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Protect and Preserve

Something’s Got to Give

July 5, 2013 partial trash collection. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Something’s got to give. Soon. The Marco Island beach is raked daily and large debris is removed by Collier County. Volunteer Beach Stewards walk the beach daily picking up at least one bag of trash – sometimes two or more. The City’s Beach Advisory Committee partners with the Marco Island Civic Association, Publix and local businesses and groups for monthly beach clean-ups which remove dozens of bags of trash in only a few hours. Friends of Tigertail, Inc. has quarterly clean-ups that hundreds participate in removing carts full of trash and debris. This equates to ... Read More »

Great, Big, Beautiful Birds

GREAT BLUE HERON BREEDING PAIR. PHOTOS BY JEAN HALL

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com They are tall, elegant and intensely avian. Like magnificently feathered ballerinas, Great Blue Heron, Great White Heron and the Great Egret magically grace many Southwest Florida habitats: the beach, back bay, mudflat and mangroves. And if a regular fisherman, one of these water birds hanging around the dock begging for bait is not uncommon. (Note: Please do not feed wildlife!) These three large species of wading birds are very similar. The most obvious is their stature. They are all so big; they certainly have earned their title of “grea.” That is about as simple ... Read More »

Just look, don’t touch!

The Saddleback Caterpillar. Look but don’t touch!

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Beware! Lurking in many South Florida backyards is a small critter that will offer a terrible surprise if touched. The half to one inch long, stout-bodied brown caterpillar has a conspicuous green back with brown oval outlined in white. It’s unique coloring may entice a closer look by touching or holding it– but don’t! It is a stinging caterpillar known as the Saddleback Caterpillar. The brown oval marking on the center of its back looks like a saddle on a bright green saddle blanket, hence the silly name. Archaria stimulea (Saddleback Caterpillar) is the larvae ... Read More »

Positive Interactions with Wildlife

Burrowing owls set up shop in their new home. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com To balance out the alarming and sad stories of wildlife that have occurred recently in and around Marco Island — the pilot whale tragedy along the southwest coast of Florida, ultimately ending just south of Marco Island on Kice Island with 25 dead whales; the news of the Marco Eagle Sanctuary bald eagle pair nesting interrupted; and the shooting of a wild boar on Marco Island’s beach — a few positive wildlife interactions with people on Marco Island have occurred and need to be noted. It is safe to say that one of the ... Read More »

2014 Christmas Bird Count

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PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Each winter, the National Audubon Society holds their annual nationwide Christmas Bird Count. This is 114th year that thousands of volunteers armed with binoculars, field guides and bird lists from all over the country get out in their neighborhoods, local parks and natural areas to document each and every bird they see and hear in about eight hours. It is “citizen science” at its best, giving an overall assessment — good or bad — of bird populations that enhance biologists’ studies of bird populations, migration routes and the health of our world’s ecosystems. This count ... Read More »

Taking a Turn with Gulls and Terns

The Royal Tern. PHOTO BY JEAN HALL

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com As you walk along the beach, you may think you are just seeing and hearing lots of “seagulls” on the Marco Island beach, but there are many diverse and unique species of gull-like birds on the beach. Take a closer look, and you may be surprised by the diversity of bird species using the beach to rest, feed and even nest. Gulls, commonly known as “seagulls” (though many nest and breed inland), are a common beach bird on the Marco Island beach that we are all familiar with both visually and by sound. Gulls have ... Read More »

2014 New Year’s Resolutions

Live moon shell. PHOTOS BY SUSAN MILLER

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com As the New Year rolls in, looking forward is a natural inclination. Reflecting on the past year’s experiences helps to improve knowledge, behavior and life in general. Many of us distill these lessons to make a list of resolutions for the new year. Sometimes resolutions are hard to stick to if they are too grandiose or complicated. Making resolutions that are a small step in the right direction or something that is easy to insert into your regular way of life are always the most successful. Resolutions that have a collective effort may be the ... Read More »

2013’s Excellent Environmental Endeavors

Burrowing Owl by Jean Hall.

PROTECTING &PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com This past year, Marco Island’s environment had exciting conservation efforts and thrived despite increased construction and tourism and limited funding. It’s a precarious balance of people and the environment on this small barrier island in the Ten Thousand Islands, but with the community’s awareness and support, the wildlife and its habitat is holding its own. Looking back in 2013, here are a handful of projects that improved and maintained our environment: • Volunteer Beach Stewards: Launched in 2012, this award-winning program has continued to improve steadily in both numbers and messages to protect the Marco Island ... Read More »

Giving back to wildlife, our way of life

Friends of the Fakahatchee Tram Tours. SUBMITTED photo

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com As the rest of the country is shoveling snow, commuting dangerously on icy roadways and bundling up in scarves and coats, we are walking the sunny Marco Island crescent beach in flip-flops or even barefoot, gift shopping in shorts and t-shirts and asking for an iced peppermint latte to cool off. What a wonderful time of year! Most of us, if not all of us, live and visit here for the beauty and wildlife life that is just out our backdoors. From boating, fishing, beachcombing, tennis, golf to just our easy way of living ... Read More »

Talking Turkey

Turkeys by type population and range map. Courtesy of National Turkey Federation

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com The day after the third Thursday of November every year, many of us who celebrate Thanksgiving look forward to eating leftovers that include tasty turkey sandwiches. Many find this the best part of the holiday! Unless an avid sportsman is in your family, the turkey that filled your home with the heartwarming aroma while roasting all morning, came from a commercial turkey farm. As we sit down with family and friends, giving thanks for all the gifts in our lives, there are about seven million wild turkeys in the United States giving thanks that they ... Read More »

‘Tis the Season…For Stone Claws

Many live stone crabs have been spotted
spending time at Tigertail Lagoon.

