Environment

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 ... 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 ... Read More »

New Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk Tour

The new Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk tour stops at this gator hole. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Submitted A new naturalist-led tour of the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk is the newest Friends of Fakahatchee adventure offered at www.orchidswamp.org. The new tour uses high-tech two way headsets will help tour participants get the most out of their naturalist-led small group tour of the Fakahatchee’s Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. The tour of the National Natural Landmark site on the ... Read More »

Meet Marco’s New Baby Dolphins

Cosmo and her baby  Honeymoon play in a wave. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Freedom. Honeymoon. Little Bear. These words do not describe a mountain getaway for newlyweds. They are, instead, the names of the first three baby dolphins seen in the Marco Island area this fall. This is birthing season for the bottle nosed dolphins in this section of the world, and we are hoping to see a ... Read More »

Sea Turtle Research in the Ten Thousand Islands

Greg Curry, left, and 
Dr. Jeff Schmid release a loggerhead sea turtle from their capture net. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson renee.wilson@dep.state.fl.us Most Marco residents know that Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve protects 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters on Southwest Florida’s coast, but few are aware that this outdoor classroom and living laboratory hosts hundreds of research projects undertaken by DEP staff, graduate research fellows, and visiting scientists from around the world to answer scientific ... Read More »

Meet the Marco Dolphins

2-year-old dolphin, Anji. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Submitted Join master naturalist Bob McConville on November 19th in Rose History Auditorium for the first in a series of fun-filled lectures on young, bottlenose dolphins in Marco waters. The lecture, which is sponsored by the Marco Island Historical Society, begins at 7 PM and is open to the public. McConville will also continue his discussion of area wildlife on ... Read More »

Sea Turtle Research in the Ten Thousand Islands

Greg Curry, left, and 
Dr. Jeff Schmid release a loggerhead sea turtle from their capture net. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson renee.wilson@dep.state.fl.us Most Marco residents know that Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve protects 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters on Southwest Florida’s coast, but few are aware that this outdoor classroom and living laboratory hosts hundreds of research projects undertaken by DEP staff, graduate research fellows, and visiting scientists from around the world to answer scientific ... Read More »

Stone Crabs … Interesting Facts

Bob displays a male stone 
crab for guests to view onboard the Dolphin Explorer. PHOTO BY CAPT. MICHAEL TATEO

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturali Yum! There they are, precooked, and on a plate right in front of me. Just a bit cooler than room temperature, with a side of drawn butter, as well as a mild mustard sauce, I can already taste them and I’m three feet from the table. Those delicious stone crab claws are back in season! ... Read More »

October a Fun and Busy Month for Calusa Garden Club

Nancy Richie surrounded by Tommie Barfield Junior Gardeners. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Special to the Coastal Breeze Garden Club’s Junior Gardeners Learn About Tortoises This school year, 25 Tommie Barfield Elementary students are participating in the Calusa Garden Club’s Junior Gardener Program. The first Junior Gardener meeting featured retired City of Marco Island Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie presenting a program on tortoises. After the program, the students applied their new knowledge to ... Read More »

Snorkeling With Manta Rays… At Night…In Hawaii

The magnificent manta ray. SUBMITTED PHOTO

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalis It was a warm September evening and the sun had just set on Keauhou Bay. Captain Kirk Herring carefully guided our boat, Hula Kai, into position and two of our guides, Brent and Megan, sprang into action. A floating, plastic plank equipped with underwater lights was quickly in place behind the vessel. Wetsuits on and ... Read More »

A Rare Encounter With a Rare Fish…

A smalltooth sawfish, classified as endangered in 2003. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson renee.wilson@dep.state.fl.us Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve staff were conducting a nonbreeding bird route survey recently in the Ten Thousand Islands near Cape Romano, and were very excited to observe a 30-inch smalltooth sawfish. At this size, the sawfish would be considered “young-of-the-year” and was most certainly pupped in Reserve waters. They were able to watch ... Read More »

