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Up a Creek at the Nature Festival

The kayak launch point was at the very end a slow, three-mile drive down Shell Island Road, After donning life vests and stashing our valuables, we were helped into our kayaks one by one before our tour.

By Melinda Gray melinda@coastalbreezenews.com As a reporter, I’m often presented with opportunities to participate in fun local activities; invited to join in some wild adventures; and sometimes even confronted with daunting new challenges. Recently, I was invited to join a two-hour, guided kayaking trip on the morning of Friday, Jan. 16, as part of the Coastal Breeze’s coverage of the 11th Annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. When I agreed to take part in the tour, I was unsure of which category the day’s activity would eventually fall under. Having only kayaked twice in ... Read More »

Everglades Wildlife: Closer than you Think!

Alligator basking in the sun. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Bob will be appearing at the Rose History Auditorium on Jan. 21 to talk more in detail about the birds, reptiles and mammals of this habitat. The program includes a slide show of many photos he has taken and possibly a live animal or two! Start time is 7 PM. Everyone is welcome. MIHS members are free. All others are $5 and proceeds benefit the Marco Island Historical Society.   J.M. Barrie wrote in one of his books about a place far, far away called Neverland. It was a land that prevented people from growing ... Read More »

Nature Calls at 2015 Southwest Florida Nature Festival

Keynote speaker Pete Frezza. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

By Noelle H. Lowery noelle@coastalbreezenews.com Call it Nature-palooza 2015. Next weekend — Jan. 16-18 — Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Big Cypress National Preserve and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida will join forces to host the 2015 Southwest Florida Nature Festival. In its 11th year, the three-day event is packed with some 40 guided field trips to 20 wildlife hotspots around Southwest Florida, as well as a number of lectures and workshops at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. The festival kicks off Friday, Jan. 16, with buy-one-get-one free $5 admission to Rookery Bay, along with ... Read More »

Rookery Bay Announces New Lectures, Workshops

Scott Sherman at Cathedral Rock. SUBMITTED photoS

By Coastal Breeze News Staff With the new year comes new programming at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The organization recently announced a new lecture series, birding workshops and landscape training schedule. Rookery Bay’s 2015 Amazing Adventures lecture schedule will be hosted at the Environmental Learning Center January through March with evening presentations narrated by a local naturalist, researcher or explorer providing destination ideas, natural histories, travel tips and insights. The lecture schedule begins Friday, Jan. 30 at 6 PM with “Westward Found, the American Southwest.” National Park Service Rangers Amy Washuta and Luke Gommerman will take attendees on ... Read More »

Merry Christmas from Marco’s Baby Dolphins

Darwina and Rose. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five baby dolphins. What? That’s not how the song goes! Well, it is this year, and all of the new baby dolphins around Marco Island deserve a golden ring. The survey team on board The Dolphin Explorer have seen five brand new calves so far this fall, with “so far” being the optimal words. Several adult females are still on our “nice” list as potential moms this season. Birthing usually takes place from September thru January in our area, so we are looking for more young every day. These ... Read More »

Commercial Properties Landscape Buffers: Let’s Keep the Island Beautiful

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It is well-known that Marco Island is naturally beautiful and not just for its beaches. Designated as a “Tree City USA” for five consecutive years, the landscape and trees are very important to all residents for the high quality of life standard on the island. Appointed by City Council, the Beautification Advisory Committee’s mission is to advise them on the beautification of the community’s landscape that is consistent with the tropical character and natural beauty of Marco Island. This committee strives to educate residents about planting the right plants in the right place, irrigation with water conservation techniques and proper ... Read More »

Florida Panthers: Their Right of Passage

Seen in the Big Cypress  Swamp, this young bobcat could be mistaken for a young panther since both can be dark in color and have darker spots. This bobcat has a very short tail while the panther does not. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist As I watched the morning news over the Thanksgiving holiday, I learned that yet another Florida panther died on Collier Boulevard from injuries sustained by a motor vehicle. It was the 20th such death this year. The broadcast continued by stating that there are now less than 160 panthers remaining in southern Florida. Other sources place that number at less than 100. In a time when we were giving thanks for family, friends and the good things that surround us, my heart was deeply saddened. Panther, mountain lion, puma and cougar are all names ... Read More »

