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Guest Post by Bonnie Nickel: Saving Wildlife

One Hatchling at a Time

Sea turtle nesting season is winding down. It begins in early May and goes strong until the end of June or early July. Some turtles continue to lay eggs in August, occasionally September; the season varies slightly by species. Eggs incubate for 50-55 days so hatching begins in earnest mid-July. Turtles lay about 100 golf ball—size eggs in each nest. The same turtle can nest several times each year, the most recorded being eight. That’s a lot of eggs. Scientists estimate 1 in 1000 hatchlings survive to adulthood. And since not all eggs result in hatchlings, mama turtle is trying to increase her odds of success.

All sea turtle species are either threatened or endangered. (Read about a recent decision on the status of the loggerhead here.) Because human activity is the major cause of their decline, we are obligated to help increase their survival odds. This explains why hundreds of volunteers in Florida (and beyond) are on the beaches at dawn looking for telltale turtle signs.

Early in the season we look for adult tracks and nesting activity. Nests are located, marked, and where necessary, protected by cages or other devices to hinder coyotes, raccoons, and other animals that would love to make a tasty (and messy) meal out of the newly laid eggs. (You can learn how to identify the tracks yourself with this video from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Bonus: the narrator is Pineapple author Blair Witherington!)

Detailed nesting records are maintained for two conservation programs run by FWC. Throughout the incubation period records are kept of predator activity, beach erosion, and nest flooding during storms or unusually high tides. After 50 days volunteers keep a keen eye out for hatchling tracks. Three days after a hatch, when presumably all able hatchlings have departed the nest, each nest is excavated. Once again, records are kept—of hatched and unhatched eggs, live hatchlings still in the nest, or sadly, some that didn’t make it out.

Any volunteer will tell you there’s nothing quite like rescuing a live hatchling that couldn’t make it out of the nest. You release it with the hope that it will be the one in a thousand that makes it to adulthood!

You can check out the Sea Turtle Conservancy website to learn more about what volunteers are doing. You can even become a sea turtle fan on Facebook! The Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch site is also worth a visit for some awesome photos.

As I mentioned in my last post, nesting numbers are up this year—at least on our small part of the beach. We won’t know if that can be said for the entire state until FWC has collated the data. I did read that numbers seemed to be up in Georgia this year as well (see the second story in the hurricane link below for details). Time will tell if the tide is turning for these lovely creatures or if this is a blip on the radar. But for now, we’ll take it as good news.

Turtles of a different kind are getting help in our more northern climes. Check out folks helping out the diamondback terrapins (among others) in Massachusetts. The August 2010 archive has a great story on a rescued Kemp’s ridley. For all things turtle (and beyond!) this is a great website.

Here’s a quick synopsis of other news on the animal conservation front this month starting with the good news that birds can navigate through hurricanes.

  • A new species of dolphin was discovered off the coast of Australia.
  • Twelve new species of frogs were discovered in India.
  • It seems we have only itemized 1.2 million out of 8.7 million species currently on the planet.
  • A marine park in Mexico demonstrates that it is possible to reverse ecological damage. The fish numbers in this National Park have quadrupled over the last ten years. (There are also some sea turtle hatchlings in this video!)

Hope you have some good news to share from your area!

Bonnie is the author of Those Mischievous Monkeys (coming January 2011). She teaches people about conservation and sustainability—how to use less water, electricity, fuel, and other stuff—so that humans, animals (including monkeys!), trees, and plants can all share the planet and pass it along to the next generation. Originally from Canada, Bonnie now lives in Florida with her husband Jim and their two mischievous dogs, Cooper and Joie.

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FLORIDA: Give me an “F”, Give me an “L”….

F L O R I D A

Give me an “F”! Give me an “L”! Give me an “O”! Give me an “R”! Give me an “I”! Give me a “D”! Give me an “A”! What’s that spell? FLORIDA! Below are some words that help define Florida.

F Fakahatchee

L Lovebugs

O Overseas Highway

R Ringling Brothers

I Islamorada

D Daytona International Speedway

A Alligators

 

To learn more about Florida, read Florida A to Z!

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Guest Post: In Search of Good News by Bonnie Nickel

Bad news is easy to find. Whether it’s the economy, the environment, politics, or general societal gloom and doom, you don’t need to search far—it’s right there, in your face.

If you look hard enough though, it is possible to find good news.  It may not top the news stories, and you may need to turn over a few more rocks, but it’s out there. So that’s the challenge I’ve set for myself (and you, if you’re willing)—to find good news in bad times. And since I spend some of my time working on animal conservation issues I’m going to start there.

