Weekly Wednesday Update
May 20 , 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 again to Jill McCormack for sending in this week's photo of an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) from her recent month-long stay on Sanibel.

Please send your wildlife photos to info@sccf.org.
On-Island Sea Turtle Volunteers Back on Daily Patrols
About 80 of SCCF’s highly devoted sea turtle program volunteers are back on daily rotation to patrol our beaches as of yesterday.
The city of Sanibel authorized on-island volunteers to follow specific guidelines to protect their health and safety and the community’s. With a very active and early sea turtle nesting season that started April 15, Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan is thrilled to have her whole team back in action.
“There’s nothing that shows you the true value of volunteers like not having them,” she said. “It’s a great relief to have them back. They do so much work for us.”
From walking the beach in pairs looking for crawls, to staking and marking nests and doing data entry, the volunteers are an integral part of the sea turtle program.
Pictured here are long-time volunteers Sarah Lathrop and Adam Sauerland in the back, Irene Nolan in the front. Lathrop and Sauerland are engaged and able to refrain from social distancing.
When inviting the on-island volunteers back after more than a month that they stayed safer-at-home out of an abundance of caution, Sloan made sure to emphasize that no one should feel any pressure to participate in these times of a global pandemic unless they felt safe and ready.
“The only people who regretfully didn’t come back were the ones who live off island,” she said. “Everyone who lives on the islands is back with us and we look forward to the time that those who live off island can return as well.”
So far, there are 25 loggerhead ( Caretta caretta) nests and one leatherback ( Dermochelys coriacea) nest on the east end of Sanibel; 78 loggerhead nests and two leatherback nests on the west end of Sanibel and 36 loggerhead nests and one leatherback nest on Captiva. That's a total of 143 nests, which is above average for this time of year.
Watch the video below to see how staff and volunteers are following a strict one-person-per-vehicle rule (unless two people live in the same household). We have strict disinfection protocols in place for all of our vehicles. We also enforce social distancing in all interactions. 
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.
Diamondback Terrapin Project Marks 7 Years
SCCF has several long-term wildlife projects where species are either marked with microchips (pit-tags), the notching of the carapace, clipping of scales, color-coded banding around the legs, photographing of unique characteristics or a combination of these techniques to identify individuals of a population. 
By marking individuals, our scientists can determine population estimates, seasonal activities, ontogenetic shifts or changes in appearance over time and longevity. 
The diamondback terrapin ( Malaclemys terrapin) is a brackish water turtle species that primarily lives in mangrove waterways in our area. SCCF has been studying terrapins since 2013 as part of the SCCF Diamondback Terrapin Project and many habitat and life history notes have been documented. 
For example, a female terrapin (#40) was captured for the first time on May 7, 2013. At that time, she was an immature female with a carapace length (CL) of 112 mm (4.4 in). She was also recaptured in 2014 and 2015, but had not been seen in five years. 
Coincidentally, this terrapin was just recaptured on May 7, 2020, which is exactly seven years to the day of her initial capture at the same location. She is now a mature female with a CL of 169 mm (6.65 in) that likely averages 2-3 clutches of egg per year with an average clutch size of 3-6 eggs. The terrapins in our study are marked with scute notching, microchips and photography (carapace, plastron, and head pattern).  

