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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 »

Prescribed Fires Made Possible Through Partnership

SUBMITTED PHOTOS

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson renee.wilson@dep.state.fl.us Prescribed fire is an important tool for natural resource managers in Southwest Florida. Within Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, thousands of acres of fire-dependent habitat are managed each year with the help of regional partners and crews from the Prescribed Fire Training Center (PFTC) in Tallahassee. “We rely on partners for a lot of what we do here,” said Resource Management Coordinator Jeff Carter, who is responsible for overseeing the reserve’s prescribed fire program. Rookery Bay Reserve staff coordinate burn activities with the Florida Forestry Service, and work with partnering land managers and local ... Read More »

Our Island Ecology

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By Chadd Chutsz New Year 2016 brings a new column to Coastal Breeze News- Our Island Ecology! Enjoy regular updates and insights on Marco Island nature and wildlife, straight from the desk of the City of Marco Island Environmental Specialist, Chadd Chutsz. Burrowing Owl Chicks Arrived! The first chicks of the season have been spotted by Owl Prowl volunteers! Three fluffy chicks along with mom and dad have made themselves at home on a sandy lot just a short fly from the beach. Writer Rosanne Pawelec is kindly donating a portion of sales proceeds from the book “Ollie Finds A ... Read More »

A Thankful Year in Review

It was a banner year for  baby dolphin births in our area; Mom Giza shows off her newborn, Freedom. Giza also became a
grandmother this year. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The realist adjusts the sails. ~ Wm. Ward   What a fantastic year this has been! I would like to thank the Coastal Breeze News for allowing me to be a part of their team. It has been an honor and I am humbled. I would like, even more, to thank those who read my contributions to this paper. Your positive feedback and constructive criticism have made me a better person (although I like the compliments more than the criticism). One of my ... Read More »

Losing Florida Wildlife

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STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Recently I submitted a column concerning the loss of many species around the planet and the idea, by some scientists, that we are experiencing the beginning of the next mass extinction. Several readers responded and asked that I address the loss of some Florida species, rather than just a generalization of global statistics. (This is good that I get such feedback, now I know someone other than my wife reads these articles.) Human expansion seems to be the main concern regarding some Florida animals, but climate change also plays a major part in the migratory ... Read More »

Southwest Florida Nature Festival

Birding for Beginners  field trip at Sand Dollar Island. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson renee.wilson@dep.state.fl.us Leaves rustling on a light breeze in harmony with twittering songbirds. A mullet splashing out of a brackish bay. Slivers of sunlight dappling the leafy ground. There are many sights and sounds to enjoy in Southwest Florida. Throughout the seasons residents and visitors can enjoy nature hikes, paddling, birding and photography on hundreds of thousands of acres that are protected as conservation lands. As temperatures drop, the environment welcomes new arrivals from the north, many of which have flown here on their own two wings. Now in its 12th year, the Southwest Florida Nature Festival at ... Read More »

Going, Going, Gone! Extinction Rate is Faster Than Ever

Peregrine Falcons are slowly rebounding after near elimination. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist “It is a folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity.” ~ Joel Sartore A few weeks ago I was watching a morning news program that featured conservationist and National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore. He is flying around the world taking pictures of thousands of animal and plant species and he is in a hurry. He displayed a few photos taken in recent months, and those subjects are no longer alive. They are gone, and gone forever. Mr. Sartore is in a race against time to ... Read More »