Thursday , January 29 2015
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How Did We Get Here?


Stepping Stones Bob McConville Over the past few months I’ve had the honor to tell you about a variety of habitats and wildlife that thrive throughout our magnificent state. Florida has such a unique and varied ecosystem that supports our plants and animals, and with the exception of our northern border, we are completely surrounded by water. Whether it be freshwater from our rivers, lakes and aquifers, or the saltwater from the gulf, bays or ocean, water seems to be the key to life here. However, it is not the only key. Florida’s environment spans temperature zones ranging from the cooler, ... Read More »

Success! A Clean Beach

Al Benarroch with a couple dozen of his employees and their families in neon yellow t-shirts. PHOTOS BY NANCY RICHIE

By Nancy J. Richie City of Marco Island Environmental Specialist That Florida fabulous winter weather is finally here! It brought out a large crowd to clean the beach on Saturday, Jan. 11. The monthly city of Marco Island Beach Advisory Committee beach clean up could not have been scheduled on a more perfect morning. City of Marco Island Beach Advisory Committee Member Ralph Barnhart manages the monthly beach clean ups, and was onsite at 8 AM at South Beach access with bottled water, gloves and bags donated by Publix for all volunteers. Shortly after 8 AM, fellow Beach Advisory Committee ... Read More »

Beautiful Bromeliads Add Pizzazz to Calusa Park


By Nancy J. Richie City of Marco Island Environmental Specialist Bromeliads are the perfect fit for Florida Friendly Landscaping (FFL) principals. They are the “right plant in the right place” for Marco Island landscapes, as they are species of plant that requires no fertilizer, maintenance or water, under normal conditions. The most familiar bromeliad may be the pineapple. They are colorful and come in so many species (more than 2,000) — displaying colors from red tipped, striped, silver, green and gold core leaves to name a few. Their flowers are just as exotic with large stems and bright colors in ... Read More »

Taking a Turn with Gulls and Terns


PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie As you walk along the beach, you may think you are just seeing and hearing lots of “seagulls” on the Marco Island beach, but there are many diverse and unique species of gull-like birds on the beach. Take a closer look, and you may be surprised by the diversity of bird species using the beach to rest, feed and even nest. Gulls, commonly known as “seagulls” (though many nest and breed inland), are a common beach bird on the Marco Island beach that we are all familiar with both visually and by sound. Gulls have ... Read More »

Marco Island: Our Coastal Friends

Halfway, an adult female bottle-nosed dolphin, catches a wave. She has four known offspring: Seymour, Simon, Kaya and 4-month-old Skipper. PHOTO BY MARINE BIOLOGIST JAMES LIVICCARI

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Eagles and ospreys and skimmers..oh my! Book upon book could be written about the animal and plant life here on Marco Island. Mother Nature has truly worked her magic regarding the variety of inhabitants and vegetation found here. As previously discussed the red mangrove forest has set the stage — and the table — for a food chain that starts with micro-organisms and ends with the area’s apex predators. Let’s meet a few more locals and some migrating species in our area now. Dolphins A cry goes out, “There’s two over here! Dolphins at 9:00!” James and ... Read More »

Loggerhead Released Near Goodland


By Natalie Strom The Conservancy of Southwest Florida released Sassy, its female loggerhead sea turtle into the Gulf of Mexico near the Ten Thousand Islands on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Born on Sanibel Island, Sassy was transferred to the Florida Atlantic University lab at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, where she was part of a gender study linking nest temperature to the gender of hatchlings. Following her two months in the ongoing sea turtle gender study, Sassy was brought to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. In 2012, Sassy became the first resident of the 5,000-gallon saltwater tank in ... Read More »

