they have - it is quite informative.

And this is a side view of the egg chamber that sits 2-3 ft down - the chamber has the shape of an inverted light bulb - the hatchling emerge in the middle of the night when it is dark and cool. The beaches are dark and the hatchling will head to the brightest horizon - which is the ocean. If you happen to be on the beach at night, refrain from using a flashlight because this can be a cause for disorientation for the sea turtles - as a result they will wander inland and will die of exhaustion, dehydration or predation. Just remember, after 9, it's turtle time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A day as a Sea Turtle Patrol permittee - part 1

Most of my blog is about hitting the trails and birding, however this time of the year the majority of my time is spent on the beach patrolling for Sea Turtles as a volunteer for SCCF (Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation).
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The East end of Sanibel is walked by 6 walkers covering 6 zones for a total of 7 miles....the walkers get on the beach as early as possible so that they may report their sightings before 7:30 a.m. The big bonus for being on the beach at that hour is
being in the moment while the sun rises - bringing to light a new day filled with great a walker I used to love that part of the job. As a 'permittee' I receive the phone calls from the walkers - they are my eyes on the beach and report to me what they have seen. I take copious notes and by 7:30 a.m. I am out the door heading to the various locations where crawls have been seen and reported. I never know what to expect and often times my day is filled with surprises and big puzzles to solve too.  

Here is a clear crawl left on the sand by a Loggerhead Sea Turtle, the track that overlaps is the crawl heading back to the Gulf.
Here is a Loggerhead nest that was done the previous night....some study and training was necessary for me to take in order to be able to conduct nesting surveys and outfit the nests, I learned how to decipher whether a crawl resulted in a nest or a "false crawl", and often times the sea turtle crawl leaves us scratching our head and making us wonder....after all, she is showing us that she knows how to camouflage her nest.

Sometimes a crawl ends in furniture left behind on the beach - a clear violation. A Sea Turtle crawls in a forward motion with no abilities whatsoever to back up, often times getting tangled up in furniture and returning to the sea with it, one of the scenario is that after some time barnacles will grow on the chair making it heavier and eventually making it impossible for the turtle to surface at which time she will folks....don't leave anything on the beach but foot prints.
Here is another crawl - this one a nest.
I first determine where I believe the egg chamber is and proceed by clearing the top layer of sand, once I determine where the chamber is, I refill the cavity and install a self-releasing screen over the top in order to protect it from the Coyotes.
I then take copious notes, enter all the data necessary as well as GPS location. The nest is then assigned a number. Below is the finished process - this nest then gets watched every day until it hatches. There is so much more information on a day-by-day data collection and it is difficult to compress it, however I will bring you more information and let you know what takes place after a nest has been staked....stay tuned.


Monday, July 20, 2015

A green turtle's foot print

The photos were taken with my phone which is enclosed in a waterproof/dustproof case, the details are not as pronounced but you can get an idea of what you are looking at.