Tuesday, February 20, 2018

In With The New… Good Things For 2018

STEPPING STONES


A Great Egret catches a holiday season meal. Bird populations should have a good 2018. Photos by Bob McConville

A Great Egret catches a holiday season meal. Bird populations should have a good 2018. Photos by Bob McConville

Another year is safely tucked in the books and anxiety abounds as to what will happen in our area this year. Wildfires were the hot topic in Collier County last spring and record setting rainfalls ruled the summer conversations. Without a doubt Hurricane Irma was the most talked about event of 2017. Everyone adjusted to a “new normal” for a variety of reasons. The anthem “Marco Strong” resounded the power of the human spirit, and we moved on.

So what will 2018 have in store for us? Whatever Mother Nature tosses our way. We will, again, be as resilient as we need to be to push forward. Marco Island and her surrounding areas can expect some good news throughout the year.

Hopefully this fall will be better for this adult female gator, who last fall did not have any hatchlings because of higher than normal waters affecting her nest.

Hopefully this fall will be better for this adult female gator, who last fall did not have any hatchlings because of higher than normal waters affecting her nest.

Just around the corner in the Big Cypress Preserve new construction of a boardwalk extension in the Fakahatchee Strand will begin. In spite of budget adjustments due to Irma, the money is in place and starting dates for 2018 are nearing. In addition to the half mile existing boardwalk, look for a new parking area, visitors center, interactive pavilions, and more than a mile of new walking areas that will introduce guests to habitats not seen by the public in the past. Visitors from around the world will, without a doubt, gather to take advantage of this new facility. Completion is expected in late 2019.

 

 

The area bird population should increase this year as well. 2017 saw a return to normal weather patterns of dry winters and wet summers compared to 2016. This is a good indication that yearlings will thrive and conditions are right for that pattern to continue. Some of our migratory birds are already here. White pelicans can be seen on a regular basis near Caxambas Pass and at the Marsh Trail on U.S. 41.

On a strange note a Northern Gannett, rarely seen in this area, was photographed at Rose Marina recently.

The high water levels undoubtedly disturbed the incubation process of several alligator nesting sites last fall, but one of my favorite gator gals has settled in, not too far from her nest area, patiently waiting for the summer mating season. Hopefully a few dozen hatchlings will be around this fall for her.

In the waters surrounding the Marco River and the Intracoastal waterway, the local dolphins population survived the hurricane and five new calves were born last fall. Two of those moms were first timers, so we now have some grandmothers out there. A normal 2018 is expected for these mammals.

Harriett, a female bald eagle in Lee County, hatched two eggs in December and the arrival of these youngsters was caught on the “Eaglecam” for the world to see. Locally, our eagle pair Calusa and Paleo should be parents by the time of this publication, starting 2018 with new additions of our national bird.

Things appear promising overall for a great year in our area. Resolutions will be made, goals will be set and our human population will continue to monitor its surroundings. Life does go on and let’s hope that 2018 is a blessing for one and all.

Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours, conducting educational walks in the western Everglades. He is the author of the newly released pictorial book, “Beneath The Emerald Waves,” about our local dolphin population. You can reach him at steppingstoneecotours.com. He would like to start the year with a resounding, “ I love my wife very much!”

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