Critter Encounters at Bowditch Point

© Copyright 2011 | | CLICK any photo for a larger view

06112011610-Bowditch-wildlife-signageThis post will pick up where Wilderness At Bowditch Point left off. We’re on a field trip with my Florida Master Naturalist class (Coastal Systems Module), and we’ve got a really great guide named Roger Clark, from Lee County, Florida’s Conservation 20/20 program.

After telling us about a few of the plants and trees that we found growing on the perimeter of the parking lot, Roger led us up the man-made hill at the very northern tip of Estero Island aka Fort Myers Beach. Once on top of the hill, we saw a prominent “KEEP OUT” sign posted on a split-rail fence. Almost immediately, it became apparent that we were in for a critter encounter!


If you are looking for a gopher tortoise burrow, here’s how to spot one – just look around for a heap of sand that looks like an ant hill on steroids. The ones I’ve seen come complete with a hole that’s partially obscured by brush. I don’t know if that’s intentional, or just one giant co-inky-dink.


A female gopher tortoise contemplates jumping the fence.


Whut-oh! Stand back, she’s on the move!


She’s getting pretty close – Immma-skeered! 😯


Oh. Em. Gee! She passed very close to me. I got up and moved to the other side of a tree and turned on the video camera …

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This tortoise had a single-minded mission to leave her burrow and head into a scrub area, and no wildlife geek with a camera in her hand was going to stop her! I can’t believe I moved out of her path, and then she headed right for me anyway. You can hear one of my classmates coaching me (translation: playing with my head a bit) about how vicious these animals can be 😀 You can also hear him say “no” when I ask if I should move. In the end, I was running out of options to keep the lens on her and had to stand up to avoid becoming a pretzel. You can also hear scrub jays screaming in the background about the time I stand up.

After the official part of the field trip was over, I doubled back over the route we’d taken so I could get some better shots of the plants that had been discussed. As I came up the hill, I spied this little tableau:


At first, I thought this osprey had an extra tail, or maybe one of her feathers was coming loose.


Now we see that it’s definitely a tail, but it’s not hers. It’s lunch! I think this is what they call “mantling” behavior, where they hunch over their food so that nothing flying overhead will see it and try to compete for it.


She’s really got an impressive profile, with a beak made for tearing. “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” 😉

There will be one more installment of this Florida Master Naturalist field trip adventure in the very near future – so stay tuned! :)

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Camera Critters

[video] Safety Tips from the Sorting Hat

© Copyright 2011 |

The Sorting Hat (cropped)After long and careful consideration, I have determined that if I could be any character in the world of Harry Potter, I’d like to be The Sorting Hat. I would be able to look into people’s minds and hearts and help them to figure out where they belong (that’s my B.A. in psyche talking 😉 ). And I’d deliver the Sword of Godric to any true Gryffindor whenever they had a need for it.

[pullquote]You must be more than goblin sized; 48 inches tall…[/pullquote]OH – and between bouts of sorting and swording, I’d deliver safety reminders in the queue at “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”. Not a bad life, eh? 😉

There’s very low light in the queue, plus the least bit of conversation tends to bounce around the cavernous space, but I think if you listen carefully, you’ll be able to hear the entire spiel.

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Photo Friday:Wilderness at Bowditch Point

© Copyright 2011 Erin | | CLICK any photo for a larger view


For our first field trip, my Florida Master Naturalist class (Coastal Systems Module) went on a botanical exploration of a small wilderness located at the northern tip of Estero Island in the town of Fort Myers Beach, Lee County, Florida. This is Bowditch Point Regional Park, part of the Lee County park system. The site had been used as a repository for channel-dredged sand, and is consequently the highest point on the island at 22 feet. The land changed hands several times over the years until the County had the opportunity to purchase it in December 1987 for $5.75mm. Since that time, much effort has gone into the creation of a natural coastal habitat where native Floridian plants can thrive and wildlife can find refuge.

Our guide for this trip was Roger Clark from Conservation 20/20 here in Lee County. He was patient and knowledgeable and had a unique way of conveying information about a plant or animal; he’d first tell you some facts and attributes and THEN tell you the name. It was kind of like Jeopardy – first you get the answer, and then you get the question.

Roger had a field guide with him which he recommended to the rest of us – Florida’s Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber. I stopped at Barnes & Noble on the way home and they had ONE left, so I quickly purchased it. I also found it on Amazon. The other book I like to use is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida. It’s the typical slim, easy-to-pack-and-carry Audubon volume, and it’s great for just general identification while you’re out and about. I’ve got the paperback, which seems to be in short supply these days, so that’s a link to the hardcover edition.

I took quite a few photos, so I’ll be splitting it up into several posts. Here is the first installment – enjoy :)


Notice how specific this sign is – couldn’t be plainer. I’ve seen similar signs at all beaches in Lee County, yet I’ve also seen people violating this law :( Most folks, however, are conscientious about it.


At the bottom of the “mound”, just where it meets the parking lot, there’s a nice little shady spot to sit and enjoy the view of Matanzas Pass. The word “matanzas” is Spanish for “killings”. History tells us that the indigenous people who once lived here, the Calusa, had a habit of paddling out to meet Spanish explorer’s ships while extending a special kind of welcome with the business-end of their spears. Indeed, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon met his fate from a mortal wound received at the hands of the Calusa. There’s speculation that Matanzas Pass is the place where a lot of these “welcome”-type activities occurred.


What do the gumbo limbo tree and the Florida tourist have in common? They are both red and peeling… ha ha ha ha ha 😉 Migratory birds like the fruit of the gumbo limbo tree. We’ve got lots of these trees here in Southwest Florida.


I was surprised to find out that palms aren’t really “trees”; they lack a vascular system. The smaller trees in the swale are pond apples. They were planted there because they can well tolerate having their feet wet.


Pond apples have compound leaves – more than one leaf attached to the same leaf stalk. The apples are edible by animals and humans but they don’t taste very good, I’m told.


The sea grape wants to be a tree! However, many people chop at them to keep them shrub-like. They are used in landscaping as hedgerows and borders. This one was allowed to be a tree. During this field trip, we found out that there are ANSI standards for pruning trees and that one should NEVER “top” a tree. ANSI standards? Who knew?!?!!

ANSI = American National Standards Institute


This Jamaica Dogwood is otherwise known as the Florida Fish Poison tree. Powder made from the tree can be used to stun fish, making them more easily captured.


We’re about to continue up the hill and catch a glimpse of some of the residents. OK, WAY more than a glimpse! Stay tuned – PART TWO of this field trip will be posted in a few days!


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Treasure, Trash and Tracks

© Copyright 2011 Tink *~*~*

As previously mentioned, I’ve been attending classes for the Florida Master Naturalist program. The first module is Coastal Systems, for which I need to make a 3 minute presentation. I became inspired by way of indignation while reading about sea turtles and the conditions that can ensure their success in creating a nest – or else pretty much guarantee their failure.

Since my turn to present won’t happen until about 6:30 PM tonight, you guys are getting a “preview” – shhhh! 😉


Treasure, Trash and Tracks – this presentation aims to deliver key messages about how YOU can Help Coastal Wildlife To Survive and Thrive


Everyone loves the beach for different reasons. In addition to the relaxing and beautiful environment, I love the beach for the TREASURES that can be found there. I’m always on the hunt for the perfect gastropod, but I see beauty in imperfection as well – decomposition and decay, as seen in worn driftwood and crumbly sand dollars, can indicate that naturally-occurring, healthy cycles are in place and chugging along.


I’m not just interested in dead things! Wildlife is a kind of treasure, too, offering much beauty to be enjoyed. Plants and animals are bountiful when the environment is healthy and available.


Rules have been put in place to help wildlife to survive and thrive. These rule were meant to govern the behavior of those who visit the beach, so the wildlife and their habitat are not harmed.

Do people always follow the rules? The sand in the sink is the least of it….


