Wednesday , July 29 2015
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Stepping Stones

Fire… a Necessary Function of Nature

Mobile wildlife such as deer, bear and bobcat can flee a wildfire quickly. Nesting birds such as eagles, herons, egrets and storks could be more at risk. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

As I watch the evening news, I see that another wildfire is burning out of control somewhere across the United States. Reports proclaim that it is 40% contained, and then 60% under control. Attention is drawn to the number of structures that are at risk, then saved, because of the quick action taken by mankind’s actions. It’s good that homes are spared Mother Nature’s wrath, but is this stoppage of a natural event what was intended overall? Here in South Florida, throughout the past few weeks, I’ve left my home in the morning and I can smell smoke in the ... Read More »

150 Pound Tarpon Caught In The Marco River

Matt Stark, left, and Captain Ted Naftal display a 150 lb Tarpon  caught in the Marco River. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist On June 25, 2015 a trio of guests from Randolph, NJ joined Captain Ted Naftal on board the Miss Nancy II for a day on the waters around Marco Island. Brother and sister Matt and Mattie Stark were joined by their grandfather Jim Grecco, with hopes of catching something good for dinner. Little did they know what was in store for them. Not too far from the Rose Marina basin and working the sand bars and mangrove treelines, Mattie had a catfish for bait on her line. Using 40 lb test line, she felt a ... Read More »

Sharks Among Us

White shark (Carcharodon carcharias). FILE PHOTOS

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist It’s hard to believe that 2015 is already halfway complete. Sitting here contemplating the first 6 months of the year and then the last 12 months total, I realized that it has been 1 full year since I was right where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea and that’s where my wife and I were swimming….with Whale Sharks! About the size of a small school bus, it was quite an experience to be in the migratory route of these plankton eating giants. It got me thinking about the Gulf Stream current, other migrating ... Read More »

WHO’S YOUR MAMA? Dolphin Birthing Season is Near!

In this photo taken May 24, adult female Nibbles looks
larger than usual and is a candidate to give birth this fall.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Giza, Nibbles, Rangle and Button. Ah, yes! These are some of my favorite girls. But wait…these are not girls’ names! They are, if we’re talking about dolphins. It’s that time of year, when the Dolphin Explorer’s survey team is noticing changes in behavior of some of the adult female bottlenose dolphins in the Marco Island area. Many of the 3 and 4 year old calves will be leaving their moms this fall for one main reason…mom is having a new baby. Birthing season is quickly approaching for our area. It will vary around the world, ... Read More »

To Catch a Sawfish….Twice in Two Years!

The Sawfish, which had no rostrum (saw), put up a fight for nearly 2 hours.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist It’s late winter of 2014 and Captain Ted Naftal gets a call. The voice on the line says “I want to go for something big, something that might hurt us.” Captain Ted replies “There are fish that WILL hurt you, and it’s not funny!” It’s an ongoing joke that the Captain has with regular customers, the Graham family. They’ve been friends for years and have caught some trophy-sized fish together. The next prize was about to get very big, and unique! On April 25th, 2014, on board the Miss Nancy 2, guests Michael Graham and ... Read More »

An Osprey Rescue, With a Happy Ending

Obviously in distress, this young Osprey was fighting to stay above water. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist It’s Saturday, May 2nd, the Dolphin Explorer’s 9 AM trip is on the water and something special is about to take place. With 19 happy passengers on board, the tour started as usual, with several dolphin sightings of adult males and even a mom and her calf. We passed a few Osprey nests and the guests took interest in the information that we shared about these raptors. As we made our way up the Intercoastal toward Keewaydin Island, I noticed something in the water flapping its wings furiously. Using my binoculars I was able to determine ... Read More »

Starting Now… The Greatest Water Migration on Earth!

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By Bob McConville Master Naturalist Undoubtedly, many full time residents of Marco Island and surrounding areas are noticing some changes in the birds we see at this time of year. Spring has sprung and our winter guests have taken flight back north as warm temperatures return. In addition some feathered friends from Central and South America are just arriving as the southern hemisphere begins to cool. In the waters, many aquatic animals are also traveling north, following the Gulf Stream current as they, too, migrate to chase their sources of food. But this does not happen just in the northern ... Read More »

A Sanctuary For Wildlife In The ‘Glades’

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By Bob McConville Master Naturalist Okay, we all know that alligators, panthers and bears can be found in their natural habitats of the Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades National Park, just 30 minutes from Marco Island. Some of us are aware that crocodiles, river otters and several other unique species can also be found there. But, wait! Did I just see a tiger and a lion in this area? You bet!!! Just past the intersection of U.S. 41 and Route 29, about 2 miles east, is Wooten’s Airboat rides. Under new ownership by the Patel family for less than 2 ... Read More »

A Tribute to My Ultimate Dolphin Lover

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STEPPING STONES… Bob McConville This is the primary title of the column I write. Typically, a stepping stone is something to help you get from one place to another or from one phase in life to another as well. We have all utilized them. Sometimes they are very obvious to us; very evident. Other times we just happen to stumble upon them. They can be subtle or they can be earth shattering. One thing is for sure…we use them from the day we are born until the time we die. Some of the people who create these pathways leave lasting ... Read More »

Manatees Are Back!

FILE PHOTO
A foursome of the endangered mammals 
make their way to warmer waters just under the surface.

By Bob McConville Master Naturalist During the week of March 4th thru the 11th I was fortunate to be on the water every day. In addition to surveying our area dolphins, some other marine and bird life was very noticeable. A few Kemp-Ridley turtles popped their heads up and some of the osprey hatchlings are now several weeks old and growing fast. Arriving from as far away as Brazil on their 10,000 mile round-trip journey, even a few Swallow Tailed Kites were seen. The biggest surprise of all was 5 separate sightings of those lumbering aquatic giants in the Marco ... Read More »

Local Raptor or Migrant?…The Osprey

One of the first Osprey hatchlings made its debut in mid February, 2015.

