Last Saturday, we were out on turtle patrol at the Cape Romano Complex. While our turtle intern, Tyler, and volunteer, Bob H., were walking the beach in search of sea turtle crawls, I was driving the boat parallel to them. I saw something out of the corner of my eye and turned the boat around and saw something small and brown in the water. From a distance, it did not look like the usual creature that you would expect to see out on the water. Once I got closer, I realized it was some sort of tiny song bird.
I carefully used a shovel to scoop it out of the water and onto the boat. Being uncertain of which species it was, I took a few photos to ask someone later. After about 15 minutes or so, the bird began hopping around on the floor of the boat and seemed more alert than when initially plucked out of the water. After Tyler and Bob finished walking Cape Romano, they joined me on the boat to meet our newest passenger!
After that, we were off to the next turtle beach, Morgan Beach. Tyler and Bob began to walk the first section and soon discovered our first turtle crawl of the day! When I began to approach the beach to help interpret the crawl, our feathered friend decided it was time to disembark. The bird hopped up onto the bow and once I landed on the beach, it flew into some nearby mangrove trees.
It wasn’t until I shared photos that I learned the little bird was a female American Redstart. This species is one of many still in the process of migrating from the Caribbean and Central America to their northern breeding grounds. I was happy to know that I could give a helping hand along the way! Safe travels to my new pal!
My rare encounters continued into the following morning. On Sunday, I assisted on turtle patrol further south in the Ten Thousand Islands. I hopped off the boat and started making my way down the island. The first section of the island is not ideal nesting habitat for sea turtles and is a tangle of fallen trees. Since it was low tide I was walking further out and carefully watching my step along the slick mangrove peat. While doing this, my eyes fell upon my most coveted shell, the junoina! Screaming with joy, Greg thought I was in distress, but I yelled that I had finally found one, and he was a little jealous to say the least.
Continuing around the point of the island, I again was carefully watching my step, and not 50 feet from where I had just screamed with excitement, I found ANOTHER junonia. This species, Scaphella junonia, is a deep-water sea snail. Due to its habitat being very deep water offshore, these shells rarely wash up on our beaches. They can be typically found after large storms and/or hurricanes.
Although the turtle activity was slow this weekend, these rare sightings made up for it!
Sarah Norris, Environmental Specialist