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Environment

The Gulf Stream: A Migratory Highway

A newborn loggerhead, less than 2-inches long, gets ahead start towards the Gulf Stream current that will take it thousands of miles before returning to Marco Island 20-plus years from now. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Over the next few months, there will be a lot of attention given to the loggerhead turtles that nest on our local beaches. Not so much fuss will be made once the eggs have hatched, but many people are very aware of the absolutely magnificent, nearly impossible journey that these youngsters take. It is nothing short of a miracle. Some of them will catch the Gulf Stream current just off our shoreline, grab a transfer into the Atlantic Ocean and continue up the coastline until they turn east toward Europe and Africa. But they ... Read More »

Dolphin Explorer: 8 Years of Research

PHOTO BY Kirk Gardner

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Over here is Halfway, an adult female bottlenose dolphin and mom to at least four calves. Over there is one of our dominant male pair bonds, Hatchet and Capri.” These are common refrains by naturalist Kent Morse and marine biologist James Liviccari on board the Dolphin Explorer. With 16 years of experience between them studying the bottlenose dolphins in and around Marco Island, these two professionals not only identify the area mammals but they recognize certain behaviors and traits of many individuals. With eight complete years of survey data in their hands, some amazing ... Read More »

Sea Turtle Season: Let’s All Do Our Part

1st Sea Turtle Nest of 2013 on Sand Dollar Island.

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Sunday, April 20, was the fourth anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Though the oil and secondary impacts to this environmental disaster never reached the shores of Marco Island, it affected the sea turtles and shorebird populations throughout the Gulf. That summer, there was record number of volunteers willing to step up and volunteer to help marine wildlife and protect our beaches. Those numbers have dwindled over the last few years as the memory and anxiety of oil on our beaches faded. Why does it take a disaster to ... Read More »

On the Road Less Traveled With the Swallow-tailed Kite

A Swallow-tailed Kite seen near Shell Island Road. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

It was a typical drive home from work on April 22 when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a bird flying. Its movement was a bit different than other area birds, and then I saw its tail. I smiled, and said to myself, “They’re back.” I am, by no means, a professional birder, but seeing certain species at specific times of the year helps me understand that there is an order on this earth — a system that has been in place for thousands of years. This was my third such sighting of this particular bird this ... Read More »

Florida’s Easter Bunny: Marsh Rabbits

The Florida Marsh Rabbit. PHOTO BY JEAN HALL

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com The weather is a bit warmer. Humidity is not too high. Fresh breezes make the Gulf a little choppy, and the island is quieter. It’s spring, and that time of year when many, especially those younger than 10 years old, may be keeping an eye out for the Easter Bunny, who may be hiding eggs around their house or yard — or perhaps hiding 20,000 eggs at Mackle Park on April 19 at the annual city of Marco Island’s Spring Jubilee! Though the Easter Bunny may visit just once a year, there is a ... Read More »

Before the Calusa, Who Was Here?

Calusa Fishing People. COURTESY OF FLORIDA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Just about everyone who visits this area is aware of some of the recent native American inhabitants of South Florida. The Calusa indians controlled the waterways from the Florida Keys as far north as Tampa Bay. The Seminole and Miccosukee roamed the inland areas and the Everglades while even more tribes settled other regions of the state. In fact, when Christopher Columbus first came to this part of the world, it is estimated that there were more than 300,000 natives in Florida. Many of these Indian nations did not have a written history, and ... Read More »

Protecting Beach Birds

Least terns lay eggs in sand scrapes right on the beach.  Eggs and young are extremely vulnerable to sun and heat when adult birds are flushed by people, dogs, or vehicles approaching the nest site. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Submitted Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, in cooperation with the Flor-ida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), has posted a small por-tion of beach on the south tip of Keewaydin Island and part of an emergent sandbar one mile southeast of Cape Romano to protect nesting habitat for least terns, black skimmers and Wilson’s plovers. These areas have been posted an-nually since 2001 to protect beach bird nesting season April-August. “Protecting Florida’s wildlife and natural resources is our first priority,” said Rook-ery Bay Reserve Director Gary Lytton. “Taking steps to protect the least tern on Keewaydin Island during its ... Read More »