Tuesdays at dawn you’ll find me on the beach in search of sea turtle tracks, big and small. Early in the season it’s all about tracking the mama turtles to find the nests. Later in the summer we’re thrilled by the sight of tiny hatchling tracks winding their way to the water’s edge. I volunteer with the Coastal Wildlife Club (more about them in a later post) and the good news is that nesting numbers are up this year! Well, yes, there’s a caveat. They’re higher than last year, but lower than 10-15 years ago. But it’s still good news.

My small contribution pales in comparison to the work of others. Some turtle patrollers are out there 2, 4, even 7 days a week! That is good news.

There was good news for one sea turtle in another part of Florida last week. Andre the green sea turtle was given a second chance at life in the wild. You can hear the story here.

In this part of Florida we also have a fabulous wildlife rehabilitation center. The volunteers are amazing in their dedication and tireless in their work. We also have a hard-working group protecting shorebirds on our local beaches.  I’ll share more about both groups in a future blog.

And beyond Florida the good news just keeps coming…a Mexican bird park is re-establishing endangered species; Happy Feet, the wayward emperor penguin that washed up on the shores of New Zealand has 120,000 internet followers; researchers have a new tool to help document animals in their natural habitat (more details of this photo study can be found here);  and finally, new species of monkeys are being discovered—from titis in the Amazon, to snub-nosed monkeys in Myanmar.

There are people working tirelessly to protect and conserve species all across the globe. Yes it’s true that we’re the reason these animals struggle to survive. Whether it’s habitat destruction, air and water pollution, or repercussions from a warming planet, we are the problem. The bad news sneaks in anyway but I see it as another reason for each of us to participate in the solutions.

I’ll be spotlighting some of our local (and not so local) conservation groups in future blogs. In the meantime, take a look around your town. There are definitely people hard at work there too. We’d love more good news, so tell us what’s happening in your area. Maybe you’ll pique someone’s interest and we’ll create another champion for wildlife. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?

Bonnie is the author of Those Mischievous Monkeys (coming January 2011). She teaches people about conservation and sustainability—how to use less water, electricity, fuel, and other stuff—so that humans, animals (including monkeys!), trees, and plants can all share the planet and pass it along to the next generation. Originally from Canada, Bonnie now lives in Florida with her husband Jim and their two mischievous dogs, Cooper and Joie.

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The Beach on Anna Maria Island, Florida

I’ve been to a lot of local beaches, but Anna Maria Island‘s is one I hadn’t visited much until I met my husband. He says that his family went there a lot when he was young. It’s nice because it has a playground and bathrooms nearby. The water is really close to the parking, which is great when you are toting a lot of stuff. We went there this weekend and last, at two different spots along the beach.

The weekend before last we went to a spot that is to the right of the City Pier. Our timing was perfect, because the tide was really low and we could go out pretty far in the water—which is perfect for the kids. The water was really calm and warm and there was hardly anyone on the beach. We found lots of neat shells in the water too. This past weekend we went to the spot that is to the left of the Pier, between Rod & Reel and City Pier. This is the more populated side of the beach and it was pretty crowded. The water is a little deeper, but that’s great for the adults in the group. You can see the Sunshine State Skyway from both places, but this second spot gives a view of it and Egmont Key and Fort DeSoto. It’s pretty neat to see all these places in one spot. You can even see the glint of the light on the Egmont Key lighthouse as it slowly turns.  I wanted to take some pictures of this lovely spot but was afraid of losing the camera in the water.

The Rod & Reel has some great food, according to author Bruce Hunt (@BruceHuntImages). He’s taken some photos of the area and has some nice history and related places to visit in the area in his book, Visiting Small-Town Florida Third Edition. Next time I visit I need to go into some of the neat shops that you find along the way to the beach. I think it would be a great place to vacation as I saw many people on rented bikes and scooters.

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Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida

This past weekend I visited Myakka River State Park. Myakka has this rambling scenic drive that is really nice, especially on days with low park attendance. It was perfect for this weekend since it was so hot! This visit didn’t yield a lot of animal sightings along the drive, but we did see some turkeys. There were groups of them on both sides of the road.

We tried the Canopy Walk which is a really popular part of the park, but didn’t make it all the way to the bridge and tower part because I mistakenly left the mosquito repellant behind. If I had been prepared, it would have been the best part of the visit. This is a terrific part of the park for kids because they all love the bridge which sways when people walk on it. The towers seem like they stretch high up into the air forever, and it’s hard to make it all the way to the top sometimes.

