I adventured last week with some fellow nature lovers to Estero Marsh Preserve, a Lee County Conservation 20/20 property in Fort Myers, Florida, where we encountered this beautiful osprey. She was quite vocal and animated about something as we passed by the huge slash pine where she was perched. Here are some FUNky facts I’ve learned about the osprey.
1. The osprey occurs on every continent except Antarctica. It’s the 2nd most widely distributed raptor, right after the peregrine falcon.
2. Ospreys have a reversible toe that helps them to hold onto slippery fish. You can see the toe in this picture, gripping the back end of the branch while the other toes are in the front. However, I have personally witnessed the failure to hold onto a fish. Several years back, I saw an osprey snatch a fish from the pond in my back yard, only to drop it back into the water on the ascent. The bird circled round and round, screaming in frustration, but was not able to find the fish again, and eventually gave up. Lucky fish!
3. The osprey pairs for life, breeding with the same mate year after year. They build a giant nest of twigs and sticks, often atop man-made structures such as channel markers and street light posts. A pair of osprey will cohabitate for about half the year – as long as it takes to mate, lay and incubate eggs, and fledge their young from the nest.
4. 99% of the osprey’s diet is comprised of fish, so they always live near water. They hunt in fresh water as well as brackish and salt water. What comprises the other 1% of the osprey’s diet? They will occasionally catch and eat small animals such as mice, rabbits, frogs, lizards, or other birds.
5. The more dense the local population of ospreys is, the later in life an osprey will breed. This is due to competition for suitable nesting sites – places that will support the massive nests and are high enough off the ground to reduce the risk of predator invasion. Sometimes, environmental or wildlife groups will build platforms to provide more nesting site options.
More photos of local ospreys:
Critter encounters at Bowditch Point (scroll to the bottom on this one)
I feel lucky to have finally discovered one of these – it’s a sand
collar, or more accurately, the egg mass of a moon snail. "Moon snail"
is the common name for a family of gastropods known as Naticidae. The
snail uses sand and it’s own mucus to make these collars, which consist
of two layers. The eggs are between the layers. It’s pretty sturdy
until the babies start to hatch; then, it just disintegrates. This
means that no one should really have a sand collar in their
beach-combing collection, for if it’s intact, that means it was still
carrying babies. If you find one, by all means examine it, but then
leave it where it is so the eggs can hatch.
sand collar from Bunch Beach in Fort Myers, Florida
I have a lot of shells; make that a whole LOT of shells. They live in
Rubbermaid bins and plastic Domino sugar containers in a big kitchen
cabinet. They clutter book shelves, fill up bowls on the piano and the
kitchen breakfast bar, and generally hang out in odd places here and there,
all over the house. I’m going to say something that would have been unheard
of 10-12 years ago when I first started to collect sea shells. I have TOO
Still, I love to trawl the beach, and I cannot break myself of the habit of
looking for them and picking them up. But I know that when I get them
home, I will have to perform some combination of washing, de-sanding,
de-stinking, barnacle removal, drying out, sorting, shining, and putting
away. You know, in those Rubbermaid bins and plastic Domino sugar
containers in the big kitchen cabinet.
So last week, I freely looked and hunted and collected, but stopped just
short of bringing them home. Instead, I went up a little way beyond the
high tide line, wrote a message in the sand, and left my gifts from the sea
for some (hopefully delighted) tourist to find.
I think I’ve discovered a new hobby
[image: sea shells for you Bunche Beach Fort Myers Florida]
After photography class the other day, during which I was treated to a dizzying array of fun facts about my digital camera, I went for a walk at San Carlos Bay Bunche Beach Preserve in Fort Myers. The Gulf coast has suffered a recent spate of red tide occurrences, ranging from up in Sarasota to as far south as Naples, on the northern tip of the west Everglades. This, combined with a series of cold fronts, has resulted in some fish kill. While dead fishes washing up en masse isn’t fun for anyone, it does afford an opportunity to examine species that a non-fishing enthusiast (like me) would not normally get to see.
This is a *striped burrfish*, also called a *spiny boxfish*. The first thing I noticed about it, aside from the painful-looking spines, was his black spots. This reminded me of some butterfly species who have “false eyes”, dots on their wings that fool predators into thinking it’s a much larger “something else”, something not so tasty as a butterfly.
