Weekly Wednesday Update
April 8, 2020
In these times of stay-at-home orders and teleworking, we'll send 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 on as we remain dedicated to 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!
Leatherback Makes Earliest Crawl Ever on Sanibel
On April 1, one of our former permittees, Dan Moeder, called in a Leatherback ( Dermochelys coriacea) crawl on the east end of the island. The crawl pre-empted official monitoring for sea turtles on Sanibel and Captiva which begins on April 15.
“This year's Leatherback crawl is the earliest crawl to date among all species of sea turtles on our islands,” said Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan. “What an exciting way to kick off Sanibel's sea turtle season.”
Leatherbacks are the largest of all the sea turtles - they can be over six feet in length and weigh 500 - 1,500 pounds. This species is not common on Florida's west coast and finding their crawls is extremely rare on Sanibel, with similar events only being documented in 2009 and 2015.
“This was a false crawl and she did not lay eggs. She may be back to Sanibel soon, or she could decide to nest on another beach,” said Sloan.
The second-earliest crawl was a Kemp's ridley ( Lepidochelys kempii) nest on April 16, 2018. The earliest crawl for Loggerheads ( Caretta caretta), which is the most common species, was on April 20, 2012, on Captiva. Green sea turtles ( Chelonia mydas) typically start nesting a little later than Loggerheads.
“I’d like to give a special thank you Dan and his family who found the nest and alerted SCCF’s Sea Turtle Program by calling our hotline,” added Sloan.
Sea turtle monitoring on Sanibel originally began in the late 1950s with Charles LeBuff and Caretta Research, Inc., making it one of the longest-running monitoring programs in the country. The program was transferred to the SCCF in 1992 when Caretta Research, Inc. disbanded.
When LeBuff moved to Sanibel in 1958, he was gifted shortly thereafter with a carapace or leathery shell of a Leatherback from a turtle that had been found in 1943 stranded dead on the beach. He kept the 5-foot carapace, which he said kept exuding oil, under his home at the Lighthouse. When Hurricane Donna struck the island in 1960, the carapace was washed away. In the 1970s and in 1988, LeBuff suspected two false crawls were by Leatherbacks, but they were never officially documented.

To report any issues with nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings, please call SCCF’s Sea Turtle Hotline: 978-728-3663.
Sandwich Tern's Age Flagged by Banding Officials
While out checking to see if our Snowy Plovers ( Charadrius nivosus) had laid any eggs yet, our shorebird biologist noticed this banded Sandwich Tern ( Thalasseus sandvicensis) in breeding plumage last week. By slowly walking around the flock from a respectable distance she was able to photograph the bird's band from multiple angles and obtain the full ID number.
After reporting this band number to the USGS Bird Banding Lab, the report was initially flagged as problematic due to the old age of the bird. With photos, however, they were able to verify that this Sandwich Tern was in fact banded as a chick at a colony in Dare County, NC, on July 1, 1996, making this bird 24 years old!
The oldest known Sandwich tern according to the BBL’s longevity records lived to the age of 31. We hope this one lives at least that long and continues to visit Sanibel each winter.
Named after the town of Sandwich in County Kent, England, where it was first discovered, this medium-sized tern is pale with a distinctive yellow tip on its black bill. Its black cap is shaggy in breeding plumage.
If you want to try and read a metal number on a band, be sure to give the birds plenty of space. Never flush resting birds, as they need all their precious energy for their upcoming migrations back to their breeding grounds. Some shorebirds will fly several thousand miles in the coming weeks!

Stay tuned for updates on Snowy Plover nesting! Only scrapes so far; no eggs .
Let the Sun Shine!
Our Marine Lab was designed not only to enhance SCCF’s research capabilities, but to do so in an environmentally-friendly way. The building is well-insulated with hurricane-rated insulated glass doors and windows. Sunshades on the south side windows allow passive natural light in while preventing direct light from heating the building. A 5-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array on the roof helps offset the lab's power needs.
The solar array typically provides around one third of the lab’s daily needs. Of course, this percentage varies depending on what equipment is running, how hot it is outside, and how much sun there is. Since March 17, the Marine Lab staff, like all of SCCF, has been working from home to help flatten the curve. On April 1, Gov. DeSantis issued a state-wide stay-at-home order. In response to this we made some adjustments to the lab to help further conserve energy and reduce operating costs. The thermostats were set to a higher temperature, the hot water heater was turned off as was our large ice machine. These changes have allowed us to generate more daily power than the building is consuming. The lab's online building monitoring system allows us to remotely monitor the power usage while a security system and security cameras keep the lab secure while we are away.
Signs of Spring at Bailey Homestead
Flushing Forth
Garden Center Assistant Emily Harrington was watering at the Bailey Homestead yesterday and noticed that the Red Maples ( Acer rubrum) and Bald Cypress ( Taxodium distichum) are sending out new growth. These two species are deciduous so it was exciting to see them flushing out and refreshing to see things moving along as "normal" these days.
Even though we live in Florida, several of our trees, particularly wetland species, become leafless for the winter months. It is typically for a shorter duration than in northern environments, and during mild winters, sometimes the plants won't even drop all of their leaves. Instead the leaves will just look tattered and old, and hang on to the plant throughout the winter until a flush of new growth appears in the spring.
It is always refreshing to notice the bright green new growth of a cypress forest, which is particularly noticeable in larger cypress swamps where the entire canopy takes on this hue, and the highlights of bright red from the maple trees.
Several environmental factors are involved in a plant's decision to break winter dormancy. Plants are equipped with light sensitive pigments that measure environmental conditions such as temperature, light intensity, and day length, typically associated with the changing of seasons. Once conditions reach a certain threshold plants know that it is safe to leaf out and conditions are ideal for photosynthesis and growth to take place. These pigments essentially act as the plant's timekeepers by communicating when important life cycle events such as flowering, fruit set, and leaf drop should occur.
Nature Near You Makes Home-Schooling Fun
The education team at Sanibel Sea School is now in its third week of producing Nature Near You – an e-newsletter designed to help engage kids in nature-based learning.

This week features a 3-part series on sensory systems.
Nature Near You will continue throughout the school closures and be delivered via email. 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.
Tis the Season for Basking in the Sun
Our Wildlife & Habitat Management staff have also noticed that springtime has arrived in southwest Florida as warmer temperatures become more evident and freshwater lakes and ponds are dropping in depth while temporary wetlands have dried up.
Many forms of wildlife are moving around with more frequency as they search for mates during the breeding and nesting season. The basking activity of reptiles such as turtles, lizards, snakes and crocodilians are also increased as they absorb the extra heat and vitamin D for the production of eggs. Basking sights on the island such as unvegetated banks of waterways, basking logs in the water (like at the Devitt Pond at the Bailey Homestead Preserve) and even walkways are getting more use from island wildlife.
Policy Update: Bills on Hold Until Later Than Usual for Governor's Signature
The Florida legislative session ended last month. Here's what’s next. Normally, after the end of session the legislature delivers approved bills to the Governor for signature. Unfortunately, this year is anything but typical as the Governor’s office focuses on its Coronavirus response.
At the staff’s request, the legislature has not yet sent over the bills that passed for his signature. We are hearing that bills may not be presented until May or potentially June. Per statute, the Governor has 15 days to sign, veto or take no action on bills once they are presented to him after session has adjourned. If he takes no action the bill becomes law. Bills need to be acted on before the state fiscal year begins on July 1. All veto campaign efforts against bad bills are being held back at this time but will proceed once bills are forwarded to the Governor. SCCF’s Legislative Tracker has a link to the Governor’s bill actions page which shows when bills are presented to the Governor’s office and which bills have been signed into law so far.

We'll update the SCCF legislative tracker with any new information as conditions change. 
Full List of SCCF Publications Now Online

SCCF is excited to announce the digital release of the organization’s complete scientific publications list. And wow, what a list it turned out to be! The sheer volume and breadth of entries you’ll find here is symbolic of not only an incredible amount of hard work, but also SCCF’s long-running dedication to providing robust science to our community. 

The important role that science is playing in understanding and finding solutions to COVID-19 is more clear than ever. What science does to inform and improve public health, it also does for conservation of wildlife and nature. SCCF’s scientific research is what ultimately is used to create tangible conservation and land management plans, while also serving as an important resource for community education. 

That is why SCCF is proud to have assembled this list and make it readily available for our community to read and engage with. 

While we all continue to practice self-isolation, it’s a good time to catch up on your SCCF reading, so don’t hesitate to jump in and explore. Whether you’re interested in the biology of our island’s Diamondback Terrapins, oyster reef restoration efforts, mangroves and their myriad ecosystem services, or want to become more informed about our red tides, there’s something for everyone in this extensive list. 

Sea Turtle Program Adapts Monitoring Plan as Needed
With the official start of sea turtle nesting season only a week away, we are adapting as needed to effectively monitor and protect our sea turtles. In an abundance of caution, we are utilizing staff and have implemented strict social distancing to conduct monitoring instead of volunteers at least until the Governor’s safer-at-home order is lifted.
Staff from the Marine Lab will be helping with lab tests associated with bloodwork; members of the Sanibel Sea School and Native Landscape & Garden Center staff will be monitoring the beach to flag crawls and our Wildlife & Habitat Management staff will also be helping out as needed.
“I’m hopeful that by June and July, which is really the peak of nesting season, we’ll be able to have our dedicated volunteers back,” said Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan. “In the meantime, we’ll make sure our turtles are protected.”
Some Music In Honor of Beer in the Bushes
Hats off to our sponsors and ticket purchasers for supporting Beer in the Bushes despite cancellation. We thank you with hat in hand for all you do and wish we were able to gather together this Saturday, April 11, as originally planned.

"While we are disappointed in the cancellation, we hope to bring a little brightness to you," said Event Producer Jeff Siwicke. "As our planned warm-up musician Shamarr Allen says in this song, it can't ruin our day!"
Thank You! Stay safe.  

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without .”
― Confucius
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