30 September 2008

Another Gorgeous Day on Santa Rosa Island

How can you complain with a job like mine? The day started bright and early with a stunning Perdido Key sunrise.

The surf was calm and soothing.

Then, it was off for a bird survey, with a few Willets (WILL) escorting me down the length of the island as I kept spooking them with the ATV -- a necessary evil. Sorry!

The sanderlings (SAND) had a few ruffled feathers as well, but not from me. Maybe the flies were annoying them too.

There were not many species on the south shore today, but one Ruddy Turnstone (rutu in bird lingo) made my day.

I parked the ATV, and he kept creeping closer and closer.

Maybe the bird confused me for one of the new large pieces of driftwood that floated in after Ike.

How's this for size?

As beautifully aged, hollowed, and weathered as it is, I don't think anyone will be carting it home as a souvenir, which means it will stay on the beach for all to enjoy.

Flamingo Update

For those of you following the Opal Beach flamingo that I first sighted on September 17th, I'm happy to report the bird was seen on Saturday and Sunday by park visitors and on Tuesday (by me). We still don't know if the flamingo will find it's way home, but we're consulting experts to determine what, if anything, needs to be done to help ensure its continued health.

26 September 2008

Greens and Loggerheads

When I assessed the green (SR7201) and loggerhead (SR7241) nests last night, there were stragglers in each nest that still had belly folds and needed a day or two in an artificial nest (a cooler) before they were ready to swim.

We keep each nest in a separate cooler to prevent contamination, but having both on hand does present a good opportunity to see the difference between the two. Just look at those bellies... Obviously, neither likes to be on their backs!

Green sea turtle heads are slightly rounded, though many of them still have egg teeth, which makes their true profile hard to see.

If we could get a close look at their jaws, we'd see that greens have a serrated covering on their lower jaws to help them chew through sea grass!

Greens only have four costal scutes, compared to the five on loggerheads. Some of our greens had five, but they were obvious anomalies... Sometimes the pattern of the scutes is a little off!

After releasing just one last night, I did take seven more green hatchlings to the Gulfarium, where they have been placed with their siblings from Monday, who are all either in the Gulf or doing well.

While there, I had a chance to check on Kujo as well. One of our park volunteers found her (or him) in another nesting area and brought it to the Gulfarium after noticing that it had lost a flipper! Despite that, or because of it, this little one is a fighter, biting at Gulfarium staff so much s/he earned the name Kujo!

I couldn't resist including this picture... It looks like s/he's afraid of heights.

25 September 2008

Little Loggerheads at Perdido

At sunrise today, it was time to assess PK7201, a loggerhead nest that has been hatching over the last several days. We had to count eggshells, live hatchlings and embryos that didn't hatch, for one reason or another. There were three stragglers in the nest, ready to greet the world.

Since this was a nest we relocated about 100 feet north of where it was laid, we gave the turtles a lift to the approximate site of the original nest (though the area was reclaimed by the sea about 5 weeks ago... talk about erosion!), and set them out for their first swim.

Two of the three seemed to stick together...

one crawled in circles because it had sand in it's eyes!

Eventually, they all greeted the huge sea (which came complete with it's own shadow),

and took their first swim. How overwhelming that must be for a one ounce turtle-ette!

Birding at Perdido

Today was another Piping plover survey day, with the north shore of Perdido Key our destination. Perdido has not attracted many PIPLs in recent years, but it's still fun to see what's out there!

There were night herons,

tri-colored herons

and osprey, among other gulls, terns, peeps and pelicans.

There were lots of jellies too, including this one with it's little heart on the medusa!

24 September 2008

Green Sea Turtle Hatchlings!

Our lone green sea turtle nest was overdue for assessment last night, so I headed to the beach in the early evening for the tortuous count.

I knew there were 165 eggs and only about 50 hatchlings so far -- I didn't want to find a bunch of embryos that didn't make it.

I ended up stopping the assessment almost immediately after digging into the nest, as this little live pipped turtle lifted it's head to greet the fading sunlight.

This little guy was just under the surface of the sand as well, and raring to go for a swim.

You can still see his egg-tooth, that he, or she, used to help break out of the shell. Other than that, he seemed completely ready to go!

He, or she, just needed some directions to the sea. I don't know why he's looking to me for advice - I can get lost in a paper bag!

Sometimes, nests don't hatch the way we expect, all in one giant wave. This nest seems to have small groups emerging every few days.

When we do find just one or two on an assessment (or an attempted assessment) we may let them go while there is still some light, so I was able to get a few good photos.

Check out the size of this hatchlings shadow... It's overwhelming next to the toddling turtle!

Here comes the watery world!

Watch that power stroke into the mighty Gulf of Mexico...

They are even more beautiful after being washed by their first wave (you have to click on the photo to enlarge it to really appreciate how stunning they are).

Aren't they just adorable?

Fall in Florida

When I awoke for my early morning patrol on Pensacola Beach, it was evident fall had arrived in the Florida panhandle.

There isn't much fall foliage here, but the signs are everywhere...

In the brilliant yellow wildflowers,

the fields of purple,

the red of this dragon's mouth flower (well, at least that's what it looks like to me - anyone know what it is?)

and the butterflies starting their migration.

Even the bees are buzzing about the change in the weather. It may be a bit cool for my taste, but it sure makes Florida beautiful!

22 September 2008

The Seven Dwarfs and Gracie

The green (Chelonia mydas) nest is finally hatching, but it's been a little odd as hatchlings emerge in small waves.

The greens are easily distinguished from our loggerheads and Kemp's by their smooth-nosed profiles...

and brilliant white bellies.

This group seems to have emerged a little early, perhaps pushed out by more rambunctious siblings.

Three still have distinct belly folds...

and one is just a little bit pale.

One little guy, Doc, does seem ready to go,

though he can't find his way out! How's that for a traffic jam?

I took six of the dwarfs to turtle rehab at the Gulfarium, where they will receive care for the next 24 hours, and will be encouraged to swim tomorrow.

For now, Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy, Bashful, and Grumpy are all separated,

in coolers of damp sand,

tucked in with sand blankets from their original nest,

and resting until they seem more active.

Derrick, Amanda, Rachel and Marcy at the Gulfarium will provide water and other nutrients if necessary, until they're ready to go, like Doc (photo above).

It's good to know they are in capable hands...

Clover, our rescued green from last year, is still living with the folks at the Gulfarium as well, and she's gotten so big.

Maybe she'll swim free soon as well!

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?