According to some quick research, the striped burrfish seems to like warmer waters than we’ve had; although they range up to New Jersey for spawning, that usually happens only when the water up north is warmer, typically July. The southern end of their range is the West Indies. The beaches were cleaned of dead fish after last week’s episode with red tide, so I’m leaning toward the possibility that this little dude expired of the cold.
It was cold and windy, so after touring the farm, making some purchases, and standing around schmoozing for awhile, we headed to the warmth and comfort of Downtown Pizza, in the Fort Myers River District. We finished our lunch and, revived, took a walk around the waterfront. Then, weaving our way through the streets, we finally arrived back at the car.
The farm stand at Roots Heritage Urban Farm is located at 3901 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd (SR 82) in Fort Myers FL. They plan to be open 6 days a week, and want to expand into a real farmers market. If you are a vendor, check them out!
Lee County FL produces and sells organic compost. It is made primarily from yard waste; in my neighborhood, that’s collected on Fridays. It can be used to amend soil or to top dress/mulch plants and trees. And it is exempt from lee County’s fertilizer ordinance June through September.
Roots Heritage Urban Food Hub will celebrate their Grand Opening today here in Fort Myers, FL.
Roots Heritage Urban Food Hub is a sustainable garden growing on 5 acres off Martin Luther King Blvd where seasonal vegetables are grown without chemical assistance, using recycled water and bio solids.
We’re hoping that something tasty for lunch will be for sale. If not, there’s always the possibility of pizza in the Downtown Fort Myers area.
Weather permitting, I’ll mobile blog some photos when we get there.
Ready? Lets go!
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What a beautiful time of year it is to live in Southwest Florida!
The summer can be unforgiving – the heat and humidity are relentless, the rain is capricious, and there is always the threat of a hurricane or two hanging over our collective heads.
However, as October melts into November, a kinder, gentler Southwest Florida emerges. Blue skies and refreshing breezes reign in the late autumn and early winter days. It’s a little cooler, a little drier, and much more enjoyable. It’s time to take it outside in Southwest Florida – let’s go!
I got a call earlier in the week from friends who were going to take a boat out of Fort Myers Beach, and did I want to come along? You bet I did! We did a leisurely tour through Matanzas Pass and Ostego Bay, then emerged into the Gulf via Big Carlos Pass, near Lovers Key. That’s the bridge over Big Carlos, behind us (above).
We decided to head for Nervous Nellie’s in Fort Myers Beach after our excursion. The town is all done up for Christmas. As a native New Yorker, it still gives me the giggles to see Christmas decorations juxtaposed against palm trees and blue skies.
Here I am, enjoying royal status for about three minutes – Princess Without A Country 😉 You will find this over-sized bench with the cutout near the gazebo beside Nervous Nellie’s, should you have a princess you’d like to photograph.
At Moss Marine, I saw this egret standing on a post and took aim with the camera. I saw the pelican come in for a landing behind him, but did not see the little shore bird on the post in front of him until I got the picture up on the computer screen later on.
A closer look at the egret – handsome fellow, isn’t he?
The sun was setting as I crossed back over Matanzas Pass and made my way toward Summerlin. I decided to take a side trip before heading back to Lehigh, and made my way to Bunche Beach Preserve, where I saw this little blue heron hunting for his supper.
The little blue wasn’t the only one looking for dinner – pelicans and an egret hunted as well. A misty glow enveloped the Sanibel Causeway in the distance – one of those scenes that makes your heart go “ahhh!”
The sky is streaked in Creamsicle shades as the sun descends upon Sanibel’s east end.
A side trip to the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve the next day yielded the delight of finding a cute little two-foot gator sunning himself in the vegetation along the banks of the gator lake. He would not be the last gator I would see this week!
Saturday found me at the C.R.E.W. Bird Rookery Swamp, where I would participate in a geocaching event. It was a glorious day to be tramping around in the cypress swamp’s wide trails. Here’s a balsam pear we found growing wild alongside the path. It’s a relative of the cucumber.
