Weekly Wednesday Update
May 27, 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 Graham Ritts for sending in this week's photo of a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) taken on the Tarpon Bay flats.

Please send your wildlife photos to info@sccf.org.
Juniper is First Leatherback to be Tracked in Gulf
Juniper, a rare leatherback sea turtle ( Dermochelys coriacea) that is nesting along Sanibel and Captiva, can now be tracked in real-time as she travels Florida's gulf coast.
Named by our SCCF sea turtle team, pictured here, Juniper may look huge, but she is actually an average-sized leatherback, which is the largest sea turtle species.
Leatherbacks very rarely nest on Florida’s gulf coast as they prefer southeast Florida beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director, Kelly Sloan, saw this as an opportunity to learn more about this turtle and reached out to biologists with Florida Leatherbacks Inc (FLI). 
FLI is a nonprofit dedicated to researching leatherback turtles that nest on the east coast of Florida. Sloan coordinated with Chris Johnson and Kelly Martin with FLI who travelled to Sanibel and Captiva and placed a satellite tracking device on Juniper on May 19. “This was an amazing opportunity to track a leatherback from a location never before tracked and gain valuable research data about her behavior and movements in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Kelly Martin.
As of today, as you can see on this screenshot of her tracking map, Juniper is now north of Sarasota.
Green Turtle Nest Relocated;
Total of 238 Nests on Islands
The first green sea turtle ( Chelonia mydas) nest of the year was laid on Monday, May 25, on the bayside of Sanibel’s east end. The nest was laid on a narrow stretch of beach that was threatened by daily tidal inundation, so it was relocated to more suitable habitat on the gulf side.
SCCF’s turtle team was thankfully alerted to the very unusual nesting on the bayside of the island, which isn’t included in daily monitoring, by a call to our Sea Turtle Hotline. Aside from this green turtle nest and three leatherback nests, we now have a total of 234 loggerhead ( Caretta caretta) nests on both islands, compared to 140 last year.
Notably, our false crawl rate is lower than normal, particularly on Captiva. We have currently documented more nests than false crawls on Captiva, which is very unusual!

Here’s the breakdown of loggerhead nests by location:

Captiva - 33
Sanibel East End - 23
Sanibel West End - 84
( There were also 2 green nests laid on the west end on this day last year)

