July 27, 2008

Back Bay Schedules Educational Programs


By Cyndi Kight



At Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge , students of all ages are invited this summer to discover that fun and learning can be synonymous.

From bird-watching to bugs, a scavenger hunt and sunset tours of the bay , seven educational programs are scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays through the end of August.

The programs are included in the cost of admission - $5 per day or $15 per year - to the refuge.

"We like to gear them to children," said refuge operations specialist Letecia Melendez . But the programs are also suitable for adults, she said.

Sandra Jones , an intern with the Student Conservation Association, created this year's summer session.

Jones, 18, is majoring in biochemistry at Georgia's Spelman College .

One of her recent Saturday programs, "Turtle Day," focused on the protection of the sea animals .

Though there are several types of sea turtles, Jones explained that loggerhead turtles are the ones most commonly found nesting on the refuge's beaches.

Loggerhead females usually come ashore to lay eggs between early May and late October. "We have three nests, so far," said Jones. "Our largest nest this year was 144 eggs."

As part of the refuge 's loggerhead sea turtle conservation program, interns traverse the beaches on all-terrain vehicles each morning, looking for "turtle crawls" or tracks made by nesting females, Jones said.

If a nest is located, the eggs are moved to a more-protected location and placed inside a wire "ex-closure" to deter foxes and other predators.

"Sixty to 90 days later," said Jones, "they hatch out." Without protection during this critical time, only one or two of the baby turtles will escape the likes of hungry seagulls and make it back to the ocean.

Hatchlings under the watch of Back Bay volunteers have a better chance of survival, and the first four of every nest are given to the Virginia Aquarium.

"They study them for a year," Jones said, "and then they release them."

In addition to providing a video on sea turtles, Jones helped children create t sea turtle coloring craft. She also replicated a turtle crawl and nest on the beach with ping-pong balls for the students to dig up.

Cyndi Kight, [email protected]


What Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge's Educational Summer Programs

Where Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge's Visitor Contact Center, 4005 Sandpiper Road

* Call of the Wild, 9 to 11 a.m. today. Bring binoculars and identify bird calls while walking the trails.

* Critter Cafe, 10 a.m. to noon Saturday and Aug. 30. Learn about micro-organisms and insects in the bay's water. Nets and buckets provided.

* Marsh Madness, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 3. Learn about the importance of the marsh habitat and its plants and animals.

* Scavenger Hunt 10 a.m. to noon . Aug. 9 and 23. Follow the trails and circle what you see. The fastest team wins. Reservations required.

* Scenic Sunset, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Aug. 10 and 24. See the refuge during this sunset tram tour. Reservations required.

* Raptor ABCs, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 16. Learn everything about these birds of prey. Reservations required.

* Sunday Morning Movie - 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 17 and 31: Watch the Academy Award-nominated "Winged Migration." Reservations required.

Cost Programs are included in the $5 a day or $15 a year admission to the refuge.

Info Call the refuge, 721-2412

Originally published by BY CYNDI KIGHT.

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