Quick Action Needed on Water Quality Standards for Harmful Chemicals

Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 26, the Florida DEP is asking the  Florida Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) to approve allowing  higher levels of  89 known carcinogens and/or human health-based toxic chemicals in Florida’s rivers and estuaries.

Please take a moment to send the formatted letter or compose your own letter to the ERC today to object to allowing higher pollution levels in Florida’s waters.

DEP’s proposed criteria are significantly weaker than the federal EPA  (Environmental Protection Agency) recommendations. If approved these chemicals would be allowed in our drinking water, shell fishing areas, swimming and fishing waters at significantly higher amounts than EPA recommends.

The time to speak out against this is Today. Help us protect Florida’s water quality by sending a letter today.
act now

The ERC will be live-streamed tomorrow online.

Webcast details are as follows:
DATE:  Tuesday, July 26, 2016
TIME:   9 a.m.
WEB ADDRESS: Access webcast here. Click on ERC LIVE webcast button.

Request Emergency Storage in EAA Now!

Rubio RAW

Wessel speaking with Senator Rubio on water quality issues in Southwest FL

We are pleased to report that our trip to Washington DC to attend the Lagoon-Gulf Action Day sponsored by Congressmen Curt Clawson and Patrick Murphy, and local meetings here in town the past week with Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, affirmed agreement and progress on the possible passage of a federal water bill this year. A water bill, known as the Water Resource and Reform Development Act (WRRDA) and funding for a key project in the bill, the Central Everglades Project (CEP), could be achieved if the bill is passed this year.

While this step is necessary to keep Everglades and estuary restoration moving forward, there is no immediate emergency plan to reduce the ongoing excessive releases the estuaries have suffered through the past five months. Ultimately, the solution is twofold: additional storage and an alternative outlet for water discharge from the lake.

There are two opportunities at hand the Governor can initiate that in no way affect passage of the WRRDA bill. We ask everyone to contact the Governor and urge him to immediately take these two critical actions.

  1. Immediately negotiate use of 16,000 acres of state-owned land currently leased to Florida Crystals for sugar cane production and use this land for emergency storage to relieve the estuaries of some of the excess water flow.  Storage of three feet of water on the 16,000-acre A-2 parcel could redirect 13,441,246,000 gallons from discharging out the estuaries. The South Florida Water Management District owns the land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) that will be eventually be used for a Flow Equalization Basin as part of the Central Everglades Project.
  2. Direct the SFWMD to accelerate planning for the EAA Storage project from its current start date in 2020 to this summer in conjunction with the Lake Okeechobee watershed Storage Planning effort. Following requests made at the SWFL Ecosystem Task Force meeting U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy committed that she would agree to accelerate the project if the Governor would accelerate it.  We can’t afford four years to begin planning. The time to begin is now.

If we want change, it is mandatory that we make some noise. The status quo will only change if we demand it.   Please take a moment to use this pre-addressed form to send your own message to Governor Scott.

act now

Sea Turtle Nests Break Record on East Sanibel

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A loggerhead egg from this morning

Today SCCF’s Sea Turtle Program confirmed that Sanibel’s East End has broken the record for nest numbers since we began recording. We officially have 122 loggerhead nests on the East End!

2015 was the previous record holder with 120 nests. Prior to that, the average for nests on the East End was 38 per year! We are having an excellent season!

Here’s how you can ensure all those nests, hatchlings, and momma’s stay safe:

  • Respect all staked nests.
  • Turn off all lights — Nesting females and hatchlings primarily emerge after dark so remember to turn off all lights. Sea turtles use the brightest horizon to navigate towards the water. Any artificial lighting will cause confusion and steer turtles in the wrong direction. This includes beachfront lighting, flash lights, flash photography, and even iPhones.
  • Remove all beach furniture and toys — Clear everything off the beach from 9 pm – 7 am. Obstacles on the beach can cause nesting females and hatchlings to become entangled.
  • Fill in all holes on the beach — if you dug a hole on the beach please fill it in. Nesting females and hatchlings can fall into holes, causing them to be venerable to predators.
  • Never approach a nesting sea turtle — if approached the sea turtle will likely abandon her nesting attempt.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Facts Turtle vehicle

