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12/15/18 6:07am
12/15/2018 6:07 AM

Stranded and cold-stunned.

This is the fate of most sea turtles when the cold November weather arrives. The abrupt drop in the temperature of the Long Island Sound makes it difficult for sea turtles to adjust.

“When we transition from prolonged summers where it’s still warm, to four inches of snow, that’s misleading to the turtles,” said Maxine Montello, program director of Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. “They’re not able to leave in a timely fashion and get to warmer water quickly, so they end up getting stuck in our bays and in the Sound.”

But members of the Riverhead organization are saving these endangered sea turtles one North Fork beach at a time.

A 30-pound loggerhead sea turtle, named 33, was cold-stunned and floating in the Sound at Iron Pier Beach in Jamesport Wednesday morning when the Riverhead Foundation emergency response team stepped in.

There are four species of endangered sea turtles that can wash up on Long Island beaches: Atlantic green, leatherback, Kemp’s ridley and loggerhead — like 33, who received its name because it’s the 33rd turtle the organization has rescued this season.

Another loggerhead, 34, was spotted upside down in the Sound at Kenny’s Beach in Southold Wednesday morning.

“That’s a hot spot,” she said. “We get a lot from both of those places — and a lot this year.”

The Foundation stays in touch with “citizen scientists” — trained volunteers — and asks them to patrol the beaches in search for cold-stunned sea turtles. The organization currently has 200 volunteers.

“We train them to know species, to know what a turtle looks like in the field, and what to patrol. If we’re really busy here, we train them to transport the turtles for us,” she said.

Once they arrive at the foundation, the turtles are placed in tanks of controlled water, which is slowly increased to an ideal temperature of 65 degrees. If the temperature is adjusted too quickly, Ms. Montello said, the sea turtles could be brain damaged. 33 and 34 were placed in neighboring tanks at the Riverhead location.

“We warmed them up, monitor their heart rate, we take notes, and look at their internal temperature, their water temp, their respiration,” she said.

As 33 and 34 readjust, they’ll begin to swim in the tanks, and eventually will be released.

“As they get stronger, and they’re swimming on their own, we space out how often we check on them,” she said.

According to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation website, once sea turtles are regarded as healthy according to movement and response time, rescue organizations have two weeks to release them into the wild.

But Ms. Montello said the turtles could not be released on Long Island until the summer months. Consequently, in the winter, the Foundation works with New England Aquarium in Boston and National Aquarium in Baltimore to arrange transportation to Florida where the sea turtles are released.

“We have monthly phone calls that say, ‘I have this many turtles ready,’ and we figure out when to do a trip. It’s usually on the 15th of each month they’ll try to get as many turtles down south as possible,” she explained.

Ms. Montello said the cold-stunned period ends at a different time each year. Last year, the period ended on Christmas Day.

“We’ve had a few reports of people on boats, but really we’re dependent on really strong winds bringing them to the beach and then beach-walkers finding them,” she said.

Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation can be reached at 631-369-9829 or at their 24-hour rescue hotline: 631-369-9829.

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Photo caption: One of the rescued sea turtles at Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. (Kate Nalepinski photo)

10/02/18 6:00am
10/02/2018 6:00 AM

Click to enlarge.

The Navy is encouraging anyone using a private well within a designated area around the former Grumman property in Calverton to contact them to get their water sampled at no cost.

The Calverton site was previously owned by the Navy and operated by the Grumman Corporation as a Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant, where fighter jets were built and tested. READ

09/25/18 6:00am
09/25/2018 6:00 AM

Funding for the protection and preservation of Long Island Sound could reach historic levels if Congress appropriates the full funding outlined in a bill that recently passed through the House of Representatives.

The Water Resources bill authorizes up to $65 million per year over the next five years for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Program. That money would be used toward restoration and stewardship, according to Curt Johnson, the president of Save the Sound, a Connecticut based environmental organization. READ

08/28/18 6:00am
08/28/2018 6:00 AM

Keep looking up at towers and telephone poles and you will see more osprey than in years past as the population of young osprey on the North Fork has grown by about 50 percent over the last five years.

According to the Group for the East End, there were 198 active nests across the East End in 2014 and 301 active nests in 2018, resulting in a 47 percent increase of young produced over the five-year span. Additionally, The North Fork also has the densest population of breeding osprey, specifically in Southold Town.

There are 143 active known nest sites in town, with 60 of them on Fishers Island, Plum Island and Robins Island. Southold Town has nearly 50 percent of all osprey activity on the East End, the Group said. It is also the birthplace of 48 percent of all young.

Conversely, Riverhead has the lowest amount of nests, with 19 noted so far in 2018 with a little more than half were occupied. The Group said strong winds and surf due to Riverhead’s large shoreline frontage on the Long Island Sound contributes to the lower number of nests there.

The Group has been working with local organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Long Island Audubon and North Fork Audubon, since 2014 gathering osprey breeding data in the five East End towns.

Of the 519 known sites, 420 of them were active or in potential use in 2018.

Nesting site data was collected each summer, with Southold averaging 196 nests over the five years. Southampton averages 106, 64 on Shelter Island, 28 in East Hampton and 12 in Riverhead.

Shelter Island also has the highest occupancy rate, the release said, at 80 percent. Comparatively, the five-year East End average is 69 percent.

But as the population increases, so do concerns. One such is the amount of birds nesting on utility poles.

“Nesting in trees we want, which is what some osprey once did, but nesting along electrical liens not so much,” Aaron Virgin, vice president of Group for the East End, said in a release. “I learn about a few instances each year, but PSEG has become a good partner by working with the local community to safely remove a nest and replace with a nesting platform disc.”

One example of this occurred in Flanders in April. One concern is that when osprey return to their nests with fish it could lead to electrical shortages, sparking fires and resulting in the death of a young bird unable to fly.

However, the increase in osprey has led to residents asking to erect manmade homes for the birds.

“On average I receive an inquiry a week seeking information about how to place an osprey pole on private property or to see if someone has the right habitat,” Mr. Virgin said in a release.

He added that the Group is particular about where poles can be placed as the goal is for birds to nest in natural places, such as trees or old boat docks and other natural places in disrepair.

“At some point it would be nice if osprey could make it on their own and with the current robust population we may be near that time,” he continued.

According to Mr. Virgin one of the main reasons for the increase in the birds is the changes in fishing regulations over the last decade, specifically regarding the amount of menhaden or “bunker” fish.

The recent increase of osprey on the East End has brought the birds into “species of special concern” distinction in 1995, which is its current status. The species was previously listed as endangered in 1976, and later began to rebound. Its distinction became “threatened” in 1983.

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