Wednesday Update
May 5, 2021

Welcome to the bi-weekly Wednesday Update. We'll email the next issue on May 19.

We appreciate your interest in SCCF's mission to protect and care for Southwest Florida's coastal ecosystems.

Thanks to Tim Hurdley for this photo of a magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens).


Please send your photos to to be featured in an upcoming issue.
Sick Shorebirds Concern Scientists; Red Tide Suspected
Last week, there was a sudden influx of sick shorebirds on the East End of Sanibel, and at Bunche Beach and Fort Myers Beach.

Many birds were brought to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) for treatment, including this least sandpiper (Calidris minutilla).

The least sandpiper and three sanderlings (Calidris alba) delivered by SCCF were treated and released. The least sandpiper (the world’s smallest shorebird species) was unable to use its legs or fly when it was discovered last Wednesday, according to SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht. The talented CROW staff successfully rehabilitated the bird and released it by Sunday. However, 10 avian patients remain at CROW and 16 birds of various species died.

SCCF staff and volunteers also brought in two laughing gulls, and a ring-billed gull between Wednesday and Friday last week. Many more were brought in by others.

“This is especially concerning at a time when shorebirds are getting ready to migrate long distances to their northern breeding grounds,” said Albrecht.

SCCF is working with partners to determine the cause of illness.

In total, CROW admitted 30 sick birds last week. Clinic staff suspects they were all suffering from brevetoxicosis, or red tide poisoning, and plasma samples were sent to FWC for testing, which is conducted on a research basis so it not known when the results will be available.

If you see sick or injured birds, please call CROW at (239) 472-3644. If you find dead birds on the beach, please click below to report the observation to Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) Avian Mortality reporting site to document the event.
Red Tide Continues to Be Detected in SW Florida

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission's most recent daily sampling map (pictured here) shows the results of the last eight days of sampling for red tide.

Today's May 5 mid-week report states that the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persists in Southwest Florida. Over the past week, K. brevis was detected in 48 samples, with bloom concentrations (>100,000 cells/Liter) observed in three samples from Charlotte County and two samples from Collier County.

In Southwest Florida over the past week, K. brevis was observed at very low concentrations in Hillsborough County (in two samples), background to low concentrations in Manatee County (in 10 samples), background to low concentrations in Sarasota County (in 15 samples), low to medium concentrations in Charlotte County (in four samples), background to low concentrations in and offshore of Lee County (in 12 samples), and background to high concentrations in Collier County (in five samples). Samples from Pinellas County did not contain red tide.

Click the button below to learn more about red tide and how to track it.
Sea Turtle Team Finds Six Nests as Night Surveys Begin
On their sunrise beach patrols, the SCCF Sea Turtle team has documented six nests, with the first one on April 27 on the East End of Sanibel. 

On May 2, the team documented the first loggerhead nest of the 2021 season on Captiva. A total of four nests are now on Sanibel and two on Captiva, while a total of 10 false crawls have been reported on both islands.

Nighttime surveys, which began May 1, present an excellent opportunity to identify individual females.

These encounters can lead to important insights into the behavior of the turtles that nest in our area.

For example, SCCF first encountered a loggerhead in 2017 that was named “Oatmeal Cookie.” SCCF observed this turtle three times in 2017 and twice in 2020, and she has grown two centimeters since our first encounter with her. Oatmeal Cookie was spotted on April 25 by Florida State University staff 28 miles off the coast of Don Pedro Island.

“Understanding the locations of foraging grounds and migratory corridors of our nesting turtles helps shed light on where these turtles go after they nest and allows us to better conserve these vulnerable animals,” Sloan said.

The SCCF sea turtle team would like to remind you to do your part to help protect sea turtles. Remember to turn out lights, remove beach furniture, fill in holes, pick up litter, and use flashlights with red filters when on the beach after dark. If you are lucky enough to encounter a nesting turtle, please keep calm and give her plenty of space.

To report any other issues with sea turtles, contact Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922. 
Be a Citizen Scientist with New SCCF App
SCCF is excited to launch its new app for reporting in-water sightings of healthy sea turtles. It is intended for use by boaters, captains, and others who see sea turtles in the waters around our region.

The data collected from this citizen science project will help researchers identify high-use areas and learn more about seasonal habitat shifts.

On your phone:

Once downloaded install the app as usual. The app will need permission to access your phone’s location in order to receive GPS coordinates of your sighting and camera/media to capture and attach pictures. 
To load the survey, follow these steps.

