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Vol. 14 No. 44 - August 27, 2014

SUZI FOX's BLOG - Flippers & Feathers

August 29, 2013

The Nesting report
We have documented 356 nest so far this season. 94 of them have hatched and those nests produced 8331 hatchlings.  A storm in June took 12 nests.  We have had to put up with very high tides this month that washed over a few of the lower beach nests. Luckily only a few of those were standing in water. Nests can take some wash overs and still have a pretty good hatch rate. However, standing water is no good. Doing the math, we have about 250 nest left to hatch.

Though it has been two weeks since our last nest, Sarasota County reported a nest and a false crawl 3 days ago. So our turtle girls are still hanging off shore with nesting on their minds.

                      

Pictures above show Volunteer Fran Krammer excavating a nest that had hatched. And  the rainy high tide around mid month in August. As the tide went down you can see how high up it went by the wrack line. It was over three feet of extra water & then west winds pushed it further toward the grass line. For two days walkers reported some parts of the beach were totally under water making it impossible for us to know if a turtle had nested the night before. In these cases I count 55 days ahead and tell the walkers to be on the look out for surprise hatches from nests that may have been missed.

Heavy afternoon rans have givien us some some surprises as well. Daytime nests  hatching!!! We have had eight so far. Those have been reported by your Marine Rescue guys up high in their towers….They miss nothing!!  We love those guys. We suspect we have had more that hatched with out any watchful eyes.

GRANT MONEY TO THE RESCUE
I have some great news to report to you. I have secured grant more grant money to retrofit more water front buildings with sea turtle/ people friendly lighting. We will be working with Harrington House, Waters Edge, 18 properties under the management of Mike Norman Realestate.

We already supplied Smugglers Cove in Bradenton Beach with 34 fixtures and FWC certified sea turtle friendly light bulbs. That was a $2,380.00 fix. This property has been drawing hatchings back toward their lights for 15 years. Last week 124 hatchlings exited their nests in front of the building and ran right down  to the sea. YEAH!!!!!

We still have some $$ to go and I plan to spend every extra minute seeing more properties to help.

Here is an example of bad lights that we have fixed. This pole had a metal halide light in it & was just hanging from a cord. It lit up the entire side of the 7 story Martinique South Building & shined out on the nesting beach. The owner removed the bulb. We are choosing two new fixtures for his parking lot lights that will be paid for by grant money.

RENOURISHMENT UPDATE
I have been in discussions with your renourishment engineers, Charlie Hunsicker  and the Army Corp of Engineers gearing up for your project. AMITW started moving nests  August 1st in prepreation for this project. We have to give nests a 70 day window to hatch ( We had a nest hatch today that was in the ground 66 days). That means nests that were laid on  and after August 1st and have and  will be moved up to the City of Anna Maria around Oak & Maple.  We have a little nursery going on up there of about 25 nests. We had a scare two days ago. The house at 97 Oak Ave had a big spot light shinning from their waterside porch pointing right at our row of nests. No one was in the house and there was no contact number. The owners of this house live in Odessa. So a brave George Mckay , AM City Public Works Director used a thick rag and unscrewed the light bulb ( not a turtle friendly bulb).  The city has sent them a letter telling them they need to get this house in compliance.  I think I need to send them some grant information & see if we can get them on board.

     

I will leave you with this cool picture. Longtime volunteer Ray Dalto called me from the beach and said

“Good morning Suzi I have a present for you meet me at 1200 Gulf Dr.” Down I went to find a teary eyed Ray hanging out with a nesting mama. It was Ray’s 81st Birthday that day.

July 12, 2013

What a day we had today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We had a huge tour this morning and they were treated to a fine nest down at Coquina Beach.

Debbie had activity up in section 3 and Bayside had a beautiful false crawl track. Maureen sent me a pretty picture.

The trophy goes to Pete and Emily Gross in section 4 mid-Island in Holmes Beach with two nests and a false crawl and one of the nests was Mrs. Green turtle... She climbed way up in the grass waterside of Mainsail and around a “For Sale” sign before nesting next to their stacked lawn chairs. Stacks of lawn chairs on the beach are permissible.

