I had the recent opportunity to explore Cape Romano with our Sea Turtle Monitoring Program and was happy to report a successful venture. This was my first time witnessing the physical differences between emerged nests, inundated nests, and those with eggs still yet to hatch. What an amazing sensory adventure!
I had a great trip to Cape Romano recently to help check sea turtle nests for hatching activity. After a delayed start waiting for storms to pass it was a beautiful day. I think I appreciated the beauty of being on the water even more after a recent trip to Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There’s just no comparison to our beaches and mangrove coast! We found 2 nests that had hatched out, so we dug them up to confirm the results. We found one loggerhead hatchling still inside. Sometimes, for whatever reason, not all the hatchlings make it out of the nest so that’s when we get to help nature along! I’ve been involved with sea turtle monitoring and research efforts for the past 17 years and seeing a hatchling is always an exciting and rewarding experience!
Walking along the pathway from the parking lot to or from the Environmental Learning Center is usually not a very exciting experience. But one day, not very long ago, an interesting discovery was made. Right next to the bricks was an oval-shaped ball of gray fur. There was no hint of blood or flesh, but bones and a jaw seemed woven into the fur. It sure looked like it had been a squirrel at one point, but a squirrel it was no longer. Someone, or something, had taken the liberty of rearranging the small mammal so that some of its bones were on the outside of its fur.
Intriguing as it was, that discovery was dismissed, until a similar furry wad was discovered about a week later in the same location near the path. The very next day, yet another fur ball, larger and darker in color, was discovered just outside the entrance to the ELC, right near the spot where the mysterious white poo-splats had been appearing.
A few days later, it was clear that the fur wads were as regular and prevalent as the poo splats themselves. OK, something is up. These clues did not seem to be related, until…
Stay tuned for the third and final installment of the mystery pooper investigation, or, "Whose Poos are These?"
As we all know, Florida's renowned heat, humidity, and seemingly endless sunshine can wreak havoc on anything left outside for an extended period of time (including my fair skin). That is why Rookery Bay Reserve's Communications Team (Amber Nabors, Renee Wilson, and I) set out last Thursday to replace sun-worn informational signs along Shell Island Road.
We loaded our gear into one of Rookery Bay's well-used pick-ups and began the short jaunt from the Environmental Learning Center to Shell Island Road. What I had assumed to be a short maintenance task and a chance to enjoy some fresh air during the work day quickly proved to be so much more. After only a few minutes of coasting down the road towards our first sign in need of repair, Amber shouted, "gopher tortoise!" The truck came to a halt, and we all looked on as the deceptively quick, ancient-looking creature ambled away from the road's edge and into the sheltered palmetto scrub. It had been quite a while since I last saw one of these mild-mannered reptiles, so I was pretty excited about this sighting.
Despite the questionable forecast, we set to work amidst some threatening clouds and a flurry of mosquitoes. (Note to visitors, if you plan on enjoying Rookery Bay's nature trails this time of year, be sure to bring protective clothing and/or bug spray!) Armed with a power drill and some cleaning products, we three ladies made quick work of repairing some of the Reserve's weathered signage. During this process, we continued to happen upon unsuspecting wildlife including a few tree frogs, who had sought protection within the sign display cases, some mud dauber wasps defending their mud homes, and a camera-shy reef gecko that successfully avoided my attempts to get a photograph.
Eventually the morning became clear and bright—a welcome reprieve from unpredictable summer thunderstorms. We did encounter one of Southwest Florida's notoriously fleeting sun showers, but it worked wonders to help cool us off a bit. After our work was complete, we gathered our equipment, climbed into the truck, and began our return to the Environmental Learning Center when we made another wildlife sighting: two white-tailed deer grazing lazily in the shade of a mango tree. Back on the main road, I gazed out the window at the sky above the reserve and caught a glimpse of my favorite bird gracefully riding the air: a swallow-tailed kite. It was a great end to a day of tough, yet enjoyable, fieldwork at Rookery Bay.
I encourage you to visit our Shell Island Road trails and appreciate all the wildlife and beauty that the Reserve has to offer. (Including our handiwork on the newly renovated signs!)
Ashley Huntsberry-Lett, Communications Intern
With that sound so began the mystery.
Borne in darkness several months ago, the mystery was as confounding as it was repetitive.
It happened again!
None of us here actually heard the poo falling through the depths of the night, but, like a tree falling in the forest with no one around, it happened nonetheless. Signs on the courtyard paving stones most mornings let us know that we'd been hit again by the mystery pooper.
Large puddles of white poo continue to be left by the mysterious perpetrator (poopetrator?) at the entrances to the Environmental Learning Center. Sometimes our photo stand out front would be hit and the dolphin or seahorse would be victims of the aerial barrage – they didn't complain but it often took a lot of cleaning to have it be a photo stand rather than a photo "stained."
Ok, now this is getting ridiculous.
Is nature making a statement about what it thinks of us? Should we be taking this personally?
'nother day. 'nother splat.
Who or what could be leaving these "presents" nearly every night?
Rookery Bay Reserve staff recently visited Tigertail Lagoon with the Florida Master Naturalist Coastal Module students to study the diversity of life within coastal systems. They used a seine net to reveal several different species, such as: gulf killifish, pipefish, and sheepshead minnow. The Master Naturalist Coastal Module, hosted here at Rookery Bay, addresses society's role in coastal areas, develops naturalist interpretation skills, and discusses environmental ethics. This class is one of the many different ways that Reserve staff is continually working to provide a basis for informed stewardship of estuaries through increasing awareness and appreciation for the diverse array of life that resides within Reserve waters.
Check out our Coastal Training for Ecotour Professionals Series for upcoming professional development programs.
The video below with my unrestrained response says a lot about how I am touched by the wonders of nature! The staff at RBNERR has provided so many opportunities to learn about and to observe nature up close in the 10 years I've been an ELC volunteer. Watching the Giant Red Hermit Crab move into a new home is indeed just one of the highlights of my experience at Rookery Bay.
Learn more about the giant hermit crab
Marilyn McCollister, Volunteer at Rookery Bay Reserve
Rookery Bay Reserve's GIS Specialist, Jill Schmid, recently escaped the office and joined approximately 800 sea turtle scientists, students, government, and NGO staff from around the world at the 34th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation in New Orleans! She presented the results of her 4-year long research study on the influence of rainfall in sea turtle nest temperatures and how it affects the sex ratio of sea turtle hatchlings.