  • Loggerheads are one of seven species of sea turtles in the world
  • Nesting/Hatching season occurs from April 15 through October 31
  • Adult loggerheads can grow to more than 3-feet long and weigh 200 to 350 lbs
  • A female loggerhead may nest around 3-6 times per season
  • Each nest contains 100 or more leathery ping-pong ball sized eggs
  • Incubation takes about 55 to 65 days depending on sand temperatures
  • It may take 30 years or more for loggerhead hatchlings to reach maturity

 

Will We See A Repeat of 2013 Water Issues? Take Action Now

Sanibel Aerial June 2 compared to June 26_Page_6

Courtesy City of Sanibel

With the support and leadership of Senators Lizbeth Benacquisto and Joe Negron, Representative Heather Fitzenhagen  and Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane, the time is now for us to ask Governor Rick Scott, DEP Secretary Jon Steverson, the  SFWMD Governing Board and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate the EAA water storage project to reduce damage from  high flows to the estuaries!

Our estuary and the Everglades need your support. Please take time to craft a message on the form provided here. Your letter will automatically be directed to these decision makers when you hit the send button so use the information below to craft your own message and send it today. Our estuaries cannot survive continued excuses, delays, and  business as usual.

So far in 2016, flows to the Caloosahatchee from Lake O have already received 77% of the flow we relieved in all of 2013.  This years high flows have already delivered 10% greater total phosphorus than that received in 2013 and 84% of the total nitrogen load in 2013. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries are  once again suffering significant harm from high water discharges. Right now the Caloosahatchee has blue-green blooms over 27 miles of the river and estuary.

NASA Okee Algae

NASA photo from July 2nd showing the extent of the algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee – 33 square miles.

Excessively high volumes of freshwater this dry season have devastated the estuary that serves as the nursery for our commercial and recreational fish, their bait fish, and the local blue crab industry.

High flows have washed the estuary salt/freshwater mixing zone into the Gulf of Mexico and dumped massive loads of nutrient laden silty muck sediments downstream.

Additional water storage is needed in all sectors of the greater Everglades, but south of the lake a significant volume of storage can be achieved to protect the dike and communities below the lake and relieve unwanted estuary discharges.

The time is ripe to reprioritize an existing CERP storage project in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).

The EAA storage project is listed on the master list of projects, called the Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS), but is not scheduled to begin planning until four years from now in 2020.

Estuary conditions and our economy cannot and should not continue to suffer damage when a  project can be accelerated to speed up the central solution, the storage project in the EAA.

This is NOT a new project to add to the list. We simply ask that the existing project be moved up the list and accelerated because it is necessary and fundamental to addressing concerns about the security of  the Lake O dike, flood protection for communities living around the dike, water supply for the Everglades and agriculture and  would relieve estuary high flow discharges.

Accelerating this project to begin this summer complements the SFWMD decision to start water storage planning north of the lake. It is more economical and efficient to address storage needs both south and north of the lake concurrently.

While storage north of the lake can help with timing and water quality treatment for the lake, it  does not address storage needed for rain that falls in the lake, its watershed, or south in the EAA. Only southern storage can address that capacity.

Storage south can address a wider scope of issues and stakeholders concerns and provides more opportunities  than any other single location.

Tell the SFWMD, Gov. Scott, DEP, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers there are better options!

  act now

First Sea Turtle Nest Hatches on Captiva

On Sunday, June 12th, the fist loggerhead sea turtle nest monitored by SCCF hatched on Captiva! Eighty-one hatchlings made their way to the Gulf of Mexico, giving us some good news after Tropical Storm Colin.