Be On the Lookout for the Kingly American Kestrel

PHOTOS BY JEAN HALL

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com On Marco Island, an urban, intensely developed island, surrounded on three sides by dense mangrove estuary habitat and one side by the Gulf of Mexico, it really is not uncommon to see a variety of wildlife in our yards and along roadways. Driving through several island neighborhoods one recent cold November morning, more than a dozen American Kestrels were observed in just a few hours. All of these small raptors were spotted on electric lines, perching, some swooping over the grassy empty properties with their distinct “klee klee klee” call — sometimes a high-pitched ... Read More »

Novemberrrr! Cold Weather Means Feathered Friends Are Here

White Pelicans at Tigertail Beach last winter. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist On Nov. 16, my daughter sent me a picture from Oshawa, Canada, just east of Toronto, to show me snow on the ground. I already knew that it had snowed in the Rockies a few weeks earlier. On the morning of Nov. 18, the local weatherman stated that 83 percent of the continental United States was at, or below, freezing! What’s up, Mother Nature? In mid-November? I’m aware of some of the annual migrations of birds from the North to the South, and they usually leave their northern habitats before Old Man Winter makes ... Read More »

Up to My Knees in Adventure

We arrived at our designated entrance point into the swamp and exited the tram; this was the first thing I saw. Of the countless pictures I've taken in my career, this now ranks among my most favorites.

By Melinda Gray melinda@coastalbreezenews.com Recently relocating to a place so geologically different from where I was born and raised in northeast Ohio, I get to experience new things almost daily. As a reporter, I go out on many assignments with a child-like wonder, and come away with life-long memories often feeling renewed and empowered. In my quest to see all of the exotic beauty on display here at the bottom of our nation, I’ve ventured where I never thought I could, pushing through my fears, phobias and physical limitations. That being said, if someone had told me exactly one year ... Read More »

Keeping Florida Wild: Thank You for Voting Yes to Amendment 1

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PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Florida, a sensitive and dynamic peninsula, unique in its habitat, wildlife and hydrology in the world, is the third most populous state in the nation. From the outcome of the election, it apparently has a majority of very wise people who hope to allow the next generation by providing clean water and protection to natural lands and wildlife. With a population that has doubled in 10 years to 20 million and predicted to be 30 million in the next 35 years, the overwhelming approval to keep Florida wild was an amazing historical decision made ... Read More »

Help Keep Dolphins Safe

Mom Sparky and baby Holly come up for air together. Holly is just learning how to breathe properly.  PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist A special thanks to Naturalist Kent Morse for his contributions to this article. Kent has been studying dolphins on Marco for 10 years. The 10,000 Islands Dolphin Survey Team is on the water nearly every day of the year conducting their survey of dolphin activity in the area. It’s unfortunate that many of the mammals they have catalogued have dorsal fins that do not look normal. Most of these are oddities are the result of encounters with fishing line, leaders or hooks. In less than three years, two dolphin rescues have taken place right ... Read More »

A Good Year for Sea Turtles Nesting

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By Coastal Breeze News Staff Sea Turtle nesting season is coming to a close on Florida’s beaches, and according to the research scientists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, loggerhead turtle nest numbers remained high and leatherback turtle nesting reached a new state record. “Sea turtles face many important threats at sea and on land, which need to be addressed for the recovery of these charismatic and endangered species, but the results of the 2014 nesting season in Florida are encouraging and provide a positive outlook for the future,” said Dr. Simona Ceriani, FWC research scientist. Throughout Collier ... Read More »

Slow Down as Manatees Swim to Warmer Waters

Manatee zone markings are increased during winter months.

