Tag Archives: Wildlife

Last nests close to hatch date, surprises still possible

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AMITW volunteers Linda Oneal, Amy Waterbury, Barbara Riskay and Carla Boehme pose Oct. 14 between the last two sea turtle nests yet to hatch in the nursery near Peppertree Lane in Anna Maria before season ends Oct. 31. The team has been collecting data since nests began hatching in July. The data is shared with the state and Manatee County. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

Sea turtle nesting season on Anna Maria Island is all but over.

However, people must remain vigilant of possible “surprise hatches” through early November in all areas of the beach but, the days are counting down at a nest nursery established between White Avenue and Peppertree Lane near the border between Holmes Beach and Anna Maria, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring director, Suzi Fox.

Since May, turtle watch relocated 349 clutches of eggs to human-made nests to the nursery, out of harm’s way from a sand renourishment project, which started July 8 near 77th Street in Holmes Beach and was planned to end the first week in November at Longboat Pass.

As of Oct. 16, two nests in the nursery remained to hatch and 20,174 hatchlings had made their way to the Gulf of Mexico.

But Fox said there might be nests laid in other areas that turtle watch volunteers did not spot on their morning ATV patrols. So people must adhere to turtle-friendly lighting regulations, as any of the unknown nests could hatch late.

“Surprise hatches happen every year,” Fox said. “We do the best we can to spot them all, but occasionally they fool us.”

Additionally, nests laid north of the project in Anna Maria were counted but not monitored for data, so those nests were not staked off and hatch data was not documented.

In the meantime, a small team of volunteers has been excavating hatched nests in the nursery, since flotillas of hatchlings — usually about 100 per nest — started emerging in July.

Linda Oneal, one of the nursery volunteers who dug new nests for relocated eggs early in season, has been conducting excavations and collecting data in the mornings.

Oneal and teammates Carla Boehme and Barbara Riskay wait 72 hours after a nest hatches, per Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations, then dig into the nests to count how many eggs hatched, didn’t hatch, or if there are dead or live hatchlings remaining. The data is shared with the state and Manatee County and live hatchlings are released to the Gulf of Mexico.

“I’ve learned a lot as I’ve never gone through this before with renourishment,” Oneal said. “We’re tired but we don’t want it to end.”

To report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

For more information on the nesting season, contact AMITW executive director Suzi Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Turtle watchers dig deep for final nests

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Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers Linda Oneal, in the foreground, Barbara Riskay and Carla Boehme excavate Oct. 5 some of the last sea turtle nests to hatch near Peppertree Lane in Anna Maria before season ends Oct. 31. The team has been collecting data on hatched nests, which were relocated to a nursery area north of a beach renourishment project. AMITW volunteers wait 72 hours after a nest hatches, then dig into the egg cavity to determine how many eggs hatched, didn’t hatch, or if there are dead or live hatchlings remaining. The data is shared with the state and Manatee County and live hatchlings are released to the Gulf of Mexico.
Two loggerhead hatchlings, discovered Oct. 6 by AMITW volunteers during a hatched nest excavation, are released to the Gulf of Mexico. As of Oct. 11, there were 349 nests and 451 false crawls within the renourishment area, with 288 hatched nests and about 20,021 hatchlings sent to the sea. For more information about turtle watch, people can visit the AMITW website at islandturtlewatch.com, or contact Suzi Fox at 941-778-5638 or suzilfox@gmail.com. Islander Photos: Courtesy AMITW
Three loggerhead hatchlings are captives in a bright pink bucket Oct. 1 before being released to the Gulf of Mexico. Turtle watch volunteers found the hatchlings upon excavating a hatched nest. As of Oct. 7, AMITW reported 286 hatched nests, with more than 20,000 hatchlings making their way to the Gulf. Four of 349 nests remained to hatch before season wraps up Oct. 31.

Shorebirds flock to AMI, sea turtles abandon nesting

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A ruddy turnstone stands at the shoreline’s edge in Anna Maria in August. The species usually migrates to the Bahamas for the winter, but might stay longer this year due to shoreline damage from Hurricane Dorian in 2019, according to Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director. Islander Photo: Kathy Doddridge
Shorebirds of various species flock Sept. 29 to a makeshift peninsula of sand in the wake of a beach renourishment project on the shore in the 1100 block of Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

As sea turtle nesting season on Anna Maria Island wraps up, shorebirds are going wild.

