Category Archives: Florida Panther Festival

A visit to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge

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

IMG_6509In celebration of the Florida Panther Festival here in Southwest Florida, I participated in a field trip on Friday 11/09/2012 at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County, Florida. Last year, I hiked the Bird Rookery at CREW (Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed); this year, I went a little further afield. The excursion came in two parts. First, we rode along the firebreaks in a swamp buggy, learning about maintenance efforts that keep the habitat in good shape for the Florida panther’s food chain. Then, we took to the trails on foot, exploring “the clubhouse” and back-country areas that are only seen by the public perhaps twice a year. The cell phone signal was spotty, sometimes working great but other times dismal or completely absent, so I did not attempt to mobile blog the adventure. Are you ready to explore? Let’s go!

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Our leaders for the field trip were several members of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife team who maintain this refuge as well as Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, also located in Collier County. There were two swamp buggies, each of which could seat 6 or 7 participants, and about 24 people showed up. Therefore, we were split into two groups. One group hiked while the other group rode, and then we made a rendezvous and swapped places. I was in the first buggy group with my friends Charles and Vicki Wright who run Everglades Area Tours in Chokoloskee, FL, and Jacquie Roecker, hiking buddy extraordinaire and sole proprietor of Nature’s Voice Photography in Naples, FL. Jacquie and I do these things together on purpose, but stumbling across Charles and Vicki was a pleasant surprise.

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The buggies would stop along the way so the rangers could point out efforts to control overgrowth, invasive exotics, and habitat diversity. They talked with us about herbicides, fire, and hydrology. It’s been an okay summer rainy season here in Lee County, but further south there has been disappointment. They’re just not getting the rain that they should, and man’s efforts to control flooding has resulted in a complex canal system that often diverts water from where it is needed and carries it away to where it’s not. I snapped the above photo while standing on a dock out back of the “clubhouse” that should have been under water. If freshwater wetlands do not receive sufficient water in the forms of sheet flow and rainfall, then they cannot properly support the life forms that depend upon it for habitat and food.

I’ve mentioned “the clubhouse” twice now. It’s an accessible-access wooden structure, screened in, which is intended to someday house an environmental education program about the refuge in general, and specifically about orchids. The failure or success of orchids growing in the swamp is monitored closely, and with great interest. Orchids are an “indicator species” for a Florida swamp; if your habitat has them, then your habitat must be doing pretty well. A lack of them growing where they are supposed to be could indicate that environmental conditions are not right, or perhaps another species is hogging all the resources.

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Every now and then, while prowling through panther country, you come across something like this. Panthers like to use a fallen log as a scratching post. The fallen log happens to be alongside a footpath or firebreak trail that is used by humans. It doesn’t matter to the panther. Panthers like to use the trails because they will be unencumbered in their travels by understory plants. In addition to stretching and sharpening their claws on a log, panthers just plain like to play with such things, biting and wrestling and rolling it around. But how do we know that panthers like to do these things while no one is watching?

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Someone IS watching! The location of such logs is the perfect spot to install both video and still cameras. In this manner, wildlife can be observed without being disturbed at the presence of people. In addition to capturing the antics of panthers, these cameras pick up the activities of other wildlife on the preserve such as the black bear, the white-tailed deer, bobcats, and raccoons. The rangers mentioned that lately, there is evidence of coyotes moving into the refuge. I’d love to be the person who gets to review the footage :)

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Once the field trip was over, we filled out evaluation forms and took a quick turn through the newly built greenhouse, where different plant experiments were in various stages of being conducted. I snapped the above photo at pond near where we had all parked. There’s allegedly a one-legged alligator lurking in there. If there was one bee on these wildflowers, there were a billion! Jacquie and I had each packed a lunch, so we dragged our beach chairs out of our cars and sat in the shade of some ginormous live oaks dripping with epiphyte air plants, ferns, and Spanish moss. One of the refuge interns joined us and we all enjoyed being with our “tribe” for some lively discussion. I drove home contentedly, and felt the wild desire to nap when I got back to the house. An early start and lots of fresh air will do that to a person 😉

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Upcoming Adventures: Food, Family, Fun, and More!

