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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.

Rotifer with volvoxI 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.

SunsetIt 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.

Black skimmersThe 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. 

volvox copepod 250These 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

Least tern chicksWith 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 skimmer chick

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! 

Learn more about avian monitoring at Rookery Bay Reserve

asmith webAlli Smith, Avian Intern

 

least tern in flight Earlier this week I was presented the opportunity to tag along with Greg and Alli as they conducted their shorebird nesting survey at the Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area. First we saw that it was a beautiful, sunny, and clear morning as we slowly motored away from the Ten Thousand Islands field station dock. The mosquitoes weren’t even annoying for some reason. The light breeze, combined with the slow movement of the boat gave us just the right amount of early- morning air conditioning. Beautiful sunrise, gentle breeze, no mosquitoes – wow, guess this is how Goodland got its name.

As we slowly motored towards Goodland from the dock, I saw a circular flat spot on the water about 15 feet off the side of the boat. “Manatee footprint?” I asked Alli and Greg. I looked behind us as we slowly continued and, sure enough, saw a whole series of “footprints” from the wide circular tail fluke of manatees appeared, along with few manatee snouts popping up at the surface.

Sad people are often described as feeling “blue.” But what if we really could change colors according to our moods? If only we could ask the orange filefish…

Last week I was photographing a young orange filefish for an ID card for our aquaria. I first started taking pictures of it on a black background to match the style of the other id cards. After a little while I decided to shoot it on white to see which background looked better. It wasn’t until I was reviewing the photos that I discovered that something beside the background had changed. The fish became much paler while being photographed on the white background!

manatee rescueOn Wednesday April 12, I was part of a team of people who rescued an injured manatee. The injured manatee was reported to FWC by Marco Island residents that had spotted it in their backyard canals. The Florida Wildlife Research Institute is the arm of the FWC responsible for manatee research and rehabilitation, and their office is in Port Charlotte, almost three hours away. Before they can mobilize for a rescue, reports must be confirmed by a member of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which includes several staff members at Rookery Bay Research Reserve.

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