Congratulation to father/daughter team of Fred Mack and Carolyn... I think I saw Carolyn doing a little happy dance and I for sure heard her giggle when she realized they had a green turtle nest today.

And speaking of stacked chairs... I received a very kind phone call from Mr. Mark Davis, owner of the Harrington House. A few nights back we had a nesting turtle that got stuck in his lawn chairs that according to him he just plumb forgot to take in for the last 15 years. He apologizes to all of us and wonders if we can do something about the little tidbit on facebook and the picture of the turtle. I told him we would print that it had a happy ending because she did get to the sea but was very, very tired after her bumping her head and stuck flippers. When I last looked on facebook the count was 400 shares of that story. I bet he got some heat. We did contact the HBPD first thing the next morning and they got right on HH and chairs were stacked and pulled back that evening and have been every night since. PD is now patrolling nightly through there. Thank goodness for the world’s best police staff!

It’s time for us to think about the renourishment project. We are about 70 days out and we may be moving any new nests that are laid next week. I will give you all a 24-hour notice on that.

The board and I realize that we do need to purchase the 2nd ATV. That will be here by Tuesday so we can pull this project off with ease.

And we had a great Tai Chi class today. Everyone who would like to continue, please email me back. Let me know what day and time that will work for all of you.

Huge hugs to all of you. Your work this year is beyond great.

Love,
Suzi

April 3, 2013

Pre-dawn diary of a sea turtle volunteer

Its 5 am on April 3rd 2013…third day of this 2013 Sea Turtle Nesting season. Yesterday we found a false crawl in section 9 in Coquina Beach. New walker Kathy Doddridge was the walker. She was so excited. She is pictured here with her Coordinators Lee & Marv Zerkel. Today I am the survey walker for section 7....26th St. in Bradenton Beach to Cortez RD.

Maybe I will get lucky today and find the first nest. Its 71 degrees outside & the water is 78. No rain thank goodness.

I have decided to take the ATV & do a predawn light inspection of all of Bradenton Beach as I conduct my nesting survey. I have my ATV all packed up with stakes, ribbon, data sheets, measuring tools, GPS & Coffee!!!

6:13 am

I have decided to take you all on my morning survey with me!!!!!!!!!

It’s still a little dark to start out just yet…the nesting females may still be on the beach finishing up their nesting duties. I will let the dogs out & get them fed…I will plan on entering the beach at 23rd St.  and then go south turn at Cortez  and head north. I hope to find the first nest today!

Every few minutes I go out in my front yard & look east to see if the morning light has started at all. At the first peep, I will head out.

6:25….Still dark but I think I can see a turtle if it comes up….I’m hitting the beach. Ok its beautiful out here with the light just enough to see. No nest in my section dag nab it!

However, there are a few lights left on that are out of compliance.

Many waterfront residents & business have their turtle friendly light fixtures with turtle friendly bulbs in place.

The good list:

Coquina Beach Club…first year 100% in compliance Yahooo …………all turtle friendly lights and NO CHAIRS ON THE BEACH!!!!!! Gulf Breeze at the Curve at 22nd St. is all set with Sea Turtle friendly bulbs. Shell Cove…is always in compliance and many others.

The bad list:

Gulf Drive Café’s new building…..something went wrong here in the plans!!

Beach House Resort, some of Mike Norman Realty rentals, Tortuga Inn, Sea Side Resort and Anna Maria Accommodations at 23rd St…Sunset Terrace next door actually have bright spot lights on pointed right at the Gulf waters & the whole nesting beach. It is the same as every year with these same places. They wait for the city to spend $$ for their code officers to come ask them to please shield their lights. What a waste of my cities money. 

Nourishment

We had a conference call Pre Construction meeting with head of Manatee County Natural Resources Charlie Hunsicker and all the Shaw Group Engineers last month. We will not know start & stop dates for another few months. We need 65 days advance before any construction movement of any kind starts on the beach so that we can start moving nests, but only as they are laid. Right now it looks like all nests will stay where the mothers have chosen to place them….until beginning of July.

