Start of Snowy Plover Season Kicks Off with a New Banding Project

Snowy plovers are small beach-nesting shorebirds that we share our beautiful beach with here on Sanibel. February 15th marks the official start to snowy plover nesting season in the state of Florida. Over the next few weeks, adult plovers will form mating pairs and begin to establish territories across Sanibel. SCCF recently teamed up with staff from the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and a few volunteers to rope off a known nesting area adjacent to the Perry Tract on the east end of Sanibel. This small stretch of beach is located just to the east of Gulfside City Park.  For the last several months, a group of plovers ranging from 6- 12 individuals have been utilizing this area for roosting and foraging.

This year SCCF will continue its long tradition of monitoring the nesting of snowy plovers, along with 2 other beach-nesting species: Wilson’s plovers and least terns.  The shorebird biologist and shorebird intern will regularly be on the beaches monitoring plover activity and constructing protective boundaries around nests. Additionally, there will be presentations about our nesting shorebirds given bi-weekly at the SCCF visitor center throughout nesting season. The next presentation will be Thursday, February 23rd at 2:00 pm in the SCCF auditorium.

As a means to better track the movements and nesting success of our snowy plovers, SCCF’s shorebird biologist has initiated a banding project. To identify birds as individuals, adult plovers are captured and given a federally issued metal band and unique combination of color bands on their lower legs. Currently on Sanibel there are 6 uniquely banded individuals, one of whom was banded as part of a past research project in 2009. If you happen to see a banded snowy plover on the beach, please take a photo or make note of the colors on the legs, and the location of the bird. You can report any sightings of our banded birds, or send any further inquiries about our research to the shorebird biologist at shorebirds@sccf.org .

First SCCF Evenings at the Homestead to feature Clyde Butcher – SOLD OUT

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EVENT SOLD OUT

SCCF kicks off its new program series “Evenings at the Homestead” on Wednesday, December 14 with acclaimed environmental photographer Clyde Butcher. Event tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.sccf.org or by calling 472-2329.

This sure-to-be-sold out program will take place at SCCF’s Bailey Homestead Pavilion at 1300 Periwinkle Way. The evening begins at 6:30pm with refreshments followed by Mr. Butcher’s presentation at 7pm. His books and calendars will be available for sale and Mr. Butcher will sign copies before and after his presentation. He is graciously sharing sale proceeds with SCCF.

Recognized as both a legendary photographer and a national treasure, Clyde Butcher has been creating exquisite black and white photographs of the untouched natural landscapes for more than 50 years. Internationally renowned, his stunning photography transports the viewer into the primordial beauty of expansive horizons, endless vistas, and seldom seen splendor of the wilderness. His powerful images explore not only his own personal bond with the environment, but beckon us to our own personal communion with the natural world. Clyde has been called the next Ansel Adams by Popular Photography magazine, awarded as a humanitarian for acting for the betterment of his community, and recognized as a conservationist for bringing issues to the forefront of public consciousness through his art. His photography transcends political boundaries, challenging us to work together to protect natural places across the globe.

“We are so honored that Clyde agreed to be the first presenter for Evenings at the Homestead,” said SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad. “During SCCF’s Annual Membership Meeting, Mr. Butcher is being recognized as the 2017 Prize Recipient of the SCCF J.N. “Ding” Darling Brush of Excellence Environmental Art Program. It’s just great he can stay on another day to make this presentation the night of the 14th.”

During the Evening at the Homestead presentation, attendees can also purchase drawing tickets to win a signed and framed piece of Mr. Butcher’s art. The black and white photographic composition is valued at $1,500. Drawing tickets are priced at $10 each and three for $25.

Fishing for Alligators

sanibel-do-not-feed-the-gators-2094-03-31-00-18-35-2As the Living with Wildlife educator at SCCF, many stories come my way from residents that are concerned about issues in their neighborhoods that concern wildlife.  Alligators are most often the topic of those stories. A  most concerning recent neighborhood story included children fishing in a fresh water canal.  With the recent death of the child in Orlando by alligator attack the story concerned me even more.

