Weekly Wednesday Update
June 10, 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 Jonathan Dean for sending in this week's photo of an American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) taken in his backyard on the east end of Sanibel.

Please send your wildlife photos to info@sccf.org.
Cristobal's Winds & High Tides Wash Away 29 Nests
Tropical Storm Cristobal passed through the Gulf of Mexico delivering high winds and waves to our shores and intensifying high tides over the weekend.
SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan said her team's assessment found that 29 loggerhead ( Caretta caretta) nests were washed away by the high tides and surf.
Many more nests were washed over, but Sloan says that's not a death sentence and can actually help keep eggs cooler.
The rough seas didn't deter Juniper, a rare leatherback sea turtle ( Dermochelys coriacea), though. She returned to our shores on Saturday, June 6, and nested again on Captiva, bringing her total documented nests on our islands to six.
Leatherbacks very rarely nest on Florida’s gulf coast as they prefer southeast Florida beaches along the Atlantic Ocean.

The total count of nests that have been laid is now at 401 for Sanibel and Captiva, including one green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) nest.
Sloan also reports that the team's nighttime tagging project has resulted in encounters with 152 females on the beach so far this summer, and they've seen 29 of those turtles more than once. "There are three turtles that we've already seen four times this year - Smores, Green Tea, and Pisa," says Sloan.
As a pretty rare occurrence, they've encountered one turtle three summers in a row. 
Junonia is a turtle that the team first met on July 14, 2016, when she false crawled on the east end of Sanibel. They also saw her in 2018 and 2019. 
"It's fairly unusual for loggerheads to nest for three consecutive seasons. We've seen her four out of the five years since we first launched our tagging project, so she's a familiar face on our beaches! We hope to see her again soon," said Sloan.
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.
No Shorebird Nests Lost to Storm
SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht reports that no shorebird nests were lost to Tropical Storm Cristobal.
"Thank you to our amazing dedicated volunteers and staff for helping to keep an eye on our nesting shorebirds while I was away for a few days," said Albrecht. "We were very fortunate not to lose shorebird nests when other sites in southwest Florida lost entire colonies to the storm." 
She reports that we currently have at least six least tern ( Sternula antillarum) nests, which survived the storm and high tides and will hopefully be hatching soon!
Currently, there are four broods of snowy plover ( Charadrius nivosus) chicks, including one pictured here that hatched last week. The oldest chicks are five weeks old and learning to fly. The youngest are just one week old. Our last active nest was reported gone as of yesterday, with both human and canine tracks inside the enclosure. 
A Wilson’s plover ( Charadrius wilsonia) nest was noted as gone yesterday at Clam Bayou, but not due to the storm. 
Some postings were damaged in the storm and were removed from the beach in order to prevent them from washing out to sea. Plover chicks are precocial, or born able to feed themselves, and start running around just hours after hatching. Though they do sometimes use the posted area after hatching, the broods are quite mobile and travel great distances. 
"If it is necessary we will put up some new postings to offer the birds a safe place to rest when beaches are crowded now that the storm has passed," added Albrecht. 
This week is the June count window for the Florida Shorebird Alliance state nesting shorebird surveys, so we will be surveying all of Captiva and Sanibel.
If you have any questions about our shorebirds please email shorebirds@sccf.org
Garden Center Open; Delivery & Pick-Up Continues
The Native Landscapes & Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead Preserve is now open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10am to 3pm.
All staff are wearing face coverings when interacting with customers, and are taking extra sanitation measures in our restrooms and "high touch" areas within the Garden Center.
We are asking all visitors to bring a face covering or mask to use when physical distancing cannot be achieved and when interacting with staff.
Our sprawling demonstration gardens and the grounds of the Bailey Homestead offer large outdoor spaces that can safely accommodate the distancing measures recommended by the CDC. We ask that all customers keep at least six feet apart.
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, pictured above, at sramos@sccf.org with any questions or requests.

SCCF members will get their discount by entering this promo code: SCCFMBR10
Marine Lab & FGCU Documenting Effects of Caloosahatchee Runoff on Estuary through EPA Grant
SCCF’s Marine Lab is working with FGCU scientists on an EPA grant designed to improve our understanding of how water management and poor-quality runoff affects seagrasses and contributes to algae blooms. 
Freshwater inflows to the Caloosahatchee have changed in timing and quality as development has occurred. Instead of a steady flow of clean water filtered through swamps and the aquifer, rapid runoff events bring particles, pesticides and nutrients, and fast salinity changes. This has resulted in an unbalanced ecosystem with tape grass and seagrasses in poor shape, and not plentiful enough to feed manatees in much of the estuary. Pictured here is FGCU senior Kira Kreke measuring light attenuation.
“We've been noticing a lot of macroalgae- which happens when the water has been clear and there aren't enough algae grazers such as snails and mullet,” said Marine Lab Research Scientist Rick Bartleson, Ph.D. 
James Douglass, Ph.D., and his students are sampling 100 shallow transects to document the location and condition of seagrasses in the estuary. Hidetoshi Urakawa, Ph.D., and his students are monitoring the microbial community in the seagrass beds and the water column. 
Puspa Adhikari, Ph.D., and his students are measuring the water chemistry in wells and measuring radium in the estuary to estimate submarine groundwater inflows. 
The SCCF Marine Lab scientists are assisting in these efforts and will also be installing a continuous nutrient monitoring system at Fort Myers along with measuring nutrients in grab samples from wells and the estuary, improving our light attenuation calculation, identifying algae, and testing for herbicides.
We are also planting tape grass as pictured above, with long-time SCCF volunteer Jacob Lemmon, assisting.
The recent high salinities upriver have further reduced tape grass coverage. Information gathered will improve a seagrass ecosystem model that can be added to the weekly Caloosatchee & Estuary Condition Report and help guide water management decisions.
Fertilizer: Take the Summer Off to Prevent Algal Blooms
We have learned a lot about the relationship between the nutrient-rich runoff that flows from our lawns during rainy season and how it contributes to harmful algal blooms in our waterways. As a result of that knowledge, local ordinances were adopted that set a blackout period for nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer application during the summer rainy season.  
The City of Sanibel and Lee County have similar laws that guide fertilizer application throughout the year but they both prohibit the use of most fertilizers during the rainy season to help prevent the kinds of devastating algae blooms we saw in 2018.  
Rainy season fertilizer bans are an important way to prevent ecosystem damage and to ward off the kinds of human health risks that come with red tide and blue-green algae blooms. 

The City of Sanibel reminds us:

  • Over fertilizing can aggravate pest problems, stimulate excessive growth and require added maintenance.
  • When you use too much fertilizer on your landscape, it can seep through the ground, past the root zone of grasses, plants or trees and wind up in the aquifer, our source of drinking water.
  • Fertilizer can be washed off by rainfall, going directly into the nearest body of water.

Other sources of excess nutrients in our rivers and estuaries come from farms, septic tanks, and leaky wastewater infrastructure - so while residential lawns are not the only contributors of nutrient pollution, preventing every bit helps in the fight for clean water.

