Friday, December 3, 2021

Young Dedicated Conservationists Making a Difference on Marco’s Beach

Photos by Yesi Olvera | Kath Ebaugh is Marco’s newest sea turtle monitor and is paired with Yesi Olvera—gathering data on the number of nests, successful hatches, hatchling numbers, etc., and report these to the County and State agencies.

Yesenia Olvera is a sea turtle monitor on Marco’s beaches. She has been sea turtle monitor with Collier County’s Sea Turtle Protection Program since the summer of 2017, and this is her fourth summer with the program.  

Photos by Jean Hall | Wilson’s Plover.

According to Yesifor the first 2 years, she paired up with Mary Nelson from mid-April to October. Mary trained Yesi on Marco’s beaches and they’ve become great friends. Yesi shared that she will miss having Mary with her this year with her passion and years of experience. Though retiredMary Nelson has agreed to be a volunteer whenever she is needed.  

For Yesi, the best part of being a sea turtle monitor is the feeling that shes making a difference and she is happy to do everything she can do help them survive. Sometimes it’s as simple as gathering the morning data and other times it is rescuing and releasing hatchlings that had become disoriented in the condo vegetation and the dunes. 

New with Yesi this summer is Kath Ebaugh who has taken the place of Tyler Beck. Both will patrol Marco’s 6-mile beach daily through October 31st. They will be very visible on their ATVs checking for signs of female sea turtles coming ashore to deposit their eggs from South Beach to the tip of Big Marco Pass. 

Brittany Piersma is also on the beach almost daily. In 2019, she started as a winter shorebird steward for the Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE). For this summer, she transitioned to a biologist steward for the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission (FWC).  

During the winter stewardship, Brittany experienced the peak of the migratory season in Marco and on Big Marco Pass. She watched a Black Skimmer chick she calls “Lil No Fly” take its first flight. She also saw the only banded Red Knot on Residents Beach with its red-flag 110 from Chile. In October, she spotted a Bar-Tailed Godwit feeding on the mudflats on Tigertail Beach, a species that migrates from Alaska to Eurasia. Definitely of course.  

From October 2019 through January 2020, Brittany has witnessed the devastating effects of a strong red tide on large fish, gulls, cormorants and terns. 

A highlight for Brittany was the successful rescue of a stranded manatee on December 31st. She witnessed the FWC Marine Mammal Rescue load and transfer the manatee to Zoo Tampa for further care. 

Photos by Maria Lamb | It is nesting season at the Critical Wildlife Area (aka Big Marco Pass) and Least Terns are pairing up and Wilson’s Plover nests are everywhere, so be careful where you step.

As part of her summer outreach, Brittany spoke to about 1,350 citizens on the beach and read 526 bird bands. While stewarding, she also managed to collect trash such as crab traps, tires and numerous plastic items. Brittany has rescued so many injured birds with fishing lines and hooks being a huge problem. She credits the amazing staff at the Von Arx Wildlife Hospital for their dedication toward saving as much rescued wildlife as possible. 

The 2020 summer nesting ritual is in full swing at Big Marco Pass (Sand Dollar Island) with Least Terns pairing up according to Piersma. Wilson’s Plover nests are everywhere with Black Skimmers scoping out nesting areas.  

Brittany cautions that disturbances such as dogs, drones and kite surfing can be detrimental to the survival of these threatened species during the summer nesting season on Big Marco Pass. 

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