Category Archives: Everglades National Park

Everglades adventure! Part 3, The Finale

ยฉ Copyright 2012 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

This is Part 3/the “finale” of a series, 2012-06 Everglades Adventure

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We’re continuing our beach walk from last time on the Everglades adventure – we’re still on Pavilion Key in Everglades National Park. We came to a part of the beach where we would have to make a decision to either start wading to get around this tree, or else turn back and head for the boat. In the interest of time, we turned back. No residents of this osprey nest were evident; they might have been off hunting, or else it was just abandoned.

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On our way back, we came upon this tree with dark, shriveled berries hanging from it. Bruce, our guide, speculated that it might be related to citrus, judging from the configuration of the leaves. I sent a photo to Leafsnap, but it didn’t come back with anything helpful. When I returned home, I emailed one of my instructors from the Coastal Systems module of the Florida Master Naturalist program, Roy Beckford of the Lee County, FL Extension Offices. Roy responded that it’s soapberry; “Fruits are a dead giveaway”, he explained. Further research indicates that the fruits are also referred to as “black pearls”, and are used to make soap, as their name would imply.

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I just thought this was cool, so I snapped a picture of it. A hollowed-out tree stump, still planted in the middle of the beach, provides a hidey-hole for all manner of sea debris – and probably a few critters, now and then ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Some chicks are more popular than others; I get that, but this is sort of ridiculous, given that they don’t actually copulate! Also wondering about all the barnacle-like things attached to her… jewelry? I’m betting neither of the dudes bothered with dinner and a movie!

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Na na na na, na na na na,

Na na na na, na na na na,

BATFISH!

OK, now that you all know that I grew up watching TV in the ’60s… he was dead, and just kind of floating around in the surf. I’d never seen one before.

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On our way back to the boat, we passed the kayak expedition; they’d just made shore. We spoke briefly about the turtle nest and then each party went their separate ways. Closer to the boat, we passed these three whelks lined up on the beach. Someone in the kayak expedition must have arranged them there, for I hadn’t noticed them when we started out. Doing some googling around about Pavilion Key, I found some claims that there are THOUSANDS of empty, ancient whelks in the shallows, all bearing evidence that humans had eaten them – the tell-tale hole punched in the shell, through which something sharp would be poked and wiggled around to detach the muscle from the shell. I guess the Calusa were not interested in collecting shells, and therefore did not share our dismay at defacing them in such a manner!

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The batteries in my camera gave up the ghost while we were still on the beach, but I was able to take this dramatic shot with my iPhone once we were back in the boat and amongst the mangroves headed home. Bruce pointed out some butterfly orchids growing on it way up high, which you can’t see because it’s an iPhone. I still like the shot, though – it’s sort of spooky and mysterious.

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The trip around the Ten Thousand Islands ended, and I drove back to Everglades City to check into The Ivey House. On my way to the office, I saw this guy and knew right away that he was too bulky and walked too ungracefully to be an anole. He’s a curley-tailed lizard, and he’s not a native of Florida. He’s from the Caribbean. I believe I might have seen one before, at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve; however, it could have just been an anole holding his tail in a curled-up position. Once I was checked in, I pretty much RACED through taking a shower and headed out to the Everglades Seafood Depot, where the annual meeting of the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism (Florida SEE) was about to commence.

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The Everglades Seafood Depot was once actually a train depot. The inside is all done up in beautiful exposed beams, and there’s a lanai, bar, boat docks outside.

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The host waits to greet guests and seat them….

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Look at those teeth!

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We had an inspiring meeting, and I was elected to the board. I’m not sure I know what I’ve gotten myself into… I guess I’m going to find out! It was a nice little overnight escape, and I met some terrific fellow nature geeks. Would love to visit again when I’ve got just a bit more time to poke around the various local attractions.