People who love to the beach come here to play, to create, to celebrate, to build or just to relax. They leave behind evidence that they’ve been here doing all those things. Much of it is beautiful or interesting to look at (ahem – The Man From Nantucket), even thought-provoking like the left-behind shoes and the messages in the sand. But there are other things that people leave behind on the beach that are not beautiful or interesting, and can impact wildlife and the environment in distressing ways…


Trash is defined as something that’s unwanted, discarded. Sometimes it’s done with flagrant disrespect for the environment and the rules, but sometimes it’s just that things get forgotten or lost, and that’s how it becomes trash. Much is plastic or other materials that won’t biodegrade. It will stick around “forever” and become a hazard to life or an obstruction to natural behaviors.


A HAZARD is something that can cause risk or danger. Sea turtles and other coastal life have been found dead with the remnants of plastic bottles, toys and other debris in their digestive systems. Wildlife can be injured and even killed from becoming tangled in discarded fishing line. Some of this stuff is not only non-biodegradable, it’s also disgusting. Dirty diaper in the dunes – really? REALLY?


The trappings of fun and recreation can make a turtle turn right around and head back into the sea without ever having completed her mission – digging a nest and laying eggs.

Baby turtles emerge from the nest exhausted and still need to keep going to reach the water – but they cannot do that with so many obstacles. If a hatchling encounters one of these holes, he may fall in and die there. The smallest things left on the beach can prove insurmountable for the babies.

These holes are also a hazard for humans – people can fall in and become injured. I’ve turned an ankle on smaller holes than these.


A “false crawl” is when a turtle visits the beach but doesn’t make a nest. There are a variety of naturally-occurring reasons that a turtle will leave – maybe the sand conditions aren’t right, or there are predators present. These are compounded by people-caused conditions such as HAZARDS and OBSTRUCTIONS, noise, light and activity.


Wildlife and the environment are TREASURES worth preserving.

TRASH and other people-caused impacts can lead to hazards and obstruction of natural behaviors.

If hazards and/or obstructions persist, then turtles will make TRACKS back into the sea without laying eggs


If you want to help wildlife to survive and thrive, then let this be your pledge – LEAVE NOTHING ON THE BEACH BUT FOOTPRINTS. Thanks very much for your attention!

CREDITS: My friend Tootie provided all of the “trash” pictures, as well as the photo of the false crawl, which she documented on her blog last week. The rest of the photos were taken by yours truly.

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[video] Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It!

© Copyright 2011 Tink *~*~*

Boy they sure party a lot in Disney's Magic KingdomJust doing some camera maintenance and found a bunch of videos on both the Canon and my Nokia phone. Here’s some video I took of my new favorite parade at Walt Disney World. Prior to this parade having made it’s debut, my favorite had been Continue reading Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It!

Snook Bight Marina on Fort Myers Beach

My Florida Master Naturalist class is going on a field trip today through Estero Bay in Southwest Florida. Heading out soon aboard Good Time Charters; we are SO lucky that the owners are in our class! Hoping to have some quality critter encounters!

A Groupon for The Sanibel Cafe! #swfl

Follow the link below for a really good deal on a meal at the Sanibel Cafe.  Aside from the fact that the Cafe is operated by some dear friends of mine, you can also find good food and friendly service at a decent price all year round.  And I love the shell tables!  This is more than 50% off so don’t miss it – the offer expires sometime early on Saturday 06-18-2011

$7 for $15 Worth of Breakfast or Lunch Café Fare at Sanibel Café in Sanibel

Some photos I’ve taken of the Sanibel Cafe – enjoy :)

Shell table – with a junonia in it!
Coffee at the Sanibel Cafe

Shrimp quiche:
Sanibel Cafe's shrimp quiche

Pina colada french toast – SO wicked-good!
Pina Colada French toast at the Sanibel Cafe - WOW

The always-attractive Sanibel Cafe Official Coffee Mug:
Brunch on Sanibel Island

$7 for $15 Worth of Breakfast or Lunch Café Fare at Sanibel Café in Sanibel

Florida Master Naturalist program starts tonight!

I’m excited to be starting the Florida Master Naturalist program tonight! This is the Coastal Systems Module. There will be multiple field trips during June. If there’s opportunity to take photos during this adventure (I *am* supposed to be learning something) you can be sure I will share!