Weekly Wednesday Update
June 17, 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 while adhering to smart social distancing practices!

Thanks to Jorgen Asteberg for sending in this week's photo of a roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) near the Observation Tower in the J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge.

Please send your wildlife photos to info@sccf.org.
Green Sea Turtle 'Holly' Nests Again on Sanibel
Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan reports that Holly, a green sea turtle ( Chelonia mydas) her team satellite-tagged in 2019 (pictured here in a photo taken by Janet Kirk) was found nesting on Sanibel on Sunday, June 14. After being tagged near the Lighthouse where she nested on July 21, 2019, she transmitted for 47 days, as as she likely migrated down to her foraging grounds in the Keys. Click here to see her track.

Another exciting update is that the first loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nest hatched yesterday on Captiva!

Overall, sea turtle nesting has slowed down, especially on Sanibel. Compared to this time last year, Captiva is still significantly ahead with 167 nests (83 in 2019), the East End is comparable with 85 loggerhead nests (78 in 2019) and the West End is now at 261 loggerhead nests (261 in 2019).
Captiva also has two leatherback ( Dermochelys coriacea) nests; the East End of Sanibel has three green turtle nests and one leatherback and the West End of Sanibel has three leatherback nests.
In other updates, the sea turtle team continues various research studies.
Research Investigates Red Tide Impacts on Nesting Turtles
As part of a red tide research project on the maternal health of sea turtles, the SCCF turtle team has collected 97 samples from nesting females so far this season.
The 2017/2018 red tide bloom in Southwest Florida was the longest continuous bloom since 2006 and resulted in the largest number of sea turtle deaths ever attributed to a single red tide event.
SCCF and CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) documented a staggering 256 strandings on Sanibel and Captiva Islands alone, which accounted for seven times the 5-year average.
In 2019, the SCCF Sea Turtle Program was awarded a RESTORE Act grant to study the long-term, sublethal effects of red tide blooms on nesting sea turtles. Previous studies show that sea turtles test positive for brevetoxin exposure long after a bloom has dissipated.
“Our project will evaluate how toxicity affects the health and reproductive success of these vulnerable species,” said Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan.
The results from this study will make it possible to characterize how many seemingly "healthy" nesting sea turtles test positive for brevetoxin exposure and potentially suffer from impaired maternal health as a result. It will also determine whether the toxins are passed on to the hatchlings via the yolk, and how the toxins affect organ development.
Click here 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.
Snowy Plover Chicks Learning to Fly
SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht reports that we still have four broods of snowy plovers ( Charadrius nivosus) with chicks.
“The oldest chicks have learned to fly,” said Albrecht. “And, the older chicks have been banded with unique color combinations.”
All capture and banding is done under state and federal permits.
If you see banded birds please report them to shorebirds@sccf.org.
In other updates, our two pairs of Wilson's plovers ( Charadrius wilsonia) have not yet re-nested. And, unfortunately, our least tern ( Sternula antillarum) colony at Bowman's Beach was impacted by predators just as nests were due to start hatching.
“The tracks were washed away by the rain but there was coyote scat in the colony. Only a few birds remain at this time,” lamented Albrecht.
The least terns on North Captiva were impacted by predators as well, and ultimately abandoned the colony completely after the storm last week washed over the remaining nests.
“We will continue to monitor to see where the birds try to nest again,” she added.
If you have any questions about our shorebirds please email shorebirds@sccf.org
Mangrove Rubbervine Available at Garden Center
Mangrove rubbervine ( Rhabdadenia biflora) is a Florida native that is, in fact, only native in this state. As the name implies, it grows along the edges of mangrove habits.
It likes full sun to part shade and is very high salt tolerant. The trumpet style white bloom which occurs in June and July, is five lobed and has a yellow throat.
This is a woody vine and can vine on the ground or any plants that are close by and can grow up to 30 feet long. The mangrove rubbervine is a host plant for the caicus sphinx moth (Phryxus caicus}.
You can get some at the Native Landscapes & Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead Preserve, which is now open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10am to 3pm.
We are asking all customers to bring a face covering or mask to use when physical distancing cannot be achieved and when interacting with staff.
We also continue to offer contactless deliveries and curbside pickup. On-island deliveries are made on Wednesdays and curbside pickup is also on Wednesdays, from 2 to 3pm.
Simply place your order online before Tuesday evening at 11:59pm for pickup or delivery that Wednesday.

Please email our Garden Center Assistant Sue Ramos at sramos@sccf.org with any questions or requests.