Click on the following links for more information of the specific fertilizer guidance for the City of Sanibel and unincorporated Lee County, which includes Captiva.
Early Rains Bring on Sounds of Summer Frogs & Toads
Heavy rains brought about by Tropical Storm Cristobal started our wet season earlier than usual. Although the beginning of June is the official beginning of hurricane season and the wet season, in recent years we have not had as much accumulation of rain from the normal rain pattern until mid-to-late July. 
Early tropical storms that fill in ephemeral wetlands with water bring about mass amphibian reproduction, which in our case involves frogs and toads. Frogs congregate in these areas as males use their voice or frog calls to attract females in to breed. 
Like bird calls, frog calls among different species are unique and you can determine presence/absence and density of these species by being able to identify these calls. SCCF conducts frog call surveys on Sanibel over the summer to keep tabs on extant frog species and their abundances which helps us determine the health of wetlands.
Sanibel is home to nine species of frogs and toads with three of them being exotic species.
As far as native species, if you live close to permanent to near-permanent water you will hear pig frogs ( Lithobates grylio) which sound like a snorting pig or alligator usually in repetitions of three (er-er-er). The green treefrog ( Hyla cinerea) and seldom heard squirrel treefrog ( Hyla squirella), pictured here, are often called rain frogs in the south. 
They are both usually green and begin calling right before it starts raining. Their calls can be very loud in a chorus and sounds like “quonk-quonk or quank-quank” with the squirrel treefrog being raspier. 
The easiest frog to identify by sound is the little narrow-mouthed toad ( Gastrophryne carolinensis), pictured at the very top of this article, which is not a toad at all, but a microhylid which is a family of very small frogs that can either be arboreal or terrestrial. Their obvious call resembles a sheep or lamb bleating (baaaahhh).
The two types of toads on the island, the native southern toad ( Anaxyrus terrestris), pictured here, and the exotic cane toad ( Rhinella marina) look very similar, especially as newly metamorphosed juveniles, but the cane toad gets much larger. The southern toad chorus sounds like a choir humming a high pitch extended note. The cane toad is similar but with a lower pitch and a percussive aspect to it, kind of like a 1950s movie depiction of a UFO taking off.
Heliotrope - Fun, Flowering Native Groundcover
Seaside heliotrope ( Heliotropium currassavicum) is a fun flowering, salt-tolerant groundcover that blooms in late spring/early summer. It is a short-lived perennial whose pale green, succulent-like leaves add seasonal interest and is often found in damp, disturbed areas, coastal uplands, and wetlands.
While seaside heliotrope isn't available at our Garden Center, its close relative PIneland heliotrope ( Heliotropium polyphyllum) is horticulturally available at many native plant nurseries, including ours. Unlike seaside heliotrope, Pineland heliotrope is a drought tolerant ground cover that can be used near walkways or planting edges. It has dark green needle-like foliage and appreciates full sun and well drained soils. Its white tubular flowers bloom year-round and attract many types of pollinators.
Hearing Examiner Extends
Final Presentation on
Eden Oak to December 11
On June 4, the Lee County Hearing Examiner granted an extension to move the final arguments from the Eden Oak applicant and staff from June 24 to December 11, 2020.
"We will continue to advocate for the preservation of this valuable mangrove habitat and we thank the many supporters, residents, and advocates that have participated with us on this long Eden Oak journey," said SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera. 
The proposed Eden Oak development is on Shell Point Boulevard at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee near the Sanibel Causeway, as pictured here. 
The extension was granted in response to another request for a continuance filed by the applicant on May 29. Click here to view the extension order.
The basis for the request was possible extended COVID-19 related travel restrictions that would impact the property owner.
The applicant's proposal is to dredge and fill 36 acres of mangrove wetlands to build 55 residential homesites with docks, including the excavation of a new canal and the creation of a boat basin with additional docks. The plan will put more people in the coastal high hazard area, creates new sources of pollution from runoff, will create boat traffic in sensitive habitat used by a number of threatened and endangered species, and adds traffic to the evacuation and emergency access on Shell Point Boulevard. 
The Eden Oak parcel nomination to the Conservation 2020 land acquisition program is still active and SCCF will send out any updates as they occur.
Ocean Tribe Outfitters Now Open at Sanibel Sea School
Sanibel Sea School re-opened its retail shop, Ocean Tribe Outfitters, to the public this week at 50% capacity.
Staff are wearing face coverings and are taking necessary steps to sanitize the space thoroughly between customers.
The shop is open Monday through Friday from 9am to noon at the Sanibel Sea School, 455 Periwinkle Way.
Social distancing guidelines are strongly encouraged and face coverings are required for shoppers. If shoppers do not have one, there will be extras on hand.
Ocean Tribe Outfitters offers reusable Hydroflask water bottles, towels, MANG sun protective gear, and Rainbow brand sandals. Children’s rash guards, shell collecting bags, and field guides are also available.
All proceeds from sales contribute back to Sanibel Sea School’s mission to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.
Sanibel Sea School programs and camps are not open for in-person activities at this time.
Nature Near You, a free virtual learning program, continues weekly throughout the month of June.
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.) Thank you in advance for being counted among SCCF’s partners in environmental stewardship!
In case you missed it...

SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera was featured in an NBC-2 story last Thursday advocating against a proposed fish farm in the Gulf of Mexico about 40 miles offshore Sarasota. SCCF and the city of Sanibel sent letters to the EPA detailing concerns that additional nutrients from the fish farm could make a red tide bloom even worse.
To view past issues of the Weekly Wednesday Update, please click here .
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