Happy World Sea Turtle Day

June 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Posted in Creature Feature, Endangered Encounters | Leave a comment
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Happy World Sea Turtle Day, creature lovers! It’s not exactly easy to be a sea turtle. From the moment they hatch, they face the struggles of artificial light disorientation and being eaten by predators, to growing up and facing the dangers of ingesting litter and being struck by boats, all the way to having their nests poached when its their time to return to the beach from which they hatched to lay their eggs. Humans really seem to have turned out to be their worst enemy. But no matter where you are in the world, you can help. Help save our turtles, and the oceans they live in! Pick up trash, say no to plastic bags, make the switch to environmentally friendly lighting to reduce sky glow. Lets save what we have left for future generation to enjoy! A turtle that hatches today could still be around for our great grandchildren to enjoy, let’s be sure they are.

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Sea Turtle Day

February 28, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Posted in Animal Events, Endangered Encounters, For the Family | Leave a comment
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Here we are, the last day of February.  Spring is just around the corner!  The month of March begins tomorrow, and what an important month it is!  Obviously I’m talking about my birthday being in March, next week I turn… ummm… you know what, let’s talk about what else is happening in March.  St. Patricks Day!  Also a big deal to me personally, but the subject’s I write about here aren’t really into green beer.  If you’re near the coast you probably already know that March 1st is the official kick off to Sea Turtle Season!  Soon enough Leatherback Sea Turtles will be making their way to shores and laying their eggs, followed by other species later in the season.  Welcoming Sea Turtle Season in a big way is Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, FL, celebrating it’s 8th Annual Sea Turtle Day this Saturday, March 2nd.

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If you’re in the area, be sure not to miss this wonderful event.  It’s a great family day – there will be face painting, crafts for kids, guided tours, animal presentations, and so much more, all to benefit our friend the Sea Turtle and raise awareness about the harm that light pollution causes this endangered species.  Come out for the day with the kids and check out some of the patients in the turtle hospital, animals who were sick or injured, rescues, and are now being rehabilitated until they are able to be released back into the big blue.

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While you’re here you can also learn about FAU’s research and what they’re doing to help the Sea Turtle survive.  You can pop inside one of the labs and see young Turtles of several species under the care of the research team.  Come late turtle season, this facility will be filled with new hatchlings, gaining size and strength before being released into the ocean.  You can also learn about the centers Sea Turtle Walks, night time walks to hopefully catch a glimpse of the amazing sight of a mother Sea Turtle coming ashore to lay her eggs, and Hatchling Releases, the adorable sight of watching little ones that were under the care of Gumbo Limbo scurry into the ocean, their home for hopefully the next 100+ years.

So head on out, enjoy the day!  Sadly, I will not be able to attend, so enjoy it for me! (I will be taking advantage of one last cool weekend in Homosassa Springs to see the Manatee’s before Manatee Season comes to an end at the end of March)  If you go, let me know how it was!

For more information on Sea Turtle Day, or Sea Turtles in General, please visit here…

http://www.gumbolimbo.org/Sea-Turtle-Day-2013

Shark Reef Aquarium, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

January 11, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Posted in For the Family | Leave a comment
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I know, Las Vegas probably isn’t what you would expect to find within my blog.  But here we were, in Vegas for my Mother’s wedding (talk about something I never thought I would say), and looking for ways to entertain my 2 year old.  Luckily I had done my homework (and some scouting 3 years before during my last visit) so I knew that on the South end of The Strip, located at Mandalay Bay, was the wondrous Shark Reef Aquarium!  A beautiful, AZA accredited, nearly 1.6 million gallon underwater wonderland which is home to 15 species of sharks and over 2,000 animals.

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The Shark Reef Aquarium offers more than just aquatic life.  Upon entering you will find several species of reptiles, including the rare Golden Crocodile and giant Komodo Dragon.  Of course, if the scaled type isn’t for you, keep on walking, there is much more ahead!

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Once you’ve passed by the reptile area, you’ll find yourself looking at a wall of beautiful tropical fish and sharks.  The fish feel close enough to touch, and if it weren’t for the glass separating you, they really would be.  The animals glide by the glass, they’re not shy at all, and often stop right in front of you.  The children absolutely loved how close they were, but you could see the inner child in all the adults were just as fascinated.

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As you continue on, you’ll walk through a tunnel that will give you a full view all around you.  We thought one of the coolest sights was to see sharks gliding above us and get a good look at their sharky smiles.  It’s an area you can easily spend all day in, but you haven’t even gotten to the coolest stuff yet…

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The next area is a lot of fun for the kids!  There is a tank full of the beautiful and venomous Lion Fish, a tank full of glowing Jellyfish, an Octopus with quite a personality, a wall full of gliding Rays, and everyone’s favorite, the touch tank! Here you have the chance to touch a Sting Ray, Horseshoe Crab, or even a small Nurse Shark.  There is always staff watching over to tell you the best way to greet the animals and answer any questions you might have.

