Turtle season ending on high noteFrom the October 20, 2010 Issue
SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE
Chuckie Edmonds sorts signs used to mark bird
nesting areas for Anna Maria Island
Turtle Watch and Shore Bird Monitoring.
With 135 sea turtle nests laid this year on Anna Maria Island, one more than the 10-year average, Suzi Fox is calling the 2010 turtle season a good one.
The director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shore Bird Monitoring shared her thoughts about the season with volunteers on Sunday as they gathered to wash stakes and ropes, sort signs and rebuild cages.
Despite 26 nests washed out by storm tides and 19 nests disoriented by lights, about 73 percent of the nests hatched this year, she said. Six more nests remain, and probably will hatch before Oct. 31, when turtle season ends.
Fox shared her concern about a drop in turtle nesting from Pine Avenue to Bean Point in Anna Maria, saying the beach is too flat there. Sea turtles prefer sloped beaches that ensure their nests drain well, she said. Hatchlings can drown in their eggs if a nest is underwater too long.
But nature has struck a balance on that beach, she told volunteers – it has become the largest black skimmer nesting habitat on the west coast of Florida.
Fox and Manatee Audubon will receive a joint award from Audubon of Florida at its annual conference on Saturday for having the greatest level of volunteer participation in its bird steward program on that beach.
Turtle Watch volunteers stake out bird nesting areas each spring and monitor nesting and hatching until the baby birds are fledged.
“Suzi is the one who really worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to get the area posted,” said Marianne Korosy, local government outreach coordinator with Florida Audubon’s southwest coast chapter.
The program will expand next year, said Fox, who is seeking beach stewards to arrive at the nesting area early in the morning and stay for four hours to monitor nesting and educate beachgoers.
Fox also told volunteers she’s pleased to see them contributing to the scientific data that prompted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service to consider classifying nine loggerhead populations as separate species under the federal Endangered Species Act, with two as endangered and seven as threatened.
Fox expects that if the redesignation is approved, the turtle population will be boosted as it was when turtle excluder devices were mandated for shrimp boats.