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Goodland Civic Association Does Good

The morning started bright and foggy. SUBMITTED photoS

By Nancy Richie City of Marco Island Environmental Specialist When the Goodland Civic Association members volunteer, they come in a large, boisterous group; ready to go and ready for fun! For their generous volunteer efforts, they did not just include their own fishing village but the community at large. On Saturday, Feb. 8, a couple dozen Goodland Civic Association members ventured a few minutes down the road and volunteered to clean up Marco Island’s beach. Led by Association President Greg Bello, they arrived a little after 8 AM at the South Beach access. Rina Lazo from Marco Island Civic Association ... Read More »

Celebrating the Eagles

By Noelle H. Lowery On Sunday, March 16, the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation will celebrate Paleo and Calusa, the island’s resident nesting Bald Eagle couple, at its Fourth Annual Nest Fest. The event begins at 5:30 PM with a cocktail hour at the Island Country Club and dinner to follow at 6:30 PM. Valet parking will be available, and Sound Check will entertain guests with live music. Tickets are $75 per person. This year’s event promises to be the biggest and bet yet, according to Carl Way, chairman and founder of the volunteer, nonprofit foundation. “Nest Fest started out ... Read More »

Hideaway Beach Hosts Buddy Day 2014

Employees from the Greater Marco Family YMCA organized games for the Buddy Day event.

By Noelle H. Lowery It was a day of discovery. It was a day of celebration. It was a day of bonding. It was Buddy Day 2014 at Hideaway Beach on Marco Island. Some 168 second-graders and 200 adult volunteers participated in the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee’s annual Buddy Day event, which rewards children enrolled in the Guadalupe After-School (G-A-P) Program for their hard work and dedication to reading and academic achievement. The students and adults spent the day at Hideaway Beach learning about sea life in the Gulf of Mexico from Rookery Bay volunteers, studying coastal and migratory ... Read More »

Success at ‘Discover Tigertail’

Mary Nelson talks about the significance Tigertail Beach holds to nesting sea turtles.

Submitted On Saturday, March 1, Friends of Tigertail hosted its annual “Discover Tigertail Beach” event. The weather was delightful, and the attendance was impressive with 200 people, including local residents and many national and international visitors. A part of this year’s event, FOT launched a new program dubbed “Question Quest.” A fun scavenger hunt, it served not only as an educational element, but as a facilitating tool for the self-guided tour through the nine information stations. At the beach entrance, FOT greeters presented the guests with a pencil and the scavenger hunt sheet, explaining that each numbered question corresponded with ... Read More »

A Beginner’s Guide to (Gulp) Pythons – Part 1

This tricolored heron is feeding in ideal python habitat. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist “I’ve got a snake over here!” “Okay, can you describe it?” “Yes. It looks to be about 6-feet-long, dark brown with black spots and about 3 inches thick.” “Do the spots connect? Do they touch each other? Tell me about the markings on the head.” “The spots a giraffe-like. They do not touch. The head markings look like a dark arrowhead with a lighter line in the center.” “Sounds like you’ve got a Burmese python! Get on the phone and dial 1-888-IVE-GOT1. Give them your GPS coordinates, the closest street intersection or a mile ... Read More »

Positive Interactions with Wildlife

Burrowing owls set up shop in their new home. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie To balance out the alarming and sad stories of wildlife that have occurred recently in and around Marco Island — the pilot whale tragedy along the southwest coast of Florida, ultimately ending just south of Marco Island on Kice Island with 25 dead whales; the news of the Marco Eagle Sanctuary bald eagle pair nesting interrupted; and the shooting of a wild boar on Marco Island’s beach — a few positive wildlife interactions with people on Marco Island have occurred and need to be noted. It is safe to say that one of the ... Read More »

Friends of Tigertail Ready for Day of Discovery


Submitted On the heels of its success with “Breakfast and Birds,” Friends of Tigertail is gearing up for its next big event. “Discover Tigertail” is set for Saturday, March 1, from 10 AM-12 PM at Tigertail Beach. This will be FOT’s second event of 2014. The first — “Breakfast and Birds: Identify Our Winter Residents” — was held the morning of Jan. 11, and celebrated Tigertail Beach’s feathered friends. An impressive crowd of 62 attendees enjoyed their “bring-your-own breakfast” and coffee as Susan Kubat and Fran Huxley gave brief presentations at the Tigertail pavilion on the characteristics and feeding habits ... Read More »

A “Vantastic” Voyage

By Melinda Gray Just minutes into one of Billy “O’s” Vantastic Tours, it becomes apparent: owner and tour guide, Billy “O” Oliver is passionate about the wildlife and colorful history of the Everglades. During my visit to Goodland in January, I was lucky enough to go on my first eco-tour with Billy “O.” My two children were dying to see some of the Everglades’ famed wildlife, and as my daughter caught sight of a dolphin from the top of the Goodland Bridge, I knew we’d be talking about this adventure for weeks. With promises of gigantic turtles and talking ... Read More »

2014 Christmas Bird Count


PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie Each winter, the National Audubon Society holds their annual nationwide Christmas Bird Count. This is 114th year that thousands of volunteers armed with binoculars, field guides and bird lists from all over the country get out in their neighborhoods, local parks and natural areas to document each and every bird they see and hear in about eight hours. It is “citizen science” at its best, giving an overall assessment — good or bad — of bird populations that enhance biologists’ studies of bird populations, migration routes and the health of our world’s ecosystems. This count ... Read More »

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 »