Tag Archives: Gulf of Mexico

Wildlife Rescuers—Responding to Human Impacts

A guest blog by Bonnie Nickel, author of Those Mischievous Monkeys.

There are wildlife rescue groups throughout the state of Florida and beyond, including our own Wildlife Center of Venice, started in 2004. Ours, like many, operates solely on donations from the community, receives no government funding, and is staffed almost entirely by dedicated volunteers.

The facility sits just outside of town and on my research trip, all was quiet with the exception of the rustling wings of a flock of opportunistic vultures looking for a free handout. By mid-day, breakfast had been served and the sick had been tended to. When I arrived, one of the founders and licensed rehabilitators, Linda, was feeding the newest drop-off, a young southern flying squirrel, mauled by a domestic cat.

Young squirrels, rabbits, and birds are frequent patients of the center. When asked, center volunteers said that keeping domestic cats indoors would prevent many injuries they treat. Birds in particular are well-represented at the center. A variety of injuries, from golf ball strikes and fishing line entanglements, to a direct and deliberate strike by a kayak paddle (no kidding), land birds at the center. Over half the birds recover and can be released to the wild. The scores of orphaned squirrels, raccoons, and other mammals have a higher release rate and are often released in the groups in which they have been raised. Occasionally, a rehabilitated but unreleasable bird or animal will be sent to another facility to provide companionship for another unreleasable critter of the same species.

On the day I visited, the center housed herons, anhingas, pelicans (including the unreleasable blind pelican hit by a paddle), eagles, a hawk, a northern gannet, a frigate bird, an owl or two, a purple gallinule, a sandhill crane, 30+ raccoons, an equal number of squirrels, and a tortoise. Since the objective is to return wildlife to its habitat, encounters with humans are minimized and the center is only open to those dropping off injured wildlife.

After years of work, the infrastructure of the center is really taking shape. Donated metal shelters for raccoons replace older wire and wooden enclosures. Eagle scouts have constructed several individual structures for squirrels and large birds. Plans are being hatched for a new hospital structure and a 100-foot flyway for rehabilitating larger bird species. The latter project is next on the to-do list and will be accomplished with help from the Sarasota Bay Parrot Head Club—they are hosting a Casino Night fundraiser on January 20, 2012 with donations going to the Center.

Any wildlife center is, by necessity, a community effort. Besides frequent fundraisers, and dozens of volunteers, our center relies on professionals in the community for veterinary care, and local businesses for food and services. The center participates in a program with the local community college allowing students to earn course credit while volunteering at the center.  This is an excellent opportunity to develop the next generation of wildlife rescuers and enthusiasts.

The center counts 20 volunteers among it wildlife rescuers—those that actually trap or capture injured wildlife. Some of the most effective rescuers are former hunters. They have the skills required to trap an injured bird or animal and a mindset now focused on conservation. The thrill of the chase still exists but the stakes are higher. For the bird with the fishing line wrapped around its beak, or the fledgling eagle that has lost its parents, the rescue can be a matter of life or death. And the rescuers are persistent. One rescuer responded over 15 times before conditions were just right to trap an injured bird. The great blue heron required a foot amputation because of ever-tightening fishing line around its leg. So far, it is responding well and will likely be released.

One of the center’s few paid employees (funds donated by a local foundation) fields 30-60 calls per day. Not all are rescue requests. Some callers seek information about wildlife in their yard giving the center an opportunity to educate residents about local fauna. The staff and volunteers view community education as one of their critical missions. A little curiosity about our natural surroundings, along with the knowledge imparted by wildlife enthusiasts, can go a long way toward adjusting our actions in ways that will prevent many of the injuries seen at the center. Small actions like properly disposing of fishing line, keeping domestic cats indoors, and refraining from feeding wildlife are simple and effective. Oh yeah, and don’t hit birds with your paddle.

At the center, there are always animals to feed, laundry and dishes to be washed, buildings to maintain, wildlife to capture and transport, events to plan, presentations to give, articles to write, the list goes on. No skill goes unused. Hands-on help, donations of supplies, monetary donations, or attendance at fundraisers like the Casino Night are all helpful. Check the website of the center nearest you to see how you can help.

This is critical work, but in the end, are we just tinkering around the margins by rescuing individual birds and mammals? Maybe, but until there’s a sea change in how we treat nature, wildlife centers help maintain endangered, threatened, and keystone species that may otherwise disappear from the planet. The individuals who engage in this noble work deserve our deepest thanks and whatever support we can afford.

Good news on the global conservation front has been scant lately. I ask myself, is it worth itemizing the good news when it’s vastly outnumbered by the bad? I think so. It’s that little thing called hope—focusing on the good bits while we work on ways to negate the bad. Fortunately there’s been some good news around the world lately about reassessing human priorities. Success in this area may translate into good news for the natural world. In the meantime, here are some glimmers of hope:

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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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Your Ultimate Florida Playlist

Twitter Chat August 24th at 1pm with @AlissonClark (#flplaylist)

What’s on your ultimate Florida playlist? Whether it’s a song about Florida or a tune that puts you in a Sunshine State of mind, we want to hear about it. We’ll talk about songs that name-check Florida people and places, music and lyrics that make you feel like you have your toes in the sand, or odes to the state’s history or environment. Favorite musical events, venues and destinations in Florida are fair game, too!

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On a Florida Beach We Saw….

This is phrase that brought a visitor to our site recently. I thought it was a great phrase and it gave me an idea.

Wouldn’t it be fun to share with everyone what you recently saw on a Florida beach?