Can fishing in lakes and canals turn into feeding alligators?  If the fishing happens over and over in the same place and if the bait used or the fish caught are thrown into the water…I believe those alligators can become “human fed” gators.  Many years ago blue crab fishing in the refuge was ended for just this reason.  The chicken necks used for bait were attracting alligators whether the fishermen meant to or not.

Although it is not illegal to fish in fresh water lakes and canals where our gators live is it really worth it?  Just like you should not allow your dogs to swim in fresh water, I think children fishing in fresh water is not worth the risk…fish in salt water for their enjoyment and safety.  Playing closer than 20 feet to fresh water edges is not advised.

Alligators catch their natural prey by lunging onto canal edges to catch birds or heaven forbid small children and dogs.  Fishing could encourage that natural behavior,  teaching them to overcome their natural avoidance of humans.

Thinking of the horror of a child being attacked by a gator on Sanibel reminds me of my friends’ death by alligator attack in 2004.  A resident attending an SCCF “Gator Tales” program following that death “confessed” to feeding that gator.  He did not understand how bad it was to feed wildlife.   In the couple of years following that horrible attack, approximately 150 alligators were trapped and killed on Sanibel.  A FED ALLIGATOR IS A DEAD ALLIGATOR.  FEEDING WILDLIFE IS DETRIMENTAL TO HUMAN AND GATOR HEALTH.

– Dee Serage-Century

SCCF Sea Turtle Nest Numbers Break Records on All Island Beaches

SCCF Nests and LighthouseIt has been a banner year for loggerheads nesting on Sanibel and Captiva! As of August 4, the nest numbers for the East and West End of Sanibel were 164 and 430, respectively. The previous records for these beaches were 120 and 376 (both set in 2015).

184 nests have been laid on Captiva to date, also breaking their previous record of 179 nests laid in 2000.

With 722 total loggerhead nests on the two islands combined, and scattered nesting continuing into August, 2016 has shattered the all-time record of 622 nests for the two islands combined!
While we’re breaking records on Sanibel and Captiva, the Statewide numbers won’t be totalled until the end of the season in October.

At least for the SCCF Sea Turtle Program, these numbers show that decades of coordinated conservation efforts are starting to pay off, including nest protection, reducing fisheries interactions, and limiting artificial lighting in coastal communities.

Here are the nest counts as of  August 4, 2016:

8/4/2016
Sanibel East Sanibel West Captiva Total
Loggerhead Nests 164 430 184 778
Loggerhead False Crawls 332 803 283 1418

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

 

5th Annual Beer in the Bushes Tickets on Sale Now

FB BITBDiscounted early bird tickets are now on sale for SCCF’s fifth-annual Beer in the Bushes. Early bird ticket pricing is $50 through March 13.
Tickets can be purchased online at sccfbeer.eventbrite.com or by calling 239-472-2329. After March 13, ticket prices rise to $60 in advance, and $70 day of and at the door.

This popular craft beer-tasting event is Saturday, April 9, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Join SCCF on the grounds of SCCF’s Nature Center, 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road, for great craft beer, live music, dancing, and a few surprises.

“Beer in the Bushes has become the unofficial End-of-Season Party,” said SCCF’s Jeff Siwicke, creator of the event. “Whether you’re looking for new craft beer tastings, great food, world-class music or just a chance to catch up with fellow islanders at the end of a very busy tourist season, Beer in the Bushes is the place to be.”

KermitRuffinsThe headliner this year will be Kermit Ruffins & The BBQ Swingers. The New Orleans natives are award-winning favorites of Jazz Fest and HBO’s hit show “Treme.” Kermit Ruffins is an unabashed entertainer who plays trumpet with a bright, silvery tone, sings with off-the-cuff charm, and knows how to get the party going.

Come and vote for your favorite beer as eight local craft breweries compete for the SCCF People’s Choice Award:  Point Ybel Brewing Company (the defending champs of 2015), Ft. Myers Brewing Company, Momentum Brewhouse, Old Soul Brewing, Naples Beach Brewery and Palm City Brewing, Bury Me Brewing, and Cape Coral Brewing Company.

