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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 »

The 2015 Sea Turtle Scoreboard

Submitted Photo

By Kathy Worley, Conservancy of Southwest Florida Director of Environmental Science Great news, like my favorite football team the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl 50, sea turtles were a winner last year as their nesting numbers are trending upward! I recently attended the sea turtle permit holders meeting in Jacksonville, where basically a lot of people gather to talk turtles and discuss the 2015 highlights and players of the year. The main players that take to our beaches every year are the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), while the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) ... Read More »

Boaters – Look Out for Manatees

Submitted Taking their cues from the warm spring weather, Florida manatees have begun leaving their winter retreats and heading north along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and through inland waters. So if you’re a boater enjoying spring days on the water, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) cautions you to look out for manatees and follow posted manatee zones. From April 1 through November 15, seasonal manatee zones require boaters to slow down in certain areas to prevent manatees from being struck by motorboats or personal watercraft. FWC law enforcement officers will be on patrol in state waters ... Read More »

Sandbar Closed For Nesting Season

PHOTOS BY JEAN HALL Beverly Anderson Rookery Bay reserve biologist and Adam DiNuovo Audubon Shorebird stewardship coordinator.

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson renee.wilson@dep.state.fl.us Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR), in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Audubon Florida, has closed the emergent sandbar located one mile southeast of Cape Romano, known as “Second Chance.” The sandbar, which is closed to public access annually from March 1 – August 31, was designated as a Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) by the FWC in November. “Protecting Florida’s wildlife and natural resources is our first priority,” said Rookery Bay Reserve Director Keith Laakkonen. “Taking steps to protect this habitat during the nesting season will increase the ... Read More »

Baby Gator Time at Briggs Boardwalk

Two baby alligators right near the boardwalk close to the overlook. Notice the yellow stripes.

By Bob Schulteis Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer   We are enjoying watching (at a distance) seven baby gators born to Smiley, our resident gator, on the big pond at Briggs. Baby alligators, when born, are usually 6–8 inches in length. They grow about one foot a year for the first five or so years, although each year’s growth rate is not exactly the same. At about five years or so, they lose their stripes because they no longer need the camouflage. When small, baby gators eat small prey such as crickets, insects, spiders, lizards, crustaceans, frogs, and fish, if ... Read More »

Pythons and Gators and Crocs, Oh My!

This 13-foot Burmese python is very visible in an open field, but well disguised when it reaches habitat shrubbery and trees.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist   Join Bob on March 8th at 7 PM at the Marco Island Historical Society’s (MIHS) Rose Auditorium for a presentation about the 2016 Python Challenge results and an update on area dolphin activity. Also, there will be a baby gator and baby crocodile on hand so you can compare the differences of the two species. All area school students and MIHS members are free, and a $5 donation would be appreciated from others. January’s event sold out – so come early to get a good seat!   Burmese pythons, alligators and crocodiles…Believe it or ... Read More »

International “Sharkman” Wows MIA Students

Katherine, a female great white, is one of the sharks the Global Shark Tracker follows. SUBMITTED PHOTO

By Bob McConville, Master Naturalist Great white sharks. For some, those three words cause the hairs on the back of the neck to stand on end. Others will get goosebumps. But for a select few it means it is time to go to work. Such is the case with Chris Fischer. Recently Mr. Fischer donated his time to educate students at the Marco Island Academy about his life work and passion, tracking sharks around the globe. His goals, however, reach much deeper than that. He is a scientist, an educator and a motivator. As founding chairman and expedition leader for ... Read More »

LAUNCH OF AUDUBON BURROWING OWL WATCH PROJECT ON MARCO ISLAND: Public Invited to Special Presentation and Training

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Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) announces a new project called Burrowing Owl Watch, to monitor and protect Marco Island’s imperiled, state-listed Burrowing Owl population. On Saturday, March 5, from 9:00 – 10:30am at Rookery Bay Reserve, 300 Tower Road, Naples, a special presentation on Burrowing Owl Natural History will be given by Nancy Richie, former Environmental Specialist for Marco Island and current owner of Island Environmental and Marine Services. That will be followed by a Burrowing Owl Photography Show and brief training for attendees interesting in becoming owl monitors, by Jean Hall, Audubon Florida Volunteer of the Year for ... Read More »

