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Terns, pelicans and more on mudflatThe 17th annual Ten Thousand Islands Christmas Bird Count (FLTT CBC) was held on Tuesday, January 3, 2017. Fifteen teams and a total of 52 people participated in the count using a variety of transportation including: 1 airboat, 4 outboard motor boats, 1 canoe, 1 kayak, 1 swamp buggy, autos, and of course on foot. 

A total of 136 species and 17,681 birds were tallied within the entire FLTT count circle, much of which falls within Rookery Bay Research Reserve's managed area.

Fish crowsEarlier this week, I went out with Beverly and Allie in our research department to check the ABC Islands Critical Wildlife Area for nesting birds. These islands are posted and protected by a 300-foot buffer area, and our staff has a special permit issued by FWC to enter this area. Using binoculars, we saw great blue herons, pelicans, anhingas and more! While boating around the outside of the islands we saw evidence of cormorants nesting and also saw several blue heron nests. On one of the islands we could also see that there was fishing line caught in the tree canopy so we carefully removed the line. Fishing line is a threat to birds because they can become entangled and die.

IMG 1690 300

Snail Trail has recently been reopened, so Misa, Renee, and I decided to take an hour of our morning to go check it out. The trail itself is normally a bit longer but since we couldn't stay away from work too long, we decided to take the short route - and so can you if you decide to go!

With Renee as our guide, Misa and I got to learn a lot about the native plants and exotic species in the area. Renee’s extensive knowledge of botany added a touch of science to our encounter with the nature in the reserve.

shark release 250We had a wonderful evening in Rookery Bay Reserve and the glorious Ten Thousand Islands last week with fisheries biologist Pat O’Donnell. The evening began with a large mullet jumping into the boat onto the bow. Its bad fortune was our good luck: more shark bait, and, more sharks than we ever expected.

Misa and I, Rookery Bay Reserve's communication interns for Fall semester, joined a research trawling trip with Pat O'Donnell. Pat is the fisheries biologist and has been working at Rookery Bay for 18 years. It's safe to say he knows his fisheries pretty well! Neither of us had done anything like that before and we had no idea what to expect of it.

Rookery Bay Reserve’s water quality monitoring program manages seven sample sites across the Ten Thousand Islands. When we pull up our data logging equipment, called datasondes, we usually find small critters like porcelain crabs and grass shrimp using the equipment and tubes as their homes. But Nick and I never expected something as big and cool as what we saw in the tube at our Fakahatchee Bay site last week.

Goliath groupers, which can grow to be the size of a small car, and stone crabs, an extremely valuable commercial species, use estuaries in the reserve as nurseries and apparently appreciated this tube as a micro-habitat. Not sure how the grouper got in that small tube, but we were glad to get it out!


 drevenkar-100Julie Drevenkar,  Water Quality Program Coordinator

July 31, 2016

Second Chance and New Beach
Low Tide 5.50am
Partly cloudy, thunderstorm to west

Adam and I shot out to Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area and Cape Romano this morning for a quick survey (for him) and hopefully a few chick photos (for me).

This tiny, tiny emergent sandbar was completely washed over by Tropical Storm Colin on June 6. EVERY Least tern (LETE) and Wilson's plover (WIPL) nest was gone. There wasn't one egg on it when we checked after the storm. The sandbar elevation was lowered and it looked grim for any successful nests this year. We were hoping that there would be re-nesting, but realistic that it might be a long shot.

But look what's out there now!
Least tern fledglings
Because of the designation by FWC as a Critical Wildlife Area last November, and the subsequent closing for nesting season as of March 1st, the birds were largely undisturbed on Second Chance during this delicate time. Rookery Bay's Team OCEAN volunteers and FWC Law Enforcement have been diligent in educating boaters and minimizing human disturbance at Second Chance and it's paying off.

Adam counted 61 LETE fledglings! Last year at this time, there was maybe one fledgling.

May 12, 2016

On Thursday, May 12, Team Ocean participated in the release of two gopher tortoises on Keewaydin Island. According to Joanna Fitzgerald, Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, one tortoise had been entangled in monofilament line. The constriction damage was extensive so the tortoise was there for almost two months. The second tortoise was the victim of a predator attack. Damage was severe and also required many weeks of treatment.

Once the tortoises were rehabilitated, the Conservancy was at a loss as to how to get them back to Keewaydin. As a volunteer at the Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy, I became aware of the need, and because I am also a volunteer with Rookery Bay Reserve's Team OCEAN program, I looked into partnering with Team Ocean on this mission. After getting approval from the Team OCEAN coordinator and Rookery Bay Reserve's Stewardship department (to identify the best release location) I sought out the help of two other Team OCEAN captains, Bob Jack and Don Drake, to help in this endeavor.

gopher-release-250Joanna assigned Megan Hatten, Wildlife Hospital Conservation Associate, to transport the tortoises and accompany us to Keewaydin Island. The tortoises were to be released inland on the north side of Keewaydin but just south of the Donahue property. The four of us along with two gopher tortoises left the Shell Island Road field station at 7:30 am, so that we could get the tortoises on the island with enough time during the day so that they could find their burrows. We needed to beach on the gulf side so by going early we also avoided rough water. Additionally that afford us enough time to release the animals, and still get back to Shell Island to drop off Megan and then take the daily crew out to the south end of Keewaydin Island for our Thursday outreach to the boaters visiting there.

Having the expertise of three captains made the beaching and release smooth and successful. The Conservancy truly appreciated our efforts.

PHOTO CAPTION: Megan and Bob Jack holding the tortoises, L (female) and C (Male).

STORY BY: Bob Fink, Team OCEAN Volunteer


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