Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A Return to Paradise


New calf Jordan hitches a ride on her mom’s chin. This is mom Jing Jing’s first calf. Photos by Bob McConville

New calf Jordan hitches a ride on her mom’s chin. This is mom Jing Jing’s first calf. Photos by Bob McConville

It is very comforting to see life in general returning to normal for many of our businesses and residents since that breezy day on September 10th. I am always amazed by the resilience of the human spirit to come back stronger and better following a major setback like Irma. Here are some updates regarding some goings-on in our area.

Calusa and Paleo: These two bald eagles lost the canopy of their nesting tree located on Tigertail Court, but they have been persistent in an effort to rebuild their nest. I have stopped by their home many times in the last eight weeks to see them hard at work and it appears that they will be as ready as possible for their nesting season which takes place in just a few months. Hopefully the “eagle cam” will be installed so we can watch for new eggs.

Together Jing Jing and Jordan do a little surfing.

Together Jing Jing and Jordan do a little surfing.

Boater Cautions: After any major storm it is inevitable that wind shear and storm surge will reshape the landscape, especially the unseen areas below the water’s surface. The north end of Tigertail Beach, known as Sand Dollar Spit has undergone some transformation. It used to be that boaters could pull into the lagoon and anchor their boats on the beach. Naturally the bow of the boat would be on the sand and the stern would sit in a much deeper waters. Not any more. The sand has shifted in the lagoon and areas where the stern would be are now very, very shallow in some areas. Be cautious when pulling into these waters.

One of our local bald eagles perches on a tree close to its nest on Tigertail Court.

One of our local bald eagles perches on a tree close to its nest on Tigertail Court.

The storm surge took a major toll where the Marco River meets the entrance to Collier Bay. It is very obvious that the concrete wall on the southeast corner is mostly gone, as well as the docks attached to that wall. The soil from the seawall up to the building is completely gone and you can see about twenty-five feet under the structure itself. Much of this has washed into the pass. At high tide I have experienced a depth of only three feet in certain spots so exercise extreme caution at this location.



MIHS: The Marco Island Historical Society’s auditorium was used to store inventory of area businesses after the storm. It should be empty and ready for its fall and winter programs in a few short weeks. You can go to themihs.org to see what’s coming up in the near future. I look forward to talking about our dolphin population at the auditorium very soon.

Congrats to MIHS curator Austin Bell on his new book “Marco Island.” Having experienced Leadership Marco with Austin (and Pat Rutledge) I can tell you that Mr. Bell is very detailed and exact in everything he does and this definitely proves true in his book. It is a great read…go get it!



Big Cypress Boardwalk: I am happy to say that the boardwalk at Big Cypress Bend has been completely cleared and is open to the public. Just a week after Irma I took a walk there and the water levels from the canal were eight inches in overflow. The waters have receded, the walkway is clear and the animals are returning. I saw my favorite female gator, Clinton recently as well as a few yearlings. Unfortunately the eagle’s nest, which had been a landmark along the walk for decades, was completely destroyed. There are no signs that it is being rebuilt at this time. I look forward to conducting guided walking tours of the area again in mid- November through the winter season.

New Book: I thank everyone who supported my first book “Beyond The Mangrove Trees” this past year. It was well received by the public and a nominee for the Florida Book Awards in the Visual Arts category. A collection of photos and info about South Florida wildlife, it helped me accomplish my goal of introducing the public to many animals that can be seen in our area.

My next book, “Beneath The Emerald Waves,” displays more than 100 pictures of our area dolphins leaping, playing and looking right at you as it follows an adult female dolphin that recalls her life from her youth to having her own calf. The cast of characters are all dolphins that have been seen and named in our area waters. Pre-orders are now being accepted at a discount on my website. The book is published by October Skies, owned by local talent Steve Gimmestad.

Dolphins: Since Irma the survey team on board the Dolphin Explorer has seen more than 80% of the local dolphin population. They are back in their home territories doing what they normally do! It seems that the hurricane might have been a labor-inducing event. In the first two weeks after the storm four new calves were born. Two of these females were first time moms, which means we have two new grandmothers as well.

So…adjustments are being made. Some things will carry on as before, others will not. For some, life will return as it was and for others, new beginnings are needed. Overall, Mother Nature threw us a hiccup but we are all survivors and life will go on!

Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours, conducting educational walks in the Big Cypress area. He is also a naturalist on board the Dolphin Explorer. You can contact him at steppingstoneecotours.com. Bob loves his wife very much!

One response to “A Return to Paradise”

  1. Rose Mulligan says:

    Where can you get the new book?

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