Twelve of 349 sea turtle nests remain as of Sept. 30 in an Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch “nursery” on the beach near White Avenue and Peppertree Lane — near the Anna Maria/Holmes Beach boundary — according to AMITW executive director Suzi Fox.

The nesting and hatching season officially ends Oct. 31.

As of Sept. 30, 19,256 hatchlings had emerged from the relocated nests and crawled to the Gulf of Mexico.

Hundreds of loggerhead nests and one green sea turtle nest laid in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach since the season started in late April were relocated to Anna Maria due to the ongoing $17 million beach renourishment project, which includes pumping sand from offshore to renourish eroded beaches.

Following Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission protocol, the nests were moved so they would not be destroyed by the project and the hatch rate has been good, Fox said Sept. 30.

Now, shorebirds are enjoying the bounty of fresh food provided by the new sand, pumped in from offshore borrow areas.

“Shorebirds, including royal terns, sandwich terns, all wading bird species, our local laughing gulls and the black skimmers that will stay and winter with us, are really enjoying treats from the new sand,” Fox said Sept. 30. “We also have been watching a banded group of American oystercatchers along the shoreline.”

AMITW includes shorebird monitoring.

She added that colorful ruddy turnstones, which usually would be heading to the Bahamas for winter, have flocked to the island in larger numbers this year and might stay longer.

“We suspect the ruddys were not able to return to their local Bahama shoreline this year because of Hurricane Dorian’s hit last summer,” she said. “They seem to have relocated here and are loving the nourishment project.”

Fox also said the fencing around the renourishment project allows the birds to move more freely, without human interference. And the equipment poses no threat.

“People were worried that the loud machinery might frighten the birds,” she said. “But it is quite the opposite.”

To report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

For more information on the nesting season, contact AMITW executive director Suzi Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Stranded turtle in recovery

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A loggerhead, found stranded in Holmes Beach and named Violet by rescuers, undergoes rehabilitation at Mote Marine Laboratory. Islander Photo: Courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory

Recovery is going well for a sea turtle found stranded off of Holmes Beach.

Representatives of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission contacted Mote Marine Laboratory Sept. 1 to rescue a loggerhead found bobbing in the water near 45th Street in Holmes Beach.

The female loggerhead, named Violet by Mote, was missing a front left flipper and suffered damage to its right front flipper.

Fishing gear was the likely cause of the missing flipper, according to Mote. Also, Violet’s right front flipper was X-rayed.

Mote reps drew blood, weighed the turtle, administered antibiotics and placed it in a pool.

Most recently, the turtle was on an iron supplement.

“She is doing very well,” Mote’s website stated Sept. 24.

Pending recovery, the turtle will be released to the Gulf of Mexico.

Check Violet’s progress at mote.org/hospital.

Nesting dwindles

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Linda Oneal, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteer, counts eggshells Sept. 17 from an excavated sea turtle nest in the nursery area near Peppertree Lane in Anna Maria, where 18 of 349 nests laid in 2020 remained to hatch as of Sept. 23. Volunteers wait 72 hours after a nest hatches, then dig out the nest to determine how many eggs hatched, didn’t hatch or if there are dead or live hatchlings. Islander Photos: Courtesy AMITW
A loggerhead hatchling scurries Sept. 17 toward the Gulf of Mexico. Nesting and hatching activity runs May-October. As of Sept. 27, AMITW reported 278 hatched nests, with about 19,053 hatchlings making their way to the sea.

Hatching activity slows, turtle watch looks ahead to lighting

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Two sea turtle hatchlings scamper Sept. 1 to the Gulf of Mexico. Turtle watch uncovered the hatchlings during a nest excavation and released them to the Gulf of Mexico. Islander Photos: Courtesy AMITW
Bill Booher, AMITW volunteer, goes shoulder-deep in a nest Sept. 1.

Sea turtle nesting season and the hatches that follow are winding down.

So Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird monitoring is planning for 2021.

As of Sept. 8, 52 of 349 nests laid this season remained to hatch in a “nursery” on the beach near White Avenue and Peppertree Lane, near the Anna Maria/Holmes Beach boundary.

Nests laid in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach since season began with the first nest in late April have been relocated to Anna Maria due to the ongoing $17 million beach renourishment project. The sand replenishment started near 77th Street in Holmes Beach July 8 and will continue south to Longboat Pass through the end of October, paralleling sea turtle season.