If you see a terrapin in Southwest Florida, please try to take a picture and notify us via email terrapin@sccf.org.
Plover Chicks Now on Our Beaches; Least Tern Nest Back on Sanibel
The past week marked the May count window for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Florida Shorebird Survey. From May 13-19, SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht and Sanibel Sea School Educator Kealy McNeal surveyed the entire shore of both Sanibel and Captiva islands to locate new nests and colonies, while checking on the status of existing ones and looking for shorebird chicks. 
May and June represent the peak of nesting season in Florida. Shorebird chicks are present at most colonies by June. Pictured above is a 12-day-old snowy plover ( Charadrius nivosus) that was photographed by Albrecht yesterday.
"In addition to the breeding birds, we count all shorebirds as part of our year-round shorebird monitoring efforts," she said.
Last Friday, Albrecht and McNeal found a banded common tern ( Sterna hirundo), pictured here, with an alphanumeric band reading "E62." It was banded as a chick in Maryland in 2017 by USGS.
Albrecht reports these nesting plovers: two active snowy plover nests with three broods of chicks; one pair of Wilson’s plover ( Charadrius wilsonia) looking to re-nest after crows ate the first nest; one pair of Wilson’s plover with one chick and one egg that never hatched, as well as a second chick that was possibly taken by crow.
Albrecht was surprised last week to find a single least tern (Sternula antillarum) pair with a new nest at Bowman’s Beach after a first round of nesting failed due to crows. A second pair was seen copulating yesterday. There are an extra 20 least terns hanging around, but many of them are young birds, who are not of breeding age yet. 
If you have any questions about our shorebirds please email shorebirds@sccf.org
Marine Lab Upgrades Water Quality Stations in Refuge
Thanks to a collaborative project between the SCCF Marine Lab and the J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge, researchers from both organizations will soon have easier access to water quality data from the waters of the refuge.
“Even during the current pandemic, our two organizations have been able to work together to continue vital monitoring activities within the refuge,” said Marine Lab Research Assistant Kevin Jones.
The National Wildlife Refuge maintains two remote water quality monitoring stations near Wildlife Drive, the popular scenic drive that traverses four miles of Sanibel’s backwaters and mangrove swamps and gives visitors a chance to see the refuge’s unique wildlife.
When it was built in the 1970s, this drive cut across parts of the refuge’s backwater habitats, turning them into impoundments with the water level determined by adjustable water control structures underneath the road rather than natural tidal flushing.
“The goal of the water quality stations is to study the effects that this artificial control of the impoundment water levels might be having on water quality in the refuge,” said Jones.
While the National Wildlife Refuge owns these two stations, they rely on the expertise of SCCF Marine Lab staff to keep them up and running. Both stations use a YSI sonde, a compact device that measures multiple water quality parameters simultaneously.
The marine lab uses the same type of instruments for our field sampling projects. Data from the stations is transmitted by a cellular modem, and over the last few weeks Marine Lab Manager A.J. Martignette and Jones have been working on installing new and improved data loggers at both sites. Using the old system, data was transmitted to a single computer in the wildlife refuge offices, making it difficult to access.
The new data loggers will broadcast data to a website where refuge and marine lab staff can view it at any time, even while working from home. One station is currently up and running on the new system, and the other station will be upgraded soon”.
“While all of us at SCCF and the refuge are eager for the day when we can return to business as usual, we are grateful that technology like these water quality stations allows us to continue our research from home,” said Martignette.

Listen to Rae Ann Wessel on New Episode of SCCF Podcast
Are you already missing our former Natural Resources Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel who retired last Friday after 14 years with SCCF?
If so, take a listen to our second podcast episode that is devoted to her 42-year career here in Southwest Florida, where she evolved into having one of the most articulate voices for Caloosahatchee and Everglades restoration that our region has ever known.
She also talks about her plans for retirement and just being a person as she acquaints herself with life beyond a career.
Order Native Cinnamon Bark Online for Delivery
If you don’t have a cinnamon bark ( Canella winterana) in your yard, you’re missing out on these colorful blooms right now! This 15-20+ foot tall shrub/small tree is a wonderful addition to the landscape either as a focal point, accent shrub or understory tree.  
Cinnamon bark has attractive dark green foliage as well as clusters of flowers that start off as purple buds opening to these bright red flowers with yellow anthers. These flowers are then followed by red berries, making this plant very showy both while blooming and fruiting, attracting pollinators and other wildlife. Cinnamon bark is listed as endangered by the state of Florida. The inner bark was once used as a cinnamon substitute although not recommended to try and ingest as the outer bark is toxic. 
These are available through our new online store that features more than 25 types of native plants, planting supplies, gifts, SCCF Sea Turtle T-shirts and more!
Order by Tuesday at midnight for contactless delivery to Sanibel and Captiva (not off island) on that Wednesday. Feel free to contact us with any questions or special requests. Only a portion of our inventory is listed online, so feel free to ask if you don't see what you are looking for!

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
Sanibel Sea School Offering Virtual Learning in June
For the month of June, Sanibel Sea School is going virtual. To ensure the safety of their staff, campers, and the island community, there will be no in-person camps for the month of June. 
Virtual options will include four, week-long “Island Skillz” camps with themes featuring Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Manatees, and Sharks. Camp will be offered for campers age 6-13, Monday through Friday from 10 to 11am. 
Sanibel Sea School educators will offer camp activities over Zoom - games, scavenger hunts, drawing tutorials, and marine science education. “We’re excited to still be able to engage with our campers through Zoom in a meaningful way,” said Education Programs Manager Shannon Stainken. “Our Island Skillz camps will have the same fun and learning as our regular camps and will be a great space for summer camaraderie for our campers.”
Additionally, for those families that cannot commit to a week-long option, Sanibel Sea School will be offering a series of sessions that campers can register for, ala carte, called “Live, but Distant”.  
Live, but Distant will be offered twice daily during the week, and will each be a one-hour session. Sessions can be purchased with a one-month subscription for $150 with unlimited access. Sessions will include, knot tying, sea creature themed drawing, macramé and shell jewelry tutorials, kitchen chemistry and more. 
Sanibel Sea School will be making an announcement by June 15th whether or not they will offer in-person summer camps for July and August.  Nature Near You will also continue through June.

Email info@sanibelseaschool.org for more information.
Check out this video featuring our Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan produced by our wildlife partners at CROW that premiered at 2pm today!
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