Weekly Wednesday Update
May 6 , 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 to Cheryl & Gary Biltgen for this week’s backyard wildlife photo of Eastern screech owls (Megascops asio).

“We put up an owl box last year. Got our first occupant about a month ago. After a few weeks, we were thrilled to see an owlet peeking out. And even more exciting, we saw this a few days later!” 

Please send your wildlife photos to info@sccf.org.
Amazing Total of 43 Sea Turtle Nests Since April 1
Sea turtle nesting season is off to a phenomenal start with 29 nests on Sanibel and 14 nests on Captiva. This photo of a nesting loggerhead ( Caretta caretta) was taken by Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan last night without a flash; just a long exposure lit by the moon. 
"It's hard to believe on this day last year we only had five nests on Sanibel and one nest on Captiva," said Sloan. "We can't say that it has to do with fewer people on the beach, but it's more likely due to the warmer water this season."
The phenomenal increase over last year includes two rare leatherback ( Dermochelys coriacea) nests, which prompted a group from Florida Leatherbacks in Jupiter to travel over to try to get information on the nesting leatherback.
“We think it may have been the same leatherback that laid both nests, so they came over last weekend to see if she might nest again,” said Sloan. “They have been out on the beach at night with us for the last few nights and are going to try to encounter her one more time tonight.”
The SCCF sea turtle team kicked off the fifth season of our nighttime sea turtle research program last Friday.
“Starting on May 1, our team surveys the beach from sunset to sunrise in search of nesting females. When a turtle is encountered, we measure the turtle and apply tags so we can identify that individual on future nesting events and learn about her behavior,” she said.
The photo here taken by a member of the Florida Leatherbacks team captures the nighttime project.
Information obtained at night gives our team incredible insight into metapopulation dynamics, temporal and spatial nesting patterns, habitat use, and much more. Managers use these data to identify emerging threats and develop informed conservation strategies.

Follow us on seaturtle.org 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.

Native Plants for Sale Online with Contactless Delivery
Unfortunately, right now, you can't browse in person through our beautiful selection of native plants at the Bailey Homestead. But, starting today you can order from an inventory of more than 25 native plants online and SCCF staff will deliver them to you!
Our staff will be making contactless deliveries on Sanibel & Captiva every Wednesday. Any orders placed before Tuesday night at 11:59pm will be delivered to the end of your driveway on that Wednesday. 
"Adding native plants to your yard has a multitude of benefits: our wildlife depend on these plants for food and shelter, plus there is the added bonus of watching wildlife come to your yard," said Garden Center Manager Jenny Evans. "Native plants are adapted to our climate and soils, and will not need additional water or fertilizer once they are established; and they contribute to our unique sense of place, as many Florida plants are found nowhere else in the world."
Our current online selection is limited at the moment, but check back regularly, as we will be adding stock as it becomes available.
"Gift cards are also available for purchase and would make great Mother's Day gifts or anytime gifts," added Evans.
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
Nesting Shorebirds Challenged by Disturbances
As of today, our Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht reports that we have three known active snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) nests.
“One plover nest was lost to depredation, possibly crow or ghost crab. We observed tracks of both in the vicinity of the nest,” said Albrecht.
She also reports two active Wilson's plover (Charadrius wilsonia) nests, and potentially a third yet to be located.
Pictured here is a least tern (Sternula antillarum) incubating a nest
“We had the beginning of a least tern colony at Bowman's beach with a high count of four birds incubating nests on Sunday. Unfortunately, they were harassed by crows continuously, and ultimately the colony failed.”
This photo shows a least tern trying to chase off a crow. As of Tuesday, all the least terns were gone. She observed crow tracks, tracks of people, and dog tracks inside the enclosure around where the nests had been. 
On Wednesday, Albrecht boated up to North Captiva and found the least tern colony had relocated there, where they nested last year.
She urges all beachgoers to do their part in keeping these birds safe.
“We continue to see more unleashed dogs than usual, and large crowds of people around our shorebird nesting areas especially on the weekends,” adds Albrecht. “Please leash dogs and respect our enclosures to protect our nesting shorebirds.”