2014 New Year’s Resolutions


PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie As the New Year rolls in, looking forward is a natural inclination. Reflecting on the past year’s experiences helps to improve knowledge, behavior and life in general. Many of us distill these lessons to make a list of resolutions for the new year. Sometimes resolutions are hard to stick to if they are too grandiose or complicated. Making resolutions that are a small step in the right direction or something that is easy to insert into your regular way of life are always the most successful. Resolutions that have a collective effort may be the ... Read More »

Florida’s Coastal Friends

A tri-colored heron enjoys the hunt along a grassy shoreline. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Hello, Mother Nature, and thank you”! This is the anthem I sing when visiting any portion of the state’s coastline. From the panhandle beaches on around to Marco Island to the northernmost points of our ocean areas, there is an abundance of plant and animal life to be appreciated. It would be easy to write several books about this topic and cover the entire coastal region. Because I get writer’s cramp very quickly, this brief space will be dedicated to the live treasures found on Marco Island. It is appropriate to start with the plant life ... Read More »

Controlled Burns: Fighting Fire with Fire

Deer cross a break line heading from an overgrown area to a controlled burn area to forage for food. PHOTO BY NATALIE STROM

By Natalie Strom “South Florida is the largest lightning receptor in North America, which is why the vegetation in Florida is all fire adaptive and fire dependent. It needs fire, it’s learned to evolve itself around fire over time, and if we don’t mimic the natural fire regime we’re going to have overgrown vegetation.” Cass Palmer knows his way around a wildfire. He also knows more than just a thing or two about the importance of controlled burns throughout southwest Florida. The District Fire Management Officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is assigned to the entire portion ... Read More »

Southwest Florida Nature Festival

Ted Below, avian expert and former National Audubon Warden, will be on hand to discuss ospreys in southwest Florida. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Submitted Don’t let the flock pass you by! Registration still is open for dozens of guided field trips to wildlife hot spots around southwest Florida in celebration of the 10th Annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival Jan. 17-19. Specialty trips cover all modes of transportation, including bike rides, buggy rides, canoe trips, swamp tromps and boat tours that shine a spotlight on the amazing conservation lands and waters across the region. Take advantage of opportunities to explore off-the-beaten-path locations such as Sandfly Island in Everglades National Park, CREW Bird Rookery Swamp and Big Cypress National Preserve. Get to know the wildlife ... Read More »

Guided Canoe Trips at Collier-Seminole State Park

Visitors paddle down the serene Blackwater River on a guided canoe tour. PHOTO BY NATALIE STROM

By Noelle H. Lowery Want to learn a little more about the flora and fauna along the Blackwater River? Want to see ancient mangroves and royal palms? Want to know how the Semi-nole Indians survived in the swamps of southwest Florida? Then take a guided canoe trip at Collier-Seminole State Park. Now available Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, beginning at 9:30 AM, the guided tours explore a 13.6-mile canoe trail that twists and turns down the Blackwater River through the state park. The cost is $30 per person for ages six years and up, and each trip is ... Read More »

Comment Period Extended for Backcountry Access Plan Scoping


By Bob DeGross Big Cypress National Preserve Big Cypress National Preserve has extended the public scoping period for a backcountry access plan and environmental impact statement (EIS) being prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The comment period will be extended until Feb. 28, 2014, in response to a request from the public for additional time to review and comment on the scoping newsletter. The purpose of the plan will be to provide off-road vehicle (ORV) secondary trails, non-motorized trails and a camping management approach that protects the Preserve’s natural and cultural resources while providing ... Read More »

2013’s Excellent Environmental Endeavors

Burrowing Owl by Jean Hall.

PROTECTING &PRESERVING Nancy Richie This past year, Marco Island’s environment had exciting conservation efforts and thrived despite increased construction and tourism and limited funding. It’s a precarious balance of people and the environment on this small barrier island in the Ten Thousand Islands, but with the community’s awareness and support, the wildlife and its habitat is holding its own. Looking back in 2013, here are a handful of projects that improved and maintained our environment: • Volunteer Beach Stewards: Launched in 2012, this award-winning program has continued to improve steadily in both numbers and messages to protect the Marco Island ... Read More »

Water, water everywhere!

