The entire Ft. Myers area was immersed in rain as we flew in on Saturday. The result was flood waters all over Sanibel. We were amazed to see catfish slithering along in parking lots and roadsides. In heavy rains, the inland waterways on Sanibel overflow their banks, and out come the catfish.

By Sunday morning the rains had ceased, and the weather was calm and beautiful. A nearly full moon tried to peek through the thick cloud cover as I began my first beach walk of the season. I didn’t have to go far to find the first turtle nest – it lies right at the end of our beach access path.

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Two more nests are marked nearby. I sat between them and watched the sunrise, thinking about these ancient reptiles and their journeys through the sea and up its edge to find the perfect place to build their nests.

Sanibel loggerheads have broken records the past two seasons for number of nests. Biologists speculate that the rules about shrimp trawling, first vigorously enforced 20-30 years ago, are finally showing an effect. Loggerhead turtles that would have drowned in shrimp nets are today alive in the Gulf, and are building nests in record numbers. A success story, and a lesson – sometimes success takes a long time to appear.

20170611_062956Unfortunately, many of the nests the past two seasons have not hatched. It is believed that the greater than normal sand temperatures have baked many of the baby turtles inside their eggs. Will the turtles adjust to these higher temperatures? Will the center of loggerhead nesting move away from Florida, and onto cooler beaches? Of course, if warming continues unabated, Florida itself will disappear beneath the waters of the Gulf and the Atlantic – an unhappy ending for a place as beautiful as this.

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Turtles weren’t the only story on Day 1. While standing in the surf, I saw a dolphin spinning about for breakfast. Marsh rabbits were busy nibbling on the water-softened plants near the beach. I even saw our first lizard of the season. Usually the lizards are thick; the wet and relatively cool weather must have kept them undercover. Maybe today they’ll appear.

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