© Copyright 2011 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

Good grief, have I got a ridiculous amount of adventures lined up in the next several months! Suddenly, we’re going from zero to 60 in a matter of seconds. I’m still not quite sure how this happened, but my dance card filled up rapidly and I’m looking for places to insert a breath or two 😉

OCTOBER 2011
2010 Food and Wine Festival themingEPCOT International Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World | Yes, it’s that time of year again – Chez Bro and da fambly will be rocking Disney World starting next week. I’m going for just three nights, but that should be long enough to sample all the new goodies that will be offered this year. I hear there’s a Hawaii booth offering a really good mai tai… also looking forward to visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the wake of the announcement that there will be a new “land” developed there that’s based on the film AVATAR. This land will be focused on “living in harmony” with the environment. I hear there will be an “AVATAR 2” in 2014, and I’m wondering if they will be coordinating the opening of the new section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom with the opening of the film… that would be pretty exciting :)

Arriving at CityWalk - Universal ResortUniversal Orlando Resort and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter | These days, I do not plan an expedition to Orlando without including a visit to Universal Orlando Resort in my plans. I am smitten with The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. While I don’t think there’s anything really new there to see or do, it’s kind of cool to wander through Universal Studios circa Halloween time – they do the place up nicely, so I’m looking forward to dropping by and taking it all in. One thing that won’t be available there YET is the new book Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey – guess I’ll have to pre-order from Amazon like the rest of the world!

IMG_2067-Naples-Florida-zoo-western-cougar-tongueFlorida Panther Festival | At first I thought, “oh dear, I’m going to miss it :( ” because it’s on a Saturday and as I will explain below, my Saturdays are all booked up through early November. Then I realized I could do one of the field trips that wasn’t on the same day as the festival, and I felt a bit better as soon as I signed up. So I’ll get to hike a bit through Corkscrew Swamp, something I’ve yet to do but it’s “on the list”. Eager not only to learn about and experience the swamp, but also to observe a naturalist in action, taking people on an adventure. I think I finally know what I want to be when I grow up… 😉 DISCLAIMER: That is not a panther. I do not have a photo of a panther. However, I had a picture of a western cougar, and since they are the same species (but two different sub-species, separated by the Gulf of Mexico), and also since he is so cute with his tongue sticking out at me like that, I decided what the heck – western cougar it is LOL.

One down, two to go - the certificate I earned in June!Florida Master Naturalist – Freshwater Wetlands Module | Having completed the Coastal Systems module several months ago, and having had a total blast doing it – it’s like day camp for adults 😉 – I am eager to begin the Freshwater Systems Module, immediately upon my return from Orlando. Every Saturday through the beginning of November, I’ll have lecture in the morning and then field trips in the afternoons. One of the field trips will happen in a place that is very familiar to me – the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, right here in Fort Myers. The rest of the field trips are in places up in Charlotte County, to places where I’ve never been before. Oh, yes! New adventures! And I get to learn how to kayak! Doesn’t this just keep getting better and better? :)

NOVEMBER 2011

Mote Marine mobile aquariumMote Marine Aquarium, Sarasota | Ever since I saw the “Mote Mobile” at the Mango Festival this past July, I’ve wanted to visit Mote Aquarium, which is about an hour north of Fort Myers, in Sarasota. It’s attached to a Marine Laboratory which was founded in 1955. As if the excitement of a new adventure isn’t enough, I have a Groupon for admission AND they’re opening a new exhibit in November called “Penguin Island”. Since I’m all booked up through the beginning of November, and since the Groupon expires 11/22, guess what I’ll be doing sometime in between? Yep, I’m Sarasota-bound :)

DECEMBER 2011

It's Grinchmas! At Seuss LandingHoliday Meet in Orlando | This is becoming a habit – some friends from Ohio typically come to Orlando circa the first week of December each year, and I’ve met them there several times now. We are usually good for dinner somewhere special and an adult beverage crawl around the World Showcase in EPCOT. Of course, I’ll visit not only Walt Disney World but Universal Orlando as well. The SeussLand deco is beyond ridiculous; every possible square inch is covered in tinsel and lights in celebration of “Grinchmas”. I was thinking that this year, I might expand my “in search of Christmas” resort hop; I’ve pretty well covered the Port Orleans resorts, the Boardwalk, and Downtown Disney. It’s time to expand my repertoire! So if you have a favorite resort that you’d like me to visit for the Christmas decor, please leave a comment below and I will try to include it in my itinerary. Thanks!

122720103047Christmas In New York | One of the great ironies of my life is that I’ve yet to spend Christmas Day in my own home. I moved away from New York in 2006 and have been going “home” to Long Island for Christmas every year since then. I basically pull a plug-in two foot tree out of a box to enjoy for a few days before jetting off to points north, LL Bean flannel-lined jeans and waterproof Uggs in tow. I’m-a-skeered – last year, there was a blizzard while I was there! Well, I guess it wouldn’t make very much sense to have Uggs and not get to wear them in the snow. Plus, I bought a round-trip ticket, so I’ll be back in Florida eventually 😉 It’s good for me to go north in the snow; it makes me grateful that I’m not stuck with it and that I get to come back here to warm, sunny Florida.

Well, that’s the adventure report for the rest of the year. If I add something, I’ll be sure to let you know – but I’m pretty much certain that’s all the adventure I can stand! Stay tuned, ’cause mobile blogging from Orlando starts SOON!

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