Four local food trucks will keep everyone happy and full. All tickets include $10 in TruxBux redeemable for dinner choices from any of the trucks.

“Thanks to our Presenting Sponsor – The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company – as well as the Host Committee and other corporate sponsors, we’re able to keep ticket pricing down,” said SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad. “We couldn’t make Beer in the Bushes the good time it is without their generous support.”

Guests will have a great evening while helping to support SCCF’s mission of conserving coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed.

Reservations and advance payment are requested; register online at sccfbeer.eventbrite.com.BITB logo music color

 

 

Eastern Glass Lizard Found in Nature Center Parking Lot

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A rare eastern glass lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) was found in the parking lot of SCCF’s Nature Center yesterday.

The only known specimen of the lizard, until 2012, was a roadkill from Lindgren Rd in 1959. After the rediscovery in 2012 of a single animal, they have been documented a few more times in the same general area near the center of the island. They are a burrowing, upland species that was likely repatriated to Sanibel through fill (dirt/sand) over the last decade or two. They are native to Florida and Lee County. Even though they do not have limbs, they are not a snake. Snakes do not have eyelids, external ears, or the ability to break off their tail to escape predators. They eat primarily insects and lay eggs.

The glass lizard was released on one of SCCF’s preserves this morning.

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Harmless Watersnakes Often Mistaken on SanCap

Cottonmouth (not found on SanCap) vs. Florida watersnake (harmless, and found on SanCap)

Cottonmouth (not found on SanCap) vs. Florida watersnake (harmless, and found on SanCap)

This time of year usually means high water in the basins on Sanibel. With that, come more frequent observations of snakes by residents and visitors. This is because the wetlands, where several Sanibel snakes call home, become flooded and watersnakes or their relatives need a place to dry out and sun themselves. With no other options, those dry places become backyards, sidewalks, and parking lots. When water levels drop, most aquatic and semi-aquatic snakes retreat to dry areas near the edge of the wetland and out of the way of most people.

Unfortunately with the rise in snake observations due to high water come the reports of “water mocassins” (cottonmouths), a venomous snake in Florida. Sanibel is well within the range of the Florida cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti), however they have never been documented on Sanibel, Captiva, North Captiva, Cayo Costa or Pine Island.

Watersnake, not Cottonmouth
The snake that many people are seeing, and unfortunately misidentifying, is the Florida watersnake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris). This is a common snake of the freshwater basins of the island. In brackish and saltwater (mangrove) areas of the islands, that snake is replaced by the mangrove saltmarsh snake (Nerodia clarkia compressicauda). Both of these harmless snakes are unfairly persecuted by people because they are thought to be “mocassins” simply because they are seen in or around water.

This does not ignore the fact that we are in the range of the Florida cottonmouth and it is possible for them to arrive here by swimming across the bay or arriving in shipments of sod/mulch/plants etc. Snakes are a very important part of the many ecosystems on Sanibel. They both eat prey and get eaten by predators as part of the food web. Native snakes should not be harmed, especially on this conservation island.

A major issue is that most people cannot correctly differentiate between the two snakes. Common verbal inaccuracies that I often hear from snake novices are “it had a triangular head,” “it rattled its tail,” “it had a heavy body,” “it was swimming,” etc.  The truth is that most snakes have a triangular shaped head and most exaggerate that triangular shape when they are threatened. Most snakes will rattle their tail, even though they don’t have a rattle, as a false threat. It is true that cottonmouths have a large, heavy build, but well fed watersnakes can also be massive. Finally, all local snakes can swim. There are many misnomers when it comes to snakes — and watersnakes probably experience the worst of that in regards to the cottonmouth.

