Turtle Watch recognizes volunteers
cindy lane | sun
Suzi Fox passed out blue marbles representing
the Earth to volunteers Saturday at the organization’s
annual awards banquet.
ANNA MARIA – Volunteers for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring are early birds, beginning their days before dawn to walk the beach looking for signs of turtle nesting and hatching.
So it makes sense that their annual awards banquet was held at 9 a.m., with coffee instead of champagne, and fruit cups designed to look like turtles (kiwi shells with apple slice flippers and cherry heads).
The 22nd Annual Volunteer Appreciation Awards banquet on Saturday at CrossPointe Fellowship celebrated 30 years of the organization’s work on the Island with quirky, fun awards.
Director Suzi Fox presented car wash certificates to section coordinators Debbie Basilius, Emily and Pete Gross, Betsy Lynch, Maureen and David McCormick, Ed Sterba, Claudia and Glenn Wiseman and Marv and Lee Zerkel, whose cars are always sandy from their beach monitoring activities.
Fox also is a section coordinator, compiling daily statistics on sea turtle nesting and hatching in nine sections on the Island.
“I just don’t know how you guys are doing this,” she said, with this record year for turtle nests keeping everyone hopping. So far this season, sea turtles have laid 336 nests, she said, compared to 1999’s record of 244.
The record was marred by Tropical Storm Debby in late June, which swept an unknown number of nests out to sea, where they do not survive. Fox estimated at least 60 nests were lost. At the time Debby struck, 180 nests had been laid on the Island.
Section seven, from 26th Street to Cortez Road in Bradenton Beach, had an all-time high number of nests laid for any section – 246, she said, adding that one turtle nested in the daytime in section five, from 66th Street in Holmes Beach to Manatee Public Beach, an unusual occurrence.
Turtles are laying fewer nests now as nests laid earlier in the season are beginning to hatch. So far this season, two nests have produced 55 hatchlings.
Fox announced that after a decade, the organization’s Sadie Award has been retired. The award was named for a turtle saved from a fall off a seawall.
She instituted a new award – blue marbles representing the Earth were given to volunteers. Hold the marble to your head and think of someone who protects the environment, she said, then hold it to your heart, then pass it along to that person. Fox gave her marble to volunteer John Defazio.
Other awards also were introduced; Pete Gross, the statistician of the group, was awarded a beanie with a propeller, while Glenn Wiseman was awarded a Viking helmet for his work as education director with his wife, Claudia Wiseman. The couple gives beach tours of nest excavations after nests have hatched. They recently uncovered four live hatchlings that had not been able to escape a nest and liberated them into the Gulf of Mexico.
First-year volunteers, still wet behind the ears, were given baby bottles full of candy, including Mara Dunn, Christina Fisher, Tracy Kimpton, Mary Lecheidner, Tonya May, Amy Miller, Pat Peterfeso and Mary Wash.
Boomerang awards were presented to volunteers who had left and returned to the organization, Amy Tryteck and Heather Rolls.
Board members Debbie Basilius and Ed Sterba also were recognized for their service.
Fox announced that due to complaints from the public, Manatee County’s beach raker, Mark Taylor, began cleaning up seaweed at the two public Gulf beaches last week, Manatee Public Beach and Coquina Beach, carefully avoiding marked turtle nests.
Raking is normally kept to a minimum during turtle season to avoid disturbing nests.
Tropical Storm Debby washed away stakes that marked many nests, and other nests were probably laid during the storm that Turtle Watch volunteers did not locate due to high tides obscuring turtle tracks, she said.