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A High Tech Answer to Turtle Egg Poaching

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Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist          Just a few weeks ago a Florida man was caught stealing more than 100 eggs from an adult female loggerhead sea turtle while she was in the process of laying them. This guy could face a maximum term of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for hisactions. A California couple was sentenced to six months in prison when they were caught smuggling more than 900 olive ridley turtle eggs into our country from Mexico in May. A Georgia man went to jail for 21 months when he was ... Read More »

This Place Is For The Birds!

Photos by Bob McConville
A Least Tern rests on Tigertail Beach, pretty well camouflaged among the sand and shells.

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist   Join Bob on July 20th at 7 PM for more details about some of our area birds. This talk will take place at the Marco Island Historical Society’s Auditorium. On May 12th Bob gave a presentation about our birdlife and it was so well received that Part 2 was requested. Admission is free for all MIHS members and MIA students and teachers. A $5 donation is requested of all others. Look!!! Up in the sky…again!!! I contributed an article in early May and discussed some of the birds we see here, namely the ... Read More »

Dual Threats to Shorebirds on Sand Dollar Island

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Submitted On the plus side, the count on the shorebird nursery on Sand Dollar Island is higher than last year’s. Chicks are skittering everywhere taking cover from the hot sun. According to the Collier Shorebird Stewards, by around this time last year, the crows had wiped out the nesting colony and the birds departed without producing a single chick. It is looking more hopeful this year even after Tropical Storm Colin. Adam DiNuovo, Audubon shorebird biologist, is excited but concerned. He shared that dogs and the trash boaters leave behind are threats to shorebirds. How do dogs disturb birds? An ... Read More »

Gopher Tortoises in Distress

A gopher tortoise is no match to this heavy pile driver. Photos by Maria Lamb

By Maria Lamb   The construction of an 8-foot wide sidewalk along the 1.1 miles on South Barfield Drive from San Marco Road south to Inlet Drive is in progress. The portion from South Barfield turning east to Inlet is a section of the Estates area with a very high population of gopher tortoises. These are the lucky ones! Credit the efforts of a local resident who called a local FWC agent regarding protecting the gopher tortoises along Inlet Drive before the sidewalk construction. As a result, Chadd Chustz, Environmentalist for the City of Marco Island has been working with ... Read More »

A Dolphin Update

Mom Sintas keeps guard over her new calf, J. Fireball, last November.

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist      Everybody loves dolphins. Most people taking nature trips in South Florida want to see one of two things…dolphins or alligators. We’ll forget about the ‘gators today and talk about the other favorite in our area for a mid-year update. On board the Dolphin Explorer you not only get to see dolphins, but you have a chance to watch a team of citizen scientists document the activity of these mammals for research purposes. Each one has a name and their daily behavior is recorded in a database. With more than 10 years of ... Read More »

A Note From Mary Kelly Nelson,

Photo Courtesy of NOAA

Environmental Specialist, Collier County Sea Turtle Protection: We have received reports this week that there have been people on the beach at night with red headband lights looking for and disturbing nesting sea turtles.  Please remind your residents, renters and guests that flashlights, including red filter, flash photos and getting within 100’ of a sea turtle is not allowed. It is considered harassment and fines could be incurred. If anyone sees this kind of activity please call the Marco Island Police Department non-emergency phone number: 239-389-5050, or Mary Kelly Nelson: 239-298-9736. Read More »

Technology and Nature Keep Rookery Bay’s Marine Life Healthy & Happy

Photo by Dave Graff
Flounder often cover themselves with sand, leaving only their eyes exposed.

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson June is National Aquarium Month and some exciting things are happening in the watery world at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. Located between Naples and Marco Island, the 16,500 square-foot center features a two-story exhibit hall and was developed to serve as an interactive gateway into the 110,000-acre Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The center’s exhibits, nature store, art gallery and more provide a comfortable environment for kids of all ages to learn about the estuary. The center is also responsible for keeping many species of fish and other marine life comfortable in its seven aquarium ... Read More »

A Great Migration in the Water

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Leatherback sea turtles can reach 6 feet in length, weigh up to 2,000 pounds and dive more than 4,000 feet below the surface.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Last month I wrote about one of the great land migrations that takes place on our planet. It wasn’t so much about the long distance of the pattern, but more about the sheer number of animals that participate in this annual trek across Africa’s Serengeti Plain. There are constant comings and goings throughout the year on land and in the air, but what about the sea? Yes, there are tremendous numbers of marine creatures that follow patterns as well. Since we are in turtle nesting season here in our area I thought it might be ... Read More »

Great Migration of the World

A least tern flies over its nest on Tigertail Beach. Its cousin, the Arctic tern, will migrate up to 44,000 miles each year! Photo by Bob McConville

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Planet Earth is on the move! Every day, somewhere around the globe, some type of animal is on a migration route. Whether the need be food, water, warmth or finding a mate, there is a constant pattern of motion on our planet. Let’s talk about the migration of the largest number of land animals. This event takes place on the continent of Africa. In the springtime nearly two million wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and impala follow an annual pattern in their search for fresh grazing lands. The trail taken by these animals is now very predictable, ... Read More »

Mangroves…Florida’s “Walking Trees”

Photos by Bob McConville
Mangrove trees in the background, a great egret prepares to land in search of a meal.