In August, a private security light atop a tall pole in Holmes Beach near the nursery caused hatchlings from 65 nests to disorient and travel away from the Gulf of Mexico.

Artificial light visible at a sea turtle’s eye level can draw them away from the Gulf of Mexico, increasing the chances of death by predation, dehydration or exhaustion.

The city contacted the property owner and worked with Florida Power and Light to fix the problem, and the light was turned off.

However, Suzi Fox, AMITW executive director, said Sept. 8, since turtle watch started keeping records in 1992 that is the highest number of nests to disorient. In 2019, 59 nests had disorientations and there were 50 in 2018.

Fox must submit reports for each nest — hours of paperwork — to be shared with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Manatee County.

She also said the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, a major funding source for the renourishment project, was concerned about the lighting issue.

The Corps and county must ensure wildlife is not disrupted by the renourishment or by changes to the environment caused by the project.

“It’s hours of time for us to document this, on top of the hours of time FWC must spend reviewing it,” Fox said.

And, Fox added, that doesn’t account for the loss to the sea turtle population.

Fox plans to address lighting before a new season starts May 1, 2021, when nests will remain wherever the female turtles deposit them, as opposed to this year’s relocations.

She said the sand on the beach will be 3 feet higher in some areas, which means lights previously not visible to turtles might now be seen.

Properties along the beachfront — and in some cases beyond it — must be compliant with FWC standards for turtle-friendly lighting.

So Fox will be conducting a preseason lighting inspection, then another May 1, 2021, contracted by the Corps and the county, to determine what has changed since the renourishment project and what lights must be brought into compliance. Code compliance in each city also will conduct lighting inspections.

“Our inspections better match up,” Fox said. “Any lights that are not compliant must be corrected when season starts. Everybody must be accountable.”

To report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

For more information on nesting season, contact AMITW executive director Suzi Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

 

 

Mahi wowie

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Mahi wowie Capt. David White, right, and angler Spencer Dienes, a radiologist in Miami, show off what White termed “a respectable little mahi-mahi” caught Sept. 2 on a live shiner in about 120 feet of water off Anna Maria Island. Dolphinfish, Coryphaena hippurus, also known as mahi-mahi or dorado, can run up to 63 inches and 88 pounds, but it’s common to find fish of 30 pounds. The fish is capable of flashing purple, chartreuse and a wide range of other colors.

Tiny hatchlings make tracks in Anna Maria sands

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Barbara Riskay, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch volunteer, counts remains Aug. 29 from a hatched sea turtle nest in the nursery near Peppertree Lane in Anna Maria, where hatching occurs daily. Volunteers wait 72 hours after a hatch and dig into the nest to determine how many eggs hatched, didn’t hatch or if dead or live hatchlings remain. The live hatchlings are released to the Gulf of Mexico and the data is shared with the state and Manatee County. For more, see pages 20, 22. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW
Tiny tracks in the sand Aug. 29 indicate a sea turtle nest hatched the night before. As of Sept. 2, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch had reported 349 hatched nests, with about 15,179 hatchlings had made their way to the Gulf of Mexico. Nesting season runs May-October.
A depression in the sand Aug. 29 over a sea turtle nest marked by a red flag indicates a recent hatch. Nests often contain about 100 hatchlings, which emerge in unison and scamper across the sand to the Gulf of Mexico, usually at night. Females return to the beach to nest upon reaching maturity in about 35 years. Males do not venture from the water.
AMITW volunteers Linda Oneal, left, Barbara Riskay and Oneal’s sister, Carla Boehme, take a break Aug. 29 from their work with the sea turtle nests in the nursery near Peppertree Lane in Anna Maria. The team is collecting data and tabulating hatch rates from the nests as they perform excavations. Islander Photos: Courtesy AMITW

3 sea turtles stranded on Anna Maria Island

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Representatives of Mote Marine Laboratory hitch a ride Sept. 1 on a Manatee County code enforcement ATV to rescue a stranded sea turtle on the beach near 54th Street in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW
A loggerhead sea turtle found stranded Sept. 1 in Holmes Beach is undergoing rehabilitation at Mote. Islander Photo: Courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory
A dead loggerhead sea turtle lays on the shore Aug. 31 near Bean Point in Anna Maria. Islander Photo: Courtesy Kyle Hagen

Three stranded adult sea turtles washed ashore on Anna Maria Island in one week’s time.

