Wednesday , November 25 2015
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Fire… a Necessary Function of Nature

Mobile wildlife such as deer, bear and bobcat can flee a wildfire quickly. Nesting birds such as eagles, herons, egrets and storks could be more at risk. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

As I watch the evening news, I see that another wildfire is burning out of control somewhere across the United States. Reports proclaim that it is 40% contained, and then 60% under control. Attention is drawn to the number of structures that are at risk, then saved, because of the quick action taken by mankind’s actions. It’s good that homes are spared Mother Nature’s wrath, but is this stoppage of a natural event what was intended overall? Here in South Florida, throughout the past few weeks, I’ve left my home in the morning and I can smell smoke in the ... Read More »

150 Pound Tarpon Caught In The Marco River

Matt Stark, left, and Captain Ted Naftal display a 150 lb Tarpon  caught in the Marco River. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist On June 25, 2015 a trio of guests from Randolph, NJ joined Captain Ted Naftal on board the Miss Nancy II for a day on the waters around Marco Island. Brother and sister Matt and Mattie Stark were joined by their grandfather Jim Grecco, with hopes of catching something good for dinner. Little did they know what was in store for them. Not too far from the Rose Marina basin and working the sand bars and mangrove treelines, Mattie had a catfish for bait on her line. Using 40 lb test line, she felt a ... Read More »

Sharks Among Us

White shark (Carcharodon carcharias). FILE PHOTOS

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist It’s hard to believe that 2015 is already halfway complete. Sitting here contemplating the first 6 months of the year and then the last 12 months total, I realized that it has been 1 full year since I was right where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea and that’s where my wife and I were swimming….with Whale Sharks! About the size of a small school bus, it was quite an experience to be in the migratory route of these plankton eating giants. It got me thinking about the Gulf Stream current, other migrating ... Read More »

FWC Discusses Strategic Priorities For Panther Conservation


Submitted The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its meeting June 23 in Sarasota discussed a draft position paper outlining strategic priorities for panther conservation. The Commissioners agreed that the Florida panther is a conservation success story but acknowledged that with this success comes new challenges. The draft paper presented at the meeting calls for focusing strong conservation efforts on the panther’s core range in south Florida, effective ways to address human-panther conflicts, and building support among private landowners whose properties provide essential panther habitat. “This position paper does not call for a change to the panther’s protected ... Read More »

FWC Approves Comprehensive Bear Management Rules


Submitted The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) continued its long-standing, proactive approach to bear management at its meeting in Sarasota on June 24. FWC Commissioners approved several bear-related rules that address a wide variety of tools to manage bears. In summary, Commissioners approved changes to strengthen the wildlife feeding rule. Commissioners also approved changes to the bear conservation rule, which include a permit program to authorize landowners to remove a bear causing property damage under certain circumstances. These changes also allow the public and trained security personnel to scare bears with less-than-lethal methods in appropriate situations without a ... Read More »

Be a Volunteer


Rookery Bay Reserve invites you to learn about how volunteers can help during our next volunteer orientation on Thursday, July 9th at 10 am in our Environmental Learning Center, 300 Tower Road, Naples. We are looking for experienced boat drivers for our Shore Bird monitoring program as well as TEAM OCEAN. Other volunteer opportunities include general and trail maintenance, visitor center greeter and welcome desk; docents for daily programs; aquarium assistant, Kids Free Fridays, special events, admin assistants, community outreach much more. Contact Volunteer Coordinator, Donna Young to attend the meeting and for more information. Email: or call 239-530-5974. ... Read More »

Interns Help Protect Sea Turtles at Rookery Bay Reserve

Norris and Windle share dormitory space and have become fast friends.