We decide to have a conference call at the beginning of every month until the project is finished in late fall.

Along with Lauren Floyd, one of the Engineers for Shaw Group, I will be working a new way of data collection that will make the federal permitting process go smoother for future projects on our beaches. It will include lighting survey results from the cities and usage of National Monument markers along with our normal GPS & address & measurements of every nest.

Shorebirds

Black Skimmers are gathering daily up by Seagrape Lane we are up to about 170. They have not started their pre-nesting scratches in the sand yet. When we see that we will buffer or rope everything off. We had one little Snowy Plover couple sitting on three eggs found April 1. We got a report on April 23, that nest was destroyed by what we think were crows. Darn, we will take down the buffer in the next few days. There are two other pair looking amorously at each other so maybe more eggs soon.

Sea Turtles

Only one false crawl by a Loggerhead down at Life Guard Station 3 in Coquina Beach yesterday. More to come!! I will send some pictures through the month & then a report at the end of the month.

10 AM

That’s all for me.  Time for me to rake sea grape leaves in my back yard, laundry, vacuum, and wash my car. Definite nap is due this afternoon.

1:20

Nap time!!

Suzi Fox, Director
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch

Ps………………..May 5th    update……We have 9  Survey Sections on Anna Maria. Each Section is about 1 mile long and is headed up by one person or a team of two.  At the beginning of every season everyone is hoping to find the first nest. The emails between volunteers start to get crazy and funnier every day. Today is May 5th and we still have no nest. We did get two false crawls just south of Public beach.

Glenn Wiseman write in an email to everyone at 7 :30 this morning
" Day 5 - the massive aquatic reptile still eludes us ... will try again at dawn."

August 4, 2012

For the last week there has been a new visitor on our Anna Maria Island shoreline. Sargassum seaweed has taken up residence coupled with onshore winds and a high full moon tide.

All three of these items are natural occurrences and not a health threat. (I’m not sure about the full moon….my resident beagle dog, Finn, likes to bay at that full moon!)

Some residents and beachgoers are finding this unsightly… they like our pristine white beaches… sorry gang, you have to take the bad with the good.

On the upside, one group of visitors that loves this fragrant wrack line (the weed line) are the shorebirds… they are having a heyday! Offshore, this weed line is a home to hundreds of different kinds of sea life and plays a big part in keeping our water clean and filtered.

Around the world, sargassum is used as food. Indonesians like to drop it into boiling water and cook it for one minute then eat it with a sauce made with allspice. Or, they eat it with sugar or make it into a relish. Another option is to steam the seaweed. It can also be cooked into a jelly, firmed, and/or used as a glue. Larger “leaves” make a chip when deep fried or the entire plant can be coated with a tempura batter, deep fried and served with a dipping sauce.

Hawaiians had a variety of sargassums to cook with. They stuffed fish with the leaves, or ate it raw with raw fish or octopus. The leaves can be added to soups and chowders or deep fried in tempura batter. Sun dried leaves can be eaten like chips, or they can be fried and sprinkled with salt.

This past week on AMI, people didn’t find the food idea very appetizing and business owners decided that stinky weed had to go.

Many resorts raked up their own backyards… Richard, the owner of Angelino’s Sea Lodge by 29th Street is proof of how a small owner believes in taking care of their own back yard and does it very well. He plants sea oats, rakes his beach daily for his guests and cheers on the turtle watchers that care for his shores. He doesn’t call the county to come take care of his back yard.

On Thursday, the City of Bradenton Beach and SOME resort owners complained so loudly the county met them at city hall (that would all be under taxpayer time). The city promised to have one city worker come help us. We never saw anyone from the city staff on the beach after the initial visit. (Maybe they can learn something about cleaning up their own back yard from Richard @ Angelino’s).

I called first thing Friday and left a message with public works to see who they would send. By 4 p.m. no one had returned my calls.

We found many beachgoers that didn’t let it upset their stay. One family of six from Illinois came out on the beach with us yesterday. They rent at the Anna Maria Island Club and have for the last 20 years. With rakes in hand, they all pitched in to help. They were so happy to see the county come by, but they were also happy to do it themselves. They called it giving back.

