The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 43 - July 28, 2010


Teaming up for turtles

From the July 28, 2010 Issue

Debbie Basilius received the Sadie award from Suzi Fox of
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shore Bird Monitoring
on Saturday evening for her volunteer work.

CORTEZ – Debbie Basilius greeted volunteers with her beaming smile, writing their names on certificates of appreciation on Saturday night, unaware that they had recommended her for the highest honor of the evening.

The Sadie Award, named for a sea turtle rehabilitated in 1999, stands for endurance, jumping high hurdles, community involvement, love and kindness, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shore Bird Monitoring director Suzi Fox told the group at the annual awards banquet at D’Andreas.

Basilius blushed as she accepted the award, the highlight of the banquet, scheduled just as the first turtle nests of 2010 are due to hatch on the Island, and as its bird chicks are beginning to fly.

So far this year, nesting activity has been about normal, with 113 nests and about 118 false crawls, or abandoned nesting attempts, Fox told the team, adding that many nests are higher on the beach this year. The bird count is 832 adult black skimmers with 119 chicks, four least terns and five snowy plovers.

Fox recognized Rookies of the Year – first-year volunteers who walk the beach at dawn looking for tracks of mothers and hatchlings – Donna Puchalsi, Diane McCausey, Dana Casale, Gregg Flowers and Terri Nelson, Rhonda Bailey and Amber Everhard.

She also applauded walkers who volunteer more than one day a week - Jimmy Kosco, Tom and Lois Huntington, Diane McCausey, Lyn Sprinkle and J.C. Phillips, Ron and Chuckie Edmonds, Ned and Rusty Holmes, Gregg Flowers and Terri Nelson, Johanna Gering, Susan Anderson and Don and Jeanie Deam.

One volunteer, Ron Edmonds, paints hundreds of stakes in his garage for use in marking nests, and will have several hundred more to paint with a new system that will help triangulate nest locations more accurately with twice the four stakes currently used.

Fox also recognized volunteers Pat Gentry, Dana Casale, Maureen McCormick, Roger and Lisa Marie Allen, Dan and Jackie Skarrits, Claudia and Glenn Wisemans, Johanna Gering and Lorie Hagle for their contributions from dessert baking to T-shirt sales to grant writing.

It’s a team effort, and sometimes it really is an effort, getting sand in your teeth while digging into a nest to verify that it has eggs, changing clothes several times before noon in the summer heat, going through the heartbreak of following hatchling turtle tracks into Gulf Drive due to someone’s negligence in leaving a light on.

But it’s also a labor of love.

“Of everything I have ever accomplished in my life professionally and personally, directing this program has made me the most proud,” Fox said.

Certain moments bring tears to her eyes, like volunteer Lorie Heagle seeing her first nesting turtle in eight years, or seeing that volunteer Debbie Wilber wears turtle pins on her work apron at Cracker Barrel.

“You all are here volunteering for this program not because you love a good mouthful of sand but because something in your heart brought you here,” Fox said. “It’s my job to thank you, but if you could hear the voice of all the baby hatchlings and baby chicks you have saved or guided to the sea it would be so loud you would hear nothing else.”

Turtle Tom

Turtle Tom

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper