Category Archives: Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Rookery Bay Osprey – Naples, Florida

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

Taking a break this week from the Critters on the Castle series; while selecting the Rookery Bay sunset photo for yesterday, I came upon this shot of two osprey posing rather prettily for me in their nest. I’ve published this one before, I believe, but I thought it bore repeating.

If you’re an amateur photographer like me, you will know the feeling when I tell you that it’s one of those shots that you get home and put it up on the computer screen, and you cannot believe that YOU took it! So happy to share this with all the Camera Critters fans out there 🙂

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The Scarlet Ibis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*
The Scarlet Ibis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

This is the scarlet ibis (pronounced: EYE-bis; click photo to enlarge). A native of South America, the scarlet ibis is also found in Trinidad and Tobago, where it is one of the birds featured on the national coat of arms.

The ibis is a wading bird, and most of them here in Florida are white with a long curving red bill. The presence of the scarlet variety in the wild here in Florida does not necessarily mean migration occurred – as Dr. Jerry Jackson of Florida Gulf Coast University explains, scarlet ibis eggs were brought to Florida and fostered by resident white ibises.

The scarlet ibis pictured above was photographed among a flock of white ibises at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida on 31 October 2004.


– Readers may remember that I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Jerry Jackson speak during a sunset cruise on Rookery Bay (Naples, Florida) this past spring. I got lots of video with Dr. Jackson speaking in the background. CLICK HERE for the Rookery Bay series of posts.

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Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Part 5

Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Southwest Florida
Saturday 26 April 2008
Part 5: The Osprey (aka, the “sea eagle”)

The rookery was practically teeming with osprey. They make their nests on top of the channel marker signs, and boats can cruise by them and even stop at a respectful distance to observe them. There were generally two juveniles in each nest we passed, waiting on a parent to come by with a meal.

Visual: Osprey chicks in the nest (bad light angle, sorry!)
Audio: Feed me, feed me!

The exception was a beautiful, regal pair that Carol said had been nesting there for years, and a parent watching from a distance as the offspring practiced his “mantling” behavior over a meal in the nest.

This is one of those “OMG!” shots that you don’t know how good it is until you get it home and up on the computer screen. It’s the pair of osprey that have been nesting there for a while.

Visual: Osprey high on the branch. Companion to one of the “mantling” photos
Audio: Describing the appearance of the Osprey.

Osprey “mantling” his food; another, probably the parent, observes from a tree in the background.

Visual: Osprey in the nest eating.
Audio: Dr. Jackson describes “mantling” behavior

Looking regal!

Dr. Jackson talked about DDT poisoning and how it nearly destroyed the osprey population. He said that DDT lasts FOREVER in the body of invertebrates; it gets stored in fatty tissue, the brain and the liver. A sudden dramatic weight loss can release the poison into the system and cause all sorts of serious problems.

Visual: Young osprey waiting in nest. White-headed brown pelicans fly by
Audio: SW Florida, mercury pollution, talking about osprey’s coloring, etc. This one is a very good length.

NEXT TIME: Sunset on Rookery Bay!

Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Part 4

Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Southwest Florida
Saturday 26 April 2008
Part 3: Native vs Invasive

Keewaydin Island and The Florida Panther

At one point, we cruised past an island that had actual strands/beaches here and there, and rows of wooden piers where boaters could tie up and go ashore. Carol took the microphone at that time and told us a bit about Keewaydin Island.

You can see more of this map and other resources for boaters/kayakers/hikers by visiting Rookery Bay – Outdoor Experiences

It was privately owned up until sometime in the 1990s, when the State of Florida acquired 2,000 acres of the island. This portion was destined to become part of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Carol said that a number of times last year, a radio-tagged panther made it to Keewaydin; he definitely had to swim to get there!

Hmm, there must be something there he really wants!

The Spiny-Tailed (Black) Iguana

Dr. Jackson piped in with a story of a man who was a private landowner on the island and made a visit up to Gasparilla Island. He saw the iganuas that roamed Gasparilla (not natives of Florida!), and decided they were cool, and thatKeewaydin needed some. So he captured a few and brought them back down and now Keewaydin is nicely (NOT!) populated with Spiny -tailed ( Black )Iguanas

The Cattle Egret

The cattle egret is another species identified by Dr. Jackson as non-native. All egrets are really a form of heron. The cattle egrets we have here in Southwest Florida originated in Africa. He mentioned some speculation that storms blew them off course and they ended up here. Dr. Jackson also said that there was evidence that the cattle egret has been in Southwest Florida for quite longer than originally suspected; recently, someone was viewing an old movie that was shot on location down here sometime in the earlier part of the last century, and there is a cattle egret in one of the scenes, in the background.