Come Experience Marco Island’s Living Beaches

Marty and Debbie Roddy. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Submitted The Marco Island Historical Society presents “Marco Island’s Living Beaches,” a presentation by Debbie and Marty Roddy, on Tuesday, May 6 at 7 PM at the Rose History Auditorium. There is no charge for members; non-members are asked to pay $5. The Roddy’s will provide a virtual tour of Marco Island’s living beaches for interested beach goers. Learn about the critters, plants and formations that make the coastline a vibrant place. You’ll also learn how the Calusa Indians used local natural resources to live. Debbie and Marty are permanent residents of Marco Island and have devoted a majority of ... Read More »

FOT Nabs 240 lbs of Debris at Clean Up

FOT member Susan Lagrotta gives a first-time  volunteer the lay of the land. PHOTOS BY JOSEPH PARISI

By Coastal Breeze News Staff Friends of Tigertaill Beach are wrapping up season with a flurry of activity. On March 24, FOT hosted its annual Membership Appreciation Dinner, with more than 50 attendees, including three of the founding members. Then on Saturday, April 12, FOT held the Annual Bay Days Beach Clean Up. A whopping 240 lbs. of trash and debris were collected in a total of 22 large garbage bags by some 70 volunteers. “Keep Collier Beautiful” provided the volunteers with garbage bags, plastic gloves, water bottles, item tally boards and event T-shirts. It was an astonishing mix of ... Read More »

Something’s Got to Give

July 5, 2013 partial trash collection. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Something’s got to give. Soon. The Marco Island beach is raked daily and large debris is removed by Collier County. Volunteer Beach Stewards walk the beach daily picking up at least one bag of trash – sometimes two or more. The City’s Beach Advisory Committee partners with the Marco Island Civic Association, Publix and local businesses and groups for monthly beach clean-ups which remove dozens of bags of trash in only a few hours. Friends of Tigertail, Inc. has quarterly clean-ups that hundreds participate in removing carts full of trash and debris. This equates to ... Read More »

Crocs ‘N’ Gators…They’re Here!

You can clearly see the 4th tooth on the lower jaw. This is an easy way to tell a croc from a gator. Photo taken at Wooten’s Nature Preserve.

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Crocodiles and alligators….we’ve got both species on, or very near to, Marco Island. Although they look a lot alike, they are very, very different. Alligators are found primarily in freshwater habitats, and crocodiles are found primarily in saltwater habitats. The key word here is “primarily” because we do find both types of reptile in both types of water. Crocs and gators belong to a group of reptiles called crocodilians, which are the largest of all living reptiles. There are 23 species native to the U.S., and the only place where both species coexist is South ... Read More »

Great, Big, Beautiful Birds

GREAT BLUE HERON BREEDING PAIR. PHOTOS BY JEAN HALL

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com They are tall, elegant and intensely avian. Like magnificently feathered ballerinas, Great Blue Heron, Great White Heron and the Great Egret magically grace many Southwest Florida habitats: the beach, back bay, mudflat and mangroves. And if a regular fisherman, one of these water birds hanging around the dock begging for bait is not uncommon. (Note: Please do not feed wildlife!) These three large species of wading birds are very similar. The most obvious is their stature. They are all so big; they certainly have earned their title of “grea.” That is about as simple ... Read More »

Wood Storks of the Everglades

This feeding Wood Stork uses “tactolocation,” sweeping its bill from side to side until touching prey and closing its bill in 1/40th of a second!

