ANNA MARIA ISLAND – As the first day of turtle nesting season approaches and shorebirds begin pairing up and making nests, volunteers with Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring are making ready to protect them.
The group’s volunteers need protecting too, Director Suzi Fox told them last week at CrossPointe Fellowship.
Each volunteer walks the beach at least two miles at dawn once a week. Fox told her group that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking Turtle Watch to have each beach walker take two days instead of one beginning next season, and that anyone unable to walk that much without assistance should think about making way for new volunteers to participate.
Other volunteer positions include staffing the Turtle Watch booth at festivals, giving Turtle Talks, fundraising and staffing school events.
Turtle season begins on May 1 and lasts through Halloween, but turtles can start showing up any time now, Fox said. The organization’s volunteers already are making sweeps up and down Island beaches to check for nesting of turtles and shorebirds, which begin nesting earlier than turtles.
- Turn off lights visible from the beach and close blinds from sundown to sunrise; lights confuse nesting sea turtles and may cause them to go back to sea and drop their eggs in the water, where they won’t hatch. Light can also attract hatchlings away from the water.
- Don’t use flashlights, lanterns or camera flashes on the beach at night.
- Remove all objects from the sand from sundown to sunrise; they can deter sea turtles from nesting and disorient hatchlings.
- Fill in the holes you dig in the sand before leaving the beach; they can trap nesting and hatching sea turtles, which cannot live long out of the water.
- Don’t use wish lanterns or fireworks; they litter the beach and Gulf.
- Do not trim trees and plants that shield the beach from lights.
- Never touch a sea turtle; it’s the law. If you see people disturbing turtles, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
- Never touch a shorebird chick, even if it’s wandering outside a staked nesting area.
- Teach kids not to chase birds – bird parents may abandon nests if they’re disturbed.
- Don’t feed birds – it encourages them to fly at people aggressively and is not good for their health.
- If birds are screeching and flying at you, you’re too close.
- Avoid posted bird nesting areas and use designated walkways to the beach.
- Keep pets away from bird nesting areas.
- Keep the beach clean; food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows to the beach, and litter can entangle birds and other wildlife.
- If you see people disturbing nesting birds, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).