July 1, 2018
The Cape Romano "turtle boys" were recently introduced to the many birds of Rookery Bay. This began when Anne M., Avian Ecologist on staff, informed us of some potential turtle nests on Second Chance. We were excited to check it out, as Second Chance is a Critical Wildlife Area east of Cape Romano and is closed to human visitors from March-August (sea turtles can't read signs, anyway.) Almost immediately after anchoring our boat and stepping ashore, we encountered some volunteers with Team OCEAN, the reserve's boat-based outreach and education team. Their job is to help make sure boaters are aware of the importance of avoiding the closed area, and once they got close enough to read the lettering on our boat, they were clearly glad to learn that we weren’t actually law-breaking citizens.
Second Chance is a beautiful place---the water was clear and the birds were plentiful. While we were on the sand bar, we found ten sea turtle false crawls and one nest! We were careful in following the sea turtle’s paths to make sure we didn’t disturb any bird nests. On our way back, we spotted an aggregation of manatees! We really enjoyed making our way out to Second Chance and are looking forward to going back and check on the nest later next month.
A couple days later, we were invited by Anne to join her for a sunset bird survey out of the Rookery Bay Field Station. We left the field station at 6:45 PM, and made our way out to a nearby hotspot for the birds (a.k.a. a rookery island). We each took a direction to look and, using binoculars, indicated when we saw a bird flying in. Though we aren’t bird experts, we were still helpful in locating and counting them. We stayed on the water until 15 minutes after sunset, which was beautiful. It was great learning about the other research going on at Rookery Bay Reserve, and because of this experience we are now able to identify some of the various bird species that fly about us every day on turtle patrol!
Story by Anthony Himmelberger
Photos by Tyler Beck