Captiva - 72
Sanibel East End - 45
Sanibel West End -117
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.
Marine Lab Plans Seagrass Surveys to Support a City-Designated Manatee Zone
Those of you who are boaters or kayakers and familiar with the waters on the east side of Sanibel Island know that slow speed zone buoys once marked a 300-foot-wide zone from the Lighthouse to Dixie Beach Blvd, as indicated in the map above. 
Recently, the zone was determined by state officials to be inconsistent with the existing rules governing slow speed zones. However, this 300-foot-wide buffer is used by manatees and the leading cause of death for manatees is boat strikes. 
The SCCF Marine Lab has planned a seagrass survey to provide more information about manatee habitat to existing maps of manatee use of this zone.
A report will be provided to support a local ordinance by the city of Sanibel to designate this as a manatee protection zone, which will require boats to operate at slow speeds. 
Seagrass is the primary food source for manatees. 
“They are increasingly relying on the lower estuary because of warmer water temperatures in the winter,” said Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt, Ph.D. “While most seagrass areas are mapped using airplanes, aerial photos from sources such as Google Earth, and then interpreting seagrass presence or absence, there is very little ground truthing of the boundaries or the condition of the seagrass around Sanibel.”
There are 10 transects as indicated by the red lines in the map above. 
“We will randomly sample along the transect to measure seagrass species composition, shoot density per square meter, canopy height, and observe any macroalgae presence,” said Milbrandt. 
In coordination with the city of Sanibel, the findings will be used along with existing manatee surveys and mortality data to support the designation of the area as a manatee protection zone. 
16 Least Tern Nests on North Captiva & Sanibel;
4 Active Plover Nests
SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht reports that we are down from 30 to about 10 active least tern ( Sternula antillarum) nests on North Captiva as of last Friday, May 22. 
“But, about 68 adults are still present, so hopefully they will re-nest,” said Albrecht. “I’m unsure what caused the nest loss, but there are a lot of canine tracks, and a lot of crows around.” Albrecht reported the nest loss to the FWC. Pictured here is one of the least terns on North Cap.
There are also two active Wilson's plover ( Charadrius wilsonia) nests within the tern colony on North Captiva.
We have a total of two active snowy plover ( Charadrius nivosus) nests on Sanibel, with three broods of chicks as well as one active Wilson’s plover nest with one chick. 
No Eggs or Chicks Lost Over Holiday Weekend on Sanibel
“We are very grateful to the city of Sanibel for their reminder to the public to report wildlife violations over the holiday weekend,” said Audrey Albrecht. “Memorial Day weekend can be a stressful time for beach nesting wildlife, especially shorebirds.” 
While increased crowds on the beaches can lead to increased disturbance to the birds, there were very few incidents with unleashed dogs, and only a few people who entered posted areas. she said. No eggs or chicks were lost over the holiday weekend on Sanibel
If you have any questions about our shorebirds please email shorebirds@sccf.org
Banded Pelican from One of the Oldest & Largest Colonies in the Atlantic
During their recent monitoring survey, Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht and Marine Science Educator Kealy McNeal reported a banded brown pelican ( Pelecanus occidentalis) pictured here with the fully brown head.
Bradley Wilkinson, a Ph.D. candidate from Clemson University, responded yesterday to let them know that the pelican is named SML and it is a one-year-old from one of the largest and oldest pelican colonies in the Atlantic. Last year, the colony had around 3500 nesting pairs. It is located at the mouth of the North Edisto River, just south of Charleston. 
"We are glad to know that SML survived its first year, which is a tough time for young pelicans," said Wilkinson. "Thank you so much for reporting your observation! Data like this is very valuable to learning about the movement and dispersal of young pelicans in our region."
New Plants Added & Curbside Pickup Now Available!
The Native Landscapes & Garden Center just received a new shipment of plants, which are now available online! Always popular as a monarch butterfly host plant, rose milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), pictured here , is one of the newly available species. Readily adaptable to garden conditions, rose milkweed will be devoured by the caterpillars of the monarch butterfly. But, it's adapted to this behavior and will sprout right back from the roots! If there are no monarchs immediately nearby, the light pink flowers are always a delight in the spring and summer.
Curbside pickup service is now available with no minimum order. Simply place your order online before Wednesday evening at 11:59pm for pickup that Thursday. Between 1pm and 2pm on Thursday, come to the entrance of the SCCF Bailey Homestead Preserve at 1300 Periwinkle Way and signs will direct you to the pickup location. Staff will be available to assist in loading your order with strict social distancing measures in place.
On-island deliveries are also still available on Wednesdays with a minimum purchase of $50.

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
American Wetlands Month Spotlights Value of Protection
As we wrap up American Wetlands Month in May, we celebrate the importance of wetlands for their critical role in improving our water quality, reducing flooding and providing essential habitat for plants, fish and wildlife. Wetlands are at risk due to development, climate change and sea level rise but we can protect them by educating ourselves about their functions and getting involved in local, state and federal laws to protect them. 
SCCF has focused on several local wetlands issues including providing comments to oppose the development of wetlands at Eden Oak on Shell Point Blvd. and to oppose changes to the county comprehensive plan related to commercial and industrial developments near and in wetlands. 
In addition to providing important natural functions, wetlands provide us with high quality recreational opportunities such as hiking and bird watching. There may be a wetland closer to you than you think. You can identify a wetland in your neighborhood by visiting the National Wetlands Inventory website, which maps wetlands as pictured above. For more information on American Wetlands Month visit the EPA's latest National Wetlands Conditions Assessment
Celebrating All
Island Turtles on World Turtle Day!
Did you know that turtles now have the highest threat level for extinction of any vertebrate group on the planet? They just surpassed primates. Turtles are under pressure from many fronts like habitat loss, as a food source, traditional medicine, and the pet trade, which includes illegal trafficking. Thankfully, many organizations and agencies have increased their efforts to ensure that turtles get the help they need, including SCCF. 
With approximately 360 species worldwide and about half of them endangered, turtles need all the help they can get. Let’s celebrate turtles, tortoises, and terrapins by highlighting some of Sanibel’s native turtle fauna and the research that is being conducted on these species by SCCF. 
Sanibel has 14 turtle species that either call Sanibel their home or use the beaches to nest. Of these 14 species, four of them are marine turtles (loggerhead, green, leatherback, and Kemp’s ridley), seven of them are freshwater aquatic turtles (Florida softshell, Florida snapping, striped mud, Florida mud, peninsula cooter, Florida red-bellied, and the Florida chicken), one is a semi-aquatic turtle (Florida box), one is a brackish water species (diamondback terrapin) and one is a tortoise (gopher tortoise). The high variety of taxonomic families represented makes Sanibel a very special place, especially for a barrier island. 
Click the link below to read about SCCF’s well-established research on sea turtles, gopher tortoises, box turtles and diamondback terrapins. .
Terrestrial Turtles Featured on New Episode of SCCF Podcast
We celebrated World Turtle Day, which was on Saturday May 23, by talking to two of Sanibel and Captiva islands' leading experts when it comes to turtles. 
Featured in the podcast is local legend Charles LeBuff, who was stationed at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge for more than 30 years, was a founding board member of SCCF and the founder of what became SCCF's sea turtle monitoring program. He has also authored several books about the natural history of our islands.

