Monthly Archives: March 2016

Leatherback hatchlings from last Summer

Summer has arrived in south Florida

Our cooler weather here in south Florida did not last long. We have slipped right into summer conditions. Temperatures today have reached 86F/30C with a relative humidity of 56%. They are predicting another cold front by Sunday. The cool dry air will not last long. After this next cold front, we probably will not see drier air until the middle of October again. Humidity and temperatures will start climbing before the end of March so it is time to explore the beaches and enjoy the sea breeze.

Turtle season runs from March thru October in south Florida

Sea turtle season has also started. The season runs from March until the end of October. Thousands of turtles will soon start arriving on east coast beaches to lay eggs. We had a record season last year. My first encounter with nesting sea turtles occurred a few years ago. I was lucky to be on the beach at the end of the day when a female leatherback turtle weighing hundreds of pounds crawled onto the beach and started digging a nest. The three main species that nest in Florida are leatherback, loggerhead, and green sea turtles. Florida’s most common variety of sea turtle is the loggerhead which averages over 200 lb/90 kg. The leatherback is much bigger and reaches 1,540 lb/700 kg.

Last summer while searching for fish near the water’s edge, I noticed the biologists running in their all terrain vehicles up and down the beach. They conduct surveys of the turtle nests during the season. One of the scientists, stopped her all terrain vehicle and started digging in the sand not far from where I was standing. The images below tell the rest of the story. If you are lucky you might find a leatherback next time you go to the beach. Don’t forget that plastic is deadly to turtles and other animals. Bring a bag with you to the beach and haul out some plastic trash.

 

biologist digs a turtle nest

Research biologist digs out a turtle nest

 

leatherback turtle eggs and nest

Turtle eggs are soft shelled and are buried deep in the sand

leatherback hatchling

Just out of the nest and facing a long way to the water’s edge

leatherback flippers

Notice the large well developed flippers on this leatherback

biologists survey turtle nest

The nest must be covered after the inspection

leatherback turtle hatchlings

These two turtles are reaching the water’s edge

Everglades National Park

The dry season is the best time to visit

The Everglades has two very distinct seasons – the dry season which runs from November to April and the wet season which lasts from May to November. It was the last weekend in February and a cold front was predicted to push through the peninsula bringing cooler drier air. I wanted to take advantage of the improved hiking conditions so I decided to explore the Everglades National Park. The dry season down here attracts many birds. The wet season brings out the insects. Believe me when I say it is not a lot of fun to go out fishing or hiking with bugs all around you. Insects can be present all the time. Even during the dry season visitors to the park should be prepared for mosquitoes and a variety of biting flies.

The 3rd largest national park in the lower 48 states, behind Yellowstone National Park and Death Valley National Park

The Everglades spans across 1.5 million acres that stretch over the southern part of Florida. The park has three main areas. We entered through the Homestead visitor center to get maps and trail information. The park ranger informed us that high water levels had scattered the birds and wildlife throughout the park. Visiting the Everglades lets you explore a vast diversity of eco-systems. There is a lot of area to explore and I can see myself spending a week here but I only had 2 days. Some of the trails that we explored were the Eco Pond trail, the Anhinga trail, the Gumbo Limbo trail, the Pahayokee overlook, and the Mahogany Hammock trail. Looks like another visit will happen soon. Here are some images from my visit.

anhinga everglades

The anhinga is a large bird that likes to dry out its feathers in the sun

mockingbird everglades

The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is renowned for its mimicking ability

butterfly

The Ecopond trail was full of butterflies. Here is a Junonia evarete

cardinal everglades

A female northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). The male was not far behind.

hermit thrush everglades

Brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) forage on the forest floor for insects