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson With 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters that protect 150 species of birds and many threatened and endangered animals, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has a big responsibility– and a devoted team of volunteers that work daily with staff to help achieve it. Through the Reserve’s citizen support organization, Friends of Rookery Bay, volunteers and interns are assisting with a variety of duties, from taking care of the butterfly garden at the Environmental Learning Center to maintaining beach-nesting bird area postings, and even monitoring sea turtle nests at the Cape Romano complex. Two young ... Read More »

Ask Me About the Birds!

A moment between a shorebird and her chick on the beach.

By Renee Wilson Florida’s white sand beaches are a playground for millions of residents and visitors each year. Beaches also serve as important habitat for shorebirds, with many species laying their eggs and raising their young right on the sand. Beaches in and around Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve historically have hosted some of the largest beach-nesting seabird colonies in the state. Audubon Florida and Audubon of the Western Everglades recently partnered with Rookery Bay Reserve to hire Adam DiNuovo in a new position as Shorebird Monitoring and Stewardship Project Manager. DiNuovo is working with research and stewardship staff ... Read More »

WHO’S YOUR MAMA? Dolphin Birthing Season is Near!

In this photo taken May 24, adult female Nibbles looks
larger than usual and is a candidate to give birth this fall.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Giza, Nibbles, Rangle and Button. Ah, yes! These are some of my favorite girls. But wait…these are not girls’ names! They are, if we’re talking about dolphins. It’s that time of year, when the Dolphin Explorer’s survey team is noticing changes in behavior of some of the adult female bottlenose dolphins in the Marco Island area. Many of the 3 and 4 year old calves will be leaving their moms this fall for one main reason…mom is having a new baby. Birthing season is quickly approaching for our area. It will vary around the world, ... Read More »

To Catch a Sawfish….Twice in Two Years!

The Sawfish, which had no rostrum (saw), put up a fight for nearly 2 hours.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist It’s late winter of 2014 and Captain Ted Naftal gets a call. The voice on the line says “I want to go for something big, something that might hurt us.” Captain Ted replies “There are fish that WILL hurt you, and it’s not funny!” It’s an ongoing joke that the Captain has with regular customers, the Graham family. They’ve been friends for years and have caught some trophy-sized fish together. The next prize was about to get very big, and unique! On April 25th, 2014, on board the Miss Nancy 2, guests Michael Graham and ... Read More »

Learning About Sharks in the Ten Thousand Islands

Paulette and Bruce Carabelli have been Rookery Bay volunteers since 2007.  photoS by renee wilson

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson In the 1960s, a large residential neighborhood was created northeast of Marco Island called Southern Golden Gate Estates. Although the unfinished development was later abandoned, a network of roads and miles of canals were built that significantly altered the natural flow of fresh water to the estuaries in the Ten Thousand Islands. Today, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve manages most of the estuaries downstream of that failed development. Because estuaries provide important nursery habitat for sharks and other marine life, the Reserve has been monitoring water quality there since the late 1990s. Studies indicate that ... Read More »

An Osprey Rescue, With a Happy Ending

Obviously in distress, this young Osprey was fighting to stay above water. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist It’s Saturday, May 2nd, the Dolphin Explorer’s 9 AM trip is on the water and something special is about to take place. With 19 happy passengers on board, the tour started as usual, with several dolphin sightings of adult males and even a mom and her calf. We passed a few Osprey nests and the guests took interest in the information that we shared about these raptors. As we made our way up the Intercoastal toward Keewaydin Island, I noticed something in the water flapping its wings furiously. Using my binoculars I was able to determine ... Read More »

Starting Now… The Greatest Water Migration on Earth!


