Storm devastates bird, turtle nests
A stake marking a loggerhead sea turtle nest barely
hangs on to what’s left of a sand dune chewed up
by T.S. Debby on Sunday night.
CINDY LANE | SUN
BRADENTON BEACH – Tropical Storm Debby has claimed all 368 shorebird nests on Anna Maria Island and an unknown number of the 180 sea turtle nests so far, as forecasters predicted the storm will continue into this week.
The storm took 355 black skimmer nests (a species of special concern), 15 least tern nests and four snowy plover nests (both threatened species) due to rain inundating the nesting area, said Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox.
No chicks had hatched yet this season.
The adult birds are gone, too, she added.
On Longboat Key, black skimmers abandoned their newly-hatched chicks, but Gail Straight, of Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center in Bradenton Beach, rescued 34 of the 100 or so chicks, most of which were picked off by gulls and terns.
Five loggerhead sea turtle nests were saved and relocated, including a rare green turtle nest, Fox said.
The endangered green turtle laid her nest the night of Friday, June 22 on the beach near the Dream Inn, 2502 Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach – only the third green turtle in 30 years to choose Anna Maria Island as a nesting site – but on Sunday, as Debby pushed 10-foot waves onto the beaches, Fox had to relocate the nest to Coquina Beach to save it.
When the storm hit with full force on Sunday, there were 180 turtle nests on the Island, none of which had hatched, but relocation efforts were suspended due to tornado warnings, Fox said.
“We are still assessing the damage and will know more when the storm passes,” said Fox, adding that much of the beach where turtles nest was underwater on Monday.
Stakes were missing on Monday from a turtle nest relocated earlier this season near the beach parking area at the BeachHouse restaurant, most of which was in standing water on Sunday.
“Stakes are gone all up and down the beach, but the eggs are probably still in the ground,” said Fox adding that turtle nests can withstand some washover by waves, but may not survive being underwater for long periods.
Well-meaning people did exactly the wrong thing, digging up nests they thought were in danger of flooding and bringing buckets of eggs to Fox, she said, reminding people it is against the law to touch a turtle egg or a turtle.
If people had left them alone, some of the nests probably would have survived the storm, said Fox, one of the few federal permit holders allowed to handle sea turtle nests on the Island.
Digging up eggs without regard to procedures that keep them moist and at the correct temperature, and ensure they are placed in a new nest at the same depths as they originally were deposited, endangers the eggs, she said.
Fox said she will request that the county stop beach raking until the end of August, because with the turtle stakes blown away, the heavy tractor, which pulls a large rake, could crush or dig up shallow nests.
Tractor operator Mark Taylor was uninjured on Monday when the tractor became stuck in the sand and had to be pulled out.