Monday, May 16, 2011

GTM weekend

So Saturday I tweeted enthusiastically about getting to the beach for a walk (or a wave, or a paddle, or whatever) just about 2 hours before this rather dramatic thunderstorm brewed up around us - yikes! But it was a beautiful walk in the north section of the GTM beach. Did anyone get out to the planned beach walk at the South walkover? It sounded like a great outing for new fans and old hands alike - if you were there (or just have thoughts about GTM NMERR events) please email and let us know. We'll try to share thoughts and insights using this forum. (You can email, and you can also contact us at our Friends of the Reserve site.)

The first sea turtle nest of the season has been noted, umm, more or less: I noted we'd seen N2. Some of you have probably seen N1 - and we want to know about it if you have. The dedicated biologists who work at the Reserve and the equally dedicated volunteers will have made detailed notes about it, and we'll be working to provide that info to everyone as the season unfolds. But for now, informal info and updates are welcome...keep those cards and letters coming, folks!

Finally, in the face of the changing weather this weekend I was torn between watching the eternally optimistic surfers and grabbing my dear old person to head for shelter off the beach. Before we left, though, on an astronomically low tide, in one of the clear, gorgeous tide pools, this sand dollar reflected the perfect light. Enjoy.

Oh, and...let us hear from you!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

First sea turtle nest sighting - N 2

With the arrival of May each year everyone who lives at, visits or loves the beaches of northeast Florida is reminded of the return of sea turtles to our shores. It's the beginning of the season during which turtles return over and over again to the areas from which they entered the water as hatchlings, this time to lay their own eggs. People who live at the beaches must be careful about lighting at nighttime, when turtles come ashore to dig nests and lay eggs, and hatchlings try to navigate from sand to sea. Those of us who visit the beaches must be thoughtful about how we change things by our presence: when we dig metal detector and fishing pole holes and sand castle moats, we're creating potential death traps for baby sea turtles. When we leave behind the even the most innocent-seeming garbage we may be leaving booby traps from which baby turtles and other wildlife can't escape. The good news? We get to watch the progress of the season, and take a small part in the successful efforts to preserve these amazing animals.

In 2010, the beaches of GMT MERR hosted more sea turtle nests than ever before in the recorded history of the organization. Is there a correlation between the amazing numbers of nesting turtles and the BP oil spill? Biologists think not, because turtles come home to nest, so to speak. As an observer, I credit Mother Nature and applaud the support She got from the biologists and other staff members at GMT MERR and especially the volunteers whose vigilant care helps ensure the success of these delicately balanced species.

Haven't seen it for yourself? Come on out! You can park in any of the three lots along A1A, walk across the road and enjoy a stroll on a pristine beach. Keep your eyes peeled for markers like the ones shown in the photo. Sometimes you can see the remaining imprint left in the sand by the body of a sea turtle. Now and then you might encounter one of those volunteers and have a chance to chat briefly about the work they do. And even if you don't, you'll have had a bracing walk along one of the most beautiful and best-protected beaches in the southeastern U.S. Don't forget the sunscreen. You'll want to stay awhile.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Turtle nesting season, 2011

There is SO much interesting stuff happening at the GTM Reserve this month, including a nature walk down at the GTM Center at Marineland. For those of us who came of age in northeast Florida, the very word "Marineland" evokes the Florida of the 1950s and '60s: dolphins jumping through hoops, movies being filmed (remember "The Creature from the Black Lagoon"??), a bar we'll always remember for its design and the manager, Norton Baskin, husband of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. In later years the facility became more and more closely associated with world-class research through the Whitney Labs and GTM proudly takes its part in the legacy of research, learning and preservation. So much to talk about, so much to share.

Most timely? It's May! This means the sea turtle nesting season is officially underway. Many of you will remember 2010 as the most stellar year since we started recordkeeping for sheer numbers of sea turtle nests in the GTM Reserve. There were more than TWICE the average number of nests last year, so we're all watching with extra interest as this season gets underway. We'll try to keep you posted here, and in the meantime all your efforts are much appreciated. Remember that lights on the beach at night disorient turtles and may prevent successful nesting. Holes you dig on the beach, if not filled in before you leave, may be deadly to baby turtles heading out to sea. Pick up garbage and take it with you when you leave. And not just your own. Things wash up. Things like fishing line and old balloons are also potentially deadly to wildlife. Every cleanup effort is meaningful and micro-cleanup is perfectly painless.

Other volunteer opportunities are often available, so visit the Education Center, email ( or call 904.823.4500 if you can help.

Updates coming soon!