We worked in front of a small resort at 23rd Street end. While volunteers from Turtle Watch and Keep Manatee Beautiful volunteer Bob Goodwin were hand raking the beach and bringing county workers cold water, the resort staff sat inside in cool air conditioning on the phone complaining to county staff. As I walked in the door of this resort to say the county was done for the day… they just waved us off. Not one “thank you for your time!”

Thursday, when volunteers and staff worked side by side in 92 degree weather, county parks and rec’s Cindy Turner showed up and said, “Come on gang, you have done such a good job I’m taking you all to lunch.” Where else but the Manatee Public beach!!! What a nice gathering… Mike Williams, the world’s best heavy equipment operator, Clayton Albritton (his mom created and owned the Harbor House (the original Beach House Restaurant). Missing from our lunch group were our all time favorite county workers George Donahue… (we gave him a new title… Chief Seaweed Engineer) and Craig Johnson. They both had pressing county business elsewhere. This weekend we will have a crew on at both public beaches. Mike Williams will be back with Jim Elmore. Thanks for working the weekend guys!

We here at Turtle Watch and also from Keep Manatee Beautiful are always around to lend a hand. However, it would have been a sweet message to see more businesses lending a hand and not just shouting on the phone.

We realize that resorts and our guests pay a load of money to the bed tax. However, the funding from THIS clean up was pulled from the already tight budget of our county money in parks and recreation. Can this money spent be reimbursed from the bed tax fund?

These clean up emergencies are going to happen and there should be provisions made to fund them from the bed tax and not put this burden on parks and recreation.

By the way, the alley behind my house needs a little clean up… wonder if Cindy Turner can bring that crew here!!!!!! Juuuuuuuuuuuuuust kidding.

Suzi Fox
Director
AMITW & Shorebird Monitoring

June 27, 2012

What fun we had this past Wednesday at our benefit at Island Time Bar & Grill. Our goal was to raise enough money to produce a business card size sticker that will be used to seal the envelopes for all the rental properties on the island. We will give these free to realtors and they will also have the template to produce more. The idea is that people will have to peel back the sticker to get their key to their unit. No one will be able to resist the face of our little Green Turtle hatchling looking at them! The message reminds them to fill in holes in the sand, shield their lights and remove furniture at night from our nesting beaches. We passed our goal of $300 by $125. We are not surprised as the staff and food at Island Time are the best. We had a big storm blow up and we all decided what a fun place to be stuck in the rain!!

We had 47 nests Wednesday to Wednesday this past week. The usually happy and cheerful Debbie Basilius always answers her phone and you can feel her smiling. Last Tuesday she called with her nesting update and she sounded half asleep. In Debbie’s section 3 they have passed 40 nests. Tired but happy… that is the tune the volunteers are singing from the beach. We ran out of marking stakes and had to “borrow” 200 stakes from our turtle neighbors at Mote. We promise to give them back painted at the end of season.

We have noticed a few rental properties that are still not stacking their furniture and locking it at night. Coquina Beach Club has had chairs on the beach all week. If you rent or own there or know someone who does, help our turtles out by getting those chairs in at night.

See you on the beach
Suzi Fox
Director
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring

June 13, 2012

Hello everyone! I did the whole Gulf side beach on Tuesday on the ATV because of our stormy morning. It took me quite a while and I did find a false crawl in section 8 with an abandoned egg cavity and two nests in section three. They were all very hard to detect. I’m not very confident that I got them all. So if a nest was laid that day it would be due around Aug. 1. We will all need to keep our best lookout for unmarked nests hatching at that time. I will remind you when that time comes. Many of the nests have been washed over. But it looks like we didn’t

lose any. Volunteers marked down numbers of the nests that have been washed over. They could tell by noting what side of the nest the wrack line is on. If it’s behind the nest, it’s a washover. It looks to me like all nests that were not on high dune got a bit of a wash. Remember that these nests will take wash through and be fine. It lowers the success rate a bit but that is a normal, natural occurrence. We never relocate a nest for just washovers unless it’s before 9 a.m. the night after it was deposited in the sand. If it gets a wash through after that, we make note in our paperwork.