SCCF members will get their discount by entering this promo code: SCCFMBR10
Marine Lab Finds Sea Slugs May Restore Seagrass Beds
A few weeks ago, the Marine Lab provided an update on annual seagrass surveys in the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge. In the report, staff explained that last year during surveys they discovered dense concentrations of sea slugs called Oxynoe pictured here.
“In fact, they were the highest density of that type sea slug ever found,” said Research Associate Mark Thompson.
Those sea slugs were known to live exclusively on the Caulerpa algae, which had overgrown and eliminated seagrass which had previously been abundant within the western and eastern impoundments in the refuge. The sparse research that has been done on the Oxynoe sea slug suggests that if they reached high enough numbers they could actually reduce the amount of Caulerpa algae in an area.
Surveys this year showed major changes in survey areas around the impoundments. First, the widespread blankets of Caulerpa algae were much reduced inside the impoundments – in fact, they found only a few patches there. But on those few patches they found very high numbers of Oxynoe again. Possibly the Oxynoe had eaten the algae into scarcity. Although the algae was gone, the seagrass had not yet come back. Their research has led them to believe that they may find seagrass there next year since the algae has been reduced so much.
This year, they also noticed Caulerpa algae was more abundant outside and adjacent to the impoundments. The algae was covering seagrass there and now they wonder if it will soon reduce the health of that seagrass community. But they also found the Oxynoe sea slug crawling all over the algae outside the impoundment.
Last year, they only found a few scattered sea slugs outside the impoundments but now there are very dense concentrations there.
“It seems like a pattern. Where the Caulerpa algae blooms – sea slugs follow,” said Thompson. “We will soon see if the sea slugs can reduce the algae enough to prevent disappearance of the seagrass there.”
As a reminder, widespread algae blooms are caused by an elevated supply of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus that flow as runoff into our waterbodies.
“Too many homeowners, golf courses and communities are feeding the algae – and possibly the Oxynoe sea slug is benefiting from the mess they are making,” said Thompson. “At least they are cute and cuddly.”

Please remember to stop using fertilizers with nitrogen and phosphorous now through September.
SCCF Call for Bikes Brings in 50 for Gladiolus Food Pantry
Over the past few weeks, SCCF Marine Lab Research Associate Mark Thompson and his son, Yuan, have been contacted by many islanders responding to articles in the Weekly Wednesday Update and island newspapers with used bikes they wanted to donate to the Gladiolus Food Pantry.
The bikes serve as primary transportation and a good form of exercise for people in the Harlem Heights area who may not have the luxury of being able to buy a bike.
“When the article was published, we had two bikes at our home bike shop that we were repairing to take to the pantry,” said Thompson. “After being contacted by so many generous folks on the island, we now have about 50 bikes that we are working on as quickly as possible.”
Billys Bikes has donated more than ten bikes and many bike accessories to help them refurbish the bikes.
“Billy's also saw the article and contacted me and have dropped off bikes and parts - they have been especially great,” added Thompson.
In the past weeks, they have delivered another 17 bikes to Miriam Ortiz at the food pantry. She has been elated with the response and is especially grateful to the Sanibel families who saw the original article and contributed food to the pantry.
“Miriam also loved the 3-wheeler bike which she plans to use as transportation for older clients coming to the pantry and shares a big thank you to SCCF and our island neighbors who responded to our request for donated bikes,” he said.

To learn more about the Gladiolus Food Pantry, click here or call 239-437-8122. To donate a bike or bike parts, text or call Mark Thompson 239-410-5491.
Eden Oak: Conservation 20/20 Nomination Update
In the midst of the request by the owner to change the zoning to build 55 units in the mangroves near Shell Point, the Eden Oak property was also nominated earlier this year to Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 land acquisition program.
It’s the second time this property has been nominated to Conservation 20/20. The first nomination was made in 2007 by a previous owner and the property was not purchased due to price.
The process to evaluate and order appraisals for the most recent nomination of the property was moving swiftly until COVID-19 struck.  The Conservation Lands Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee (CLASAC) that recommends purchases to the Board of County Commissioners for final approval – had no quorum in March, did not meet in April or May due to the pandemic and now the planned June 17 committee meeting has been cancelled.
There is a tentatively-scheduled July 15 CLASAC meeting that we believe will contain an update on the property negotiations. Should the county and the property owner agree on a price, the property may be recommended for purchase and would then need to proceed to the County Commissioners for a final vote.
Unlike the prohibitive rules to contact the commissioners in the zoning process, any member of the public can email or call the commissioners to support the purchase of the property for conservation. Click here for contact information for all County Commissioners.