I did take a stroll along the Bird Walk though. In the right season, many interesting species of birds nest and congregate there. It’s really popular with birdwatchers, artists, and photographers. We did see a duck and some run of the mill birds, but nothing too spectacular this time. I would like to go back when it’s full of birds so the kids can get the full effect. The coolest thing we saw the whole trip was at the boardwalk though. A baby alligator! It was pretty dry out there, but we saw him slithering along and that was super neat.

Overall, Myakka State Park has been one of the best state parks I’ve visited. We publish a book by the park’s naturalist, Paula Benshoff. She’s a wealth of information and you’ll never meet someone who loves her job and its location so much. Here’s a link to that book, http://new.pineapplepress.com/myakka.html

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Looking for Pirates in the Carolinas? A Guest Post by author Terrance Zepke

Look no further, you brave soul. They’re all over the Carolinas. Here are a few suggestions:

There’s a new Blackbeard exhibit at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, North Carolina. It has artifacts from the famous pirate’s shipwreck, Queen Anne’s Revenge. While the exhibit is permanent, the artifacts will change periodically. www.ncmaritimemuseums.com/beaufort.html

Check out the pirate museum inside Teach’s Hole on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. The gift shop, which opened in 1992, claims to have more than 1,000 pirate-theme items for sale, as well as a small pirate museum. www.teachshole.com

The Pirate Voyage is an extravagant dinner show that opened in June 2011 at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina that includes a huge pirate battle. www.piratesvoyage.com

Pirate Invasion is a big, annual festival that takes place in Beaufort, North Carolina every August. Participants will enjoy a pirate attack, treasure hunt, face painting, music, special tours, and much more. www.beaufortpirateinvasion.com

Charleston was a big hangout for pirates during the era of Blackbeard. Take a guided tour to learn more about the Golden Age of Piracy and to see where some of them were hanged! The guide wears a pirate costume complete with a colorful macaw perched on his shoulder. www.charlestonpiratetour.com

Terrance Zepke
www.terrancezepke.com
Author of Pirates of the Carolinas and Pirates of the Carolinas for Kids

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Conceptual editing for fiction, by June Cussen


Conceptual editing for fiction

There’s much to think about here. You can certainly make the artistic case that for fiction the editor must give a much freer hand to the writer. We are, after all, speaking about Literature here when we speak of novels. (Say: LIT-ra-chuh.) The writer is creator here, the God role. Who dares edit? We’ll keep that issue in editing fiction in mind as we go, letting it temper big decisions, being humbly aware that the editor did not have to face that blank page.

As always, I start with the reader. And these hard days you have to think of the reader as buyer. Who will buy this book? We covered that in earlier acquisition ruminations, but that too must be kept in mind by the editor as juggler. Three balls in the air: writer (Father), reader (Son), editor (humble ghost). So, as the editor considers the overall story of this piece of fiction, she must consider what reader it is aimed at (age, sex) as well as what genre it might be placed in. If it’s a literary novel, the writer may be more likely to prevail, if a genre novel like a Western or a romance or a mystery, the reader usually reigns. Of course there will always be the unclassifiable, and here the editor must step carefully, first considering that most authors feel that their work is beyond categorization. But I tell them, yeah, but librarians will do it anyway. Be prepared.

Keeping the reader in mind will help the editor make sure of consistency. This becomes more of an issue in copyediting where we have to remember to keep a character’s eyes blue all the way through the book if they start out that way. But even in conceptual editing, consistency rears its hobgoblin head. The tone cannot jump from deep to whimsical, serious to silly—unless of course that is part of the author’s design and it works within the context of the whole.

Story: that’s what a novel tells. Aristotle had it right with insisting on a beginning, a middle, and an end, with rising action, a climax, and falling action. The editor needs to make sure that the tension is created, holds, and is released. Beginnings are always hard. The writer has to establish the characters, the time, the place, the feel, and get us hooked into what’s going on without boring us before we get to the real action. Some writing guidelines tell the author to do that by first having a walloping action scene before anything else. Well, maybe. Sometimes that works. But I’ve read way too many manuscripts that start out with something either preposterous or truly awful in the attempt to hook us in. I’m usually just put off and don’t even want to read the rest.

The conceptual editor will have to make sure the whole story gets told, that bits don’t dangle at the end (unless this is a series and you want to hook readers for more). This is particularly true for mysteries. We have to find out whodunit, and it has to be consistent with all the details all the way through.

