Weekly Wednesday Update
April 29, 2020
We're sending weekly updates to your inbox every Wednesday afternoon to brighten your week and to remind you that nature goes on in all its beautiful brilliance.
At SCCF, our work carries forth to ensure the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed.
We encourage you to spend time outdoors exploring your own backyard while staying safer at home!

Thanks to Dan Wilhelm for submitting this week's photo of a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) taken from the Blind Pass bridge.

Please send your wildlife photos to info@sccf.org.
Leatherback Nests on Captiva; Total Count Now 13 Nests!
We now have a total of 13 sea turtle nests on our beaches, with 11 loggerhead ( Caretta caretta) nests and two rare leatherback ( Dermochelys coriacea) nests.
Since last Wednesday's update, sea turtle monitoring surveys found six nests and 15 false crawls from loggerhead sea turtles on Sanibel. While on Captiva this week SCCF documented three nests and two false crawls from loggerheads and one leatherback nest.
"Leatherback sea turtles are very rare on Sanibel and Captiva and this year we are extremely fortunate to have one leatherback nest on each island," said SCCF Research Associate Andrew Glinsky. "Leatherbacks are the largest of all species of sea turtle and an uncommon visitor to Florida's Gulf coast."
The total of false crawls for the season so far is 21.
"The sea turtle season is beginning to pick up and soon turtles will be nesting on the beaches every night and we expect to nest counts to increase," added Glinsky.
Pictured here is SCCF Land Conservation Steward Victor Young, one of several staff members from other departments who are helping out with early morning monitoring of our beaches while our highly devoted team of volunteers is on hold out of an abundance of caution due to COVID-19. Monitoring occurs every morning from the Lighthouse on Sanibel up to Redfish Pass on Captiva. Starting May 1, night surveys will also begin.

Follow us on seaturtle.org to keep up with our nesting season on a daily basis!

To report any issues with nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings, please call SCCF’s Sea Turtle Hotline: 978-728-3663.
Please Help Protect Nesting & Migrating Shorebirds
Our Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht reports that we now have four active snowy plover ( Charadrius nivosus) nests, and one Wilson's plover ( Charadrius wilsonia) nest. Least terns ( Sternula antillarum) are beginning to exhibit behaviors that indicate they may nest soon. 
A snowy plover is pictured here, incubating its nest. As you can see, it blends it very well with its environment and can be hard to see. Please keep an eye out and respect enclosures!
Watch the video below to learn more about protecting these precious nesting shorebirds.
Shorebird migration is underway, and many shorebirds are gathering on our shores preparing for their lengthy migrations. Some of these birds are coming from Central or South America, and will be continuing on to their nesting grounds in the Arctic. Others winter with us on Sanibel, like the sanderling ( Calidris alba ) with white flag P03 pictured here. P03 was originally banded as an adult in May 2015 at a migratory stopover location in Chaplin Lake, Saskatchewan. A stopover location is a place where migratory birds stop to rest and refuel along their migration route - in this case to Arctic Canada. 
Because these birds have such long journeys, it is very important that they are able to rest and eat enough while they are here. Never flush birds or allow children or dogs to chase birds resting on the beach. They have many thousands of miles to fly and need all of their energy to survive their migration. 

If you have any questions about our shorebirds please email shorebirds@sccf.org
'Share the Shore with Shorebirds' Video
We invite you to view our NEW animated shorebird conservation video produced by The City of Sanibel, in partnership with SCCF, “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, and the Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society.
This short, educational video highlights the threats shorebirds face every day and showcases simple ways residents and visitors can be good neighbors to shorebirds and other coastal wildlife. Special thanks to Susan and Cliff Beittel for underwriting SCCF's participation in the video production!

