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.
It was an amazing evening. As I approached the dock behind the Rookery Bay Field Station I was greeted by the russet hues of a beautiful sunset and Adam DiNuovo, Audubon Shorebird Stewardship Coordinator. We waited for the rest of our party to arrive, and I swatted away the no-seeums to enjoy the view of two black skimmers gliding gracefully across the smooth surface of the water near the dock. It was a good sign – we were on our way to a black skimmer nesting colony to band young skimmers for Adam’s research.
The sandbar called Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area took on a whole new meaning for a flock of nesting black skimmers. Two weeks ago, research intern Alli Smith recorded 23 skimmer chicks on the island during her weekly shorebird nesting survey. The number of skimmer chicks counted there last week plummeted to only three. The cause of this decrease isn’t exactly clear: it could have been caused by the island being overwashed by high tides or storms or maybe a predator is specializing in feeding on skimmer chicks.
July 10, 2017
While I was collecting plankton for our plankton lab, I was amazed at this discovery in Henderson Creek. These remarkable algae are transient visitors to our estuary.
These amazing living organisms are called “volvox” or commonly, “globe algae,” because they do look like little planets spinning through a watery universe. They are, however, a type of huge (relatively speaking!) colonial phytoplankton. Upper Henderson Creek is loaded with them right now because the salinity is so low due to the volume of rain that we’ve been getting... remember, freshwater is an important component of all estuaries!
July 5, 2017
With much help from Team OCEAN reducing disturbance this holiday weekend, the birds of Second Chance CWA are on their way to a successful nesting season! On this morning’s survey, I counted over 100 pairs of Least Terns, most of which have small chicks. An additional group of Least Terns, likely individuals whose nests have been washed out or depredated elsewhere, have arrived and laid eggs sometime in the last two weeks. Their chicks will be hatching in mid-July. Terns that got an early start have fledglings already: the young are learning how to fly and fish.
Three broods of tiny Wilson’s Plover chicks are running around, eating all the insects and invertebrates they can find.
Black Skimmers seem to be doing well, with about 50 pairs tending to their eggs and a handful of small chicks running around. In addition to the birds, there are at least three sea turtle nests on Second Chance!
Alli Smith, Avian Intern