SCCF's Weekly Wednesday Update
April 1, 2020

In these times of stay-at-home orders and teleworking, we'll send 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 on as we continue to be dedicated to 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 keeping a safe social distance and remaining safer at home.
Snowy Plover 'Ms. Sanibel' Already Has 3 Eggs
We are excited to share some wonderful news about our only snowy  plover fledgling from Sanibel in 2017.
After learning to fly, she went missing for a few weeks, until she appeared at Caladesi Island State Park, about 120 miles away as the crow flies. She survived Hurricane Irma and moved to Siesta Key where she has been ever since.
This photo taken Friday is of her nest on Siesta Key, where she has 3 eggs! Volunteers and biologists in the  Bird Monitoring & Stewardship program with Audubon Florida  affectionately call her "Ms. Sanibel."
Nesting Expected Very Soon on East End of Sanibel
As of today on Sanibel, the four pairs of snowy plovers at the east end are established and territorial fights are occurring among these small, but mighty birds. We expect nesting very soon.
SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht is monitoring the site every morning to make sure they have a safe space to nest. 
Sanibel is home to 20% of Southwest Florida’s nesting Snowy Plover population, making it a very important nesting site.
Our Snowy Plover  project began in 2002. We monitor the beaches daily, marking and protecting nests. Once the chicks hatch, they are monitored until they can fly. Click here to adopt a Snowy Plover.
RECON Keeps Scientists
Updated on Water Quality Data From a Distance
Despite our facilities being closed due to the coronavirus threat, the SCCF Marine Lab still has a number of tools available to provide important water quality data to our researchers as they work from home.
Our River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network (RECON) provides real-time updates from throughout the Caloosahatchee estuary and helps our scientists monitor the health of our waterways even when they can’t get into the field to take samples in person. This data is available to the public at , and includes several weather stations as well as wave, current, and water temperature data that boaters and anglers may find useful.
Through a partnership with the J.N. Darling Wildlife Refuge, the Marine Lab also maintains three water quality sondes deployed in the backwaters of the refuge. These sondes are like compact versions of the larger and more robust RECON sensors, and the data they collect helps refuge personnel make important management decisions.
Finally, two rain gauges and flow sensors along the Sanibel River keep SCCF researchers and City of Sanibel natural resources staff informed on water levels in the island’s central slough. By managing these levels through water control structures, city officials can both prevent flooding and preserve the island’s important freshwater wetlands.
While we may not know yet how long this pandemic will hang over us, having these remote instruments in place will allow the Marine Lab staff to continue our work from a distance until it is safe for us to return to the lab.
Prickly Pear in Bloom!
As staff members continue to work in solo shifts to water all of the beautiful native plants at our Native Landscapes & Garden Center, they sometimes stop and smell the blossoms!
Here’s a photo Garden Center Assistant Sue Ramos took last week of a prickly pear ( Opuntia humifusa ) blooming in the scrub garden. 
The nectar is attractive to pollinators, and once pollinated, the flowers are followed later this summer by red fruits, which are a favorite of gopher tortoises.
Kids Explore Backyards for Science-Based Learning
The education team at Sanibel Sea School has been busy with the launch of Nature Near You – an e-newsletter designed to help engage kids in nature-based learning during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The first five issues of Nature Near You, which launched March 23, featured a variety of backyard lessons.

Nature Near You participants learned about biodiversity, nature journaling, and completed three nature-themed crafts last week. This week features a 3-part series on plant biology, with today’s focus on learning about flowers! LEARN MORE  
Florida Chicken Turtle Makes Rare Appearance
Florida Chicken turtles ( Deirochelys reticularia chrysea ) were considered somewhat common during the 1970s and early 1980s according to reports, but for some reason, no specimens were documented from the late 1980s until a shell (carapace) was found on an SCCF preserve in 2009. Since that time, only four more examples, including this one, have been documented.
In January, Native Landscape & Garden Center Intern Haley Gladitsch was walking back from lunch and noticed a Florida chicken turtle laying eggs in the grass. She immediately notified the Wildlife & Habitat Management biologists, who conduct terrestrial and freshwater turtle research on the island, and they came out to verify and document the occurrence.
The chicken turtle is a very odd and rare turtle on the island with females averaging about 8 – 9 inches and males about 5 - 6.5 inches in carapace length. They were named chicken turtles because they were thought to taste like chicken and have a very long neck.
Of the ten non-marine turtles found on Sanibel, only two of them are considered rare, or at least rare to encounter. The chicken turtle, at least in our area, is an ephemeral species, meaning that it is only active when wetlands fill up during the wet season. When the dry down occurs, they dig underground and enter an aestivation (a dormancy) until water levels rise again.
We took advantage of the rare opportunity and verified the nest containing ten eggs. We also fastened a radio transmitter to its carapace so we could follow its movements to learn about its life history on the island.
Currently, as expected, as the water began to dry down over the last month, the chicken turtle dug down and has not moved since. We expect that we won’t see any movement until the summer rains have filled in these wetlands, but we will see…
SCCF April Newsletter: Read Online or Download

Our April Member Update went to press just as we were cancelling all our events and programs due to COVID-19. So, please read it with that in mind! Here are a few highlights to entice you to click here to read on your desktop or here to read on a mobile device.

Cane Toads:
The giant toad aka cane toad ( Rhinella marina) is one of the usual suspects for early spring breeding, especially after a heavy rain.
Native to Texas and South America, cane toads were discovered breeding in an isolated area on Sanibel in 2013 They are now all the way to South Seas Plantation on Captiva ( yes, they hopped across the bridge at Blind Pass). 
Cane toads are large, reaching 4-6” in length and have enlarged parotid glands behind the head that carry a toxin called bufotoxin that is very potent, especially to smaller animals like dogs, cats and native wildlife.
Sea Turtle Volunteer Stake Painting Party:

Back before social distancing or stay-at-home orders went into effect, SCCF sea turtle program staff and volunteers gathered on Tuesday, March 3, to take part in the first official gathering in preparation for the 2020 sea turtle nesting season. More than 20 volunteers helped repaint wooden stakes used to mark sea turtle nests.

Other features include: Mangrove Research; Sylvia Earle's Visit; Policy Updates; Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel's Retirement Announcement and Notes from the Homestead on the Jamaica Caper. Enjoy!
CEO Ryan Orgera Shares Vital Mission of SCCF 

Thanks to the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce for selecting SCCF to be featured in a series of videos showcasing the amazing natural beauty of Sanibel and Captiva and the story behind island preservation. Interviewed at Hoss Pond in the West Sanibel River Preserve, Ryan passionately shares an overview of our work in this video.
The video series was produced by Chad Hatcher of Xtreme Heights Productions. Chad, who grew up on Sanibel and now lives in Texas, went way beyond the call of duty in producing a total of five videos about our work. He also donated aerial drone photos and footage of our preserve lands that are assisting our Wildlife & Habitat Management staff in restoring habitat for wildlife and conducting prescribed burns.

Stay tuned for more of these videos in future Weekly Wednesday Updates!
Stay Connected!