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First of Summer Turtle!

Rich and I have been counting the days till peak turtle nesting season.  It’s finally here!  We headed to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago and struck out – a long sweaty walk and no turtles.  This morning, we got there super early and found a turtle right behind the parking lot.  It’s all about being in the right place at the right time!  This was a Loggerhead sea turtle, the first adult we’ve seen at Archie Carr.  Last year we found only Green sea turtles.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

It was cloudy this morning, and this photo was taken about 30 minutes before sunrise.  I had my camera at ISO 128,000 in order to get shutter speeds in the range of 1/40.  Rich and I teased about how picky photographers are.  I mean, this turtle left the beach as a hatchling, circumnavigated the Atlantic Ocean, found a mate, and returned to the exact same beach where she was born. Couldn’t she have come onshore 15 minutes later? ;-)

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

The turtle heaved herself back into the ocean and swam off.  Rich and I continued on our hot, sweaty walk along the beach.  It feels so good just to get out there.  The landscape has changed since Hurricane Irma.  The storm washed away a lot of the sand (along with most of last year’s turtle nests), and there has been an effort to restore the sand and plant more sea grasses to keep the sand in place.  The turtles don’t mind.  They happily nest right on top of the freshly planted grasses.

Archie Carr after Irma

Archie Carr after Irma

The cloudy morning turned into a pretty day. Although we didn’t see any more turtles, we saw plenty of turtle tracks.  Below is a “false crawl”, where the turtle came onto the beach and then returned to the ocean without laying eggs.

False Crawl

False Crawl

When we first arrived, the beach was dark and almost totally empty. As we left, the beach was coming alive with people – fishermen, families, joggers, people walking their dogs.  It was nice.  A great start to the July 4 week.

Turtle Tracks at Sunrise

Turtle Tracks at Sunrise

Summer Day at LAWD

This week we had the first day of summer, and what better way to celebrate than a visit to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (LAWD)?  It’s been a while since I got out, and I savored every moment, although all I saw were “ordinary” birds.  Lots of juveniles growing up, and a wading bird convention off Lust Road with lots of fishing egrets and ospreys.

Osprey with Fish

Osprey with Fish

There were tons of wading birds along the far end of Lust Road, past the Crazy U and almost at the pump house. The water level seems to be lower than I’ve seen it since Hurricane Irma re-shaped the wildlife drive.  The water was full of fish, which attracted the birds.  Dozens of Snowy Egrets, a few Great Blue Herons, and a half dozen Osprey spent the morning flying low and grabbing fish.  I especially enjoyed watching the snowies, who looked like they walked on water as they pulled out minnow after minnow.

Snowy Egret Fisherbirds

Snowy Egret Fisherbirds

I stopped to listen the sounds of nesting wading birds in the distance, and then I noticed two Green Heron juveniles in the foreground.  You can tell they are juvies with their disheveled feathers sticking straight up from their heads.

Juvenile Green Heron

Juvenile Green Heron

It was a good day for Green Herons.  I saw them periodically throughout the drive. My favorite shot was taken on Laughlin by the bathrooms, where the bird was perched in some vegetation with some nice far-off greenery in the background.  The bird gave me a good head angle for a second or two and then flew off in search of his breakfast.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Dozens of Barn Swallows met me in their usual nesting sites.  I spotted a family of juveniles perched out on a branch.  They seemed hungry, and one bird was definitely young enough that he still needed to be fed by Mom.  I watched for a while, but Mom never came by with a bug.  But the birds still gave me cute moments, every time a bird flew by close enough to make them beg!

Barn Swallows Feeding

Barn Swallows Feeding

My last bird of the morning was one I heard before I saw.  “Sweet, sweet, sweeter, sweeter.”  Along Lake Level Road, you can spot Indigo Buntings sitting in the tops of the pine trees singing their hearts out.  It takes a long lens and a good crop, but they make a pretty picture!

Indigo Bunting Singing

Indigo Bunting Singing

World Turtle Day

Time to shellebrate!  It’s World Turtle Day!

Green Sea Turtle at Sunrise

Green Sea Turtle at Sunrise

World Turtle Day was established in the year 2000 to celebrate sea turtles, teach people about them, and in doing so, encourage protection of our favorite sea creatures.

If you are in Florida for the summer, consider going on a guided sea turtle nesting walk.  Volunteers with special permits take groups out onto the beach to watch the turtles lay eggs.  They have special colored lights that do not disturb the turtles but allow you to see as the creature drops her eggs in the sand.  The eggs hatch a few months later, and the babies make a mad dash to the ocean.  Those that survive grow up alone, never to meet their parents.  Yet female turtles return to the same exact spot on the beach to lay their own eggs in adulthood.  It’s amazing.

Rich and I have done turtle walks with the Sea Turtle Preservation Society and my family’s favorite “Turtle Museum”, aka the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach.

Hope your day is turtle-rific!

** Turtle puns provided free of charge at most turtle walks.  ;-)

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