  • Open the Survey123 App
  • Click “Continue without signing in” 
  • (note Survey123 must be open and you must have clicked “Continue without signing in” for the download to work)
  • The survey will download and open. 
  • To submit a sighting simply fill out the required fields and click the checkmark in the lower right corner. 
  • To cancel the survey/sighting, click the X in the upper left corner. 
(Note if you do not have cellular coverage you can still fill out the survey and save it in the Outbox to be sent at a later time.)

Thanks for helping us know where sea turtles are in our surrounding waters!
Shorebird Team Monitoring 3 Plover Nests on Sanibel

SCCF staff and volunteers are currently monitoring three snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) nests on the East End of Sanibel. After losing nests to wash-over and depredation, two of the pairs recently re-nested.

In addition to monitoring on Sanibel, SCCF staff assist Florida Shorebird Alliance partners by surveying nesting sites off Sanibel, including North Captiva, Bunche Beach, and Fort Myers Beach. Snowy plovers tend to move around, and birds that were banded here often nest at those sites.

Late last month, a snowy plover nest hatched at Bunche Beach. Look closely at the image above to see the chicks.

SCCF will continue to work with partners including J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Lee County Parks, and Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation to ensure these nests and broods are protected.
Banded Snowy Plover Returns

A banded snowy plover, which SCCF calls “White/Black,” returned to Sanibel after spending the winter north of Lee County. Until two weeks ago, it appeared that he had found a mate and was prepared to nest on Outback Key near Fort Desoto. Surprisingly, he returned to Sanibel last Friday.

White/Black was a 2020 fledgling from the East End of Sanibel, and SCCF shorebird monitors are anxious to see where he decides to nest!
2021 Florida Legislature Session: Final Week Wraps Up

The 2021 Legislative Session adjourned Friday, April 30, after approving a record $101.5 billion budget.

For the environment, the budget includes $522 million for Everglades Restoration projects and $400 million for the Florida Forever Land Acquisition Program ($300 million of which is non-recurring funding from federal stimulus dollars).

Funding for the newly created Resiliency Grant Trust Fund Program will receive $500 million to address flooding and sea level rise, and the Water Protection and Sustainability Program will receive $500 million to distribute grants to local communities for septic-to-sewer and wastewater infrastructure projects. An additional $100 million in funding was approved to address the environmental disaster at Piney Point.

Below are some of the bills that SCCF was tracking during the 2021 legislative session. For an expanded list of legislative bill summaries, please check our 2021 SCCF Legislative Tracker

Water Quality

Passed: SCCF opposed SB 268/HB 735 Preemption of Local Occupational Licensing as this will limit local government’s ability to require training for professional fertilizer applicators or other licensing measures to protect water quality.
Passed: Local project funding of $750,000 for Sanibel Sewer Phase IV Expansion Project.
Failed: SB 1522/HB 1225 – Implement Recommendations of the Blue/Green Algae Task Force. This bill was watered down through the amendment process but would have required septic tank inspections every five years and would require a focus on Basin Management Action Plans (BMAP’s) to prioritize projects “in areas likely to yield maximum pollutant reductions.”
Growth Management and Land Use

Passed: SB 100 Highway Projects (MCORES Partial Repeal). SCCF had strongly opposed the MCORES toll roads since its passage in 2019 due to the environmental destruction they would have wrought, the lack of demonstrated need, and exorbitant cost. This bill eliminates the Southwest connector alignment, which would have had a devastating impact to the natural resources in our area, but it does retain funding to expand existing roads and may impact environmentally critical lands in the northern and central regions of Florida. 
Passed: HB 1101/HB 421/SB 1876 – Relief from Burdens of Real Property Rights. This bill expands the scope of private property rights laws that could result in costly litigation to local governments resulting in a chilling effect that will prevent communities from enforcing comprehensive planning measures.
Ecosystem Restoration

Passed: SB 776/HB 783 Racketeering of Aquatic and Wild Animal Life. This bill revises the term “racketeering activity” to include language that gives more options to Florida wildlife agencies to prosecute wildlife trafficking crimes that have caused increasing problems across Florida, and specifically on Sanibel.

Click here for more details regarding these bills.
SCCF’s Legislative Tracker has been updated to reflect the outcome of the session and includes a link to the Governor’s 2021 Bill Actions webpage with the latest action on the bills presented to him. SCCF will send out a complete 2021 legislative analysis this summer before the start of the new state fiscal year starting on July 1.
Policy Team Gets Drone to Document Water Quality Changes Over Time

Last week, SCCF Research and Policy Associate Leah Reidenbach collected the first images of water quality conditions in San Carlos Bay from a drone recently purchased with grant funding provided by the Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership (CHNEP). 