Discover Pepper Ranch Preserve

COURTESY OF STEPHEN BRIGHAM 2015

Submitted Conservation Collier is offering free, guided hikes led by master naturalists at selected Pepper Ranch Preserve trails on Friday, March 18 and Saturday, April 23. Pepper Ranch Preserve is a 2,512-acre Conservation Collier preserve property that was acquired with the goals of protecting and restoring the native habitats for the benefit of wildlife, providing aquifer recharge, and to provide current and future residents an opportunity for nature-based recreation and education. Wildlife documented on the preserve includes the endangered Florida panther, gopher tortoises, crested caracaras, Florida sandhill cranes, white-tailed deer, bobcats, wild turkey and more! There are approximately 10 miles ... Read More »

Marco’s Magnificent Estuaries

A green heron hides among the mangroves to surprise an unsuspecting fish.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Ah, the beauty of those small islands surrounding Marco! Everyone wants to visit them, to see what hides among the roots and branches. Whether you get out by boat, kayak, an ecotour or paddleboard, they are a treasure to behold. The wide array of animals and plants in this area requires some very special adaptations from nature. The Gulf of Mexico lines our western border while fresh water flows from the inland regions to form a very magical combination. This is called an “estuary.” There are quite a few bays and lagoons in our area ... Read More »

Down Close and Personal

A mother and son explore nature by kayak at the Conservancy. SUBMITTED PHOTO

By Bill Rhodes, Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer Visitors to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida love the electric boats, effortlessly gliding along the backwater estuary and into the Gordon River, with captains eager to share insights while pointing out interesting local trees and animals. What many may not know is that the Conservancy also offers kayak tours guided by trained naturalists, with as many as 15 people going at a time, using single and tandem kayaks. The tour lasts two hours, and, as one guide told me, offers visitors an unparalleled glimpse into the watery world around the Conservancy. Kayakers, sitting ... Read More »

International Support for Mangrove Restoration

Roy Lewis explains the effort.

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson renee.wilson@dep.state.fl.us The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is partnering with China’s Rilin Group to help restore 225 acres of mangroves in Collier County. The industrial group has committed $5 million to restore and monitor the mangrove forest at Fruit Farm Creek within the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR). RBNERR and its partners have been researching causes of the mangrove die-off in the area, which includes construction in the 1940s of state road 92, to develop a plan to restore environmental conditions such as historical water flows in the estuarine area. This project will enable implementing ... Read More »

The Original Snowbirds…White Pelicans

White pelicans are gregarious and will work together to gather fish.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist It is estimated that humans have been in the Florida region for more than 14,000 years. Naples became a destination point just over 100 years ago and Marco Island was a mosquito-infested area until development escalated in the 1950s. Long before northern tourists began visiting our beaches to seek refuge from the winter cold there was a different type of “snowbird”…the white pelican. This giant of the skies breeds primarily in the interior regions of North America and makes its way to Florida, Central America and South America for relief from the colder climate. They ... Read More »

Discovering Your Way: How We Learn From Nature

Lee Memorial Hospital staff participates in a leadership exercise. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Humans…the dominant species on the planet. We have evolved to a point that we don’t have to rely on other animals for our own wellbeing. We’ve gone from being hunters to farmers to producers of artificial substitutes for food. We’ve domesticated other species to provide nourishment for ourselves. Our social structure now demands that we depend on each other to maintain a sense of community, a balance among ourselves. Skills and instincts that we once had are now less valued. There is a hierarchy of managers, middle managers and laborers now, and the relationships among ... Read More »

Winter in the Big Cypress Swamp

Green heron hides among the mangroves waiting for its next meal.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Ah, the harsh winter climate of South Florida! So blustery, so cold that I had to wear long pants twice last January! I don’t know how people can stand it! Actually our climate provides a safe haven for many of our northern visitors to escape the cold and snow. These humans will take advantage of the excellent beach conditions, boating opportunities and great eco-attractions to keep themselves entertained over the next four months. Some will also take the short trip, less than thirty minutes, and learn about the fascinating areas just west of the Everglades. ... Read More »