I haven’t identified this moth yet, but I liked the angle of his upper wings against the lower “tail” part of his flying apparatus.
It’s that time of year, when the beautiful but destructive lubbers turn into lovers. These grasshoppers go through several colorful stages before they reach the cooked-lobster hue you see here.
See? Told ya there would be another gator! Actually, there were two, on opposing sides of the path, but the other one was a bit too far away to get a decent shot. I’d say they were about 4 feet or so. We observed them for a while and when we were ready to move on, they quite agreeably slunk into the swamp and let us pass unmolested.
So that was my post-Thanksgiving week. How was yours?
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The weather has definitely broken into fall here in Southwest Florida, and that means the delight of being able to exert one’s self outdoors without risking heat stroke and/or coming home dripping wet.
This is an awesome time of year for hiking and exploring in Florida’s parks and preserves. One of my favorites, in part because it is so close to where I live, is Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers. The slough is a sacred place, where water moves at a snail’s pace and all manner of flora and fauna grow and thrive. I see something new every time I go there. It never gets old.
Due to the heavy concentration of cypress trees in the Slough, it’s a great place to witness the colors of autumn. Yes, you heard me. Bet you didn’t know that the trees change color and shed their leaves even here in Florida. Well, it’s true! I’ll show you. Ready for a walk? Let’s go!
Let’s play a game. Can you “Spot The Gator”? He was about a four-footer, just catching some sun in the shallows right alongside the boardwalk. Some little kids came by and I put my finger to my lips. They froze and conspired with me, silently tip-toeing over to see what I was pointing at. How excited they were to see their first gator, so close!
I took my leave of the children and soon came to my favorite place to “sit down in the woods and wait”. As many times as I’ve sat here before, I never noticed this…
See that skinny little tree over there? It’s holding on to the handrail!
Or maybe it has grown a tongue, which now laps at the boardwalk. How odd and beautiful it is, all at once.
I then noticed something else about the little tree – it seems to be growing out of another tree, of a different species!
See? The little tree is a cypress, and the “host” seems to be an oak of some sort.
Further along the boardwalk, I saw the situation in reverse – a slender oak is growing out of a cypress tree.
This cypress tree is very tall compared to the little oak.
In the autumn, when the leaves start to wither and die and fall away, a number of things change in the swamp. Leaves falling into the water decompose, turning the water a deep reddish brown with tannins. This decomposing matter settles around the roots of the trees, and makes a great growing medium for little acorns and seeds. This is why it looks like one species is “growing out of” the other – it isn’t really, it’s just using the growing medium trapped there against the mature tree. Another thing that happens is that more sunlight can penetrate the swamp forest. The middle story of the forest opens up too, after the vines start to wither and fall away. The result is a better-lit, cleared away space where one can see the hidden infrastructure of the swamp. I walk through here frequently, and never see so many windfalls as I do when I come through after the leaves have had a chance to fall and the vines have withered and died away.
There are a few red maple trees in the swamp, and they provide for a riot of red here and there. Here’s one along the boardwalk close to the amphitheater.
Here’s a young cypress just dripping in autumnal gold. See? Who says we don’t get fall colors down this way!
A few resistors struggle to maintain their greenery nearby. Who can say why some are so ready to shed, while others hold on to the bitter end?
There are two varieties of cypress here, and they are relatively easy to tell apart – I just keep forgetting which is which! I made sure to bring home photographs of both this time, so I’d be able to look them up and learn this once and for all. This is a pond cypress. The needles are close to the stem and sometimes give the impression of spiraling around it.
And this is a bald cypress. The leaves are flatly fanned out from the stem. There. Now you know the difference, too. 😉
Apocalyptic teen zombies invade The River District, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.
People are really good about stopping for pictures
This epic view can be seen from the dock adjacent to the west of the Fort Myers Yacht Basin. Had a lovely “Ladies Night” at Twisted Vine Bistro with some friends, and took a stroll down to the river before departing for home. Beautiful views!
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The blog has been quiet, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been languishing – far from it! Most people think this part of the country is a paradise only in the winter, a respite from the frozen north. Well, that may be true, and it may also be true that while the rest of the world comes out of the house and comes alive in the summer, we tend to go inside to the blessed relief of central air conditioning.
