Sea Turtle Time
Nimbus, the aquarium’s rare white sea turtle, turns five this month. Enjoy a daylong Sea Turtle Celebration on Aug. 13 that honors the unusual loggerhead. It also highlights ways beachgoers can help hatchlings make their perilous journey from their sandy nests to the surf.
Some activities include:
• Sign a super-sized birthday card for Nimbus and pledge to help sea turtles.
• See last season’s youngsters and check for new hatchlings in the sea turtle nursery exhibit.
• Meet sea turtles in a theater program or animal encounter.
• Test your sea turtle savvy with hands-on activities and games.
• Pose next to an inflatable giant leatherback turtle, and enjoy other displays and crafts.
• Meet some of the dedicated volunteers that monitor nests and rescue weak hatchlings.
The celebration coincides with sea turtle hatching season on area beaches. Because of the imperiled status of sea turtles, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and trained volunteers monitor how many eggs hatch from each nest and check for hatchlings left behind. Each year, the aquarium provides temporary care for many of these little turtles until they can be released.
Nimbus turned up in a nest excavation on a Pine Knoll Shores beach in August 2010. Expert care has helped it overcome vision problems and mouth and nasal deformities. Nimbus, meaning a radiant light or shining cloud, was the name chosen out of hundreds suggested by the public. A genetic deviation similar to that of albino animals causes the pale coloring. The shell, or carapace, was pinkish-white when Nimbus arrived at the aquarium. It has since turned gold in places but overall is much less pigmented than the dark brown and gray of other loggerheads of the same age. Nimbus’ sex is not known.
The special turtle has had several homes around the aquarium as it grew in size, and currently lives in the Queen Anne’s Revenge exhibit in the Tidal Waters Gallery, past the Skate and Ray Encounters touch pool. Sea Turtle Celebration activities are free with admission or membership.
Wise up about owls with programs, crafts, activities and close-up encounters Aug. 4. The aquarium joins other organizations and facilities worldwide in celebrating International Owl Awareness Day. Enjoyable, owl-oriented activities spread knowledge and debunk myths about these often mysterious winged wonders. The day also reveals the troubles some species face and how everyone can help.
Highlights include opportunities to meet three owls that live at the aquarium. Bolt, an Eastern screech owl from the aquarium’s outreach department, stars in two meet-and-greet programs. Great-horned owl Abira and barn owl Alba, cast members of the Bird’s-Eye View daily bird shows, make public appearances also. All three owls have injuries or conditions that give them little chance of surviving on their own in the wild.
Also among the feathered fun:
• Check the schedule for when and where to watch the dissection of an owl pellet, a compacted, regurgitated mass of indigestible parts of prey such as bones, teeth, claws, skulls, feathers and fur. An examination of pellets provides insight into the diet and lifestyle of the bird.
• Look for owl crafts and other activities in Discovery Classroom, plus bio-facts such as owl wings and other touchable items.
• Throughout the day, enjoy colorful posters around the Aquarium featuring the “whoooo,” what, when and where of owl populations around the world.
Owl Awareness Day activities are free with admission or membership. Admission to the twice-daily Bird’s-Eye View bird program also is free.
This Side Down
It’s not what you expect from a jellyfish, so be on the lookout for the flower-like cassiopea recently arrived in the Ocean Gallery’s circular exhibit. The cassiopea plants its bell on the bottom in shallow tropical mangroves and lagoons and waves its frilly tentacles upward. That’s why it’s commonly called the upside-down jellyfish.
The jelly’s posture exposes symbiotic algae in its tissue to sunlight, essential to photosynthesis. The jelly benefits from food the algae produce. Hundreds of tiny mouths lining the lacy edges of its eight arms capture zooplankton, another source of nourishment.
The Adventure Continues
Aug. 6 is the last summer Thursday with activities themed “go outside and play.” Some of the daily live animal programs free with admission move to the Marsh Boardwalk. More outdoor fun centers around the TREE-mendous Nature Play Area, just a few steps beyond the boardwalk along the Hoffman Nature Trail. Themed activities are free with admission.
To expand your horizons and add to your visit, see the exhibits from the other side with behind-the-scenes tours. Choose a general tour or one that features insights into caring for the Aquarium’s river otters, feeding the fish and even feeding the sharks.
Outdoors, pick up a board or a paddle for a wet and wild experience. Indoor activities and some outdoor adventures are available through Labor Day. Sign up online or call to check availability and meet the advance registration requirement for these programs.
For those of you thinking ahead, the aquarium is open normal operating hours on Sept. 7, Labor Day, 9am-5pm.
The aquarium is open 9am-5pm daily, including Labor Day. Admission is $10.95 for ages 13-61, $9.95 for age 62 and over and military; $8.95 for ages 3-12. State taxes are additional to admission. Children 2 and under and NC Aquarium Society members are admitted free. The aquarium is 5 miles west of Atlantic Beach at 1 Roosevelt Blvd., Pine Knoll Shores, NC 28512. See www.ncaquariums.com/pine-knoll-shores or call 252-247-4003 for more information.