28 August 2008

Turtle Swimming Lessons!

Six more little loggerheads went for a long swim this morning.

This nest full of brothers and sisters hatched this weekend, but the stragglers are still not all ready - the last two will head for the sea tonight.

I can understand why they may pause after being washed by their first wave.

You can see where this little one was sitting still in the sand when a wave washed him a few minutes earlier -- it's like a turtle snow angel in the sand!

These two seem to be having a chat, strategizing their route through the wild ocean.

Can you imagine their journey, from hole in the ground to open sandy beach to gulf surf in just an hour's time? That's one rough first step!

I wonder if he's picked his head up to smell the salty air, to see the Gulf, or to practice his breathing technique -- they have to pick up their heads for air once they start swimming.

Plus, they will have to swim for 20 to 35 years before reaching maturity and taking another walk on land (if they're female). That's quite a commitment!

I would rest for a minute before that swim too!

27 August 2008

Time for Turtle Tracks!

A new group of tiny loggerheads crawled down Opal Beach yesterday.

The nest had been threatened by TS Fay, but did well, so we were happy to see the little guys healthy and ready to go...

They almost crawled out of their temporary tranport on their own! Click on the image to see the cutest turtle ever; you can almost hear the turtle crying "let me out!!!"

Nicole had a chance to help out with her first hatch this season, though she has already found us several nests this year.

One of hers is due to hatch on Fort Pickens this weekend... Can't wait to see them swim away!

PIPL Survey at Fort Pickens

Three times a month, we have to do north shore bird surveys on each of our three beaches. Yesterday, I worked on Perdido Key. This morning, after my turtle patrol, I surveyed Fort Pickens... It's such a rough life!

Today, there were feeding egrets

Black skimmers, alternately feeding

and just standing around...

Lesser yellowlegs

Short-billed dowitchers

Long-billed dowitchers

Baird's sand pipers (the one on the right),

some taking flight... they must not like amateur photographers!

It was an all-around gorgeous day at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Even the Blue Angels seem to agree!

A Pensacola Beach Morning...

Here's the view from my turtle patrol this morning on Pensacola Beach...

Who wouldn't want my job?

26 August 2008

Perdido Key Bird Survey

The morning started beautifully with Mark's turtle run on PK, though there were no new nests today. Hope he'll be back from the fires next week so he can do the run for himself!

I have to admit, I'll miss his runs. Early morning on the beach is my favorite time -- what a great way to greet the day.

For some reason, this cloud arrangement reminded me of Van Gogh -- probably more so before the horizontal cloud crowded the sun...

Once the turtle survey was done, and the high tides were behind me, it was time for a north shore bird survey.

There were Black-bellied plovers

Brown Pelicans (check out the little ones in there!)

Great Blue Herons


and lots of terns...

even hungry fledges that still think they should be fed!

Nothing unusual today, but it was still stunning. I love Perdido Key!

25 August 2008

TD Fay

Luckily, Fay is spinning out as a Tropical Depression, though she is kicking up quite a fuss in the Gulf of Mexico this morning.

A few of our nests that were left in situ were under threat this morning, and had been flooded last night. We've moved several over the last few weeks as Dolly, Eduoard and a fierce South Wester blew by, but a few were still in place.... that's no longer the case as they've now been moved to higher dunes much farther from the coast.

Thankfully, the new dunes that Gulf Islands National Seashore and the Santa Rosa Island Authority have been developing are doing well. They provide good habitat for our remaining nests, and help the barrier island, and the mainland, withstand the pounding surf when a storm swings through the area. Sea oats are awesome landbuilders!

It's just an active year for erosion and flooding events -- you can see above just how high the tide was last night, and tonight's may be even higher... Eggs and hatchlings can drown in a nest, and we don't like that! Our tiny endangered species need a little help this year, and we're happy to provide it whenever possible.

24 August 2008

Hatchlings Swim in the Lake of Mexico

VIP Valerie was out on her turtle run at dawn Saturday morning, while I was still letting hatchlings go from SR6221. I shocked her a bit -- she wasn't sure who would walk in the 25 mph winds before sunrise, so she drove around til she saw my government truck...

I didn't think the hatchlings and I looked that dangerous!

Though, the beach with these big footprints was pretty hazardous for the tiny turtles. They struggled to crawl out!

I usually do a much better job smoothing things out, but that north wind and the free microdermabrasion treatment were making it hard to be on the beach at all...

I just wanted the hatchlings to be free in the gulf before the winds clocked around from the south and kicked up the surf.

The turtles seemed to agree.

Valerie and I had to laugh at how determined they were...

Even when meeting comb jellies that were bigger than they are.

In time, these jellies and sea nettles (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) will be among their favorite foods!

Every single one of them toddled on down the berm, hit the water without pausing and took off into the still blue-green Gulf of Mexico. It's hard to tell in the image above, but the hatchling is just about to get wet!

There were no waves to toss them back, or direct them...

But they all seemed just fine!

What a great way to start the day! I'm so glad that flat Gulf was just about it for Fay here...

International Coastal Clean-Up!

The 2008 Coastal Clean-Up on Santa Rosa Island was a great success, but we can work together to make everyday a Coastal Clean-up Day... Help us keep our beaches beautiful!

For details on the 2009 coastal clean-up efforts in Pensacola or in your area, or other ways you can help, click here.

Hello World!

Hello World!
Which way to the sea?