Falcon Fall Migrations Have Begun

The “barred” feathers on the chest and underwing, as well as the slate grey coloring around the eyes and head, make the peregrine falcon easy to recognize.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist On September 23rd at 4:21 AM, Eastern Time, the first day of fall officially arrived. Here in Florida we all look forward to cooler temperatures and less humidity. We also notice the absence of some of our summer migratory animals, and the return of many others. The first day of fall is also known as ... Read More »

Marine Archaeologist to Speak at Rose Auditorium

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Submitted The Marco Island Historical Society welcomes marine archaeologist Jeff Moates to Rose History Auditorium on Tuesday, October 6th at 7:00 PM. Moates’s lecture will focus on the archaeology and history of Southwest Florida’s Cuban “Fishing Ranchos.” In the late 18th and 19th centuries, groups of Cuban and Spanish Indian fishermen established a number of “Fishing Ranchos” along the Gulf ... Read More »

National Estuaries Day

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By Erin and Amelia Perchalski Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve celebrated National Estuaries Day on Saturday, September 26 by offering many unique, free experiences. Boat tours of the bay were given throughout the day, along with opening up the research lab. Many vendors filled the Environmental Learning Center with displays from Collier Mosquito Control District, Florida State Parks, the ... Read More »

Friends of Tigertail International Beach Cleanup

Keeping our beaches clean is vital. Friends of Tigertail helps keep the beach healthy and beautiful. SUBMITTED BY JASMINE PARCELLES

By Samantha Husted On September 19, Friends of Tigertail Beach (FOT) held their annual International Beach Cleanup event. The cleanup was held in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup that took place around the world. Volunteers, with gloves and trash bags in hand, combed Tigertail in search of litter, debris and other harmful materials. Data cards were given to participants ... Read More »

Enjoy Your Estuary

Rookery Bay, designated in 1978, was established on Shell Island Road  in 1984. In 1996, headquarters moved to Tower Road, but the Shell Island Road location, seen here, is still in use as a field station and hub for ecotours. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson renee.wilson@dep.state.fl.us Marco Island is surrounded by natural beauty. Here, freshwater from land meets saltwater from the sea and forms a unique habitat known as an estuary. This special environment is vital to coastal communities like Marco because it provides shelter for fish and shellfish, recreational opportunities for people, and an economic engine that drives the local economy ... Read More »

A Dolphin Rescue: One Year Later

September 4, 2015: Mom Halfway (notch halfway up her fin) leads Skipper in the Marco River on the anniversary of Skipper’s rescue. The tag is now gone from Skipper’s fin, leaving a notch toward the top.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist September 4, 2014: The Dolphin Explorer is not open for business. The entire crew is, instead, on the water with one specific goal…find a dolphin in distress. Captain Bob Erickson is at the helm of the Dolphin Explorer with Coastal Breeze reporter Noelle Lowery and a naturalist on board. Captain Michael Tateo and Naturalist Kent ... Read More »

Volunteers Needed

Rookery_Feature

Submitted Rookery Bay Reserve is looking for volunteers to be aquarium life support assistants and for water quality testing. A background in Biology and Chemistry is helpful. Education majors are also wanted to assist with our 4th and 7th grade programs. National Estuaries Day is Saturday, September 26, and volunteers are needed for a variety of activities. Trail work day volunteers are needed ... Read More »

A Stormy Recipe: How to Make a Hurricane

This photo of Hurricane Andrew was taken on August 23, 1992, one day before it  impacted the Florida coast to become one of South Florida’s most devastating storms in history. SUBMITTED PHOTO

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist My wife Cathy and I love to cook. We are always conjuring up new ideas for old recipes. Sometimes we find that adding just one new ingredient can make a pleasant difference, but, more often than not, it seems that the original plan is the best. Mother Nature has a recipe or two that she ... Read More »

Invaders Among Us

River otters (seen here), 
raccoons, possum, deer and other animals are on the python menu. In some areas of South Florida populations are down as much as 90%! PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Let’s take a short trip back in time. Florida has stabilized from thousands of years of climatic turmoil. Sea levels have risen close to what we know in the present day, and the weather has settled as well. It is the year 3,000 B.C. and we are native to this land. We do not farm, ... Read More »