By Bob McConville Master Naturalist Undoubtedly, many full time residents of Marco Island and surrounding areas are noticing some changes in the birds we see at this time of year. Spring has sprung and our winter guests have taken flight back north as warm temperatures return. In addition some feathered friends from Central and South America are just arriving as the southern hemisphere begins to cool. In the waters, many aquatic animals are also traveling north, following the Gulf Stream current as they, too, migrate to chase their sources of food. But this does not happen just in the northern ... Read More »

Do Not Disturb Nesting Sea Turtles


Submitted Sea turtles have begun nesting attempts in the area. Good time to post a few reminders about proper sea turtle etiquette. It can be thrilling to watch a sea turtle crawl onto the beach at night and dig a large hole in the sand to lay dozens of eggs. Just remember that “Do not disturb” is the best behavior to follow when observing a nesting sea turtle. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) asks people not to get too close, shine lights on, or take flash photos of nesting sea turtles. Spring is the beginning of sea ... Read More »

Our SwampLife is Wild…

Barbara Johnson shows her appreciation for our wild life.

By Steve Gimmestad Literally, just outside our doors is a world foreign to many; a vast wetlands we call the Everglades. Thanks to Bob McConville, this world becomes a little less unknown. Bob is a Master Naturalist and shared some insight with us on April 23rd at the Rose History Auditorium. Through pictures, stories and fun facts, Bob let us know quite a bit about the wildlife around us. The breadth of his knowledge is vast and there is so much to impart about his talk. We have limited space here so let’s explore just a few of these ... Read More »

Share the Shore with Beach-Nesting Birds


By Renee Wilson    Southwest Florida has long been considered one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation. Beautiful weather, amazing beaches, and breathtaking wildlife attract thousands of visitors and new residents to our area each year. From April through August, three species of beach-nesting birds also visit Marco area beaches for their nesting habitat. Nesting locations include the sand bar at Caxambas Pass, Sand Dollar Island, Tigertail Beach, and beaches within the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve such as Keewaydin Island, Kice Island, and Cape Romano shoals. Least terns and black skimmers nest together in mixed ... Read More »

Our Yard is a Wildlife Habitat


By Joan and Carl Kelly We have always loved plants and gardening. Never thought highly of grass, though. So, gradually, as we worked our yard, adding flowering and fruit bearing plants, our grass yard got smaller and the favored plants took over. With that change in vegetation also came a change in animal residents. We know of two black racers and a red rat snake who live in our yard. A red bellied woodpecker family resided here last year, and a cardinal visits us regularly for water. Palm warblers sing from the branches of our lemon tree. There are also ... Read More »

A Sanctuary For Wildlife In The ‘Glades’


By Bob McConville Master Naturalist Okay, we all know that alligators, panthers and bears can be found in their natural habitats of the Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades National Park, just 30 minutes from Marco Island. Some of us are aware that crocodiles, river otters and several other unique species can also be found there. But, wait! Did I just see a tiger and a lion in this area? You bet!!! Just past the intersection of U.S. 41 and Route 29, about 2 miles east, is Wooten’s Airboat rides. Under new ownership by the Patel family for less than 2 ... Read More »

Bird Rookery Swamp


By Vickie Kelber In my quest to explore the wonders that are, as I like to call it, “in our own back yard”, a friend and I set off early one morning for the Bird Rookery Swamp Trail off Immokalee Road. Many of you know of, if not visited Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The Bird Rookery is located adjacent and to the south of this preserve on Shady Hollow Boulevard, about 50 minutes from Marco Island. Open since 2011, Bird Rookery Swamp Trail is part of the South Florida Water Management District’s CREW, Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed. The trail is a ... Read More »

Growing Angraecums: Exotic orchids that thrive in SW Florida


Submitted It’s surprising that most orchid hobbyists in Southwest Florida know very little about Angraecums, especially when the orchids thrive in South Florida’s sub-tropics. The Gulf Coast Orchid Alliance invites you to a presentation by Tom Kuligowski at its “Third Thursday” Member Event on April 16, 2015 at the Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church at 1225 Piper Blvd., Naples, FL 34110 from 6:30–8:30 PM. Guests are welcome at no charge. Angraecums are known for their beautiful showy flowers, some of which give off nocturnal fragrances. The orchids can grow to become fantastic specimen plants within only a few years. They are easy ... Read More »