Several weeks ago, I accepted an invitation from Anne Mauro, our avian ecologist, to assist her team with counting birds and bringing back the signs from the Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area, which is a special tiny island in Rookery Bay Research Reserve.
Col, an intern that works with us and Florida Audubon, picked me up at about 7 am and drove me to the Ten Thousand Islands Field Station near Goodland. There we met Megan, a biologist working for FWC, who joined us for this early morning trip.
As we headed out toward our island destination, I saw that the old waterfront bar in Goodland was still sitting there in good shape, despite Hurricane Irma, but further down there were several hurricane damaged buildings that had not been fixed yet.
About a half an hour later, we landed at the Caxambas Pass CWA sand bar, with Marco Island’s highrises looming nearby. Megan got off the boat and walked along the sand bar while Col backed away to prevent the boat from beaching on the shore, at the mercy of the hard-hitting waves. Megan did the bird and chick counting, not me, and wow she was fast! I believe she counted 160 birds of some species (least terns) and about 100 chicks in less than five minutes. When I asked her how could she count them so fast, she said she does these surveys all the time and gets a lot of practice.
As we headed to Second Chance, the sea was a bit rough but Col navigated very well, with ease and knowledge. When we arrived, I saw that Second Chance had changed from the last time I visited it about 3 years ago. To my surprise, Second Chance was not one sand bar island any longer — it was two. Col said that hurricane Irma had split the tiny island into two even smaller islands. I thought to myself, the sandbar should change names. Taking in consideration the actual shape of the islands, I thought the name of the sandbar could be changed to:
• Second Chances, or
• Second Chance 1 & Second Chance 2, or
• Second Chance and Third Chance
But, I am not a geographer nor an explorer, so I do not have the right to do name changing, but these thoughts did cross my mind.
Megan and I picked up the signs and put them in the boat. Due to the rough seas and the type of boat we had, Col decided it was best to call it a day and took us back to the field station, where we finished a regular day for Col and Megan, but a “out of the ordinary” day for me. I do not get to go out on our boats to our islands and sand bars that often. It was a day I really enjoyed because I got to watch many birds, see some dolphins and several boaters, and I got to talk with two young, dedicated, professional and knowledgeable ladies who are passionate about what they do: to work to protect the environment. Their enthusiasm is inspiring
I am so thankful for the opportunity to be part of this beautiful day.
Cesar Peralta, CTP Specialist
Please remember, maintaining a safe distance is imperative for a successful nesting season for all of Florida’s wild life.
Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve stretches across 110,000 acres of pristine mangrove forest, uplands and protected waters. We are committed to preservation through research, education, and land protection.