Monday, October 10, 2022

Nature Journal - July 2022


            So, I knew this turtle season was only going to get crazier, but I really didn't expect THIS amount of crazy 😅  This is my first year since 2017 that I've worked 5 days a week doing survey, and WOW I forgot how hard it was!  I'm not sure if it's because I'm no longer in my 20s, or because we have to do more work now than 5 years ago, or because this is the hottest summer we've ever had, or because of all of the above, but this year has definitely been my toughest season yet.

But no matter how hard it gets, the babies always keep me going<3

All research conducted under FWC permit MTP-22-261 on ancestral land of the Seminole and Ais people.

Tour de Turtles

        Tour de Turtles is an event held all over Florida, organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy and hosted by several sea turtle groups, including the Disney Conservation Group in Vero Beach!  This even takes nesting females from the night before and attaches tracking devices to them, releasing them the next morning and following them along the rest of their journey at sea.  It’s an awesome program that’s been going on for over a decade, that helps us learn more about these sea turtle’s lives in the ocean, and gives people an ethical opportunity to see these endangered species up close, making meaningful connections that will hopefully grow into lifelong efforts to protect them.

        I was finally lucky enough to work the beach the morning of this year’s Tour de Turtles, and I brought my nice camera out to snap a few pics before finishing my survey.  This year Disney named their turtles after the new Avatar movie, and Neytiri and Ronal made a swift run back to the water!  You can now follow them and their journey on the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s website to see who swims the furthest distance in the next 3 months (along with other turtles they’ve tagged).

        And this year had a lil bonus turtle - a leatherback hatchling that we at Ecological Associates, Inc. rescued from inside a nest we dug up for reproductive success data.  These hatchlings are called “stragglers” and will most likely not make it out of their nest without assistance. It’s a natural occurrence, but a few get lucky when we dig our nests for research!  It was so wonderful seeing the crowd’s reaction to this little dude, and we hope he/she makes it to adulthood.

Micco Scrub Sanctuary

        I did get one brief moment in nature away from the beach this month, and hiked Micco Scrub with my mom for the first time!  I got to show her a couple crab spiders, loblolly bay in bloom, and we listened to the calls of eastern towhees and common nighthawks<3

Ancestral land of the Seminole and Ais people.

Nature Journal - June 2022

 June was yet another crazy month that flew by and lingered on all at the same time.  But amongst all the exhaustion and chaos, I had some amazing trips with friends, and visited places I hadn't been in a long time.

Emily's in Town!

             My dear friend Emily visited Florida for a week after being gone for over a year, and we had a LOT of catching up and exploring to do!

Micco Scrub Sanctuary

            We braved the summer heat and hiked the scrubby flatwoods, where I saw my first tarflower of the year, one of Florida's iconic summer blooms.  Their sticky bases had trapped dozens of honey bees, and I learned that native bees have evolved to eat their nectar while avoiding this strange trait of the flower, but non-native honeybees haven't.  It was eerie watching the green sweat bees hop from one flower to the other while the honeybees struggled, but it was a reminder of how nature doesn't accommodate for you.  It's nothing personal, it's just the way of the universe.

Ancestral land of the Seminole and Ais people.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

        Later we went to Merritt Island NWR with Shelby and Kate, something we hadn't all done in over 4 years!  June is the challenging birding month while all the seasonal residents fly north of the summer, but we saw our year-round wading bird residents put on a show for us, from dancing tricolored herons and great egrets, to nesting green herons, to hunting reddish egrets.  OH, and baby red-winged blackbirds!

Ancestral land of the Ais, Miccosukee, Timucua, and Mascogo people.

Photos taken circa 2018 (top) and 2022 (bottom)

Milkweed Extravaganza<3

        June-August is milkweed season, so Kate, Steff and I went on a scavenger hunt to find as many species as we could in one day this past Sunday!  There are 21 native milkweeds (and 1 non-native - Tropical milkweed) in Florida, but our goal was 11 species in and around Orlando.  We succeeded 💅 and found all 11 species amongst 7 public lands - Econlockhatchee Sandhills Conservation Area, Bronson State Forest, Chuluota Wilderness Area, Orlando Wetlands, Savage/Christmas Creek Preserve, Seminole Ranch Wildlife Management Area, and Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area. 

  • Butterfly milkweed
  • Velvet-leaf milkweed
  • Sandhill milkweed
  • Aquatic milkweed
  • Cuttiss’s milkweed
  • Savannah milkweed
  • Florida milkweed
  • Longleaf milkweed
  • Fewflower milkweed
  • Largeflower milkweed
  • Swamp milkweed

        Even though summer has the harshest elements of the year, it's an incredible time of year to be in Florida.  Gopher tortoise babies are hatching, swallow-tailed kites are here for the summer, and insects are abundant living their mysterious lives on flowers.  This is just the tip of the iceberg of real Florida.  When you venture inland from the tourist attracting coasts (which I also love, don’t get it twisted), there’s a world of wildflowers speckling prairies, sandy deserts with rainforest levels of biodiversity, and the chance to see something new at every corner.  While I want people to appreciate these habitats which are under so much threat from development, I’m kind of glad they’re the unpopular gem that I can explore all to myself.

Ancestral land of the Timucua and Mascogo people.

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

        The prairie is another place I haven't been to in a while, both from lack of time and for personal reasons.  It use to be my favorite place, but after the time I spent there last summer it started to only remind me of the hurt I felt.  It's crazy how much pain can be dug up from only a few months with someone.  But I don't want this place to be marked by that time anymore.  It was and always will be one of my favorite places.  A place that revives me with its character and beauty.  And that beauty will long outlive any pain I will ever feel<3

Ancestral land of the Calusa and Miccosukee people.

Beach Survey

And obvi, the turtles are still losing their minds<3

All research conducted under FWC permit MTP-22-261 on ancestral land of the Seminole and Ais people.