The Dunes Beach First Sea Turtle Nest!

Turtle season is well under way!  We are thrilled to announce the first nest on our beach.  I was getting ready for work when I received a phone call from Jackie Issacs the Wildlife  Biologist from the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge.  She was invited me down to help and was gracious enough to let me make a little video.  This is a quick video of what a sea turtle nest  looks like and the processes it takes to move it to a safe place on the beach.  Watch our video and we hope to see you soon.  In 55 days the will be ready to hatch!  You can keep tabs on this nest and all the others on Alabama’s gulf coast at .  Hope this is a great start to your summer!

Here Come The Turtles!!!

Sea Turtle season stated yesterday and the very first patrol got to see a mother turtle preparing her nest and laying eggs.  Witnessing a mother sea turtle lay a nest is a once in a lifetime event.  Yesterday, the very first nest of the year was a Kemp’s Ridley Turtle.  This turtle is very rare to our area.  Tyically only one or two a year are all that we see.  This turtle is unusual because it lays its eggs during the day.

Mama turtle is heading home
Mama turtle is heading home

  This is a very vulnerable time for a mother turtle because during the daylight hours predators can see her dark body against the light sand in our area.  Most predators will leave her alone but they will go after her unprotected eggs once she heads back to the water.  This is why she buries them.  In fact she buries these ping pong ball like eggs so well often you can even tell she has been there.  The only tell tale sign is her flipper and body marks she left as she came out of the water and returned to it.  These marks are called a crawl.  This is what the volunteers from the share the beach program look for when doing morning patrols.

Once these nests are fond by the patrol they are dug up to make sure we know the exact placement of the eggs.  Once they are found if they are not too close to the water they are recovered and marked so that they are not trampled by visitors to the beach.  You will see them surrounded by 4 stakes and brightly colored ribbon arond with signs telling about the federally protected animal. 

After about 55 days the turtles are ready to hatch out of their leathery shells.  Once they are out they head to the surface of the nest whichs the beach. They take a brief rest on the beach they like little soliders they march often in line to the water just as quickly as they can.  The Kemps Ridley babies hatch during the day as well which makes them vulnrable as they make their way to the water.  Once in the water the babies look like they are flying.  They swim to the nearest seaweed bed to eat and grow for a few years.

We cannot always post when a nest is found however the Bon Scour refuge does keep trackof them and they have a site dedicated to Alabama Sea Turtles.  You can keep track of nests you may have seen on vacation.  You can also learn all sorts of information on this site about sea turtles.  Hopefully you and your family will have a chance to witness this once in a life time happening!

The migration has begun!!!

We see all kinds of animals migrate through our area. We sit in a unique area that allows us to witness birds, butterflies, even different sea life migrate past our little stretch of island. Right now we are enjoying our finely feathered friends as the migrate through. The Alabama Gulf Coast is a critical stopover point as migratory birds return from Central and South America. The bird banding station opens before dawn each day and;operations usually cease between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., depending on the flow of birds. Bring a lawn chair, binoculars and inquisitive mind but leave the pets at home.
Admission: Admission to Fort: $5:00 adults, $3:00 children 6-12, free to younger children. Banding is FREE.

Dates & Times
Mar 31, 2012 – Apr 12, 2012
Fort Morgan, 51 State Highway 180 West, Gulf Shores, AL 36542

The migration has begun and we are enjoying these beautiful painted beauties as rest right outside our door.

scarlet tanager
scarlet tanager

Dolphin Rescue At Navy Cove Thanksgiving Eve

I was just closing up our office to head home Thanksgiving Eve when I received a call from the refuge office at Bon Secour.  A year or two ago I went through some additional training to learn how to gather data from a stranded sea turtle and take care of it if need be.  Today it was not a stranded sea turtle. It was a stranded dolphin.  They asked me to go and take a look at the animal and help out how I could until the recovery team could get there.

Our maintenance man Jim Merrick was here with me and we received some brief training about what to do then headed that way.  Jim was there a few minutes before me and when I arived he was already knee deep in the water helping the dolphin stay upright.  I brought some towels to help keep it’s back moist and we waited.

While we waited we heard the story of how the dolphin was found.  Several owners and their children saw the dolphin splashing in the harbor and then it beached itself on shore at the head of the harbor. The owners headed to the cove and got the dolphin back into the water.  They even got it back into the deeper water where it could swim.  However, the dolphin was very sick and headed back to the shore.  Soon after, Fish and Wildlife were called to help.  The employees at the Bon Secour refuge contacted the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulf Port, Mississippi.  The IMMS were on their way to retrive the dolphin and move it to their rehab facility.

In the mean time, Jim and some of the owners from Navy Cove were helping the dolphin stay upright and damp while we waited.  Mike Reynolds from the “Share the Beach” program joined us and was in contact with IMMS throughout our wait.  The dolphin kept his eyes closed and seemed very confused. At one point he seemed to really be struggling so the helpful volunteers moved him a bit further out of the water and dug holes in the ground on each side so he could rest comfortably with his flippers in a resting position.

The night was getting cooler and our volunteers were getting weary after 3 hours of being wet and holding the 400 pound dolphin upright but they forged on.  We eased the hours by checking out the stars on the crystal clear night and coming up with a name for the dolphin that we now all claimed as our own.  The family that originally found the dolphin named him Chance.