Despite the heat, there are still things to do, places to go, and people to see in the summertime in Southwest Florida. My month started out a little slow, after all the June excitement with Tropical Storm Debby and the treasures brought to the beach by that natural phenomenon – but I’m happy to report it rapidly picked up speed and I’ve had a blast this summer so far Are you ready to see what I’ve been up to? C’mon – let’s go!
JULY 5TH: The Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida has been on my bucket list for a while. My visit coincided with a special exhibit featuring comic strips and cartoonists who were prominent during the era of Nazi Germany. Both Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney are featured, among others.
I wasn’t happy with my visit. I was VERY interested in the special exhibit, as you can imagine – I am, after all, a huge Disney fan. Disney’s war propaganda cartoons were being shown in one room, but I was told that a really great docent was about to lead a tour, and the sound on the television was turned off, probably in deference to this tour, so I joined them. Little did I know that this tour would involve the docent delivering a lecture that went on for an hour and did not show signs of stopping; there were some chairs, but most people were left standing. I wandered away and after a quick turn through the rest of the museum, I made my escape. Wish I had better things to say about this experience.
JULY 6TH: Art Walk in the Fort Myers River District! I began the evening at Ford’s Garage, rendezvous point with friends Charlene and Eric Taubert. Ford’s is one of those places with lots of different beers and ales to try, and if you have dinner there during Art Walk, you can have free valet parking that night. The place was VERY crowded, and it took a long time to get seated. After a good dinner and lively conversation, we took to the streets of the recently revitalized downtown area of Fort Myers to see some art.
A friend pointed out that the buildings themselves in downtown Fort Myers qualify as art; everything has an art deco feel to it. Here’s the historic Edison Theater, which is no longer a theater but now serves as office space.
The Howl Gallery had a special exhibit – it was all Mickey Mouse, all the time in there! Check out the Howl’s current show page to see all the art. Above is my favorite, because he’s sort of emo and sweet ºoº
JULY 10TH: Freakish and violent weather is not unusual for Southwest Florida in the summertime, but this was scary-freakish. I walked out of the house one afternoon on a grocery mission and saw this in the northeastern sky. Looks like a tornado wanted to form, a little too close to home for comfort! My shopping expedition was in the precise opposite direction, and I hastened away. The house was still here when I got back, so I guess it was all good 😉
JULY 14TH: Out on the town with pal Michele Lorito-Chase. We saw a movie at the Bell Tower, had some dinner, and went for a drink at World of Beer.
The best part of going out for pizza: bringing some home for breakfast the next morning 😉
JULY 16TH: I’ve been volunteering as social media strategist for Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 organization, which acquires and maintains conservation preserves. I curate their Facebook page – drop by and “like” us! A new piece was added to the Alva Scrub Preserve, so I set out with a friend on a promotional photography mission….
NEXT TIME: a hike through the Alva Scrub Preserve
Charley’s Cabana is a bar/grill at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in the Punta Rassa section of Fort Myers. I’m meeting there with local social media peeps who want to participate in Mashable’s annual Social Media Day.
Cocktails in a beautiful setting – let’s go!
If there was any doubt about how early I headed out to run this morning, then here’s the definitive indicator – it was so early, the moonflowers had not yet closed up! How pathetic is that? ROFL! 😀
There are banks of moonflowers to be found here and there throughout the park. I wonder if that means there would be lunar moths there at night?
I am always finding lost things on my runs – and I seem to specialize in mystery shoes! This poor soul was in the parking lot near my car when I returned. It was not there when I arrived – or, maybe it was and I just didn’t notice because it was still o’dark-thirty 😉 Hope the tiny-footed owner returns for it.
I passed this fellow twice during my run in Lakes Park this morning, and both times he screamed his head off at me. I am embarassed to say that I could not ID him by sight because I wasn’t wearing my glasses – but his screaming gave him away as an osprey.
Came trundling up the bridge on my morning run, and who do you suppose swooped in low before me? He came to rest on the rail and allowed me to take his photo. He kept a watchful eye on me as I thanked him and passed. The stop was worth ruining my time this morning (dipping down into the low 14:xx minute mile nowadays).