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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.

Trawl Boat On Friday, March 10, I took part in Rookery Bay Reserve’s high school education program field trip, which consisted of some trawling, learning about the estuary and learning about organisms who live there. Being the Education intern for Rookery Bay, it was a great viewpoint to see how each program offered by the Education department is different in their own special way.

The trip started at the field station for Rookery Bay, off Shell island road and was led by Dave Graff who coordinates the high school and university programs. As the students arrived we headed into the classroom and spoke about where we were located, what Rookery Bay does and why. After a few laughs about the answers that were given by the students we finished up and headed out to the boat.

mangrove projectRecently I assisted scientists from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) studying the mangrove ecosystem at a future restoration project on Marco Island. This site comprises a large mangrove die-off area near Fruit Farm Creek, located on San Marco Road between Goodland and the City of Marco. The main cause of the die-off is restricted tidal flow. Although mangroves can tolerate high salt content (“salinity”), it’s still necessary to let water flush in and out of the system to bring in oxygenated, lower salinity water and remove waste material like sulfide. RBNERR and its partners have designed a restoration project would restore water exchange by dredging creeks that have filled in, and opening culverts under the road.

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