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Everglades adventure! Part 2

ยฉ Copyright 2012 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

This is Part 2 of a series, 2012-06 Everglades Adventure

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Last time on the Everglades adventure!, we drove down through several state parks to Chokoloskee Island, where we met with some fellow nature geeks and boarded a boat bound for adventure. We’re still on the beach at Pavilion Key, observing all the wonders heaped upon it by the tides. The horseshoe crabs were incredibly, um, active with one another. I did some research and found that they are not actually having “sex on the beach”; she is digging a hole and depositing eggs for him to fertilize. He is merely clinging to her back. Research did not indicate WHY he does this – perhaps he is shielding the hole so no one else can fertilize her eggs? It’s as good a guess as any!

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A cluster of mostly oyster shells has washed up alongside some yellow-green algae, called sargassum weed – pelagic sargassum. “Pelagic” comes from a Greek word meaning “open sea”. The pelagic zone is the part of a body of water that is not the bottom, nor is it near the beach/shore. Sargassum floats around the pelagic zone on the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. Those little spheres aren’t seeds or fruits; they are BB-sized air sacs or bladders, which provide buoyancy.

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This is a rhizome from a plant known as mother-in-law’s tongue, more commonly referred to in this country as a snake plant. My mom had one of these in the picture window at the front of the house while I was growing up. They are attractive house plants, and make excellent air filters. However, on the beach in Southwest Florida, they are invasive exotics. They are native to West Africa. You can see how easily this plant must spread from island to island – all it has to do is send a rhizome out into the world and watch it float away.

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Ah, here we have every gopher tortoise’s favorite – the prickly pear cactus. This was a baby, maybe three inches high, and were it not for the center “ear”, I’d be tagging this “hidden Mickey” ยบoยบ ๐Ÿ˜‰

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At first glance, I took this for the biggest piece of branch coral I’d ever seen; it was as big as my hand, with wrist attached. However, when I picked it up, I found that it was light and had a chalky feel. Our guide told me it was a sea sponge. I’m not really able to identify it from the books I’ve got here at home; it looks close to what’s called a “variable sponge”, but I can’t be certain.

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Here’s a little field of mother-in-law’s tongue aka snake plant, growing on the dune. The plant behind it with the round, flat leaves is probably a sea grape, which hasn’t any fruit on it at the moment.

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Ah, the tree – THE TREE! This was a bit of serendipity for me. I think it’s BEAUTIFUL just the way it is, but wondered what it had been in its prime. I started googling for “trees on Pavilion Key”, thinking someone had perhaps documented the wildlife and plant inventory. What I found was a beautiful tribute to this tree, posted on Geocaching.com, of all places. I left my own picture (“Ann Terrie” is my geocaching name; private joke between me and my beloved nieces ;))This tree has been dubbed “The Sunset Tree” and is listed as a virtual cache. You can read about the tree here, and see pictures of it in its former glory. It seems the tree is in the surf pretty much all the time, and that may have contributed to its demise. It is possible that Pavilion Key is losing beach, or simply shape-shifting, which left the tree perpetually in the water. I wonder how much longer it will be there.

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After my reverie at the tree, I looked up to see our guide, Bruce, pointing to something in the sand. It’s a crawl! A mama turtle came ashore on Pavilion Key sometime after the last high tide (the tracks would probably be gone otherwise). I hurried over to see if there was a nest.

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At the bottom of this picture, you can see a disturbed area, which is possibly the nest. Bruce is standing up by a second disturbed area. We pondered this for a bit until I noticed lots of insect activity around the first area, and none in the second area. Thus, we speculated that the first area was more likely the nest, and the second area was merely a place to which she crawled before turning around and heading back into the sea. You can see that there’s some mother-in-law’s tongue growing in the possible nest area, and to the left of that, a small plant with bright pink flowers…

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Our guide called this plant “periwinkle” and indicated that it has healing properties relative to certain cancers. It grows in the dunes on Pavilion Key in little clumps here and there. There was also a white variety (previous photo, on the upper right of the “nest”, just below where Bruce is standing). After some investigation, I’ve determined that it’s Madagascar periwinkle, with eight variants, most of which are native to – you guessed it – Madagascar. Indeed, the plant is used to make a treatment for leukemia. It amazes me how many invasive exotics there are growing in Southwest Florida, and I often ponder how it is that they got here, from far off places like African and Asia. We finished up our exploration of the turtle crawl and turned back to retrace our steps to the place where the boat was beached.


