Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hurricane Bill - The good, the bad, and the waves

If you're a surfer, Hurricane Bill passing our shores (albeit far to the east, thankfully) was cause for celebration. Our intrepid beach reporter Margie is not given to hyperbole, but she described Friday as
Glorious day. Surfer heaven. Wave watcher paradise.
(Photo by Margie Mitchell - click photos to enlarge)

There's a downside, of course. Dangerous rip currents (powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore) resulted in one death in Volusia County. The rough seas could also sweep sea turtle hatchlings headed for the Sargasso back to shore (hence the term washbacks). So far, Sea Turtle Preservation Society volunteer Ann has not reported a washback event resulting from Bill, and we'll keep our flippers crossed that none occur. (We'll have a complete post on washbacks soon.)

You'll remember Bree Varda, Brevard's entry into the Tour de Turtles. Well, Bree is in third place, and apparently endorses the philosophy that discretion is the better part of valor. Florida Today reports: Bree Varda seems to be getting out of Dodge. She swam well west of Hurricane Bill on Thursday, the last time she surfaced long enough for trackers to get a satellite signal. She had covered about 314 miles in 19 days and was heading south toward Grand Bahama. She trails in the race behind two leatherback turtles, a much larger species. Those two turtles, Naya and Luna, seem on a collision course with Bill. (Photo by Jim Angy)

The good news - Rocio Johnson of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation notes: Being sea turtles, the racers in this event are ably equipped to survive the gauntlet of storms, but scientists with Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), who are tracking the turtles by satellite, are excited at the opportunity to learn more about how endangered sea turtles are able to navigate through major ocean storms during their migrations.

The increased tides were not good news for our Black Skimmer families - Margie says a lot of the skimmer nests were overwashed. I suppose the eggs are still viable and the birds are trying to reorganize, so maybe they'll be ok. It also looked to me like a lot of eggs hatched last night. There were absolutely more chicks out there this morning than yesterday, and I saw quite a few little tiny ones. A scientist from Florida Fish and Wildlife Species Conservation Planning Section has been tracking the Skimmer nesting all summer and was on hand Friday to photograph the nests and the birds. Margie says she moved the the eastern boundary of the posted skimmer nesting area as far back as she could without putting eggs outside the stakes, but you can see from the wrack line how far up the beach the waves have come. (Photo by Margie Mitchell)

Reference Links:
Rip Currents (NOAA web site - a good explanation)
Tour de Turtles (Track the racers - neat graphics)


Cactus Jack Splash said...

Yeah for the turtles!
I hope all the skimmers do well with Hurricane Bill

Sylvia said...

We were at the beach on Friday too and the waves looked bigger than normal. I also noticed that the water looked more greenish/turquoise than normal...or was it just my eyes? lol We were at Cherry Downs, the weather was perfect! Love your turtle stories too.