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June 19, 2017

Because it is summer, manatees are a less commonly-seen species of marine animal on the water during turtle patrol. But when we do get a glimpse of them, it’s definitely a treat. With their massive round bodies, adorable faces and peaceful demeanor, its hard not to love these not-so-little guys.

June 12, 2017

This year, the Cape Romano Complex was hit with two early-season storms. The first on May 24 - 25, and the second from June 4 - 7. After these storms, Taylor and I were excited to finally see the sun shining again last week! In addition to all of the rain we received, both storms brought along strong winds and very high tides, which reached the sand dunes and washed over nests on many of our beaches. With these winds and choppier waters, many of our beaches were inaccessible or difficult to get to by boat, making our jobs a little more challenging.

May 24, 2017

Jennifer with a Kemp's ridley turtleDuring my first month at Rookery Bay Research Reserve, I had the opportunity to assist Dr. Jeff Schmid, a visiting scientist from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, with his in-water research on the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii). After we geared up our boat, we drove off to the Ten Thousand Islands complex, where many of these endangered turtles are found.

Once we spotted a ridley coming up for a breath, we held on tight as we sped on over and released a tangle net to catch the turtle. Little did I know, this wouldn’t be so easy! Lunchtime hit, and all the turtles we previously tried to catch had escaped. We managed to see a variety of wildlife during this time, like dolphins and manatees, and came across crab species such as the Gulf calico crab (Hepatus epheliticus), one of the crustaceans that these turtles love to eat.

Sept. 7, 2016

cage2-300With turtle nesting season overlapping with hurricane season, it is expected that if a storm nears Florida it will cause damage to the existing nests. These damages include inundations (high tides washing over nests), erosion (totally washing away nests) and accretion (of sand on top of nests). Sea turtles begin nesting in May and end in the middle of August. The eggs take approximately 60 days to hatch, so any eggs laid at the end of July and beginning of August are due to hatch at the end of September and beginning of October.

When Tropical Storm Colin hit on June 6 it caused 26 nest inundations, 10 washouts, and 1 accretion in the Cape Romano Complex. Colin's arrival early in the season allowed for the nesting turtles to make up for the losses/damages over the following two months. Now nesting season is complete and we have a total of 207 nests. This is a running total including nests that were washed out by TS Colin and Hurricane Hermine, as well as nests that have been depredated by raccoons before the cage could be installed.

197 Nests and Counting!

Sea turtle assessmentWe currently have 197 nests along the Cape Romano Complex which is 77 more than our total from 2015, and the turtles are still nesting - hopefully we will break 200! Nesting will end sometime within the next couple of weeks, and then we will monitor our existing nests for any signs of hatching through October.

So far, hatchlings have emerged from 23 of the nests that were made in the beginning of the season (May-middle of June). Tropical Storm Colin (June 6) washed away approximately 10 of our nests and some of the remaining nests were also inundated (flooded) by extremely high tides. Hatchlings have begun emerging from some of these inundated nests, which is great news. The number of hatchlings actually emerging from these nests is relatively low compared to nests that were not impacted by TS Colin that have had success rates between 90-100% develop, hatch, and emerge!

IMG 5690-webFor three days in a row we had false crawls in the same spot on Morgan Beach, and nests in the same area on Blind Pass - can you say turtle déjà vu? This picture shows three nests that were laid within a few days of each other along Blind Pass.

We now have caged a total of 128 nests along the Cape Romano complex, which is more nests than we had over the entirety of 2015, and we expect this number to increase! The nesting portion of turtle season is complete when the last nest is made, which is typically the end of July or beginning of August.

Within the coming week we expect the first few nests to start hatching out, and this will continue on through September and potentially October. Nests take approximately 60 days to hatch, so the end of turtle season on Cape Romano will depend on when the last nest is made.

turtle-nest-web 

 

Learn more about sea turtle research and monitoring.

 

norris-100Sarah Norris, Sea Turtle Intern

While on turtle patrol we don't often get to see sea turtles, but we do get to enjoy a lot of other wildlife, such as these ospreys. 

Sarah Norris, Sea Turtle Intern

We are one month into sea turtle nesting season and we have a total of 42 nests along the Cape Romano Complex!

false crawlWhile on turtle patrol we don't get to see the females that come up onto the beach to lay their eggs, but instead we see their tracks and other evidence that they leave behind. As turtle investigators we look for clues to determine if she has nested or not, and if so, where she has placed the eggs. We need to locate the nest in order to be able to center the cage around the eggs and protect it from predators such as raccoons. Sometimes females come up on the beach but does not lay eggs for a variety of reasons including thick vegetation, a steep escarpment, or other reasons unknown to the human eye! Find out how you can help support this program.

Although we usually don't get to see the sea turtles nesting, we do get to see a variety of other wildlife while on patrol, including birds, dolphins and manatees. This video shows one osprey enjoying a fish while another is watching and maybe waiting for something to drop.

norris-100Sarah Norris, Sea Turtle Intern

 

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