I’d love for you to share pics or stories about something you recently saw on a Florida beach. You can do this by commenting here or sending pics to us via Facebook or Twitter. I look forward to hearing from everyone!  (Let’s keep this G-rated of course!)

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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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Fort Myers Beach, Florida

I spent a lovely weekend on Fort Myers Beach, Florida at a resort on the beach. I was inspired to share some links to great places to visit in the area.

Fort Myers Beach is in southwest Florida and located near Sanibel, where there is great shelling, a lighthouse, and wonderful wildlife. A visit to J.N.Ding-Darling National Wildlife Refuge there is a must. Naples is to the south and Punta Gorda to the north, bot have great shopping and interesting restaurants. This time we stayed close to the resort, but I’ve visited all of these places before and they’re a perfect complement to a visit to this part of Florida.

The weather was perfect on Saturday, which allowed for a long walk on the beach. We saw some great specimens of shells, both alive and dead. I’ve never seen so many starfish in one place before and cute little crabs were everywhere! We left them where they lay of course, but it was a real treat to see them up close. I have to say I wished we had Florida’s Living Beaches with us, because I wanted to be able to identify exactly what we were seeing.

I also stopped by the Shell Factory on the way home for a shell-shopping treat and found some new surprises! They have a fun arcade and an interesting collection of stuffed wildlife now.

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Pineapple Press is all about Florida

If it’s a Florida subject, we probably cover it.

Whether it be about Florida’s beaches or water

Florida towns or Florida travel

or rural Florida…

Learn more at our website at www.pineapplepress.com

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Piracy: Dead or Alive?, a guest post by Terrance Zepke

According to most experts, the ‘Golden Age of Piracy’ was the 1650s – 1720s. This was era of the legendary Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Anne Bonny, ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, Henry Morgan and many other nefarious buccaneers. The biggest reason for the piracy outbreak was the War of Spanish Succession (Queen Anne’s War). This was the height of piracy—perhaps until now.

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you already know that piracy is out of control. Cruise ships, freighters, yachts, and tankers are all targets these days. There are two types of pirates. Less sophisticated pirates seize a vessel and grab whatever booty is on board, just like in the good ole days. A new crop of hardcore pirates capture the ships and crews and hold them until a profitable ransom can be negotiated.

Last year, a U.S. cargo ship was captured by pirates off the Horn of Africa. Captain Richard Phillips surrendered himself to the pirates to keep his twenty-member crew safe during the ransom negotiations. The U.S. Navy soon rescued Captain Phillips and captured the pirates.

This month, a supertanker sailing from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico was hijacked while carrying $150 million worth of oil. This is the second attack on an oil tanker in two days. Negotiations are still underway, and if successful, pirates could make as much as $10 million off this prize.

The most recent piracy attack on four Americans aboard a yacht has shocked the world. Until now, pirates have not killed hostages. They use them to negotiate a ransom and then let them go. While the Navy was in talks with some of the pirates holding these two couples, other pirates fatally shot them using a rocket-propelled grenade followed by gunfire. Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle and Jean and Scott Adam were killed while sailing around the world handing out Bibles. The pirates have been captured and may face U.S. prosecution. It depends on jurisdictional issues since piracy occurs in international waters, which creates further problems when it comes to capturing and punishing the criminals.

Stay tuned for more posts from Terrance on piracy, ghosts, lighthouses, and travel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terrance Zepke, www.terrancezepke.com

Guest Blog by Terrance Zepke, author of Pirates of the Carolinas and Pirates of the Carolinas for Kids. Terrance Zepke has written several books including Best Ghost Tales of North Carolina, Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina, Coastal North Carolina, Coastal South Carolina, Ghosts and Legends of the Carolina Coasts, Ghosts of the Carolina Coasts, Lighthouses of the Carolinas, Lighthouses of the Carolinas for Kids, and Lowcountry Voodoo.

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A Guest Post by Bruce Hunt, author of Visiting Small Town Florida

The question I get asked at book signings, more than any other question, is, “What’s the best Florida small town to live in?” And I always try to answer, first, by explaining that my book is a guide to visiting small towns in Florida, not a guide to moving to them. It’s actually written with big-city dwellers in mind, those who have had more than enough traffic jams, noise, and rude people during the week and just want to stay someplace 180 degrees different for a weekend. Then I explain to them that I actually live in a big city, so I’m probably not really qualified to evaluate small towns for their livability. I’m just the visiting guy. Besides, every person has different needs and, therefore, different criteria for deciding where to live.

Then, after my explanation, the next question they invariably ask is, “So, what’s the best Florida small town to live in?”

After several years of this I finally gave in and started telling them: “OK. If I were going to move to a Florida small town, here’s what I would look for. Mind you, these are just on my personal criteria for my own small-town livability needs. As the standard disclaimer goes: Your results may vary. It would have to be a town that understands the importance of, and embraces, its history. It would also have to be one that encourages the maintenance and restoration of its historic structures and neighborhoods. It would have to be a town that promotes itself as a destination for visitors interested in a historic place—that is the economic life-blood of nearly every successful Florida small town. It would have to be a vital, enthusiastic, friendly community of people who work hard to keep it that way. And one more thing—gotta have good restaurants! Here are four that ring all those bells: Apalachicola, up in the panhandle where the Apalachicola River spills into the Gulf; Fernandina Beach on the northern tip of Amelia Island; Mount Dora, in central Florida’s hills-and-lakes country; and Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island on the southwest coast.”

Bruce Hunt is the author of Visiting Small Town Florida, the third edition of which is due to be released in April. Visit his website at www.brucehuntimages.com

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