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist  Take a boat ride through Rookery Bay and you will see them. Head the other direction towards Florida Bay and, undoubtedly, they are prominent. Just walk to Tigertail Lagoon here on Marco and they can’t be missed. Mangrove trees are everywhere! Worldwide there are more than 50 species of mangrove trees. Here in Florida three species call our state home. They are the red mangrove, black mangrove and the white one. Of these three the red is probably most well known. They are some of Florida’s true natives, thriving in salty environments. All need ... Read More »

Sea Turtles Cry Foul Over Dredging Project

Sand Dollar spit creeping slowly to Hideaway Beach will be removed. The area will be dredged to a depth of 9 feet.

Submitted Loggerhead sea turtles, nesting shorebirds and assorted marine life will become collateral damage from the Marco Central beach hydraulic dredging project just getting started at Hideaway Beach. As dredging starts, female loggerhead turtles are navigating their way into our beaches this month through the end of October. Project Detail: At its March 21st meeting, the Marco Island City Council voted 5-2 to approve the Hideaway erosion control project and award the contract to Gator Dredging. They will dredge approximately 40,000 cubic yards of beach compatible sand from the Hideaway Beach Near Borrow Area to improve navigation along the south ... Read More »

Birds Among the Mangroves

A year-round Florida resident, this Limpkin was recently seen feeding along Collier Boulevard.

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! It’s a visitor from another planet! Wait a minute…it’s a bird. As some of our winter, feathered friends have left the Marco Island area, others are arriving to join our year-round residents. The white pelicans that were seen in the Tigertail Lagoon and Marsh Trail are back up north. Boasting the second largest wingspan of any North American bird, these graceful flyers have returned to their northernmost states and Canada for their summer breeding season. The peregrine falcon, which stops in the Marco ... Read More »

Marco’s Busy Spring

The soft, tilled sand is inviting to this family playing on the beach.

OUR ISLAND ECOLOGY By Chadd Chustz This spring, so much has happened here on Marco Island to remind us that we are stewards of our environment and nature’s inhabitants. Manatee Release  The manatee (identified as RSW1523) was rehabilitated at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa after being rescued on September 28, 2015, for watercraft related injuries in Roberts Bay. It was great to see this “little guy” being released back into the waters of the 10,000 Islands by the FWC at Caxambas Boat Launch Park on Marco Island. Read more about another manatee release in this issue of Coastal Breeze ... Read More »

White Tailed Deer Around Marco Island

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STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist You are on a boat and in the distance you notice something swimming across the bay. It could very well be a pelican just relaxing on the surface or maybe a dolphin coming up for air. But the silhouette against the sun is unique. You grab your binoculars, filled with curiosity about what is there. As you focus on the animal you realize that you are seeing something rare, something never seen by most visitors to our area. A white-tailed deer is swimming from one island to another! It would not be a surprise for ... Read More »

Marco’s Newest Resident

Calusa soars high over the nest area.

Submitted  Paleo and Calusa are the proud parents of a healthy 6-10 week old eaglet. They are proud to let all residents of their adopted home, Marco Island, know that they will be very busy for a while, tending to the duties of new parents. This little guy has a voracious appetite and does not like to go hungry. Both Paleo and Calusa will share feeding and hunting and duties round the clock. The young eaglet is fed raw meat from the moment it is born; eagles do not regurgitate their food like some other animals do. The eaglet will ... Read More »

Gentle Giant Release

Photos by Samantha Husted
Following her full recovery from brevetoxicosis, this manatee is ready to be released.

By Samantha Husted sam@coastalbreezenews.com On April 7th, Rookery Bay in congruence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Tampa Lowry Park Zoo released a manatee on Shell Island Road in Naples. The manatee in question was a 1,000-pound female who was rescued back in January after falling critically ill due to the effects of red tide, or harmful algae bloom. While red tide is commonplace in much of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, its impact on wildlife can be devastating. “The animal was showing signs of brevetoxicisity. It was having facial seizures, was unable to swim and ... Read More »

Tis the Season…Two Aquatic Friends Return

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STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist On Wednesday, April 13th at 7 PM join Bob McConville at the Rose Auditorium for a discussion about the sea turtles and manatees found in our area. Meet special guest, Master Naturalist Nancy Anderson, a manatee specialist. MIHS members and MIA students are free. A $5 donation is requested for all others. Ah, the first day of spring! Thoughts of warmer weather have many of us planning adventurous days at the beach or on the water. Our eyes will scan the surface, looking for anything that might arise from below. All of a sudden there’s ... Read More »

Comments Sought on Oil & Gas Survey

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Submitted  The National Park Service is seeking public comment related to scientific or technical information that would aid in the agency reaching a decision on a revised Environmental Assessment (EA) analyzing the environmental impacts of a proposed oil and gas seismic survey by Burnett Oil Co. in Big Cypress National Preserve. This EA is a revision of the EA released by the NPS on November 29, 2015, and analyzes the impacts of three alternatives: The EA is available at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=352&projectID=53498&documentID=71803.  Additional documents related to this proposed project are at:  http://parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsList.cfm?projectID=53498.  You can provide comments online or by mail. Before including ... Read More »

Give Space to Nesting Shorebirds

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Submitted Shorebird nesting season is underway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds beachgoers to watch out for and to avoid disturbing birds and their young. Shorebirds build shallow nests out of sand and shells on beaches in spring and summer, hatching chicks that are difficult to see. Shorebird nests, eggs and chicks are well camouflaged and can easily be missed and even stepped on unless people know to look out for them. The snowy plover, least tern, black skimmer, American oystercatcher and Wilson’s plover are several of Florida’s ... Read More »