TS Cristobal Washes Away Turtle Nests; No Shorebird Nests Lost to Storm

provided to Santiva Chronicle

The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation reported 29 loggerhead sea turtle nests were washed away by the high waves caused by the passing Tropical Storm Cristobal last weekend. SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan said many more nests were washed over, but that “is not a death sentence and can actually help keep eggs cooler.”

And the rough seas didn’t detour Juniper, a rare leatherback sea turtle being tracked in real time by the Florida Leatherback organization in partnership with SCCF. Juniper nested again on Captiva, bringing her total documented nests on the islands to six this year.

The total count of turtle nests on Sanibel and Captiva has reached a lofty 401, including one green sea turtle nest. Sloan reported the SCCF volunteer sea turtle team has encountered 152 females and spotted 29 of those turtles more than once during the nighttime tagging project.

“There are three turtles we’ve already seen four times this year – Smores, Green Tea and Pisa,” said Sloan. Junonia is a returning turtle the team first met in July 2016, when she false crawled on the east end of Sanibel. They spotted her again in 2018 and 2019. “It’s fairly unusual for loggerheads to nest for three consecutive seasons,” said Sloan.

“We’ve seen Junonia four out of the five years since we launched our tagging project, so she is a familiar face and we hope to see her on our beaches again soon,” concluded Sloan.

No Shorebird Nests Lost to Storm

A snowy plover nest with chicks. SCCF photo

While several sea turtle nests were lost due to Cristobal passing through the Gulf of Mexico, SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht reported there were no shorebird nests lost to the tropical storm. She said there are at least six least tern nests that survived. “Hopefully they will hatch soon,” said Albrecht.

Currently, there are four broods of snowy plover chicks with the oldest at five weeks old and learning to fly. The youngest are just one week old and the last active nest was reported gone as of June 9. There were human and canine tracks found inside the enclosure. A Wilson’s plover nest at Clam Bayou was also noted as gone the same day, but not due to the storm.

Additionally, SCCF reported some postings were damaged in the storm and removed from the beach 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. While they sometimes use the posted area after hatching, 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 the beaches are crowded now the storm has passed,” said Albrecht. She also thanked the dedicated volunteers and staff for helping to keep an eye on the nesting shorebirds while she was away for a few days. “We were very fortunate not to lose shorebird nests when other sites in Southwest Florida lost entire colonies to the storm,” she said.

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