Visitors enjoy Island turtle, bird nestsFrom the June 16, 2010 Issue
Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and
Shore Bird Monitoring director, shows a tour group
what a loggerhead sea turtle egg looks like at
a nest in Bradenton Beach.
Unusual turtle tracks delighted tourgoers in
Anna Maria last week. The tracks meandered
into a staked bird nesting area.
SUN PHOTOS/CINDY LANE
ANNA MARIA – Visitors taking a tour of Anna Maria Island’s sea turtle and bird nests last week were treated to a delight – perfectly preserved turtle tracks from the night before, and two new turtle nests.
Volunteers Pete and Emily Gross waved at Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shore Bird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox as she showed the tour group a bird nesting area at the north end of the Island that had attracted hundreds of black skimmers.
They pointed out the turtle tracks that led from the Gulf to the nest site, and then meandered into the staked bird nesting area, making a loop and heading back out to the Gulf.
Turtles and birds often share the beach for nesting, Fox said, adding that if a turtle nests inside a staked bird nesting area, it is not staked out like other turtle nests.
Missouri visitors Abby and Anna Youngblood and their mother, Stephanie Youngblood, were excited to see a turtle egg that Fox unearthed as she confirmed another loggerhead nest laid the same night at La Costa condominium in Bradenton Beach.
Youngblood was surprised to learn that the mother turtles do not return to their nests, and the hatchlings are on their own from the beginning.
Fox found a ghost crab in the nest and explained that it is a turtle egg predator, adding that nests in some locations are caged to prevent cats, raccoons and other predators from attacking the eggs.
“It’s lovely to see people working with nature and teaching kids about it,” said Jane Lang, a visitor from the United Kingdom, whose family adopted a nest last week after the tour. Loggerhead turtles, relatively Horizon oil spill occurred on April 20. The relisting of the loggerhead is still under review. Officials report 296 dead sea turtles in the Gulf as of June 11 since the spill. Oil has not affected the Island’s beaches, Fox said, adding that this year is the most successful one so far for bird nesting.
Birds nesting on the Island include least terns and snowy plovers, both threatened, and black skimmers, a species of special concern. The chicks are learning to fly, and are running out of the staked nesting area down to the water’s edge, Fox said, advising people to walk carefully to avoid accidentally stepping on a chick or a nest that may be outside the staked area.
The staked area was recently enlarged to keep beachgoers from getting too close, which flushes birds from their nests and leaves the eggs exposed to predators and heat.