Submitted The annual migration of Florida manatees to warmer waters begins in November, which is Manatee Awareness Month. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourages boaters to help protect migrating manatees by looking out and slowing down for these aquatic mammals that often rest or congregate underwater and can be difficult to see. “During Manatee Awareness Month, the FWC encourages the public to celebrate manatees by learning more about these gentle giants, including the importance of people’s actions in conserving this iconic Florida species,” said Carol Knox, the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management section leader. “Boaters slowing down and ... Read More »

A Tribute to My Ultimate Dolphin Lover

Emily on her 90th birthday in 2012. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist STEPPING STONES…This is the primary title of the column I write. Typically, a stepping stone is something to help you get from one place to another or from one phase in life to another as well. We have all utilized them. Sometimes, they are very obvious to us; very evident. Other times, we just happen to stumble upon them. They can be subtle or they can be earth shattering. One thing is for sure: We use them from the day we are born until the time we die. Some of the people who create ... Read More »

Manatee Rescue All in a Day’s Work

Mrs. Webb, Tony Smith and Ms. Lacks.

By Coastal Breeze News Staff If you’re the city of Marco Island Environmental Specialist, rescuing a manatee or other wildlife can be all in a day’s work. Just as it was during a recent manatee rescue at Tigertail Beach. A manatee stranded itself on a mud flat in Tigertail lagoon due to a strong outgoing tide in a New Moon phase. Walking the beach, Todd Tateo, spotted the stranded manatee and reported it to the Tigertail Beach gate attendant, Lee Gunderson. Todd told Lee the manatee was “high and dry” in the lagoon. Lee called the city of Marco Island ... Read More »

Trifecta of Success

Sea Turtle Lady Mary Nelson and assistant Morgan Scarborough  post a new Loggerhead Sea Turtle nest on Sand Dollar Island “spit”. PHOTOS BY JEAN HALL

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com A trifecta of success unfolded this summer on the Marco Island beach. Humans, shorebirds and sea turtles were all successful in their use, productivity and healthy impact to our beautiful beach. It is increasingly a tricky balance of the increased recreational use versus the protection of the natural beach. In the past couple weeks, when a typical seasonal northwest fall weather front blew over southwest Florida in combination with a full moon phase, it naturally washed sea squirts and other live organisms up on the beach from the near shore Gulf of Mexico. This ... Read More »

Hello Holly! First Baby Dolphin of the Fall is Here!

Mom Sparky and baby Holly come up for air together. Holly is just learning how to breathe properly.  PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist This is the second article in a series of three about Marco Island’s young dolphins. The first article can be viewed by going to coastalbreezenews.com under the “Environmental” heading, then under “Stepping Stones.”   It is Thursday morning, Oct. 2, and the Dolphin Explorer is on the water, as usual, surveying the area dolphins. Naturalist Kent Morse and Captain Michael Tateo, along with several guests, enjoy multiple sightings which include a few adult females. Information is being logged into the data base for research purposes. Among those seen is two-time mom Sparky, but no ... Read More »

It’s Time to Welcome Our Flying Winter Friends

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Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist September 21, 2014, 10:29 PM Marco Island time — The Autumnal Equinox is occurring. That imaginary line on our planet called the Equator is closest to the sun. There is an even amount of solar energy in both the northern and southern hemisphere. It is the first day of fall. Over the next few months the earth’s northern half will tilt away from the sun. Here in Florida, we will experience cooler temperatures, but further north a much colder climate will be prevalent. Some areas of the United States have already experienced snow, and ... Read More »

Come Meet Marco’s Newborn Dolphins

You can see the body creases or "fetal folds" on this newborn dolphin. It is less than 2 weeks old. Photos by Kent  Meredith of the Dolphin Explorer

By Coastal Breeze News Staff Come join Bob McConville of Steppingstone Ecotours/Dolphin Explorer and Coastal Breeze News for two very special evenings at the Rose History Auditorium. On Tuesday, Oct. 28, from 7-8 PM, McConville will introduce children of all ages to the young dolphin population around Marco Island, at the Rose History Auditorium. The program will take the audience into the world of the bottlenose dolphin where they will meet the newborns of the past three years, spend some time getting to know the new youngsters seen so far in 2014 and then meet the potential moms that may ... Read More »