If you have any questions about our shorebirds please email shorebirds@sccf.org
Great Time to Take Closer Look at Garden Snakes
Staying safer at home has resulted in a more wildlife observations for many of us. SCCF and other organizations have received a higher number of wildlife identification queries than usual since people are spending more time outside walking around, weeding, trimming, gardening, and fixing up their yards. 
“Many overlooked common species are now getting noticed,” said Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz. “While picking up debris around the backyard or working in the garden, some small common nonvenomous snakes may get noticed especially this time of year when most species are breeding.” 
The most common snake found in gardens in and around Sanibel and Captiva is the southern ringneck snake ( Diadophis p. punctatus). These small (6-10 in) woodland snakes are gray to black in color with a yellow ring around their necks. 
When threatened, they flip part of their body upside down and twist their tail in a corkscrew to show their bright yellow, orange, or red underside with a single row of misshaped circles running down the belly. These harmless snakes eat primarily earthworms and slugs. Click here to read about two other species.

If you have questions about identifying wildlife in your backyard, please email photos to info@sccf.org and our scientists will help you out!
Marine Lab Helping Out with Sea Turtle Blood Samples
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to SCCF staff as we remain committed to following CDC guidelines. Typically, by now, interns have moved into our dorm housing and are being trained to collect data on sea turtle nests and nesting females.
But, not this year. So, SCCF staff from other departments have stepped forward to help because the sea turtles are not going to stop nesting because of the pandemic.
A nighttime tagging and sampling program for sea turtles was designed to understand individuals and their frequency of nesting and returning to Sanibel and Captiva. The nighttime research has been expanded to collect blood samples to examine physiological markers of the health of the individual.
However, the lack of ‘intern power’ and inability to use our seasoned cadre of nearly 100 volunteers has left shortfalls in scheduling and workers needed to satisfy the monitoring, research and grant requirements that the work demands.
Sweet Scent of Wild Lime in Full Bloom
Garden Center Assistant Emily Harrington was out for a walk on the Shipley Trail when a wild lime in full bloom grabbed her attention. 
“As I got closer to the tree I quickly realized that I wasn't the only one who stopped to admire its sweet scented flowers as it was loaded with honeybees with full pollen baskets,” she said. 
Wild lime ( Zanthoxylum fagara) is a part of the Rutaceae family which also includes lemons, limes, and other types of citrus. Members of this family are known to be very aromatic. This can prove helpful when trying to identify this species as the leaves give off a lime like scent when crushed, hence the common name wild lime. 
Wild lime can also be identified by its distinctive compound leaves and winged midrib. Individually, the small yellow-green flowers are somewhat inconspicuous but when in full bloom, can provide quite a showy and fragrant display. 
Wild lime is naturally found in hammocks throughout central and south Florida and can be a nice addition to a screen or buffer planting in your home landscape. 
“I wouldn't recommend planting it near walkways or heavily trafficked areas due to its discrete but effective spines. While the spines may not necessarily be appreciated by people, birds find the naturally armored branches beneficial for coverage and protection,” she added.
Wild lime is also a larval host plant for several butterflies including the giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes). 

Nature Near You Offers Engaging Lessons on Water
Nature Near You is the Sanibel Sea School's e-newsletter delivered to your inbox at 9am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect backyard, nature-inspired lessons, activities and crafts with a fun new theme each day.

This week lessons focus on water’s unique properties, how it cycles around the planet, and its flow through the environment.

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.

Part of the SCCF Family, Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.
In Case You Missed It...
Marine Lab’s Work Featured on News Last Night

On NBC-2 News yesterday, SCCF Research Associate Mark Thompson explained the outcome of water quality monitoring as part of our Clean Canal project.

“The most concerning thing is that over 90% of the canals that we surveyed did not meet the state’s water quality criteria for the amount of algae they have in them,” he said.

Meanwhile, also yesterday evening, SCCF Research Scientist Rick Bartleson explained the natural origins of an algae bloom of Trichodesmium on WINK News. The bloom was causing muddy Gulf waters in Collier County to be mistaken for sewage. Click here to watch. 
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