Please remember to be sea turtle friendly since both nesting adults and now hatchlings are sharing our beaches.

To report a dead or injured sea turtle, please contact our new SCCF Sea Turtle Hotline at 978-728-3663 (978-SAVE-ONE)

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Facts 

  • Loggerheads are one of seven species of sea turtles in the world
  • Nesting/Hatching season occurs from April 15 through October 31
  • Adult loggerheads can grow to more than 3-feet long and weigh 200 to 350 lbs
  • A female loggerhead may nest around 36 times per season
  • Each nest contains 100 or more leathery ping-pong ball sized eggs
  • Incubation takes about 55 to 65 days depending on sand temperatures
  • It may take 30 years or more for loggerhead hatchlings to reach maturity

How You Can Help

  • Turn off or shield all lights that are visible from the beach. Avoid using flashlights on the beach. If necessary, use amber or red LED bulbs
  • Do not disturb the screens covering nests. They prevent eggs from being eaten by predators and the hatchlings emerge through the holes without assistance
  • Remove all beach furniture and equipment from the beach at night
  • Dispose of fishing line properly to avoid wildlife entanglement
  • Fill in large holes that can trap hatchlings
  • Do not disturb nesting turtles – please do not to get too close, shine lights on, or take flash photos of nesting sea turtles
  • Pick up litter

First Prescribed Burn of 2016 at Sanibel Gardens

Burn June 3-4533

SCCF Field Technician Victor Young with Sea Turtle Coordinator/Biologist Kelly Sloan using the drip torch.

A prescribed burn was conducted on about 19 acres of wildlife habitat in the Sanibel Gardens Preserve (owned by SCCF and the City of Sanibel) on Friday, June 3. The burn was conducted by SCCF and the City of Sanibel.

Burn June 3-4260

Burn boss, Toby Clark (left) checks the fire line

Habitat preservation and human safety are the main reasons for performing controlled burns. Our habitat on the island is adapted for fire. When periodic fire is denied, the habitat begins to change, mostly to hardwood hammock.

This results in the progressive narrowing of the once open-canopy grasslands that historically covered Sanibel and were maintained by fires caused by lightning strikes. Without fire to keep the grasslands open, hardwoods will eventually take over. Many faunal species — from wading birds to invertebrates — depend on these open grassy wetlands for both habitat and prey.

When fire-adapted habitat is left unburned over many years, the fuel, or accumulating organic debris (leaves, sticks, dead grass, etc.), become an increasing risk for wildfire. These types of fires are usually started from lightning strikes or human carelessness (discarded cigarette butts, discarded matches, etc.) and are unpredictable. The reduction of these fuels through a scheduled controlled fire regime greatly helps to prevent these scenarios.

Prescribed burns on Sanibel are made possible with help from the Sanibel Prescribed Fire Task Force (City of Sanibel, Florida Forest Service, Sanibel Fire Control District, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and SCCF).

Cabbage palms are adapted to fire and can survive as long as their “bud” doesn’t burn. Detailed planning, vigilant patrolling, and the correct atmospheric conditions are needed. Prescribed fire is the most effective habitat management technique to keep shrinking ecosystems — such as open freshwater marshes, —from disappearing.

Prescribed Burn of the Sanibel Gardens Preserve Scheduled for Tomorrow

FullSizeRenderPress release from the City of Sanibel
Contact Holly Milbrandt, Public Information Officer
Prior to burn (239) 472-3700; Day of burn (239) 470-4005

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) and the City of Sanibel will conduct a prescribed burn of approximately 19-acres of the Sanibel Gardens Preserve on FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 2016.

A change in forecast conditions may result in postponement of the burn or cancellation of the planned prescribed burn. The prescribed burn will help to preserve the natural ecology of the area and reduce the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires.

The Sanibel Gardens Preserve is located west of Tarpon Bay Road, between Island Inn Road and Sanibel-Captiva Road. Click here for a map of the prescribed burn location (prescribed burn areas are outlined in green).