The first two strandings were found dead in the last week of August.

However, the third stranded turtle was spotted alive in the Gulf of Mexico near 45th Street in Holmes Beach. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Sept. 1 called out representatives of Mote Marine Laboratory’s stranding investigation program to rescue the adult loggerhead, which was reported as lethargic and bobbing in the surf.

The mature female loggerhead was missing it’s front left flipper and had damage to its right front flipper.

A beachgoer spotted the turtle, could tell it was in distress and swam out to help push it to shore near 54th Street, according to Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, who was on the beach during the rescue.

“She wanted to go back out to sea and just couldn’t do it,” Fox said, adding the flipper damage might have been caused by a shark bite.

Fox said a Manatee County code enforcement officer was patrolling the beach by ATV and helped transport the 221-pound turtle to Mote’s vehicle, where it was taken to Mote’s rehab hospital on City Island in Sarasota.

“She was very alert, but had a lot of barnacles on her back,” Fox said. “That’s a sure sign something was off, because normally turtles dive under rocks to scratch them off.”

The turtle was nicknamed Violet, after Sherlock Holmes’ mother, since it was found on Holmes Beach, according to Stephannie Kettle, Mote’s public relations manager.

“While she has eaten some, we are always very guarded when it comes to every new case,” Kettle said. “Our end goal is always recovery and eventual release, but at this early stage, it is very hard to predict what will happen.”

People can check Violet’s progress at http://mote.org/hospital, as the organization posts updates about its rehab patients.

One of the dead turtles was found on the beach near Bean Point in Anna Maria and the other was floating in Sarasota Bay behind the county marine rescue facility in Bradenton Beach.

Fox said both turtles appeared to have been dead for some time.

She also said none of the strandings appeared related to the beach renourishment project underway since July 8. The work involves piping sand from offshore onto the beach and is ongoing. The dredge work began near 78th Street North in Holmes Beach and is working south to about Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach.

“There doesn’t seem to be a commonality between the three strandings,” she said. “Each one is different.”

Fox said guidelines from FWC stipulate she must investigate strandings to determine if the project was a factor.

FWC has noted the three strandings and is investigating a potential cause, including speaking with turtle watch organizations in the surrounding area to see if they have encountered a similar trend, she said.

“Three dead in a week’s stretch is significant,” Fox said. “What it means, I do not know.”

To report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

For more information about AMITW, contact Fox at suzilfox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Sea turtle hatching peaks on Anna Maria Island

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A sea turtle “nursery” near White Avenue at the boundary between Holmes Beach and Anna Maria — once filled with tapes and stakes that marked hundreds of nests — has a few remaining marked nests as of Aug. 26. Islander Photo: Chris-Ann Allen

It’s peak season for scampering sea turtle hatchlings on Anna Maria Island.

And a previous lighting problem, disorienting hatchlings away from the Gulf of Mexico, was fixed.

As of Aug. 28, 249 nests had hatched in a “nursery” area on the beach near White Avenue and Peppertree Lane, near the Anna Maria/Holmes Beach boundary.

The spot was chosen based on the depth of the beach and fewer lighting concerns, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox.

Artificial light visible from the water’s edge can draw sea turtles away from the Gulf of Mexico, increasing the chances of death by predation, dehydration or exhaustion before reaching the water.

All nests in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach laid since season started at the end of April have been relocated to the nursery due to the intrusion to the sea turtle habitat from the $17 million beach renourishment project, which commenced near 77th Street in Holmes Beach July 8 and will continue south to Longboat Pass through the end of October.

Sea turtle season runs May-October, with some green sea turtles — less common than loggerheads on the island — nesting later in season.

In August, Fox was concerned a light at the top of a privately owned pole in Holmes Beach, caused up to 6,000 hatchlings to disorient.

The property owner was not local and the city had to make contact before action could be taken.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said Aug. 26 Florida Power and Light turned off the light, with permission from the city and the owner.

Tokajer said several other potentially problematic lights for sea turtles also were addressed.

“Some of those lights were not even in our city, but we still addressed it with FPL,” Tokajer said.

Fox said there are about 100 nests left to hatch in the nursery.

“We don’t foresee any more problems in the hatchery area now that one light has been turned off,” she said. “Hats off to Holmes Beach for getting it taken care of.”