Character: They are people and must feel, think, and behave like real ones. Real ones aren’t always consistent, but in a story they need to be consistent enough to make the action work. The editor will note if a character suddenly does something out of character just to make the plot work. There’s always that tension between character and action. The editor will see that one does not exist merely to serve the other.

Editing fiction is a pleasure—the icing on the editorial cake—not that editing botanical keys is not tons of fun (wherein you spend days checking Latin names and learn the meaning of words like dentate and scandent). And working with fiction authors is usually a pleasure too, unless they take the God role too seriously.

Here’s my animal photo today. It’s turtle hatching season around here on the Gulf coast of Florida. This little loggerhead is heading toward the water. If you live near the beach, be sure your outside lights are off at night or little guys like this one will head the wrong way thinking your light is moonlight on the water.

Leatherback turtle

June Cussen

— June Cussen, Pineapple Press

@pineapplejune

www.pineapplepress.com

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Guest Post: The Grand Strand (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)

One of the top vacation spots in the southeast is the sixty miles of South Carolina coastline that is nicknamed “The Grand Strand.” Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand is more grand than ever, thanks to the many new attractions that have opened in the last couple of months.

The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade meanders from 2nd avenue pier to the 14th avenue pier, allowing terrific views of the Atlantic. www.myrtlebeachdowntown.com

If it’s a pirate’s life for you, check out Pirate’s Voyage. Formerly the Dixie Stampede, Dolly Parton spent $11 million renovating the theater to create the ultimate dinner show complete with a buccaneer battle and pirate feast. www.piratesvoyage.com

Kids and adults alike will find plenty to do at WonderWorks, a new indoor family attraction near Broadway at the Beach. It a four-story building designed to look like it is upside down. The amusement park has 100 exhibits, including a simulated roller coaster and a virtual swim with sharks. The only outdoor attraction offered by WonderWorks is the Soar and Explore Zipline and Ropes Course. Soar fifty feet above the water on a course that travels 1,000 feet between towers. You can also try your hand at the pirate-themed ropes course that is more than forty feet tall and spans three levels. www.wonderworksonline.com

For a view that is 200 feet above sea level, be sure to ride the SkyWheel. This is a 187-feet Ferris wheel with forty-two temperature-controlled glass-encased gondolas. It’s the same concept as the London Eye (London, England). At night, it really comes to life with one million LED lights. There are a half-dozen other amusement rides nearby, including the Slingshot. These attractions replace the old Amusement Pavilion, which was built in 1948 and torn down in 2006. www.themyrtlebeachskywheel.com

For more on South Carolina, be sure to read Coastal South Carolina: Welcome to the Lowcountry by Terrance Zepke

Visit www.terrancezepke.com for more on ghosts, pirates, coastal history, and travel.

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Our June 2011 newsletter

Click here to download our June 2011 newsletter. Learn more about our upcoming titles and what’s happening this summer.

Pineapple Press June11 newsletter

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Best Ways to Explore Charleston, South Carolina, A Guest Post by Terrance Zepke

“Charleston is one of the most historic, prettiest, and haunted cities in America. Thousands of tourists flock to this Lowcountry hamlet every year,
but what is the best way to experience all that Charleston has to offer?”

Charleston Ghost and Graveyard Tour takes participants around the historic district, including a creepy cemetery. Hear stories about ghosts, superstitions, haunted houses, and voodoo.  My recommendation: Adults only.

Charleston Pirate Tours is a great way to learn about Charleston and pirates who plundered the area.  My recommendation: Perfect for adults and kids of all ages.

Culinary Tours of Charleston is a 2.5-hour tour during which participants talk to the town’s top chefs (plus see behind-the-scenes of their restaurant’s kitchens) and sample yummy Lowcountry cuisine. My recommendation: Adults only.

Gullah Tours with Alphonso Brown will educate participants on who the Gullah are and how they influenced the Lowcountry. My recommendation: Adults and children ages 12+.

Palmetto Carriage Works is the best carriage company because the guides are very knowledgeable and funny. A carriage ride through historic Charleston is a “must” for tourists, but be sure to do it before the Lowcountry summer is in full swing. My recommendation: Adults and children.

For more on Charleston, be sure to read Coastal South Carolina: Welcome to the Lowcountry by Terrance Zepke

Visit www.terrancezepke.com for more on ghosts, pirates, coastal history, and travel.

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