Ignition is expected at approximately 10 a.m., FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 2016, with completion of the burn by 4 p.m. Current weather forecasts are suitable for the burn. However, a change in forecast conditions may result in postponement of the burn or cancellation of the planned prescribed burn until further notice. Please monitor the City’s website
www.mysanibel.com for the latest updates.

On the day of the burn, all areas of the SANIBEL GARDENS PRESERVE will be CLOSED to the public. Additionally, the EAST portion of ISLAND INN ROAD (between Tarpon Bay Road and the gate) will be CLOSED to ALL VEHICULAR, PEDESTRIAN, AND BICYCLE TRAFFIC beginning at 7:30 AM. SANIBEL BOULEVARD will also be CLOSED to all non-local vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. The Bailey Tract at the J.N. “Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge will be open, but pedestrian and bicycle access from the Bailey Tract to Island Inn Road will be CLOSED. Please adhere to all signs, road closures, and instructions about closed areas provided by law enforcement and fire personnel. Access into the burn unit will be strictly prohibited during the prescribed fire operation.

While the burn is being conducted, there will be a Public Information Station outside of Bailey’s General Store at 2477 Periwinkle Way to provide more information on the status of the burn. For questions on the day of the burn, please visit the Public Information Station or contact Holly Milbrandt, Public Information Officer at (239) 470-4005.

Depending on the wind direction and strength, it may be possible to see or smell smoke. Smoke sensitive individuals should keep their windows closed and avoid outdoor activities in the affected areas. Residents and visitors are also encouraged to close their windows, cover pools, and move cars and furniture indoors. Please adhere to all warning signs and instructions provided by law enforcement and fire personnel. Ash and smoke associated with a prescribed burn cannot be prevented.

After the ignition of the prescribed burn has been completed, there may be occasional smoke seen from the burned area for several days. Fire personnel will monitor the burned area and adjacent roads taking all precautions necessary to have personnel and equipment on site to minimize fire activity and smoke impacts to the public.

To learn more about prescribed burns, click here for a list of Frequently Asked Questions. To be included on the City’s list of Smoke Sensitive Individuals and receive notification regarding future prescribed burns on Sanibel, please contact Joel Caouette at the City of Sanibel at (239) 472-3700 or email Joel.Caouette@mysanibel.com.

Native Landscapes & Garden Center Internship

NL&GC Opening-7590The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) Native Landscapes & Garden Center seeks an energetic and hardworking intern to assist in day-to-day nursery operations and work with our landscape installation and maintenance services.  The Native Landscapes & Garden Center offers a unique working environment, as it is a non-profit retail nursery dedicated to landscaping for the improvement of native habitat and wildlife on and around Sanibel and Captiva Islands.

Internship responsibilities will include all aspects of retail nursery operation and plant care, including watering, potting, pruning, weeding, plant propagation, landscape installation/maintenance, and customer service.  The internship offers the opportunity to obtain in-depth knowledge about South Florida native plants and gain firsthand experience in all aspects of an environmentally-friendly nursery and landscaping business.

Applicants should have a strong interest in plants and conservation, preferably possessing a Bachelor’s degree in horticulture, biology, environmental science, ecology, or a related field.  The intern should also be able to lift 50 pounds and be prepared to work outdoors in subtropical conditions, including hot temperatures, humidity, and insects.

Starting Date: May/June 2016
Duration:  Six months
Deadline:  Open until filled
Stipend: ($275/week) and on-island housing provided

Please send a cover letter indicating your interest, resume, and references by email to:  jevans@sccf.org; by mail to:  Jenny Evans, SCCF, P.O. Box 839, Sanibel, FL 33957; or by fax to: (239) 472-6421.

Your Donations at Work: Protection, Education, and New Programs for Sea Turtles

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For many islanders, May marks the end of the Busy Season. The traffic improves and, for some, thoughts turn to northern homes and summer travels. But for a dedicated group of staff and volunteers at SCCF – those working tirelessly in the Sea Turtle Program – the Busy Nesting Season is just heating up.