Everglades National Park. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Stepping Stones Bob McConville From the freshwater rivers of Alabama and Georgia that flow into our state to the rain produced sheetflow of central Florida and the showers The Everglades send to our local area, there is a consistent supply of clean water for us to enjoy and utilize. More than 100 rivers crisscross our state; many of which are protected and preserved. These tributaries nourish the surroundings and give us the beautiful and diverse landscape we enjoy today. The panhandle region and extreme northern border boast lush forests that provide a home for deer, bear, turkey and a variety ... Read More »

FWC, partners offer reward for info about suspicious panther death


By Bob DeGross Big Cypress National Preserve, Chief of Interpretation and Public Affairs The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are looking for help from the public with an investigation involving the suspected illegal take of a Florida panther that was recently found dead in the Turner River Unit of Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County. The dead panther was found with a suspected gunshot wound last weekend. For information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for killing the panther, the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Reward Association ... Read More »

Bring in the New Year with Eaglets

photo by John Parravani

Submitted The holidays are upon us, and New Year’s Eve is approaching quickly. There are many traditions to celebrate the New Year; for a few, this includes fireworks. Fireworks may be a festive, but they are illegal on Marco Island. Moreover, the light, noise and explosions are bad tidings for Marco’s local wildlife. In fact, in Florida, the only legal fireworks for use by consumers — who don’t possess a special permit — are “sparklers”, which include sparklers, fountains, snakes and glow worms. Illegal fireworks include Roman candles, bottle rockets and any other fireworks that act as projectiles. While consumers ... Read More »

Giving back to wildlife, our way of life

Friends of the Fakahatchee Tram Tours. SUBMITTED photo

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie As the rest of the country is shoveling snow, commuting dangerously on icy roadways and bundling up in scarves and coats, we are walking the sunny Marco Island crescent beach in flip-flops or even barefoot, gift shopping in shorts and t-shirts and asking for an iced peppermint latte to cool off. What a wonderful time of year! Most of us, if not all of us, live and visit here for the beauty and wildlife life that is just out our backdoors. From boating, fishing, beachcombing, tennis, golf to just our easy way of living ... Read More »

Upland Adventures

White sand banks of the Blackwater River, a result of quartz  erosion from the Appalachian Mountains. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville I’m always telling my family and friends that the two best months of the year in Florida are November and April. So, when I woke up on November 13 and it was 30 degrees outside with a windchill of 24 degrees, I thought, “What!!! In Florida?? Mid November!?” You bet. Along with my wife Cathy (also a Master Naturalist and a full-time nurse at Physician Regional’s Marco Island Clinic), I took a trip to Florida’s panhandle to explore a few upland habitats. We experienced that cruel weather while staying in the Destin area. When we stepped out ... Read More »

Rookery Bay Welcomes New Staff

Kevin Cunniff. Julie Drevenkar. Submitted Photos

By Natalie Strom Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is more than just a great place to enjoy one’s day and learn about our areas ecosystems. Guest speakers, art exhibitions and outdoor exploration are all a part of the great experience that is RBNERR. The facility’s main focus, however, is on research. Research staff study myriad subjects within the 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters protected by the reserve, including water salinity, mangrove health, fish sampling and much more. As such, RBNERR is always looking for qualified scientists to assist and coordinate in said research. This is where ... Read More »

Weather Wreaks Havoc on Wildlife

By Natalie Strom The week of November 25 through December 1 was a strange week on the beach for many of the city’s volunteer beach stewards. A recent storm front and some odd activities led to an unusually large amount of marine mammal life to be washed ashore on Marco’s beaches. First up, octopi. In one day, a beach steward found eight stranded on the shore as he monitored the beach. Another one was found on Sand Dollar Beach in the same week. Of the nine, six were still alive and were able to be returned to the water. ... Read More »