We did lose quite a few black skimmer eggs and maybe one of the two snowy chicks. But nature bounced back and the black skimmers were mating the next morning getting ready for the next batch of eggs, and some were still on eggs that did make it through the storm. All in all, the beach looks pretty good. Most nests seem to be on a natural slope and should drain fine.

Our thanks to Mr. Peter Church who charged through section two ahead of the storm and reported everything clear. Whoooo hoooooooo - way to go Peter!!

Take care,
Suzi

May 15, 2012

Our first sea turtle of 2012 came ashore May 3 at Bean Point right on schedule in the first week of May. Sadly, the beaches of Anna Maria that she calls home are diminishing.

How would you feel if you arrived back home after a very long journey and pulled down your street only to find that your home had become a parking lot and your entire house was gone

This is what the nesting female sea turtles returning south of the BeachHouse Restaurant will find when they try to come home Thursday night at the Bradenton Beach Commission meeting commissioners decided to disregard and discredit the advice of their own Planning and Zoning Board and Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch.

The city attorney attempted to discredit the work and opinions of AMITW’s 20 years of experience of monitoring and protecting the sea turtles on Anna Maria Island. She felt very confident in making her own assessment that sea turtles would not nest in compacted sand and in her opinion this was never an area suitable for nesting.

Several negative comments were made about the validity of the collection of scientific research data by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch. I have held the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Marine Mammal Conservation Permits on this island since 1996. This requires comprehensive, detailed data to be collected and submitted to FFWCC, USFWC and the Florida Marine Research Institute yearly by me and my 82 state-permitted volunteers. We are required to attend training seminars on a yearly basis given by the state of Florida and run by top experts in the field.

Neither the attorney nor the city commissioners asked for or reviewed any of this data prior to voting on the matter. Perhaps they didn’t ask because they didn’t want to have this data entered into the public record.

Instead they made many attempts to discredit my work and the work of my volunteers after public comment was closed. This made it impossible for me to comment on these misconceptions.

One commissioner brought up that this lot was not historically nesting habitat before beach renourishment. This is true. Prior to the 1997 Coquina Beach Renourishment Project, the nesting figure was around 17 nests annually. After renourishment, the following summer brought a total of 66 nests. Each time a beach is renourished, part of the permit conditions are that the contractor, Manatee County, till or fluff the sand down to 24 inches, the required depth for Loggerhead nesting. This area has had three sand projects and was tilled or fluffed making it suitable for sea turtle nesting after the sand was placed.

This area now needs tilling to fluff the sand because Beach House patrons have been using it for parking and driving on it for the past three years, so nesting habitat has been stolen from this endangered species and compacted.

Eighty-eight times in the past 16 years on this 500 foot stretch of beach sea turtles attempted nesting. Unfortunately the city commissioners chose not to consider this.

All this started with parking on the beach by the BeachHouse. I came up with the idea in 2006 of a compromise of putting in a dune and allowing them to park 10 cars landward of the dune. It morphed into protection from the big waves (which never has happened in this spot) and adding 35 car parking spots, and in the meanwhile parking has been allowed without ANY dune.

The sea turtles on AMI would have liked the commissioners to at least cease parking until the dune is in place, but my gut feeling is even that small favor will not be considered.

Since we all know that only one in 1,000 turtles will reach maturity and return back to AMI and nest, one has to ask the question to the city of Bradenton Beach: What is the value of a Sea Turtle Nest on our Island?

Apparently the Bradenton Beach commissioners feel additional parking has more value.

I disagree.

May 9, 2012

Celebrate Mother's Day – but do not hug a mother sea turtle! If you are lucky enough to see a nesting turtle, let nature take its course and watch quietly from a distance. If you see someone harassing a turtle – which includes hugging, touching, carrying, riding or obstructing – call the police. If you see a turtle in distress, call Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch at 941-778-5638.

See you all on the beach
Suzi Fox, director
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring

May 1, 2012

Everyone waits for me to write about shorebird, sea turtles and the shoreline of Anna Maria Island.

