Saturday, 24 June 2017

Sea Turtle Nesting on MY Beach

Got a phone call this morning that a loggerhead sea turtle was still nesting at 9 am about 6 blocks south of us.  Well that made me jump out of bed (okay, but it is Saturday) and race down the beach. There she was - nesting is about a 2 hour process and she lays approximately 100 eggs before returning to the sea.

Our main concern is for the turtle - not for getting pictures!! - we want her to be undisturbed.  In fact this turtle tried to lay a nest 3 times; 1. she crawled up the beach and started to move sand (a body pit), 2. moved a few more feet forward  body pitted and started her egg chamber only to be disturbed by a man coming within 3-4 feet with a camera  3. so she stopped digging the egg chamber but fortunately she moved further up the beach and did lay a nest on her third attempt. About 50% of the time the turtle does a 'false crawl' - that is gets disturbed for one reason or another - including humans - and goes back into the sea without laying.

So my first priority was to make sure she was undisturbed by the people watching, the second was to educate the crowd, and only third to take photos/videos.  Here's what I got - so exciting as loggerheads usually nest under the cover of darkness.

In about 50-60 days - weather dependent - the hatchings will emerge, and if not distracted by human light, will make their way to the sea, swimming 100 or so miles out to the sargassum grasses where they will feed and float with the Gulf Stream as juveniles.

Be patient - like a turtle - to watch this video - remember my priorities!


and she's off back to the sea . . .
two turtle 'body pits' in foreground
people too close disturbed her -
once they backed off, she laid her nest
And just to round off the day, we then went and built predator cages to protect the sea turtle nests on Shell Key from raccoons, coyotes and the stray dog or two (out there illegally with campers). I did get a couple of lovely, and now raw, blisters from those wire cutters and hog ring pliers, but hey seeing this nesting sea turtle is worth it!

We were thanked by one little blue heron who stood watch over our auto!

Hubby says "We leave our pets in the wild!" LOL

The Wild West

Where in the world is mini me? The Wild West - It's just like stepping into Fargo TV episode (well almost).

Flying to South Dakota from Florida is a long journey, 5 hours to Denver and then another 1 hour to Rapid City We are in the Wild West! Towns are small and informal.

Oddly for this time of year (early June) we are experiencing a heat wave, but will have pea-sized hail and snow before the end of our visit.

We had a marvelous two weeks with many fun experiences, but my 1,100 plus photos would bore you all and take a week to write about - so here's some highlights for those that asked.

Our first day out was to The Badlands (first picture above) - sights on way. Prairie dogs and buffalo , sheep with Minuteman silos on the way back to our hotel in Rapid City. The Badlands were formed from erosion from the Black Hills - which we visited the next day with a drive through Spearfish Canyon (beautiful) and a visit to the town of Lead in a thunderstorm and downpour. There is a large gold mine now inactive in Lead. We then drove on to Deadwood complete with reenactment of a western shoot-out.
typical picture
in context

Our third day itinerary included Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments both blasted out of the granite in the Black Hills. Mt Rushore claims it was the largest stone monument built in the world in the 1930s - but they failed to mention the taller Leshan Giant Buddha in China for example. So mini me a bit confused.

Now Crazy Horse is much much larger .... and although the face is complete the remainder is still to come. Mini me ate tatanka/buffalo stew - very tasty.

Awoke one morning to find a man dusting, yes literally dusting like a piece of furniture, his car with a bright red featherduster - go figure . . .

Our next visit was to see Ice Age Woolly and Colombian Mammoth bones -26,000 years old- are amazing to see in this working paleontologist dig and the largest such site in the world.

Then we drove through Wind Cave National Park with hairpin turns (I drove so hubby could see the sites). In Custer State Park buffalo and their spring calves; they are rounded up each autumn and branded. Buffalo/bison are grazers with small mouths for such large animals and icky green tongues.

Next a trek across Wyoming, stopping overnight in Worland - a town of less than 300 where the young desk clerk told us he drives 80 miles to shop in a Walmart! The speed limit is 85 mph and the roads are closed in winter when the snow drifts too high - "Don't crowd the plow" was my favourite road sign.

At long last we arrived in Yellowstone where we stayed inside the park - there are two main attractions - BEARS and GEYSERS.
Grizzly and two 2-month old cubs
best viewed at a distance!!!