The other turtle expert featured is Chris Lechowicz, SCCF’s Wildlife & Habitat Management Director since 2002, when he began keeping an inventory of wildlife on our islands. As SCCF’s resident herpetologist, he has conducted extensive research on Florida box turtles and on ornate diamondback terrapins and is also a passionate advocate for more protection of turtles in what he explains in the podcast to be a 'world turtle crisis.'
Together LeBuff and Lechowicz co-authored a reference book in 2013 called Amphibians & Reptiles of Sanibel & Captiva Islands, Florida which is considered the go-to guide for understanding the ever-changing life history of our islands’ herpetofauna.
Since they are separated by a generation in age, these two have collectively worked in the field documenting the changing ecosystems in which these turtles live for seven decades.
Lechowicz also wrote and performed the original music in the opening of our podcast, which he produces with Communications Director Barbara Linstrom, host of the podcast. Take a listen and learn how our terrestrial turtles tell the story of alterations to the natural landscape of our islands!
Nature Near You Features Survival in Your Own Backyard
This week, our innovative marine science educators at Sanibel Sea School are taking you on an imaginary adventure! They want you to pretend that you’ve suddenly been stranded in your backyard…what would you need to survive in this “wild" place? They give you the tips and tricks on backyard survival - how to find freshwater, build a shelter, and more!
Sign up to receive Nature Near You at 9am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Click here to sign up for limited spots left in the Sanibel Sea School's virtual camp for the month of June. We will announce by June 15 whether or not we will offer in-person summer camps for July and August. 

Email info@sanibelseaschool.org for more information.
Superior Title Donates Closing Fees
Thanks to Amanda Curran, owner/operator of Superior Title for generously donating back $4,000 of her closing fees for SCCF's acquisition of the Sanibel Sea School buildings.
A long-time sponsor of Beer in the Bushes, Curran was born and raised in Southwest Florida and is a big supporter of our unique coastal environment.
"I'm glad that I'm still able to give back to the community. Our nonprofits are such an important part of who we are," she said. "We're all neighbors here and we need to help each other out however we can."
Superior Title of SW Florida was established in 1999 and Superior Title of Sanibel opened in 2009 as a locally owned & operated, full-service Title Insurance Company. 
Now that you've had enough of binge watching Netflix, it's a great time to sit back and revel in all the amazing insights 'Her Deepness' Sylvia Earle shared with us at the 2nd Annual Paul McCarthy Memorial Lecture in early February.
The clarity of her perspective on our oceans and her creation of Hope Spots, including our Gulf coast waters, will refresh you!
Following her visit, Sylvia Earle was so impressed by the dedication of our island community to support the health of our waters that she invited SCCF to become an affiliate partner with Mission Blue and a community partner with Blue-Green Connections, the regional advocate for the Florida Gulf Coast Hope Spot.

Stay tuned for plans for an annual Florida Gulf Coast Hope Spot regional celebration day in October!
To view past issues of the Weekly Wednesday Update, please click here .
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