On a recent non-breeding bird route survey that included areas in and around Cape Romano, we were very excited to observe a 30-inch smalltooth sawfish in Morgan Bay. At this size, this sawfish would be considered young-of-the-year, and was most certainly recently pupped in reserve waters. We were able to watch the sawfish from a distance of just a few feet as it casually swam in a small mudflat pool in just 4 inches of water, likely attracted by the large number of bait fish we also observed. This was a rare encounter, and a first observation of a smalltooth sawfish in its habitat for me.
Smalltooth sawfish, closely related to sharks and rays, historically inhabited coastal and estuarine waters from North Carolina to Texas, but as their numbers have been drastically reduced from habitat loss and from commercial fishing impacts (as by-catch from becoming entangled in fishing nets), Southwest Florida is their last stronghold. The smalltooth sawfish was classified as endangered in 2003 under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and is now fully protected. The ESA designates smalltooth sawfish Critical Habitat that includes the waters of Florida Bay, Rookery Bay NERR, and the Estero Bay/Caloosahatchee River/Charlotte Harbor complex. Research on these fish is in its infancy, and not a great deal is currently known about the habits and life history of this species.
Out re-sighting Red Knots on Marco Island city beach on Sunday. Strong winds and bouts of pouring rain made it difficult at times, but I was able to read several bands.
Light green flags 537, A03 and 6C9. 537 has a geo-locator over an orange band. 6C9 has been seen by Rookery Bay staff member and researcher Beverly Anderson in previous years. Also had green flag HKM, a bird first seen a month ago on Marco and Keewaydin.
Jean Hall was of course ready at a moment's notice with her camera and took these photos.
Shorebird Monitoring and Stewardship Project Manager
Rookery Bay Reserve is the nursery for numerous aquatic species. On Aug. 20, 2015, Xiomara, Dave, Jeannine, Keith, and I went trawling for fish and other sea critters that we could catch. Dave emphasized the importance of preserving Rookery Bay due to its fostering environment for many juvenile species, such as the lane snapper which sometimes seeks refuge among the mangroves’ prop roots or even under a mangrove seed or leaf. The importance of Rookery Bay is evident in the species that we caught when we trawled near Keewaydin Island- we caught two batfish, a flounder, a sea pork, some starfish, many comb jelly, and a handful of crabs. These are only a few of the many species that calls Rookery Bay its home, and due to this reason it is important to continue to keep it pristine.
Recent rains and high tides did some damage to sea turtle nests in the Rookery Bay Reserve.
There were 38 nests washed away and of the nests that are left on the beach, 26 were inundated. There were about 4 nests that hatched, but had really terrible success. In two of these, no hatchlings made it out and were drowned by rain/high tide. The other two had some that made it out, but still had a lot of dead babies inside.
Florida’s white sand beaches are a playground for millions of residents and visitors each year. Beaches also serve as important habitat for shorebirds, with many species laying their eggs and raising their young right on the sand. Beaches in and around Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve historically have hosted some of the largest beach-nesting seabird colonies in the state.
Audubon Florida and Audubon of the Western Everglades recently partnered with Rookery Bay Reserve to hire Adam DiNuovo in a new position as Shorebird Monitoring and Stewardship Project Manager.
DiNuovo is working with research and stewardship staff at the reserve to monitor seasonal beach-nesting bird colonies, over-wintering shorebird population trends, spring/fall migratory periods and habitat on mainland beaches as well as on remote, offshore islands. He is also recruiting and training bird stewards as part of a wider education and outreach initiative within Collier and Lee counties.
A native of Palmer, Massachusetts, DiNuovo received his bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology from Franklin Pierce University. Before taking this position in April, he was Research Coordinator at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research managing field crews studying the California Least Tern and Western Snowy Plover at Camp Pendleton. He was previously part of the Audubon family, having worked for three years as Assistant Sanctuary Manager at the seven seabird islands that form Audubon’s Project Puffin focal islands in the Gulf of Maine. Before Project Puffin, DiNuovo worked with American oystercatchers in South Carolina, Delaware and Virginia; piping plovers in Mississippi and Massachusetts; and common and roseate tern colonies in Massachusetts.
Exciting news!! During their monthly shorebird survey, Audubon program coordinator Adam DiNuovo, research assistant Beverly Anderson, and bird steward volunteer Deborah Woods spotted and photographed this snowy plover with chick near the north end of Keewaydin Island. Snowy plovers , which are a threatened species, live in Florida year-round and nest from March through September.
Snowy plovers have not been recorded on any of our surveys over the past 10 years. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife, this is the first nest in Collier County since 2005.
As I was walking south on Marco Island today after surveying the birds, I noticed 4 crows 40 yards behind me acting suspicious. Crows always look like they are up to something, but these crows certainly had bad intentions. I looked through my scope to see what they were up to and I noticed a tiny Wilson's Plover chick struggling with this leg stuck in vegetation. I instantly took off running (looking like a crazy person I am sure). I have never covered 40 yards faster in my life. I reached the plover chick just before the crows had a chance to grab it. After untangling it and snapping a quick photo, I released it and it returned to its parents and siblings.
Shorebird Monitoring and Stewardship Project Manager
Earlier this week reserve staff became aware that a dog was found on Kice Island by staff of an eco-tour boat, the Calusa Spirit. She was visibly shaken and dehydrated. The captain and crew asked all boaters and visitors on the island if they knew who owned her, but no one did.
After returning with the dog to the mainland, tour staff contacted Team OCEAN's Mike Wetherbee at Marco Beach, who later learned that Dolly's owners had allowed her to roam on the island loose and she wandered off. Dolly's owners needed to get back to shore, but planned to return to Kice to resume their search. Before departing the ramp for the second time that day, the owners learned that the Calusa Spirit crew had rescued Dolly. They contacted the Calusa Spirit's parent company, Marco Ski and Waterports at the Hilton, and the reunion took place shortly afterwards when a Marco Ski employee drove Dolly to the boat ramp.
Apparently Dolly's owners were unaware that unleashed pets are prohibited on all beaches in Collier County, including barrier islands in the reserve like Kice and Keewaydin Island. It is dangerous for nesting birds, other wildlife, other visitors. It is also dangerous for the pet. Wandering off leash, especially in summer, presents a number of threats to pets' safety.
The only off-leash dog beach in the region is the Lee County Dog Beach.