Old Faithful - blows every 90 minutes
There are many other sights . . .


homo sapiens looking for bears

including elusive moose (in trees does not make a good picture) and over-summering white pelicans that visit us in winter . .  .

. . . along with hillsides of dead pine trees killed from fire and the mountain pine beetle.

We ended our fantastic western tour in the Grand Teton National Park just south of Yellowstone.

The Jackson Hole Airport has a book exchange consisting of one bookcase housing mainly paperback novels. The first and only one I put my hand on turns out to have a quilting theme: "Goose in the Pond" by Earlene Fowler (1997). Coincidence or what??  Now back to the sewing!

Tetons disappeared in the mist!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Turtle Tracking

For the past 3 mornings, hubby and I have been up before 5 am (yup you read that right, 5 am!) to go turtle tracking.  We start about 1/2 hour before sunrise.  Saturday (the 27th), we went out to our barrier island designated as a bird sanctuary - Shell Island or Shell Key as it is known locally.  It is a growing sand barrier island and a new island has also popped up (quite literally) just next door and has been named Outback Key.

In fact these islands have grown so rapidly, that on Google maps we were walking on water! Google cannot keep up!

Our ride; thank you Island Ferry
Our work begins with a boat ride - not a bad way to start the day even if it is early in the morning especially as we saw frolicking dolphins on our journey.  We then walk the sandy beach portion of the island - from the south, across the west and up the north which has recently connected to another barrier island. What about the east side you say?  Well the East  is mainly impassable mangrove swamp - and a great nursery for all types of sea life. More importantly to us, it does not have a sandy beach which is what a turtle needs to make a nest and lay eggs.

Unfortunately, we and the turtles & birds are not alone on Shell Island.  It is the 3 day Memorial Day weekend and we have plenty of campers, boaters and fishermen with whom to contend.

This American Oyster Catcher momma scolded us and then hopped back on her nest; do you see her beautiful eggs?

boaters & campers on the island point

Our 3.1 mile trek involves carrying supplies - not just water, bug spray, sunscreen, snacks, and medical kit for us, but also cages and stakes for marking the nests we may find along the way.  
There are mangroves stretching across Shell Key we have to pass through, but we get to go where others cannot.Mangroves store carbon, filter heavy metals and protect against storm surges, but this stand died after flooding in last year's hurricanes & tropical storms. Watch out for the stumps which are trip hazards!


The cages are to protect the nest from predation by coyotes and raccoons, who just love those turtle eggs and baby turtles for a tasty snack.  Sadly it is even harder to protect the turtles from fire ants. No new nests on Saturday, but we have 19 so far and this is early in the season.  Go loggerhead turtles go!
Read the previous post to see tracks and nests.
Treasures of the day

Stormy Weather & Crafty Constructs

using the wind to ride faster?
sand coloured ghost crab
Wind creates great kite flying conditions, brings out the kite surfers and gave this beach biker a not very successful idea (see left). Today (24th May) we are under a Coastal Flood Watch as another low pressure front is expected to roar through. Tide is up and it is so humid our envelopes are now self-sealing - LOL.

Don't you just love these ghost crabs - look closely and you will discover why they have this name, however, they also prey on turtle eggs!

opps! kite surfing is hard work
kite surfer out our window

Flamingo kite

Right kite very patriotic

This turtle ran into beach chairs, but still managed to nest
and crawled 95 m (>300 ft)  back into the sea
The loggerhead sea turtles are going strong . . . although it is a bit harder to see the tracks/nest after a heavy rain! With Sea Turtle Trackers we had our picture taken for the St Pete Times but the article is yet to run.

Storms predicted for today, which is good as we have been very dry (Red Flag warnings for dry conditions with wind = high wildfire risk) and need the rain.

"false crawl" - no nest
happens about 50% of time

marked nest on Madeira Beach

And I have been busy with the sewing and weaving! These along with pillows for the hospital kids and the beginnings of a blouse and ill-fated trousers are my latest projects.

Brightens my beige metal front door!
Hangs using strip magnets inside the back cover

Never fear the C2C afghan was completed this week and next I will be back to  the dahlia quilt!

Strong winds & spring tides with a  new moon brought the foamy surf very close to home!