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. By documenting water quality and ecological conditions, SCCF scientists are now able to track water quality visually over time. Policy staff will be able to utilize these images to make a compelling argument for protection and restoration of our unique coastal ecosystems in Charlotte Harbor.

“Our new drone will provide high-resolution still and video images, which will be used by our scientists and policy staff to document water quality, inform the public about water conditions and support our advocacy efforts,” said Environmental Policy Director James Evans. 
Images collected with the drone will be incorporated into the Caloosahatchee & Estuary Conditions Report, a weekly report published in conjunction with J.N. “Ding” National Wildlife Refuge, the City of Sanibel, the City of Cape Coral, and Lee County. The report provides updates on water quality and ecological conditions within the Caloosahatchee estuary and coastal waters of Lee County.

Reports are provided to water managers at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District to inform their recommendations on water management issues related to Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee.

“While our data are scientifically valuable, the photos we take with our new drone will serve as a powerful visual aid that can have a stronger impact on the public and policymakers than water quality data alone,” said Reidenbach said.

Timing is everything!

This new tool will be especially important this year as Lake Okeechobee levels are currently more than 2.5 feet higher compared to the past two years, and blue-green algae blooms are already appearing in the lake and estuaries. Images collected using the drone will be posted to SCCF’s website—providing an ongoing record of conditions that advocates, scientists, resource managers, and policymakers can use in their efforts to protect and restore our coastal ecosystems.    

We thank our partners at the CHNEP for making this project possible.
Great Timing for Sustainable Landscaping Workshop
SCCF and Committee of the Islands (COTI) are excited to be offering landscape companies the island’s first sustainable land care workshop presented by the American Green Zone Alliance. 

The focus of the workshop is to provide our local landscaping companies with the knowledge and resources they need to make the transition away from fuel-powered landscape equipment to zero-emission, battery-powered electric equipment. Local landscaping companies and their staff are invited to attend this free educational workshop and live demonstration of zero-emission landscape equipment.

The announcement of the workshop comes at a great time for Sanibel since the City is now poised to require zero-emission, battery-powered leaf blowers by Jan. 1, 2023. Inspired by the recent ordinance passed by the city of Naples to ban gas-powered leaf blowers, Sanibel City Council members asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance banning them here as well at their May 4 meeting.
Revolution in Sustainable Landscape Maintenancetakes place on Thursday, June 3, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at SCCF’s Bailey Homestead.

The entire event is free to landscapers, including a free lunch. A Spanish interpreter will be part of the presenting panel. 

The workshop will provide an informative blueprint demonstrating how entire communities can transition away from fossil fuels by transitioning to battery electric equipment and people-powered tool options.

These changes will result in substantial reductions in harmful emissions, noise pollution, fuel spillage, chemical, and solid waste, and improve worker and public health.

To RSVP for the workshop please contact Luke Miller, email:, or by phone: 941-777-4803. Click here to download a flyer and spread the word!

Join Us in Welcoming Wildlife Biology Intern Kaity Seitz!
The SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Program is pleased to introduce wildlife biology intern Kaity Seitz.

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Seitz graduated from Wittenberg University with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Marine Science. Wildlife has always been her greatest passion. Seitz has been an animal caretaker at a wildlife sanctuary and an environmental educator and has conducted bottlenose dolphin research.

She has been visiting Sanibel since she was a baby and worked at the Sanibel Sea School for a couple summers while in college. She just can’t stay away.

In college, she took the lead on an eastern box turtle telemetry study, her first significant introduction to legitimate wildlife research, so she is thrilled to return to working with box turtles and other wildlife on Sanibel. She acknowledged it is a unique opportunity.

“I get to see concepts I learned in school, like island gigantism, taking place right in front of me. Being back on Sanibel and in the field every day is a dream. I cannot wait for the opportunities this experience will bring,” she said.

Seitz will be an integral part of the SCCF Terrestrial and Freshwater Turtle Research team during her internship.
She Sells Sea Shells Donates Reusable Bag Profits to Perwinkle Wetlands Campaign

She Sells Sea Shells raised $500 from the sale of reusable shopping bags as part of an ongoing commitment to offset plastic bag pollution and support SCCF’s critical conservation efforts. She Sells Sea Shells is donating $1 to the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation for every bag sold and has earmarked this donation for the Periwinkle Wetlands Land Acquisition Campaign.