The sea turtle season is officially underway and the first nest of the season was laid on April 22nd – what a great marker that was to celebrate Earth Day! We’re coming off a record year for sea turtles on our beaches, with 522 nests laid on Sanibel and 133 nests laid on Captiva in 2015.

Protecting the nesting sea turtles and hatchlings on our beaches would literally not be possible without the tireless efforts of more than 100 SCCF volunteers and a small but dedicated group of staffers. Every morning from April through October, they survey 18 miles of beach. Rain or shine, usually in the company of no-see-ums, they search for tracks that sea turtles might have left behind when emerging from the sea to nest. The discovered nests are staked and then monitored daily until the hatchlings begin crawling to the Gulf. Storms, humans and predators may disturb or destroy the nests, reducing their survival.  After the nests hatch, they are evaluated to determine the number of hatchlings that successfully emerged.

FullSizeRender (2)-2SCCF’s volunteers play a huge role in educating folks on the beach about keeping the beaches safe for nesting sea turtles by turning off lights, removing beach furniture at night, and filling in large holes that could trap turtles. Our volunteers also help to reduce the amount of trash left on the beach. Last year they collected over 800 gallons of trash that could have been ingested by sea turtles and other marine creatures.

In addition to nest protection activities, the sea turtle program also responds to live and dead sea turtles that wash up on the beach, participates in collaborative research projects, and helps monitor beach construction projects. This season, we are very excited and proud to launch our nighttime tagging project that will provide important data for our nesting research on Sanibel and Captiva. This new work will add our local data to the research currently being done by Mote Marine in Sarasota and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on Keewaydin Island.

Please consider celebrating the start of Sea Turtle Season by supporting SCCF’s conservation activities. If you have not yet contributed to SCCF’s Annual Fund Drive, your gift will qualify you as a Member in Good Standing for another year. If you have already made a donation this year, we hope you might consider supporting the new Adopt-A-Beach Program to help fund sea turtle monitoring. If you have questions, please contact Cheryl Giattini at 239-395-2768 or cgiattini@sccf.org.

donate now

And for those of you looking for a different way to support SCCF and the sea turtles, you are invited to join Yali Zawady of Ambu Yoga on Friday, May 6 at 7:30pm. She is leading a New Moon Meditation on Alison Hagerup Beach Park at the end of Captiva Drive. Once a month, instead of class fees, Yali accepts donations for the Adopt-A-Beach Program, and an anonymous donor will match your donation. To learn more visit www.ambuyoga.com.

 

 

SCCF’s Indigo Snake Project Provides Education to Local Institutions

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Adult Eastern Indigo Snake

SCCF is in its third year of captive breeding its legally acquired eastern indigo snakes in the SCCF Nature Center, as a subsidiary of the SCCF Pine Island Sound Eastern Indigo Snake Project (SPISEIP). The eastern indigo snake is a large (5 – 7 ft), docile, black snake that is now extirpated in many parts of Florida, including Sanibel and Captiva. It has been a state protected species since 1971 and a federally threatened species since 1978. This means that it has been illegal to harass, touch, catch, keep, and kill, etc. wild eastern indigo snakes in Florida since 1971. Legally held (captive) eastern indigo snakes are either the result of confiscations by law enforcement (that are then given, and permitted, to someone because they can’t be released) or from captive-bred stock whose origins predates the state and federal listing of the species. Legal captive eastern indigo snakes cannot be sold in Florida due to them being a Florida listed species.

The SPISEIP began in 2012 when SCCF partnered with the Orianne Society; a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the eastern indigo snake. Chris Lechowicz was placed on their federal permit to conduct a mark-recapture study in Pine Island Sound to assess the population status, collect genetic samples, and come up with recommendations to sustain these populations. This species was once common on many barrier islands in Florida, but have been severely reduced to just a few islands in Pine Island Sound in recent years. Some populations still exist in the Florida peninsula, but many populations have been decimated due to development and especially the construction of new roads through large tracts of land. Eastern indigo snakes have a very large home range and road mortality is one of their main threats due frequently crossing roads.