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After you pull your kids (or yourself) out of the touch tank, you’ll be on to the main event – the sunken shipwreck.  Here, you’ll stand inside the sunken ship where you can, at some points, have a full 360* view of the water surrounding you.  This area is home to over 30 sharks, as well as large fish, rays, and sea turtles.  The sharks aren’t shy at all, they will come right up to the glass, wowing anyone nearby.  It’s a place you could easily enjoy all day, and since the sharks are always on the move, you’d never get bored.

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IF YOU GO:

Plan accordingly, you’ll want to allow yourself enough time to enjoy it all!  For more information, visit here…

http://www.sharkreef.com/

Home At Last – Cindy the Sea Turtle’s Release

November 16, 2012 at 3:52 am | Posted in Endangered Encounters, For the Family | Leave a comment
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For my regular readers out there, you may remember this beautiful face from my recent trip to Gumbo Limbo.  Cindy, a Loggerhead Sea Turtle, had been brought to their Turtle Hospital back in July after being rescued by fishermen off of Pompano Beach.  She was the victim on a shark attack that in which she lost one of her front flippers and left the other nearly severed.  She also had bite marks on her shell and head, it was a miracle that she escaped alive.  She was in terrible shape when she was brought in and her fate was unkown.  Surgery was done on her front right flipper and it was saved, she fought off the infection, started putting on weight, and made an unbelievable recovery.  Today, 104 days after being admitted to the Turtle Hospital at Gumbo Limbo, Cindy was finally returning to her home in the Atlantic Ocean.

To say Cindy’s release drew a crowd would not do the event justice.  After all, with having spent nearly 4 months at Gumbo Limbo, she had become quite popular with a lot of families.  Young and old, all ages came out to see Cindy’s release, drawing an estimated crowd of nearly 500 people.  Everyone line up from the water up to the dunes, making a path in the middle for Cindy to head out to sea.

So how does a sea turtle make her way down to the shore?  At around 140lbs, she isn’t exactly a lightweight.  Cindy arrived to the beach by way of a baby pool on the back of a Gator.  She was driven to her path as everyone eagerly watch and waited for her to make her way.

After a brief speech by Gumbo Limbo Staff, Cindy was lifted out of the back of the Gator to be brought to the waters egde.  In the photo above, you can see Cindy’s battle wounds, the scars on her front right flipper, and you can see how close she came to losing it.  On this flipper she also sports a new piece of turtle jewlery, her ID tag.

Volunteers set Cindy at the waters edge and she knew where she was.  Cheers and applauding rang out from the crowd as she scooted herself into the water.  Upon hitting the water, she took a sharp right and swam directly at those of us who were lucky enough to be right there.  And just like that, after her brief tour of the shallow water, Cindy turned to the left and headed out to deeper water.  We watched as she crossed over the sand bar and out to sea, cheering her on.

Cindy is living proof of the great work the folks at the Gumbo Limbo Turtle Hospital are doing.  She exceeded all expectations in her recovery and today everyone’s hard work paid off – Cindy is finally home.

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center – Boca Raton, FL

October 17, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Posted in Endangered Encounters, For the Family | Leave a comment
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A few weeks ago, with the unusual occurance of having some time to kill, I took my son to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton.  Even though we are just around the corner from there at least once a week, we hadn’t been since around April, so I decided it was time to go and see the newly opened tanks.  We went on a great day – the crowd was light, the tanks were beautiful, and the Turtle Hospital was open.

As usual, our first stop was the Butterfly Garden.  Even though the garden is in full bloom in the summer, there is never a shortage of butterflies here.  The Butterfly Garden is part of a trail system that will lead you through a wooded area and down to the intercoastal with a beautiful view.  If you’re lucky, you may see a manatee cruising by.

Gumbo Limbo has 4 new saltwater tanks on display – 2 shallow and 2 deep, all representing different types of Florida environments.  The two shallow water tanks show you a coastal mangrove system with an island and mangroves, and a shallow water reef.  You can expect to see tropical fish here as well as fish like needle fish and even baracuda.

Thw two deep water tanks are where all the action is at and the best views of the animals living inside.  These tanks represent a coral reef and an artificial reef.  The artificial reef is not yet complete and is expected to be getting a shipwreck later this year.  Complete or not, they’re still great fun!  From the bottom, you can get a front row seat to animals cruising by the glass.  In these tanks you’ll see colorful Parrot Fish, busy Sting Rays, lines of Lobster marching along, and a family of Sharks. (Momma is in one tank, several of her babies are in the other).  If you really want to see some action try to go around feeding time, which I believe is around 12:30.  These tanks will also become homes to Sea Turtles after completion.

Also newly opened is Gumbo Limbo’s Turtle Hospital.  This facility is equipted to take care of sick of injured Sea Turtles like “Cindy” (pictured above) who was brought to the facility back in July after a shark attack nearly severed her front right flipper and fishermen found her injured.  Surgery managed to save what was left.  Along with Cindy are other turtles being treated for entanglement and injuries caused by boats.  These turtles are a good lesson to us all to be more mindful and clean up after ourselves.  Turtles easily confuse plastic bags with their delicacy of jelly fish, litter is obviously very dangerous to them.