Tamara Joffe of She Sells She Shells, pictured here with SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera, is carrying out a family tradition with the donation to support the environment on Sanibel.

The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year, according to the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council. According to some estimates, the use of one reusable bag over a year could replace the use of 125 single-use plastics bags or 52 single-use paper bags. Disposable plastic bags are used on average for 12 minutes, while 80 percent of plastic pollution enters the ocean from the land.
The durable, washable totes—specially priced at $6 each—are made from recycled materials, and available in island-inspired designs including sea turtles, manatees, and dolphins. She Sells Sea Shells has been owned by the Joffe family since 1976, and the family is proud to have a positive impact on Sanibel island and the planet. Giving back to the community has been a core value and ongoing practice of She Sells Sea Shells for its 45 successful years on Sanibel. 

This award-winning seaside boutique offers an eclectic inventory of shells and exotic sea life, jewelry, books, craft supplies, apparel, and the most extensive collection of handmade shell crafts, including ornaments, novelties, animals, and flowers. For more information, contact Tamara Joffe at (239) 472-6991 or
Sanibel Sea School Shares Ocean Adventures
with Culver-Stockton College Students
Sanibel Sea School was thrilled to host 13 students and two faculty from Culver-Stockton College for three days of ocean exploration. Based in Canton, Missouri, Culver-Stockton is a small liberal arts college that encourages experiential learning through travel study. 

Led by Lauren Shellenberger, Ph.D., and Scott Giltner, Ph.D., undergraduate students from different courses of study came together recently for a six-day experience on Sanibel Island to study the marine ecosystem of Southwest Florida. Sanibel Sea School met with students for three days throughout their trip and offered sessions on seagrass, mangrove ecology, and kayaking in the mangrove bayous. 

On their first excursion, students dove into seagrass ecology by visiting the vast seagrass beds in San Carlos Bay. Students learned the integral role seagrass plays in the marine ecosystem by providing a food source and habitat for many marine creatures. To take a closer look at what lives between the blades of seagrass, students used long seine nets to gently pull up tiny creatures. Finding numerous fish, crabs, and even a rare seahorse, participants were amazed by the diversity they found right off the Sanibel Causeway. 

On the second day of the trip, the group ventured to Bunche Beach. As a natural preserve, Bunche Beach is home to an abundance of wildlife and hosts lush mangrove forests, which was the topic of the day. Students split into two small groups and strolled along the beach learning about the differences between red, black, and white mangroves then traipsed through the tangled mangrove roots on a mud walk. Students capped off the day with a snorkel in a channel of mangroves where they observed fish and mangrove crabs. 

On the final day of the trip, students embarked on a kayak expedition to experience mangroves from a new vantage point. Participants kayaked on calm waters through mangrove tunnels leading to the Gulf of Mexico, where they beached their boats and had the opportunity to search for shells. 

Prior to the trip to Florida, Shellenberger and Giltner prepared the students for field activities. They learned some basic marine biology, discussed marine conservation, and formed research topics to investigate in Southwest Florida. Students chose research areas on a variety of topics including water quality, mollusks, land use and development, and invasive species. When they return to Missouri, they will complete reports that will be the culmination of this capstone course. 

“We really enjoy sharing the ocean with students from landlocked states,” said Sanibel Sea School Director Nicole Finnicum. “The students are always so enthralled by the ocean and end the trip with a newfound passion to preserve our marine ecosystem.”

Sanibel Sea School hosted Culver-Stockton College in 2018 and hopes to continue this partnership in the future. 
Meet the Natives:
Coral Honeysuckle

Southern beeblossom (Oenothera simulans) is an herbaceous, perennial wildflower that blooms in the spring and continues to flower throughout the summer. 

Its wispy, wand-like stems reach up to six feet tall and are topped with clusters of white flowers, which turn pink a day after emerging. As its common name suggests, Southern beeblossom attracts a variety of pollinators including bees, butterflies, and moths.

A member of the evening primrose family, beeblossom flowers open in the evening and are consequently pollinated by specialized nighttime foragers. Southern beeblossom is naturally found in open, dry areas throughout Florida. It’s a drought-tolerant, no-fuss option that adds diversity and interest to any full-sun pollinator or wildflower garden.
SCCF's Native Landscapes & Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead is open Monday through Thursday, 10am to 3pm. We will also continue to offer contactless deliveries and curbside pickup. Simply place your order online by midnight on Tuesday for pickup or delivery that Wednesday.