Here are some key diagnostic features for the Florida watersnake (usually between 2.5- 3.5 ft) as compared to the cottonmouth:

  • Round pupils, as opposed to all venomous snakes in the U.S. with the exception of the coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) which have elliptical pupils (like a cat).
  • Banding is usually reddish with white outlines. The white is usually visible along the lower side of the snake (near the underside), even on dark specimens.
  • The labial scales (upper lip scales) have dark vertical outlines.
  • The body can be highly contrasting or almost solid black, but the banding should still be somewhat noticeable on dark animals.
  • Primarily a freshwater inhabitant.

The mangrove saltmarsh snake (usually 1 – 2.5 ft): (1)

  • Round pupils, as opposed to all venomous snakes in the U.S. with the exception of the coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) which have elliptical pupils (like a cat).
  • Narrow banding (difficult to see in most adults.
  • Variable color forms (black or brown with faded banding, all red or orange, or a blending of those.
  • Primarily a salt water or brackish inhabitant (found in mangrove systems).

The Florida cottonmouth (usually 3 -5 ft) as compared to the nonvenomous watersnakes of Sanibel:

  • Elliptical pupils, like a cat.
  • Wide, non-conformed bands with spots and speckles intermixed.
  • Labial scales not boldly outlined, but can have a pattern.
  • Brown or black bar on each side of the head that hides the eye of the snake (common to most rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths).
  • Mostly freshwater but also inhabits saltwater in north Florida.

Nature Trails

center tractSCCF has 4 miles of trails at the Nature Center on Sanibel-Captiva Road, a .6-mile trail in the Periwinkle/Blue Skies Preserves on Periwinkle Way and two short (around 500 feet) trails on the Bob Wigley Preserve that are open to the public. There are also trails in the Sanibel Gardens Preserve, managed by SCCF and the City of Sanibel, which are accessible from Island Inn Road.  PDF map showing locations of all walking trails on Sanibel (SCCF, “Ding” Darling and the City)

Nature Center Trails
Shipley Trail
Periwinkle Blue Skies Preserve Trail
Bob Wigley Preserve

The Center Tract is a restored cross-section of rare and unique interior, wetland and upland habitats. It is open to members (free) and visitors ($5/adult, children under 17 free) and includes 4 miles of nature trails, boardwalks and an observation tower overlooking the Sanibel River. Guided trail walks are offered regularly throughout the year, but visitors may take self-guided tours. At the beginning of the trails an ethnobotany garden contains plants that have been used by humans for centuries and interpretive signage describes medicinal properties of the plants.

Click here for a printable PDF of the Nature Trails map

 

“Coyotes raid Sanibel sea turtle nests”

‘This is a new issue here; it started in 2011,” said Kelly Sloan, coordinator of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Sea Turtle Program. ‘It happens all over the beach. There is some coyote depredation on Captiva, but it’s only on the south end of the island.'”

Read the News-Press full story here.

“Sanibel pond becomes ‘unique place’ on island”

“‘The idea was to be the Johnny Appleseed of tape grass for the river,” Milbrandt said. “So we created a donor site in the pond. It’s a perfect site: It’s not surrounded by development. It’s not full of nutrients; there are no algal blooms; the water’s clear.'”

Read the full News-Press story here.

Business leaders of Southwest Florida tell Gov. Scott to “Buy the Land!”

Letter to Governor Scott and the 2015 Legislature from business leaders of Southwest Florida

By Dreamtime Entertainment, compliments of Jensen’s Twin Palms Marina.

Speakers included the following:

  •  John Lai, Lee County Hotel Association
  • Sandy Stillwell, Stillwell Enterprises
  • Shane Spring, VIP Realty
  • Paul McCarthy, McCarthy’s Marina and Captiva Cruises
  • Marty Harrity, Doc Ford’s Rum Bar
  • Jim Collier, Tarpon Hunters Fishing Club
  • Denice Beggs, Beggs Realtors
  • Ann Brady, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
  • Eric Pfeifer, Pfeifer Realty
  • Dall Burnsed, Santiva Saltwater Fishing
  • Bud Nocera, Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce
  • Sarita Van Vleck, artists and resident
  • Nancy MacPhee, Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau

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