The American Bald Eagle

Dr. Jackson astonished his listeners by telling them that the American Bald Eagle builds a nest that can reach two tons in weight! The same pair of eagles will tend to use the same nest year after year, repairing and adding on until it reaches this massive size and weight. This is why the bald eagle needs big, strong trees, and lots of them. There have to be a number of other options available in case the tree collapses under the weight, or a hurricane brings it down.

Video: Passing an osprey nest, vacant
Audio: Dr Jackson talks about eagles – young ones leave the nest, old ones stay year after year, despite the presence of condos.

Several times, pleasure boats sped past us, waving cheerfully as they generously provided a wake for the rocking pleasure (not!) of our tour boat. There are speed limit signs and cautions posted everywhere, but the revelers either remain blissfully unaware or else they just don’t care to comply. Dr. Jackson says that speeding boats plus shallow water = destruction of vegetation, no photosynthesis, things can’t nest and eat and hide, environment
damaged. I’ll also add into the mix that animals like dolphins and manatees can be hurt or killed by being struck by the boats.

Humans – the ultimate invasive species.

NEXT TIME: The Osprey! Got lots of video of them!

Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Part 3

Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Southwest Florida
Saturday 26 April 2008
Part 3: More About The Mangroves

Dr. Jackson told of a time he went to Costa Rica and visited old growth mangroves, which were a hundred feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. He said we don’t have old growth here in Florida any more because mangroves had been cut down and used to make furniture, but they’re starting to make a comeback. Anyhow, he described walking UNDER the roots of the old growth mangrove trees in Costa Rica, and he said that for him, it was like walking through a cathedral.

Video: Cruising by some mangroves. Audio: Early explorers faced the tangle of the mangroves – and lots of skeeters!

There are a variety of mangroves, and they grow in a sort of wave depending upon how far you are from the shore. Red ones grow in the water, then the black ones, then the white, and finally the buttonwoods grown the furthest inland.

Video: Bookin’ along at a decent speed. Audio: Lots of wind, but beginning of Dr. Jackson talking about Kleptoparasitism which is a kind of piracy amongst living organisms. I believe he was referring to the Magnificent Frigatebird

Dr. Jackson explains that estuaries are shallow, and this allows mangroves to take root and rise to the skies, as well as allowing other plant life to thrive in the water; the shallowness allows for sunlight to reach the bottom, giving rise to photosynthesis.

A new baby mangrove island just starting out

Another mangrove island

And yet another mangrove island

Because photosynthesis can happen in the shallow waters of this bay, grasses and other plants can grow here, providing food, hiding places, and nursery grounds for many, many forms of wildlife. This includes the mangrove islands.

Video: Panning a mangrove island where lots of birds are settling down for the evening. Audio: talking about clam seeds that start out as parasites

Video: Cruising by mangroves. Audio: Describing fish farms/hatcheries

Many of the life forms that thrive in the rookery and the mangrove islands can also thrive elsewhere, but there are a few that are found exclusively in the mangroves. The one that Dr. Jackson mentioned was the the mangrove cuckoo

NEXT TIME: Popular inhabitants of the rookery

Wordless Wednesday: Rookery Bay Sunset Interlude

Sunset on Rookery Bay

Naples, Florida

April 26th, 2008

Many, MANY thanks to all of you who have posted encouraging comments and sent really nice messages regarding the Rookery Bay Sunset Cruise series. We’re about half through, and it’s nice to know that this sort of blogging is appreciated.

Today is just a little pause for Wordless Wednesday; there’s more of the series to come tomorrow and Friday. Hope to see you here again!

Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Part 2

Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Southwest Florida
Saturday 26 April 2008

Part 2: Into The Rookery

Dr. Jerry Jackson

Dr. Jerry Jackson is a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. He’s kindly and energetic, and demonstrates a keen, bubbling-over enthusiasm for his subject, namely – birds! Dr. Jackson doesn’t always do this eco-tour; I have the impression it was a special treat for all us public radio geeks who listen to his radio spot on WGCU every morning.

Dr. Jackson displays a bird’s skull

What’s a Rookery?

He started off by telling us about the word “rookery”, which he points out has “rook” at it’s root, which is a European crow. Indeed, tells us that this is so, and also points out that “rook” can also mean “to swindle”. Perhaps the verb arises from a crow’s proptensity to swipe things. So if a crow is a “rook”, then a crow’s nesting place is a “rookery”, a term which came to be more broadly applied to places where any types of birds have their colonies.