Please email our Garden Center Assistant Sue Ramos at with any questions or requests.

SCCF members will get their discount by entering this promo code: SCCFMBR10 
Students Celebrate Earth Day in Pick Preserve

Students in Jennifer Hall’s 2nd/3rd grade class at The Sanibel School explored SCCF’s Pick Preserve on Earth Day, April 22.

SCCF Educator Richard Finkel discussed Earth’s geological components with students who then documented the various soil types within SCCF’s Pick Preserve and the habitats they support.  

"For this Earth Day field trip It was all about discovering what lies on Earth’s surface, its crust," said Finkel.  

As Henry David Thoreau said, “Heaven is beneath our feet as well as above our heads.”
SCCF's Pick Preserve, featuring a nature trail and boardwalk, is located directly across the street from The Sanibel School making it an ideal setting for outdoor education and the opportunity to incorporate environmental science into curriculum goals.
Sanibel Sea School Partners with Island Resorts for Unique Marine Science Opportunities

In addition to offering a variety of ocean experiences at its flagship headquarters on the island’s East End, Sanibel Sea School has partnerships with resorts on Sanibel and Captiva to deliver unique, on-property marine science learning opportunities each week for kids and families. 

“One of the benefits of having resort partners allows us to expand our reach – sharing the ocean with new people each year,” said Sanibel Sea School Director Nicole Finnicum. “Many Sanibel Island vacationers hail from the Midwest and Northeast, so it is a great opportunity to be able to share the magic of the ocean with people who don’t get to experience it frequently.”

South Seas Island Resort
With 330 acres of nature and 2.5 miles of beach, South Seas Island Resort was a natural fit for offering environmental education. Throughout the year, marine science educators travel to Captiva to offer half-day programs for children ages 6-13, as well as Discover Beachcombing classes for families. Children’s courses on manatees and dolphins are popular at the resort, where there are frequent encounters with manatees bobbing around in the marina or dolphins hunting near shore. South Seas is also a great place to spot numerous shorebirds, osprey, and wading birds near the T-dock. 

“South Seas is special because many families return year after year and enroll in Sanibel Sea School classes each visit,” Finnicum noted.

To register for classes at South Seas Island Resort, call (239) 472-7577. 

Sundial Beach Resort 
Nestled along the East End beaches, Sundial Beach Resort offers direct access to the beautiful blue Gulf waters. Sanibel Sea School offers half-day classes each Wednesday and Friday on the resort property for kids ages 6-13 and seasonal guided beach walks with our expert marine science educators. With options for the whole family or just the kids, Sanibel Sea School has something for everyone curious about the ocean at this family-oriented resort. 

On the Sundial property, Sea School educators often point out schools of fish, live sand dollars, and sea turtle nests, and “these exciting finds result in great conversations, discussions, and educational moments throughout the classes,” Finnicum said. 

Sanibel Sea School classes are part of the Sundial Resorts Turtle Scouts program. Reservations can be made by calling (239) 395-7226.

Sanibel Moorings
The property at Sanibel Moorings is a lush tropical paradise located just steps from a shell-covered beach. Each Friday throughout the year, marine science educators meet guests at “the big blue chair” to offer a morning beachcombing walk to discover the treasures that washed ashore overnight. Open to the public and to Moorings guests, the beach walk is ideal for individuals, couples, and families who want to learn more about the unique marine ecosystem on Sanibel. The beaches at Sanibel Moorings are perfect for beachcombing because you can often find mounds of colorful shells, curious items such as mollusk egg casings and sea squirts, and schools of cow-nosed rays gliding through the shallows. 

Reservations can be made through the Sanibel Moorings office at (239) 472-4119.

Join 2021 SWFL Climate Summit Tomorrow!

The Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership in Charlotte County is hosting a free, virtual summit to share knowledge, showcase action, engage leadership, and mobilize the collaboration needed to tackle the challenges of climate change and sea level rise. The 2021 Southwest Florida Climate Summit includes expert presentations with interactive question-and-answer sessions to exchange ideas on expanding the region’s climate resiliency. The public event runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on May 6, and registration is required.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio will provide an opening address on the U.S. Senate Climate Caucus, which will be followed by discussions led by the Florida Environmental Protection Agency Water Division Director Jeaneanne Gettle and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary and Chief Resiliency Officer Noah Valenstein, who will lead a Q&A.

For the day’s full list of speakers and topics, click here.
Please remind family, friends, and visitors of these coastal wildlife tips to help protect and care for our sea turtles, shorebirds, and sharks. Thank you!
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