Juvenile Eastern Indigo snake

SCCF’s original pair of captive indigo snakes (that were given to us in 2011 and 2012) are not from Pine Island Sound, but from a long line of captive bred animals that were produced in Lakeland, FL by the only permitted breeder in Florida at the time. A common question we are asked is: “Why do you breed indigo snakes at SCCF?”  The best answer for that is “conservation through education”. Nature centers, conservation organizations, schools and numerous individuals would like them for live exhibits or for educational lectures on snake conservation. Educational snakes are a very powerful tool to help to change negative feelings about snakes (and their role in the environment).   An adult indigo snake certainly gets everyone’s attention at a lecture and the message about their plight and that of other snakes, are better appreciated. Plus, the opportunity to legally touch or hold one can be a transformative experience for those who have a mild or unsure fear of snakes.

Indigo PIT Tag

A PIT tag, like a microchip for a cat or dog, is inserted for identification

Legal captive indigo snakes are very hard to acquire, especially in states that are in their natural range (like Florida).  By breeding these snakes, we are able to give other educators and organizations, that conduct similar conservation work, legal eastern indigo snakes that will be used to help change the minds of many people with negative feelings about snakes and teach people about this magnificent, unique, and troubled species in Florida.

Many people ask if the snakes we have produced can be released on Sanibel since they are now absent from the island. The answer to that is no.  Pine Island Sound snakes are genetically distinct from other populations in Florida and snake biologists, as well as state and federal agencies would not allow the mix of gene pools.  Plus, the problem that led to their extirpation has not been addressed, which is a busy road (Sanibel-Captiva Road) bisecting two major land areas (SCCF and Refuge Lands). To have any hope of repatriating indigo snakes back on the west end of Sanibel, Sanibel-Captiva Road would need to be either elevated or a barrier constructed on both sides with frequent eco-passes underneath to allow wildlife to go back and forth. Also, the stock for the repatriation would need to be from Pine Island Sound snakes.

Indigos new home at CROW

A new home at CROW

This spring, some of our captive-bred eastern indigo snakes that hatched at the SCCF Nature Center on 7/23/15 will be given to Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary (West Naples), C.R.O.W (Sanibel), FGCU (Fort Myers), and Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute (North Carolina) for educational and outreach exhibits. The hatchlings were held until April to assure that they were readily feeding and large enough to be micro-chipped.  If you have any questions about this effort, please call 239-472-3984 or email Chris Lechowicz at clechowicz@sccf.org.  If you see a wild eastern indigo snake on any of the islands in Pine Island Sound, please take a picture and send it to indigo@sccf.org or call 239-472-3984.

Earth Day Marked by 1st Sea Turtle Nest of the Season

DSCN7472Great news!! Our first nest of the season was laid on Captiva Island last night! Kerry Salatino was the lucky turtler that found the crawl this morning on her survey and you can see her excitement. What a great way to celebrate Earth Day! It’s official – they are back!

The earliest nest ever recorded on our beaches was on April 20, 2012 (on Captiva)…so although this doesn’t break the record, it’s still an early nest. The earliest nest recorded on Sanibel was April 25, 2012.

We’re super excited about this sea turtle season and the amazing crew SCCF has to help with nest protection this year. We’re only one week in and we’ve already collectively picked up 36 gallons of trash!