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Check the calendar! You might have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or “season” marked. In our house, the calendar marks October 15 through May 15 every year. This means it’s time to crack some claws and enjoy a tasty meal of the South Florida delicacy – the stone crab. This season got off to a rocky (or should it be called “stony?!) start with some pricing conflicts in Everglades City, the hub of Florida’s commercial stone crab fisheries. But all seems to have adjusted and the catch keeps coming in. Lucky us! Let’s eat! Florida actually has ... Read More »

Burrowing Owls and Brown-Eyed Owls

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PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Phew! It rains and rains and that grass grows and grows! Have you noticed that this past summer? Ever since the 2013 Burrowing Owl nesting season ended in late June with the chicks fledged (can fly and survive on their own), a handful of volunteers have been managing and maintaining the 117 Burrowing Owl burrow sites documented on Marco Island. What does this mean? Well, the Marco Island Burrowing Owl population is not migratory. Much to common misconception, the owls DO live here year round. Due to the high groundwater table that affects any burrowing ... Read More »

Alligators all Around Us

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com “Only gators get out of the swamp alive! Chomp Chomp!” Anyone who is a University of Florida alumni or fan knows this chant to be true. You’ll hear it at a UF Gator football team in the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium a.k.a. “The Swamp!” But in the natural world, this is true too. Alligators live in all 67 counties of Florida. They are a fundamental part of the wetland, swamp, river and lake ecosystems that comprise the water world of Florida. Alligators are the apex, or top, predators for these ecosystems, keeping the animal populations ... Read More »

Our Canals Need Care & Conservation

A web of animals and plants live together in harmony in our canals, as long as we keep them clean. SUBMITTED PHOTO

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Marco Island has 100 miles of man-made canals. Historically, it was an approximate 6,000 acre mangrove island until the Deltona Corporation dredged it and filled it, using vertical, cement paneled seawalls to contain and stabilize the fill. Thus, creating the labyrinth of 100 miles of waterway canals in an approximately four square mile area. This construction created the 8,311 single-family residential properties (excluding Hideaway Beach and Key Marco) that we call home. Of these 8,311 properties, 5,723 are located on the canals, or waterfront. To date, 4,634 of those properties are developed. Basically, for those ... Read More »

The Myth of the “Black Panther”

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PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.co Over the years, there have been reports from hotel concierges, tourists and even some “old timers” of first-person accounts of “black panthers” lurking around the Marco Island beach dunes during the day. One tourist wrote a two-page letter in outrage that there was a “black panther” just a few feet away from children playing in the sand at the Hilton beach. Recently, a few true believers swear there was a “black panther” out on Sand Dollar “spit.” One of the best arguments heard is the “panther crossing” sign shows the outline of a panther in ... Read More »

Birds of Paradise

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PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Skimming along our beaches and resting in our rivers, bays and canals, these birds are a common sight on Marco Island. Their presence is especially breathtaking in the early mornings and as the sun sets over the island. Black Skimmers slice our mirrored waters, cutting the surface like silk. With their bright orange-red beaks and legs, they add a certain majesty to the waters that surround us. This bird is one of the most tropical in North America… Really, who needs a toucan? Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger) are gull-like in size, about 11 ounces and ... Read More »

The Tipping Point: Time to Pay Attention

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PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Marco Island. Paradise. It’s a destination for many, a seasonal home for thousands and a year-round community and permanent home for many more – both humans and wildlife.   Separated from mainland peninsular Florida by the Marco River with the Rookery Bay estuary and the 10,000 Islands ecosystem complex cradling it on the edge of the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, the approximately four by four square mile island is one-of-a-kind. Once 6,000 acres of mangroves, it is now over one hundred miles of manmade canals with that gorgeous 7-mile crescent beach, both recreational for tourists ... Read More »

Chasin’ Tail Florida-Style

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PROTECTING &PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com In my household, sometimes I wonder if the refrigerator calendar of the Julian twelve months is really necessary as we mark our year by seasons – not fall, winter, spring and summer – but by stone crab, sailfish, mahi, grouper, scallops and lobster seasons. That’s just the oceanic seasons for my daughters and me; my husband adds in the hunting seasons as well for his year! It is definitely unanimous that we all love Lobster Season when late July and August roll around. Most Floridians know (and plan for) the “mini season” – two days ... Read More »

Whale Tales (Tails?)

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PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com   “It is not down on any map; true places never are.” - Herman Melville, Moby- The unexpected experiences are always the most memorable and perhaps the most real. While fishing offshore Miami a few weekends ago nothing much was happening; no fish were biting, no birds were flying. It was hard to complain about not catching anything, though. The day was beautiful on the Atlantic Ocean about 6 miles offshore Biscayne Bay. The water was clear deep blue, the seas were calm and air warm. Watching the occasional man-of-war jellyfish float by with its ... Read More »

The Reddish (or is it Whitish) Egret?

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PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com One of the most entertaining and beautiful wading birds to watch along the Marco Island beach, especially in the Tigertail Lagoon area, is the medium sized egret named appropriately the Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens). Once, nearly completely annihilated from the state of Florida, the Federal 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed, protecting the Reddish Egret and all other herons and egrets from plume hunters. Today, there is a population estimated between 1,500 and 2,000 in the United States – mostly found along the Texas coast, a few in Louisiana and southern Florida. We ... Read More »