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Join Bob On March 9th At The Rose History Auditorium As He Presents “Rock My World: How The Earth’s Movements Effect Migration”. The Program Begins At 7 Pm And Is Open To The Public. Call 389-6447 For Seating Information.   Their distinctive call is unlike any other bird in our area. With a pitch that seems to accelerate with each note, our eyes are drawn to the sky, drawn to view one of nature’s best hunters, the Osprey. These prolific raptors can be seen around Marco Island all year long. But, at this time of ... Read More »

From Marco To Alaska, Local Female Captain Is Always Busy

A day of plenty. SUBMITTED  PHOTOS

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist I hear a very pleasant “Good morning, Bob” as someone passes by. “Good morning, Captain Jesse.” I reply as she ushers guests to a catamaran for a sailing tour of Marco Island. Yes, I did say “she”. One of the few female captains in the area, Captain Jesse Baughman leads a very active life. From fishing with active duty soldiers, to finishing her college education, to working the salmon run in Bristol Bay, Alaska, she is constantly on the move. In addition to conducting catamaran tours for the Marriott she owns a fishing charter business, ... Read More »

A Dolphin Year in Review

Socializing is a major function of our dolphin society. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE AND KENT MORSE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist February 2015 will mark the ninth anniversary of the 10,000 Island Dolphin Survey Team’s work of studying and identifying the bottlenose dolphins that call the Marco Island area their home. In 2014, we were able to recognize five newborn in our waters to go along with five more that turned a year old, seven that turned 2 and 8 that turned 3 years old. Professionally, it has been rewarding to note which adult females gave birth and which dolphins have new siblings. Personally, it has been just good, plain old fun! In the name ... Read More »

Great Horned Owl of Big Cypress

This Great Horned Owl watches from its nest in Big Cypress Swamp. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Raptors…birds of prey. When we think of some of the major hunting birds in South Florida, there are a few that always come to mind. Naturally, everyone watches when a majestic bald eagle soars overhead. Red-shouldered hawks, vultures, ospreys, peregrine falcons and other such creatures also make the grade. One of the fiercest hunters in the area usually misses most top 10 lists — the great horned owl. One of the most common owls in our country, the great horned owl’s range covers most of North and South America, including an active nest in the ... Read More »

Everglades Wildlife: Closer than you Think!

Alligator basking in the sun. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Bob will be appearing at the Rose History Auditorium on Jan. 21 to talk more in detail about the birds, reptiles and mammals of this habitat. The program includes a slide show of many photos he has taken and possibly a live animal or two! Start time is 7 PM. Everyone is welcome. MIHS members are free. All others are $5 and proceeds benefit the Marco Island Historical Society.   J.M. Barrie wrote in one of his books about a place far, far away called Neverland. It was a land that prevented people from growing ... Read More »

Merry Christmas from Marco’s Baby Dolphins

Darwina and Rose. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five baby dolphins. What? That’s not how the song goes! Well, it is this year, and all of the new baby dolphins around Marco Island deserve a golden ring. The survey team on board The Dolphin Explorer have seen five brand new calves so far this fall, with “so far” being the optimal words. Several adult females are still on our “nice” list as potential moms this season. Birthing usually takes place from September thru January in our area, so we are looking for more young every day. These ... Read More »

Florida Panthers: Their Right of Passage

Seen in the Big Cypress  Swamp, this young bobcat could be mistaken for a young panther since both can be dark in color and have darker spots. This bobcat has a very short tail while the panther does not. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist As I watched the morning news over the Thanksgiving holiday, I learned that yet another Florida panther died on Collier Boulevard from injuries sustained by a motor vehicle. It was the 20th such death this year. The broadcast continued by stating that there are now less than 160 panthers remaining in southern Florida. Other sources place that number at less than 100. In a time when we were giving thanks for family, friends and the good things that surround us, my heart was deeply saddened. Panther, mountain lion, puma and cougar are all names ... Read More »

Novemberrrr! Cold Weather Means Feathered Friends Are Here

White Pelicans at Tigertail Beach last winter. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist On Nov. 16, my daughter sent me a picture from Oshawa, Canada, just east of Toronto, to show me snow on the ground. I already knew that it had snowed in the Rockies a few weeks earlier. On the morning of Nov. 18, the local weatherman stated that 83 percent of the continental United States was at, or below, freezing! What’s up, Mother Nature? In mid-November? I’m aware of some of the annual migrations of birds from the North to the South, and they usually leave their northern habitats before Old Man Winter makes ... Read More »

Help Keep Dolphins Safe

Mom Sparky and baby Holly come up for air together. Holly is just learning how to breathe properly.  PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist A special thanks to Naturalist Kent Morse for his contributions to this article. Kent has been studying dolphins on Marco for 10 years. The 10,000 Islands Dolphin Survey Team is on the water nearly every day of the year conducting their survey of dolphin activity in the area. It’s unfortunate that many of the mammals they have catalogued have dorsal fins that do not look normal. Most of these are oddities are the result of encounters with fishing line, leaders or hooks. In less than three years, two dolphin rescues have taken place right ... Read More »

A Tribute to My Ultimate Dolphin Lover

Emily on her 90th birthday in 2012. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist STEPPING STONES…This is the primary title of the column I write. Typically, a stepping stone is something to help you get from one place to another or from one phase in life to another as well. We have all utilized them. Sometimes, they are very obvious to us; very evident. Other times, we just happen to stumble upon them. They can be subtle or they can be earth shattering. One thing is for sure: We use them from the day we are born until the time we die. Some of the people who create ... Read More »