Just a bit before 7 in the evening the IMMS showed up with a vehicle of doctors and helpers and a large box truck to transport the dolphin to the rehab facility in Mississippi.  They carefully examined the sick animal and then just as carefully loaded him on to the truck.  Since that day, we have heard that he is doing some better and seems to be improving daily.  It turns out that Chance is an unusual case and they are doing all they can to help him heal.  All of the dolphin found beached since the oil spill were dead.  Chance is the first live dolphin so he is getting some great attention from the doctors who are helping him.  We have so many things to be thankful for here at the beach and this experience is the newest on our list.

Here they come! Baby Sea Turtles in Ft. Morgan

It is that time of year, and we are so excited!!!  It is baby Sea Turtle time.  We have 33 nests so far and they have been laid throughout the summer.  They are just beginning to hatch and it is an amazing sight to see.  100 baby turtles the size of your palm, fighting their way out of their nest under the sand. Then they rest for just a bit while sniffing the air.  Soon they are ready to begin scurrying to the water in unison.  They traveling down a tarped pathway put up by The Share the Beach volunteers.  Once the get to the end of the tarped pathway they stop and sniff the air again.  Their instinct kicks in a and they move straight toward to the water.  Visitors and volunteers alike work together to make sure these babies avoid crabs and sea birds. 

If you have a chance come down and try to see this unique event.  Give us a call to book today!     Special thanks to Chris Edlin for sharing his photo with us!

Ft. Morgan Sea Turtles

Sea Turtles are our favorite local wildlife.  This time of year the Loggerhead Sea Turtles are in nesting mode.  Currently we have 27 nests in Ft. Morgan alone.  different government organizations have been stopping mother sea turtles this year and affixing tracking devices to their backs.  You can see the Sea Turtle Tracking on line.  Unfortunately it is not real time there is a 10 day lag time to when it is posted online.  That is not the only exciting news with Sea Turtles this year we have had several live releases of injured turtles this year as well.

In 55 Days after the nest is laid  in the sand the babies start to emerge.  Baby Turtles making their way to the water is a site not to be missed!  Our first nest in Ft. Morgan will be hatching out in the next week and then we should have at least one a week until October.  Check with us at the office and we can let you know where the next nest open to the public will be!  See you soon!

Bird Banding in Ft. Morgan

Each Spring and Fall Ft. Morgan has thousands of visitors I’m not talking about vacationers, I’m talking about the feathered kind. It is time again for our friends from the HBSG (Hummer / Bird Study Group) are here tagging and studying our feathered friends again.

The birds that they tag each Spring fly across the Gulf of Mexico north from Central America and Mexico. The often fly 20 hours or more to make it to Fort Morgan, which is for many of the birds the first land they see after traveling. The HBSG stretches extremely fine nets between trees to catch the birds as they land. Once a bird is trapped in the net a member of of HBSG carefully frees the bird and transports it to the tagging station. at the tagging station the bird is identified, weighed, measured, and banded. Each band has a number specific to that bird that will not be duplicated. Some of the birds the hummers especially are given a chance to refuel from a special sugar water mixture. Then these birds are released, to go on their way.

The members of the HBSG study for years to learn about the birds they will band and measure, then they continue their education with years of training on how to handle and properly gather data from the birds. The valuable information that this group gathers provides information on migration and population patterns for birds of all types. If you are in Fort Morgan, Alabama bird banding is not to be missed. The banding takes place just near the entrance of the fort grounds. To watch the banding and maybe even let a bird go, there is a $5 entrance fee for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children. We wanted to say a special thanks to Our friend Ellen who shared some pictures with us this year. She has volunteered with the HBSG for several years and stays with Sunset while shes here. Apparently this beautiful woodpecker let everyone know he was very unhappy by pecking anyone who came near.

Snapper Season Open each weekend until Nov. 22nd

Time to break out your fishing polls and put on some sunscreen, it is Snapper Season each weekend until November 22nd.  I’m not sure who came up with the idea but they were brilliant!!! Instead a few weeks earlier in the year,  Now it is Snapper Season every weekend in the fall.  Almost every man I know in the area is busy every weekend fishing for the fun and great tasting fish.

So now is the time folks, book your condo, bring your boat down or schedule a charter and get ready to have some fun!!!  The snapper are huge, and available every weekend.  Oh, and don’t forget about the ladies in your life, if they are not interested in fishing themselves, there are beautiful white sand beaches and world class shopping for them to enjoy in the area.  The fall is the beast time of year to come to the beach with its small crowds and perfect weather and low rates, who could ask for more???  Give us a call for specials.  See you soon!!!!

9/14/10 The Dunes Beach Update

It is a BEAUTIFUL day today at The Dunes Beach in Fort Morgan! It is great fall weather that kind of masquerades as summer during the day.  It is in the low 90’s very sunny, a nice breeze that cools the sand off perfectly right now.  In the mornings and evenings the temps are in the low 70’s.  The water is perfectly clear and the blue crabs are out in full force.  while we still have a small crowd, they are enjoying the beach and all of it’s beauty this time of year.  Check out our video for today!   09/14/10 The Dunes Beach Update in Ft. Morgan       

We have specials starting as low as $299.00 for 3 nights  for Bon Jovi or Brad Paisley tickets.  Call today to book your condo with tickets!!!!