Things outside are starting to change! Have you started to notice? It’s a slight change every day, but our days are getting longer and our nights are getting shorter. This does not just affect us humans either. The equinoxes are one of the many signals flora and fauna around the world use to time their annual cycles.
I have been monitoring shorebirds using the many different habitats within Rookery Bay Reserve this winter. For the most part, I have been counting similar breakdowns of diversity (number of different species) and abundance (number of individuals) over the whole season. These last few weeks though, I have begun to see some shifts in my survey data as well as in the birds themselves!
This is exciting! Our avian team (Kim and Anne) found a red knot with leg bands on Kice Island. With a high-powered spotting scope they were able to make out the code PJM. They learned that it was banded in Seabrook Island, SC on 4/29/2017. This was the first time anyone has seen it since it was banded. It’s always exciting to learn which individuals have made it through the winter!
Learn more about our shore birds and monotoring programs here
Check out this amazing natural phenomenon on Marco Island’s “Residents Beach!” Millions of young sand dollars can be seen in the surf. These sand dollars are actually keyhole urchins (named for their keyhole-shaped openings), and are related to sea urchins and sea stars. When alive, sand dollars are covered with a brown fuzzy covering but after the animal dies, the fuzz falls off and the skeleton turns white, bleached by the sun.
Spring has sprung here in southwest Florida although recently it has begun to feel more like summer. Wildlife is noticing the changes too, but slightly longer daylight hours are likely providing more cues than the unseasonably warm temperatures. Eastern screech owls seem to be paying close attention to changing seasons and are flying into nesting season in high gear. “Screechers” nest in cavities of hollowed out trees but they also will readily move into a human provided nest box if better options aren’t available.
Thursday February 1, 2018 was an unusual day for us communication interns here at Rookery Bay Research Reserve. We got the opportunity to ditch our desks and join two staff members on a boating trip to a nearby mud flat. The purpose of this boating trip was to collect invertebrates (animals without backbones) to be re-homed in the Learning Center’s touch tanks.
Here’s something we don’t often see: a “minus 1.18” on the tide chart. This is the case along our shores tomorrow morning because the full moon will be aligned with the earth and the sun, and the associated gravitational forces cause an extreme effect on our tides. As a result, a lot of land that is normally submerged is exposed by the retreating tide, providing opportunities for birds to feed in new locations as well as making navigation a challenge for boaters. This full moon is extra special: it is a “super blue blood” moon. The moon is called “super” when it is full when passing closest to earth during its orbit, a “blue” moon is always the second full moon of the month and tomorrow morning, in the early hours, we will get to see a “blood” moon because of a total lunar eclipse!
Earlier this week, I assisted Dr. Heather Bracken-Grissom and her Invertebrate Zoology class visiting from Florida International University. This was the third or fourth year that they’ve come over for a weekend-long field experience, staying at our dormitory at the Rookery Bay Field Station. There were seven undergrads and two graduate (PhD) students participating in the class...
August 9, 2017
Not so long ago, in a galaxy not far far away...
Ok, so this happened last week in a few drops of water from Henderson Creek, but the videos you are about to watch might as well have been taken in another universe.
I collected plankton samples for last week’s Summer Institute for Marine Science (SIMS) program led by education staff member Jeannine Windsor. The Henderson Creek sample didn’t have a lot of visible life in it, possibly due to the seasonally low salinity from all the rain we’ve been receiving. However, there were some spectacular organisms in the sample that I’d seen for the first time a few weeks ago while working on a phytoplankton video for the learning center.