Friday, July 1, 2011

A new moon at The Reserve: bringing out the turtle in all of us

A new moon is a time for new beginnings. This is a fine thing when one is recuperating from a technological perfect storm and renewing one's communications with the rest of the world, and so the GTM blog begins anew today.

The new beginning was kicked off perfectly by a brown bag lunch and learn session with Scott Eastman, The Reserve's biologist with specific expertise in sea turtles. Scott's presentation focused chiefly on green turtles, and the question of whether or not they have an established presence in local estuarine waters. He shared an up-close-and-personal look at the process of data collection, observation and scientific process around the topic so even the kids in the room could understand. And some of the detail was quite close to home for those of us who live in St. Augustine, as one factor in his research was the presence of several green turtles who surprised everyone by turning up thriving and healthy in a pond near the Mission of Nombre de Dios, just a short walk from downtown St. Augustine. The audience ranged from experienced volunteer sea turtle patrol members to little kids to those who've seen photos of Dori, the green turtle who's been the subject of much of this research, in the St. Augustine Record or at Regardless of background or age, we were all fascinated. Great job, Scott! And it was no surprise to learn that one of the biggest obstacles to the expansion of this research and all it might reveal to us about our own local green turtle populations is funding. There are issues of permitting to ensure protection of endangered and threatened species, and the team has the expertise to work through those challenges. No team, however expert, can work without the funds. If this is a place you can lend a hand, let us know or step on over to the Friends of the GTM Reserve, where a disciplined non-profit board can lend a reliable hand.

A new moon also means some astronomically dramatic high and low tides, so a walk on the beach was called for after Scott's talk. It was perfectly beautiful, the blue sky's bank of clouds held back over the St. Johns by light east winds. The walk was punctuated by an unexpected guest who'd been the subject of some conversation at the Brown Bag session. Last weekend, members of the Sea Turtle Patrol were asked by a beachgoer to check on the welfare of a turtle who'd been spotted in the dunes, not far from the boardwalk at the North Lot. When they investigated, they found no lost or injured sea turtle; in fact, they found no turtle at all. When we talked about it with them, we laughed because we've often seen a large gopher tortoise, a land turtle, foraging and sunning in this area. And as we left the beach today, who should quite literally cross our path at the foot of the boardwalk but this local denizen?
The perspective isn't great in the photo, and you can't see how quickly she's moving (but she is MOVING, believe me!) but she is easily half-again the size of a dinner plate. Lots of photos were taken before she disappeared into the grasses on the north side of the walk over. And with that, The Reserve kicked off another great weekend - and new beginning - for those who were able to enjoy it. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend, and don't miss the chance to boat, kayak, surf, trail-walk or simply soak up the sun. See you at The Reserve!

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