To report a dead or injured sea turtle, please contact our new SCCF Sea Turtle Hotline at 978-728-3663 (978-SAVE-ONE)

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Facts 

  • Loggerheads are one of seven species of sea turtles in the world
  • Nesting/Hatching season occurs from April 15 through October 31
  • Adult loggerheads can grow to more than 3-feet long and weigh 200 to 350 lbs
  • A female loggerhead may nest around 36 times per season
  • Each nest contains 100 or more leathery ping-pong ball sized eggs
  • Incubation takes about 55 to 65 days depending on sand temperatures
  • It may take 30 years or more for loggerhead hatchlings to reach maturity

How You Can Help

  • Turn off or shield all lights that are visible from the beach. Avoid using flashlights on the beach. If necessary, use amber or red LED bulbs
  • Do not disturb the screens covering nests. They prevent eggs from being eaten by predators and the hatchlings emerge through the holes without assistance
  • Remove all beach furniture and equipment from the beach at night
  • Dispose of fishing line properly to avoid wildlife entanglement
  • Fill in large holes that can trap hatchlings
  • Do not disturb nesting turtles – please do not to get too close, shine lights on, or take flash photos of nesting sea turtles
  • Pick up litter

 

Your Donations at Work – Celebrating Earth Day!

GlobePellie20in-PressSCCF’s special recognition of Earth Day is a terrific way to encourage the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed. This year, that recognition will have two great programmatic elements.

David headshotPlease join us on Earth Day – Friday, April 22 – at 1pm for the second annual Conservation Conversation in the SCCF Nature Center Auditorium. Dr. Jack E. Davis will speak about our coastal waters and the people who live near them. Dr. Davis is a professor of environmental history and sustainability studies at University of Florida. He spent his childhood on the Panhandle shores of the Gulf of Mexico. His books cover an interesting range of topics including the writings of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the environmental history of Florida. Since 2011, his research has broadened to other Gulf coastal areas, including our islands, to examine how nature shaped societies and how natural resources developed communities. Come take advantage of the opportunity hear a man whose passion is telling the stories of Florida’s coastal region and the people who call it home.

Thanks to The Donald Slavik Family Foundation for their annual support of the Earth Day Conservation Conversation.

Earth Day will also mark the successful conclusion of the first annual SCCF “Ding” Darling Brush of Excellence Environmental Art Program. The beautiful painting by Jaye Boswell, the program’s first Artist of the Year, has been on display in the Nature Center throughout this season. Entitled “A Darling Cottage”, it will be presented to one lucky drawing winner. Drawing tickets are priced at $10 and remain available this week at the Nature Center. The drawing will take place following Dr. Davis’ presentation as the audience enjoys SCCF’s Earth Day Birthday Cake.

donate now 
Please consider celebrating Earth Day by supporting the conservation efforts of SCCF. If you have not yet contributed to SCCF’s Annual Fund Drive, your Earth Day gift will qualify you as a Member in Good Standing for another year. If you have already made a donation this year, we hope you might consider making an additional gift to mark this special occasion. If you have questions, please contact Cheryl Giattini at 239-395-2768 or cgiattini@sccf.org.

1st Day of Sea Turtle Season

Sea Turtles Aug 2015 (1 of 25)Today marks the start of the 2016 sea turtle season for Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. Sea turtle season continues through October and during this time we expect to see hundreds of sea turtle nests.

Each morning nests are staked off by a large network of volunteers in order to monitor and protect them. Sanibel and Captiva provide great nesting habitat for sea turtles, so it is important we keep the beaches pristine and safe for their use. There are several things you can do to help keep the beaches sea turtle friendly.

  • Respect all staked nests.
  • Sea Turtles Aug 2015 (2 of 25)Turn off all lights — Nesting females and hatchlings primarily emerge after dark so remember to turn off all lights. Sea turtles use the brightest horizon to navigate towards the water. Any artificial lighting will cause confusion and steer turtles in the wrong direction. This includes beachfront lighting, flash lights, flash photography, and even iPhones.
  • Remove all beach furniture and toys — Clear everything off the beach from 9 pm – 7 am. Obstacles on the beach can cause nesting females and hatchlings to become entangled.
  • Fill in all holes on the beach — if you dug a hole on the beach please fill it in. Nesting females and hatchlings can fall into holes, causing them to be venerable to predators.
  • Never approach a nesting sea turtle — if approached the sea turtle will likely abandon her nesting attempt.