Sorry everyone, there are no sea turtles nesting on our Island as of today April 28.

Our shorebird lineup is looking impressive for our soon-to-be nesting black skimmers and our snowy plovers are doing the mating dance and now scraping with hopes of replacing the two nests they lost. And we have 12 least terns hanging in the buffer roped off area we left up for them. Least terns were absent from our shorebird nesting line up last year.

However, there is news of a miracle on Anna Maria Island this whole week … conveniently located in my own back yard. After the big storm last weekend, my back yard came alive with migrant birds in route or getting ready to return to their breeding ground homes. Many of them are a first time site for me.

This morning's booty was an Eastern phoebe. Holy cow, are they loud. Two ruby throated hummingbirds come by daily to feast on all my butterfly flowers. Early in the week, I grabbed my stash of hummer feeders and started boiling sugar water.

The rest of the line-up is thrushes, a beautiful pair of yellow warblers (Mrs. yellow warbler not as colorful). They have the loudest call for a 3 inch 1 oz bird….its sounds like a 10 lb. pterodactyl in my sea grape tree! Indigo buntings, grosbeaks, cardinals, Carolina chickadees, a LeConte's sparrow or grass sparrow (it was too dark to tell).

Early in the week I switched to black sunflower seed food I bought in the seed section at Publix. It really kept down the pigeons from eating everything out of my feeders and my little miniature pincher, Miss Molly, as well!

Unfortunately, starlings have chased my red-bellied woodpeckers out of their home in my dead palm tree I left up just for them.

It is 10 a.m. here at my house and I just got off the phone with Wilma Katz, sea turtle permit holder for Englewood Beach. They had seven nests this morning! I spoke to Kristin and Sara from the sea turtle program at Mote and they are standing tight on their count of four nests in SRQ.

I'm pretty sure next week I will be telling you about our first nest here on wonderful Anna Maria Island.

I love my life today!!!

See you all on the beach
Suzi Fox, director
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring

April 19, 2012

I would like to tell you about some of my favorite people. They are daily beach walkers watching over sea turtles & turtle watchers I call them “non volunteers-volunteers.”

I am surrounded by the world’s best people….not only my volunteer staff. But there are hundreds of eyes and helping hands ready to jump in to help the Turtle Watch daily survey walkers.

One of my favorites is Mila who walks every day. Her husband Allen hangs out and reads the newspaper at Public Beach as she does her power walk. She greets every walker with a smile & kind words. If anyone needs a hand she jumps right in. Allen plays phone relay back and forth with me when I need to decipher Mila's accent when she is really excited and needs to tell me something that is happening on our shoreline or if one of the volunteers needs help!!

Carol Ann Magill our little beach chic who watches over the birds and helps us set up the buffer zone for nesting birds…..she’s the world’s best cheerleader and always has kind words to say. 

Debbie & Elaine are some of our solo walkers with big smiles and a helping hand if we need.

My private personal family favorite is Coach Jackson….head of the generations of Jackson Family of Teachers from Tampa & Anna Maria. He walks from Coconut down to Public beach ever day. I think Jerry is close to 90 years old…..he always waves and yells “Hello Ms. Suzi!!”

Our Beach Racer, Mark Taylor is always among the favorites. His southern accent and manor is always refreshing…… his watchful eye is as helpful as he keeps our beach clean & fills in the hole so our tourists & volunteers don’t trip. 

These are just a few that I know by name.

Many I only know by their smile & wave.

The wonderful small Asian woman who has a baseball hat & picks up garbage always gives me a big wave and a big smile as I pass.

I love my world every day.

Weather permitting ….We are giving a mini training session at Bayfront Park 8 am on Saturday the 22nd. We will go over everything in the training at city hall. Watch the weather….if it rains we will hunker in or move it to a better spot that morning.

Our 2nd little Snowy chick is up at the north end sitting on her eggs and the Black Skimmer count is up to 246 and rising they will soon pick a nesting spot & we will mark it off.

See you on the beach
A big wave of the flipper
Suzi Fox
Director
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring


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