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Let’s step back to the Everglades of the 1900s. This pristine area is virtually untouched, and for nearly 5,000 years, a sheet of water from the overflow of Lake Okeechobee has developed this region into a haven for a large variety of reptiles and other animals, including many bird species. One of those bird species — the wood stork. Let’s fast forward to the 1930s. Development south of Lake O is taking place in the form of farms and ranches. Even further south, the logging industry has increased substantially. Efforts to drain the Everglades are ... Read More »

Keeping It Clean – It’s Team Work!

Greenscapes Inc. ready to clean the beach. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Submitted The City of Marco Island’s Beach Advisory Committee’s monthly beach clean-up could not have happened on a better Saturday of the year. Mid-March — the island is very populated and everyone is at the beach — unfortunately more people equates to more trash on the beach. Gathering early on March 15, members of the Beach Advisory Committee, Greenscapes Inc., Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, Marco Island Civic Association and the Board of Realtors’ Young Professionals all cleaned the beach. Working together and armed with gloves and bags provided by Publix, this group removed close to 30 bags of ... Read More »

Help FWC – Be a Citizen Scientist

Horseshoe crabs on the beach. PHOTO COURTESY OF FWC

Submitted A ritual dating back millions of years takes place again this spring on Florida beaches. Spring marks horseshoe crab mating season, and biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) want the public’s help identifying spawning sites. Beachgoers likely will have the best luck spotting mating horseshoe crabs around high tide, just before, during or after a new or full moon. The conditions around the new moon on March 30 will create ideal opportunities to view the spawning behavior of horseshoe crabs. Mating crabs “pair up,” with the smaller male on top of the larger female. Other ... Read More »

Make World Water Day Every Day

The 110,000 acres of RBNERR are a great place to explore by paddleboard,
kayak or boat.

By Natalie Strom natalie@coastalbreezenews.com News flash! Water is essential to our everyday lives! Oh, you already knew that? Good. Well, did you know that you can celebrate what keeps you alive on March 22 with the rest of the world. That’s right. It’s World Water Day, and the best way to celebrate the liquid locally is by taking a trip to Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR) where its specialty, of course, is water and water research. Head out to 300 Tower Road, just off of US-951, and you will find the Reserve tucked away in a hidden paradise ... Read More »

A Beginner’s Guide to (GULP) Pythons: Part 2

B14-CBN-3-7-14-15feature

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist In the last edition of Coastal Breeze News, I gave you a brief introduction to Burmese pythons. These animals are an invasive species (not native to Florida), and they are now firmly established not only in the Everglades but as far west as Collier County. Their numbers have been estimated to be from 15,000 to 150,000 or more throughout the lower portion of the state. They inhabit areas that are both tropical and subtropical, much like that in our region. I recently had a very enlightening conversation with a man who studies Burmese pythons. He ... Read More »

Just look, don’t touch!

The Saddleback Caterpillar. Look but don’t touch!

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Beware! Lurking in many South Florida backyards is a small critter that will offer a terrible surprise if touched. The half to one inch long, stout-bodied brown caterpillar has a conspicuous green back with brown oval outlined in white. It’s unique coloring may entice a closer look by touching or holding it– but don’t! It is a stinging caterpillar known as the Saddleback Caterpillar. The brown oval marking on the center of its back looks like a saddle on a bright green saddle blanket, hence the silly name. Archaria stimulea (Saddleback Caterpillar) is the larvae ... Read More »

Rookery Bay Gears Up for Batfish Bash

By Noelle H. Lowery noelle@coastalbreezenews.com Calling all friends and patrons of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve: Saturday, March 15, the Friends of Rookery Bay will hold the Fifth Annual Batfish Bash for the Bay to support youth science education, environmental research activities and community outreach programs at the reserve. Held at the Environmental Learning Center (300 Tower Road, Naples), the festivities will begin with a cocktail hour at 6 PM, followed by silent and live auctions and an evening for dinner and dancing. According to Craig Seibert, president of the Friends of Rookery Bay, Batfish Bash has raised more ... Read More »