Your Donations at Work: Interns Make the Difference

ComboBuildingInterns-5in300dpi

Different groups of people work together to advance SCCF’s mission. They include two dozen staff members, hundreds of volunteers and donors, and – for the next few months, anyway – six terrific interns.

Smiling above from left to right, we are pleased to introduce Alaina Mahn, Chelsea Petrik, Jess McCulloch, Brandt Quirk-Royal, Liz Beans, and Jenna Beyer.

The wildlife biology work being done by Alaina and Chelsea have them monitoring snowy plover nesting, surveying the population sizes of other shorebird and seabird species, and helping with tank talks and the Nature Center’s wildlife displays. Jess and Liz are making a real impact in the continued rollout of the demonstration gardens at the Native Landscapes & Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead Preserve. Jenna has been helping the Marine Lab scientists by cultivating tape grass which she then plants in five sites along the Caloosahatchee where its growth and survival is monitored. Brandt has returned and is providing much needed technical support for the Sea Turtle Program, especially because the data collection has skyrocketed along with the nesting activity of the last few years.

Seeing these happy and helpful interns really demonstrates why our members support SCCF’s day to day operations.

donate nowWe look forward to sharing more stories that illustrate how your operating support is making a difference. If you have not yet given to the Annual Fund Drive, please donate today. If you have questions, please contact Cheryl Giattini at 239-395-2768 or cgiattini@sccf.org.

Be on the Lookout for Snowy Plovers

Can you spot the snowy plover?

Sanibel Island is home to many species of nesting birds. Some are more noticeable than others, such as the many ospreys calling loudly from their highly visible nest platforms. Others, like the snowy plover, can be easy to miss. These tiny shorebirds are most commonly found resting or feeding among the wrack at the high tide line; but are often overlooked because of their quiet nature and perfectly camouflaged plumage.

In February and March, the snowy plovers pair off and begin establishing territories along the beach. The males will dig practice nest scrapes in several locations. When the pair decides they have found the ideal location, they will begin mating and eventually lay eggs.  A typical snowy plover nest is a shallow depression in the sand sometimes lined with small pebbles or shell fragments. They will lay one egg every other day until they reach a full clutch of 3 eggs, which they then incubate for 4 weeks.

SNPL_camo 1During nesting season, it is not uncommon to see areas of the beach roped off with string and posts bearing informational signs. These areas are essential for snowy plover nesting success and chick survival.  Nests are very difficult to see, and it would be easy for someone to mistakenly step on one.  Fencing off a large area around the nest minimizes disturbance to the nest.

When people, dogs, and vehicles are too close to the nest, the adult will be off the nest, leaving the eggs vulnerable to the elements or predators. Adults will call loudly, and feign a broken wing in hopes of distracting potential predators from their young. If you see an adult exhibiting these behaviors, it means you are too close to the nest or chicks. The proper course of action is to immediately stop moving and carefully observe the ground around you. Once you are sure you are not standing near a nest or chicks, slowly walk away from the birds and continue to watch your feet as you go.

Snowy plover chicks are precocial, which means they will be up and running and finding their own food within a few hours of hatching. They can feed themselves, but still rely on their parents for protection from the elements and predators until they are fledged. The chick’s instinct when approached by people or predators is to crouch down and stay very still. Their sandy colored speckled plumage allows them to blend in perfectly with their surroundings.

Please help protect nesting snowy plovers by respecting the signs and staying outside the roped off areas. It is also important to remember to keep all dogs on leashes, and never allow children or dogs to chase after birds on the beach. If you have questions about snowy plovers or other shorebirds on Sanibel Island, please contact the shorebird coordinator Audrey Albrecht via email at aalbrecht@sccf.org

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