We will report on any updates as they happen.
Cane Toads Multiplying
Fast on Islands
The heavy rains over the last few weeks in southwest Florida have filled in many temporary or ephemeral wetlands. As with the native amphibian species, the exotic invasive anuran or frog species are taking advantage of many fishless bodies of water to breed and deposit eggs that will quickly become tadpoles that transform into miniature terrestrial frogs or toads.
The exotic giant toad ( Rhinella marina) also called the cane, marine, Bufo, or faux toad, has been aggressively breeding around Sanibel and Captiva in these wetlands. Each toad can lay up 30,000+ eggs (see photo below) but usually lay less than half of that.
Cane toads were first discovered on Sanibel during frog call surveys by SCCF in 2013. At that time, they were localized to a couple ephemeral wetlands near Middle Gulf Dr. and Fulger St. A quick response by SCCF, the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, and the City of Sanibel after detection showed promise in eliminating the new threat, but eggs were already deposited even though every visible breeding adult was collected. Now, cane toads are found throughout Sanibel and Captiva. The poison of the cane toad is lethal to most native wildlife species, as well as pet dogs and cats.
Sanibel also has one native species of true toad, the southern toad (Anaxyrus terrestris), that is easily differentiated from the exotic cane toad by size as adults, but nearly impossible as newly metamorphosized toadlets or under 1 inch. The main difference is that cane toads have a pair of very large triangular parotoid glands (poison glands) behind the eyes, bony ridges above the eyes, a more flattened face and can reach 6 inches in length.
Southern toads rarely exceed 3 inches; have small oval parotoid glands behind their eyes, a pair of cranial crests or ridges between the eyes on top of the head and a wider facial profile. The cranial crests on southern toads form after they are about an inch in length and toads smaller than that cannot be differentiated to species.
Concerned About Your Pets & Cane Toads?
So what should you do if you have these on your property and are worried about your pets or wildlife? Although eradication is not possible at this time, removal of adults from your property will certainly cut down on the numbers around you and therefore cause less risk for your pets outdoors and for wildlife.
The proper protocol for ethically capturing and euthanizing cane toads established by the American Veterinarian Association is to capture adults by either by hand (with a glove or using a plastic grocery store bag as a barrier) or wildlife tongs, after being positively sure it is not a native southern toad.
If using a plastic bag, grab the toad with the bag being used as a glove and pull the bag inside out so the toad is inside and tie it. Gently open the bag while holding the toad through the bag and apply lidocaine or benzocaine (ointment or spray) to the skin of the belly followed by freezing after 15 minutes for 24 hours. Click here to watch a video demonstrating how to euthanize at home. CROW will euthanize cane toads from Sanibel or Captiva if brought to them. Click here to contact CROW with any questions.
Mosquito District Adulticide Spraying Update
Last night, the Lee County Mosquito Control District (LCMCD) conducted aerial spraying of adulticide on all the pink areas pictured here, excluding the J.N."Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge lands.
"The only area we don't spray adulticide on Sanibel is the refuge," said Jamie Fowler, PIO with the LCMCD. "We have an agreement with the refuge to only spray larvacide."
The current spraying is targeting saltwater mosquitoes, she added.
To see a map of aerial adulticiding by aircraft or ground trucks from the last week, click here. Enter the date in the top left. The orange blocks indicate scheduled ground treatment areas and the pink blocks indicate scheduled aerial treatment areas.
If you would like to be notified prior to a ground or aerial adulticide treatment please call 239-694-2174 and ask to be added to the LCMCD notification list.
Decisions on adulticide treatments are determined on a daily basis after compiling all surveillance data. Determination of treatment area is usually decided before 2pm and an automated call will notify you of treatment within your area for that evening; however, the district cannot guarantee it will always be by 2pm.
Florida Wildflower Foundation Awards Grant for Garden
SCCF is one of five organizations that received a Viva Florida Landscape Demonstration Garden grant from The Florida Wildflower Foundation this year. 
A wetland demonstration garden — a first for the Viva Florida program — will be established at the Native Landscapes & Garden Center within the 28-acre Bailey Homestead Preserve. The garden will showcase wetland and littoral plants such as Bulltongue arrowhead ( Sagittaria lancifolia), which is pictured here, Cardinalflower ( Lobelia cardinalis), Marsh pink ( Sabatia grandiflora), Rattlesnakemaster ( Eryngium yuccifolium) and Spotted water hemlock ( Cicuta maculata), and will include a raised boardwalk, allowing visitors to more closely view many of the plants. The garden will also be accessible via the Shipley and Pond Apple trails.
Calling All Members!

If you have not contributed to SCCF programs or operations since before July 1, 2019, please consider doing so now. Making a tax-deductible donation of $50 or more before June 30, 2020 will ensure that you will be recognized in the FY2019-2020 Annual Report. (If you’re unsure of your last gift date, call Cheryl Giattini at 239-822-6121.) And just a reminder – if you don’t itemize charitable deductions, the new above-the-line deduction allows you to write off up to $300 of your charitable contributions. Thank you in advance for being counted among SCCF’s partners in environmental stewardship!
Creature Feature: Brown & Green Anoles

Marine Science Educator Kealy McNeal shares some fascinating details about the native green anole ( Anolis carolinensis) and the brown anole ( Anolis sagrei), which was introduced from Cuba and the Bahamas more than a century ago. Every Tuesday through June, Sanibel Sea School educators share a Creature Feature on their YouTube Channel. Past episodes include snook, red drum, limpkins and leopard geckos among many more!
To view past issues of the Weekly Wednesday Update, please click here .
Stay Connected!