Please watch and share to help protect our feathery friends!
Habitat Staff Works to Keep Firelines Open as Risk of Wildfires Peaks
Over the last few weeks, alternating Wildlife & Habitat Management staff who are working alone to adhere to social distancing standards have been working to keep the firelines open and accessible in case of wildfires on conservation lands, as well as for any controlled burns that could happen this summer.  
The dry season also allows staff to access areas that are normally too wet to bring heavy machinery in to restore open wetlands that are transitioning to closed-canopy forests because burns have not occurred frequently enough. This is mostly due to improper conditions such as wind direction, dispersion, and mixing height during our small burn window. The late dry season is a really important part of the year to get land management tasks completed before the summer rains begin and fill in wetlands and firelines once more.
Marine Lab Evaluates Success of Oyster Restoration Project
Oyster reef restoration is an effective way of reversing decades of habitat degradation. The footprint of an oyster reef is visible from Google Earth imagery and there are many reefs between Shell Point and the SCCF Marine Laboratory on Tarpon Bay. 
Some are small, others are long and sinewy. Oyster reefs filter the water and provide habitat for many fish and invertebrate species. The Marine Lab has been systematically visiting these sites in the boat, finding that 9 times out of 10 the reef is so degraded that there may be few to no live oysters remaining. 
The changes in the timing and delivery of flows from the Caloosahatchee have caused widespread oyster reef destruction. Restoration entails the addition of oyster shell or fossil shell to a degraded oyster reef. The Marine Lab has used this technique to restore four acres of oyster reefs at six sites. 
To determine how effective the restoration was, it is necessary to count the number of oysters per square meter at restored sites and reference sites. While we delayed our sampling activity because of COVID-19, we were able to use social distancing on the vessel and in the lab to count and measure live oysters. The results are showing that the restoration sites have similar densities and sizes as oysters at the reference sites. 
SCCF Donates Rebuilt Bikes to Food Pantry
Thanks to recent donations that have provided SCCF interns and staff with a new fleet of bikes, SCCF is refurbishing its old bikes and donating them to those in need.
The community goodwill effort was made possible by a recent donation of ten bikes from Billy’s Bike Shop and a monetary donation from Deborah La Gorce through the SCCF gift catalog that allowed the purchase of six additional bikes for use by SCCF interns and staff.  
SCCF Marine Lab Research Associate Mark Thompson and his 10-year-old son, Yuan, pictured here, are the brains and brawn behind the effort. They started working in mid-2019 to convert these near-dead bikes into useful units. 
“At one time, our home looked like a bicycle battlefield, but we got organized and set up our own outdoor bike shop and slowly began producing some of the nicest rides this side of Tesla,” Thompson said. 
In late 2019, Thompson and his son talked to Miriam Ortiz, founder of the Gladiolus Food Pantry in Harlem Heights, and found what they were looking for -- a place that could find homes for the refurbished bikes and a way to reduce the bike overpopulation problem at their house. 
“Miriam likes to get a few bikes a month and matches the bike with people who need transportation, or kids who have never had a bike,” he added.
Now, they are in need of more bikes to restore and donate.
Thompson and his son would like to put out a Save-the-Bikes plea for any SCCF members or island residents who are contemplating throwing out their old bikes or have old parts lying around. 
“Just text us at 239-410-5491. We will ride over with our bike wagons and pick up your old bike from the curb and give it new life and a new home,” he said.
Wild Coffee Prompts Story of Scoliid Wasp's Way of Nesting
A great pastime these days is to wait around a blooming plant and see what kinds of insects visit it. A recent discovery was on a blooming wild coffee ( Psychotria nervosa) which has a glorious fragrance similar to its relative, the gardenia. Like the gardenia, wild coffee belongs to the Rubiaceae family, which includes coffea arabica, the plant that produces the beans we use in brewed coffee.
While enjoying the scent and sight, SCCF Native Landscapes & Garden Center Director Jenny Evans captured this photo of a Scoliid wasp! It motivated her to share some interesting facts about the wasp with us all.
“There's no need to run away in fear from this wasp; it won't sting unless you actively harass it. This wasp is actually beneficial as a pollinator and predator of several insect pests, and has a fascinating life history,” she said.
The female wasp will hunt out a scarab beetle larva known as a white grub in its immature larval stage, many of which are considered pests. The wasp then stings the grub to paralyze it.
“She then takes the paralyzed grub to its solitary underground burrow where the wasp lays an egg in the grub body. When the egg hatches, it will feed on the dead grub for a couple of weeks, and then pupate in an underground cocoon,” said Evans.
The following spring, an adult scoliid wasp emerges from the cocoon to start the cycle again.
Nature Near You Focuses on Backyard Ecology
Nature Near You is the Sanibel Sea School's e-newsletter delivered to your inbox at 9am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect backyard, nature-inspired lessons, activities and crafts with a fun new theme each day.

This week focuses on techniques and tools that scientists use to estimate the number of organisms in nature.

If you are interested in joining the mailing list, please click on the button below or email info@sanibelseaschool.org. If you missed out on an issue of Nature Near You, all of the content can be accessed here.

Part of the SCCF Family, Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.
Lee County Re-Opens Beaches & Access Points
On Tuesday, the Lee County Board of Commissioners announced the re-opening of county parks and preserves including all beaches and beach access points, parking lots and free-standing bathrooms beginning today.
Staff will be onsite to help encourage social distancing following the CDC guidelines. Parks and preserves are open with regular hours.

County facilities that will remain closed:
  • Playgrounds
  • Pavilions
  • Recreation centers
  • Soccer, lacrosse and football fields
  • Basketball courts
  • Piers
  • Splash pads and pools

Municipalities within the county are making similar and quickly evolving decision to open their parks and beaches as well. Please check their websites for specific details.

We encourage you to continue to follow the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding social distancing so that we can remain on the path to recovery. 
Clean Water Conversation focuses on Lake O

Click here to view/listen to the Friends of the Everglades first Clean Water Conversation that was streamed live on Facebook on April 23. The conversation featured SCCF's Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel who is becoming quite adept at virtual communications during the last several weeks of her 14-year career with SCCF.

Other panelists in the conversation:
  • Gary Goforth, engineer and hydrologist
  • Maggy Hurchalla, former Martin County Commissioner

Friends of the Everglades Executive Director Eve Samples moderated the discussion, which focused on managing Lake Okeechobee in the interest of human health. The conversation emphasized that it's more important than ever for the public to remain involved as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers devises a new lake-management plan — called the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM).

The panel discussed how residents can provide effective input to the Army Corps prior to its LOSOM Project Delivery Team meeting tomorrow .
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