Just around the corner from the Turtle Hospital is another endangered animal in a shell, Gumbo Limbo’s resident Gopher Tortoises.  Here, guests have a chance to see the normally rather shy tortoise up close in a natural habitat made for them amongst the boardwalk area leading to the tanks and FAU classrooms.  If you come at snack time, you’ll be sure to see them.  Otherwise, look into the burrows, there’s usually somebody home.

IF YOU GO:

Learn more about Gumbo Limbo and the wonderful things they do here… http://www.gumbolimbo.org/Home

While this is a free place to visit, be a greatful visitor and throw them a donation.  They take care of a lot of critters, help them out.

There are also lots of things for the kids to do inside the nature center itself as well as a boardwalk that has an observation tower and also leads to part of Red Reef Park.  There is no picnicing at Gumbo Limbo, but you’re more than welcome to make the walk to Red Reef Park to picnic there.  Just remember, don’t feed the animals.

Please be respectful of the animals and keep the new tanks looking new, don’t tap on the glass.  Noise is much louder in water, it really can frighten the animals.

ENJOY!

Feeding Time at Deerfield Beach

September 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Endangered Encounters, The Wild Side | 2 Comments
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It had been a while since I had gone snorkeling, so I headed out to good ol’ reliable Deerfield Beach with my friend and her sister to see what was happening at the reef.  We had no idea how exciting this impromptu snorkel adventure was going to be!

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I’ll be honest – it started out less than stellar.  Ever since the first row of reef has been covered by sand from storms, the sea life seems a little less adundant.  It was starting to look a little bit like a reef ghost town by the time we reached the front of the reef.  We quickly learned to head to the back side of the row of reef and you’ll find more activity.  We headed South, as usual, to where the sea turtles usually hang.

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The back side of the (was 2nd row) now first row is full of colorful fish and is more or less like a nursery.  You’ll find juvenile Sgt. Majors, Tangs and Surgeonfish, Triggers, Puffers, Parrot Fish, and Wrasses as well as smaller fish like Coco Damsels and Blennies.  They’re always out and about feeding and they’re not usually terribly shy.

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Amongst the least shy of them all are the young French Angelfish that call this reef home.  What seems to be a “friendly” personality of them swimming right out to you is actually them standing their ground and letting you know thei is their home and they’re not looking for a room mate, but they’re far from aggressive (with people, anyway) and as long as you’re respectful of them they’ll put on a great show for you and happily “smile” for a photo.

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I highly recommend taking a deep breath, diving down, and getting a closer look at things.  Otherwise you might miss something cool like this Scorpion Fish, who looked like part of the rock until I was about a foot away from him.  If you’re snorkeling, diving down gives you a great chance to see a lot of different things that you wouldn’t see from the top.  On the same note, if you decide to go in for that closer look, DON’T grab on to anything to hold yourself down.  Aside from the damage you could do to the reef and anything alive that you might accidentaly touch, it’s very easy to cut yourself or get stung by something living on the rock.  Also, trust me when I tell you, you don’t want to ever grab a big handful of Scorpion Fish as certain species can pack a nasty venomous punch.

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It was at the time that we were admiring a rock covered in colorful fish, including the Scorpion Fish, that I had the feeling we were being watched.  There’s nothing creepier than feeling eyes on you out in the ocean, or at least there’s not when you were watching Shark Week an hour before being in the water.  I turned to my right to find this adorable Sea Turtle who appeared to be fish watching with us.  It seemed to be more than happy to be in our presence.

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We were clearly too busy admiring the Sea Turtle to even notice what we had swam into… that is, until we saw it taking a big bite out of a Jellyfish.  We looked around and realized that we had swam into a mini swarm of jellies!  That quickly explained why the little Sea Turtle wasn’t in a rush to leave, we had accidentaly stumbled into its buffet.  Normally, panic would have kicked in, but considering we hadn’t been stung yet (and with my luck, if anyone was going to get stung, it would have been me) so we hung out and quietly cheered him on as he demolished jellyfish after jellyfish.

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This had turned out to be the coolest Sea Turtle encounter we had ever had!  After feeding, he swam amongst us as if we belonged in the same world.  He even approached my friends brightly colored fins like he was going to touch them.  As we had learned in SCUBA classes, brightly colored air tank boots often attract Sea Turtles, so we joked that this little guy must have had a crush on her fins.  We could have stayed out there forever, except now we were starting to feel the jellyfish!

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IF YOU GO:

The reef structure at Deerfield is much different than it was before a year ago, you have to swim out further to get to the reef.  It is now more important than ever to make sure you have a dive flag!  Sure, lifeguards will alert boats coming too close to shore, but boats don’t always hear or pay attention.  It’s for your own safety!  Also, as always, while you can come in to shore from anywhere, you must go out to the reef from the private stretch of beach.  If you’re looking for the turtles, go out there and swim South.  That is where I find them every time!  JUST REMEMBER – Sea Turtles are ENDANGERED and federally protected.  While it goes without saying to respect ALL the sea life you encounter, be mindful of these guys.  While photographing this turtle there was no chasing or touching happening, he was with us on his own and if he swam away that would have been it.  The best thing to do is let them be and remember you’re a guest in their world… this typically leads to humans seeming less threatening and a better viewing of wildlife.

Have fun and enjoy!

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