The Longboat Key turtles and swans and birds and animals at Save our Seabirds and Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium fared well during Hurricane Irma.
On the morning of Sept. 11, three swans were swimming around the Longboat Key Club Harbourside Golf Course in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
They didn’t seem to mind the foliage that had fallen around their home the night before as the storm moved through the area.
Longboat Key’s swan keeper David Novak wasn’t too worried about the swans ahead of the hurricane. He has seen them survive 75 mph winds. Following Hurricane Irma, Novak checked the swans and said he was pleased to find all six still there.
“They seem to just be in their normal routine,” he said.
Novak said the swans could have done two things during Hurricane Irma’s route around the area: Find a safe hiding spot on land, or literally hunker down into a low profile in the water and use their webbed feet as anchors.
And across Gulf of Mexico Drive on the beach, it seemed the turtle nests fared well, also.
“It really wasn’t too bad,” said Cyndi Seamon, vice president of the Longboat Key Turtle Watch.
During a beach check from Publix to the Seaplace condominiums, Seamon found stakes from nests in the 4100 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive.
“The storm didn’t look like it eroded a lot of the beach, and it didn’t look like it added a bunch [of sand] either,” Seamon said. “So, for the stakes out on the beach, it didn’t look like a lot of sand was added on top.”
She said she was able to repost the stakes.
“It really blew though,” she said. “I had a stake where the paint was sandblasted off, so I can’t imagine what the wind was like out there.”
Save our Seabirds staff spent time “battening down the hatches” to preserve as many habitats as possible.
Still, the banyan tree that visitors see as they enter the learning center and bird walk toppled over and smashed several habitats, including the half of the “Birds of Prey” area.
“There were no animals injured,” CEO David Pilston said. “A couple of them escaped when the door blew open, but other than that, everyone is in good shape.”
Some bird cages were scratched but nothing major. The staff’s first step is removal of the collapsed banyan tree.
“We were lucky, just like everybody,” Pilston said. “Breathing a sigh of relief.”
Across the parking lot, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium sustained no property damage aside from debris and fallen trees.
Staff and security stayed with the animals. After the storm, extra staff went to the facility to assess for damage and ensure the animals had what they needed.
“All the animals are fine, thankfully, and we’re just dealing with the same thing everybody else is — debris, a couple trees, long, good portions of branches — and other than that we’re just trying to clean up and open our doors as soon as possible,” said Mote spokeswoman Shelby Isaacson.