NEXT TIME: MORE Pavilion Key, and our return to Everglades City!


Take me to Everglades adventure! Part 3, The Finale


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Everglades adventure! Part 1

ยฉ Copyright 2012 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

This is Part 1 of a series 2012-06 Everglades Adventure!

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On Friday, I ventured further south in Florida than I’ve ever ventured before, to participate in the annual meeting of the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism (Florida SEE). The above map, captured from Google, shows where I wandered. “A” is Everglades City, Florida. Not many people are aware that part of the Everglades is Gulf-front, in Collier County. This map clearly shows the proximity of Everglades City to Marco Island, which is just off the coast of the city of Naples, Florida. “B” is Chokoloskee Island, which is partly comprised of a shell mound built by Native Americans over the course of a couple of thousand years. Chokoloskee is in Collier County. “C” is Rabbit Key; there’s a tinier island right next to it (can’t see it on the screen shot, but trust me, it’s there) that’s affectionately, if unofficially referred to as “Bunny Key”. “D” is Pavilion Key. Rabbit and “Bunny” and Pavilion are all in northern Monroe County. All three islands (B, C, D) are part of the Ten Thousand Islands area; Rabbit and Pavilion are part of Everglades National Park.

It took about an hour and a half to get to Chokoloskee from my house up in Lehigh. As you can see from the previous “on the road” mobile post, I had to pass through the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, which is made of of bits and pieces of other lands, including the Fakahatchee Strand, Everglades National Park, and the Big Cypress National Preserve. I went through Everglades City and straight on to Chokoloskee because I was scheduled for an ecotour with Everglades Area Tours, one of the ecotour operators certified by Florida SEE. I was excited to be meeting up with fellow members of Florida SEE and spending time out in the natural world with them. LET’S GO!

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After sitting and chatting a few minutes with the other members scheduled for tours, we split up – some were going kayaking, and two of us had opted to tool around the mangroves with a guide looking for birds. Almost right away, we came upon a group of royal terns named John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Kidding, I just gave them those names about three seconds ago. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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The osprey is one of my favorite critters to look at – they’re just so handsome, physically incapable of taking a bad picture! Naturally, they’ve also been a favorite blogging subject

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Tiny shore birds frolic on a sandbar; we saw a bull shark idling by our boat while we were stopped here. The large landmass to the right is Rabbit Key. The tiny cluster of mangroves to the left is the “Bunny”.

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The advantage of having a guide whose experience with the area extends back some 25-ish years – he knows where to go in the backwaters to find the pretty critters :) How many roseate spoonbills can you count? Click the picture to see the full size version in Flickr!

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A group of 3 (I think) dolphins did a drive-by and started hunting around our boat. This is one of the few times I’ve been lucky enough to get more than a fin while watching dolphins hunt.

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Our Pavilion Key welcoming committee ๐Ÿ˜‰ We spent some time walking the beach and mourning that shelling is not permitted there.

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There was lots of “yard art” on the beach at Pavilion Key. This beat up whelk was longer than my foot and twice as fat. Some of the ones we found were clearly former Calusa tools, with a hole in the side into which a handle was fitted.

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If there was one empty, still-attached set of Venus clam shells, there were a hundred. My friend Christene would have gone NUTS on this beach.

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Mossy yard art! I could have gone on forever photographing these ginormous old lightning whelks, but I’ll spare you more of them.


NEXT TIME: more stuff from the beach on Pavilion Key!



Take me to Everglades adventure! Part 2


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