The Importance of Mangroves

A little mangrove island with some critters hanging out

Dr. Jackson apparently loves words nearly as much as he loves birds, for he went on to expound upon the word “mangrove, remarking that the roots look like the legs and feet of a “man”, and that they grow in a “grove” or tight grouping.

A display of mangrove roots

A tricolor heron rests in the tangle of the mangrove roots

An egret wades for his dinner among the mangrove roots

NEXT TIME: More about the mangrove islands and their inhabitants.

Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Part 1

Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Southwest Florida
Saturday 26 April 2008

Part 1: The Road to Good Fortune

Thanks to those of you who followed along Saturday evening while I was floating blissfully on Rookery Bay in Southwest Florida. As you could see, I did indeed have a cell phone signal out there on the bay. BONUS: I learned how to take video with the cell phone and send it off to Utterz for posting here! WOOT!

Several weeks ago, when I made my annual pledge to support our local National Public Radio station here in the Fort Myers area (WGCU), I received a sunset cruise on Rookery Bay as my “thank you” gift. I had intended all along to renew my membership with WGCU, but the offer of the cruise narrated by Dr. Jerry Jackson made me call immediately upon hearing about it. Dr. Jackson presents a short program about nature and conservation each morning called With the Wild Things

The trip down took more than an hour. This is because a)I drove at 60 mph instead of 70, to conserve on gas, and b)Shell Island Road down in Naples is nothing but dirt and potholes, and requires careful navigation at no more than 15-20 mph.

Above, the location of Shell Island Road, which leads to the Conservancy’s dock

Here’s what you see when you turn onto Shell Island Road from Collier Blvd.

Above: This sign reassures you that you are in the right place

Not so reassuring: the condition of the road!

Even driving an SUV, it takes a while to drive those 2.5 miles. The speed limit is 15 mph, and rightly so. It’s an obstacle course of hills and canyons, and at some point, I realized I had an opportunity to drive my RAV like it was meant to be driven, and began to have a little fun – yee haw!

There was a point at which I had to get out of the car to remove a piece of wood from the road – it had very long nails sticking out of it! All along the road, every few hundred feet, there were dire warnings posted regarding the removal of wildlife from the premises… and then I realized that the reason the road looks like that is because it is part of nature conservancy area, and they cannot very well put blacktop through it.

But I started to wonder at all the signs, especially calling out saw palmetto berries and gopher tortoises. Are these really popular wildlife items with which to abscond? Why? Do people try to eat them or something? I many never know!

Turtle soup, anyone?

Finally, after bumping along for what seemed eternity, I found the place to park.

Put myself alongside a big tree, like a good Floridian, and then broke out the bug spray. Having wandered through Ding Darling a few times in my life, I knew better than to even set foot outside the car in this area without bug spray.

As I wandered down the sandy path in the direction of the dock, I saw this plaque and snapped a pic so I could google it –

You can find out about Dellora and Lester Norris too, by clicking here to visit the Naples Chamber of Commerce page that lists that city’s 60 most important business leaders.

Finally got down the path, and found I was the first person there, except for two gentlemen sitting on the boat reading. Yep, the Road to Good Fortune led me to this –

The gentlemen on board were Pete, the skipper, and Jim who was his “Gilligan” for the evening. Jim gave me a copy of the the colorful booklet/brochure about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The Conservancy owns the boat called The Good Fortune, which does educational eco-tours of Rookery Bay January through April, and is staffed by volunteer naturalists like Carol, who climbed aboard a bit later with a steady stream of arriving guests.

Bill and Nancy arrived just after I did. Nancy recovering from knee surgery. They live on the Caloosahatchee and have been there long enough to see entire ecosystems wiped out and replaced as the water has changed from fresh to salt and back again. Not fans of Lake O releases, which have turned their part of the river to fresh water. Bill believes it’s supposed to be salt at their point on the river, and says it has been recovering to salt as of late (Lake O is down more than a quart, so there is no need for releases).

A woman named Sue sat next to me for the duration of the trip. She’s a pharmacist, and she and her husband like to go kyaking near their home.

Finally, as the last few guests were climbing aboard, the man of the hour and our tour guide for the next two hours, Dr. Jerry Jackson (bio on arrived.


Pledge Booty From WGCU Public Media

Wow, that was quick. I renewed my membership in WGCU, our local National Public Radio station, just last week. I heard they were giving away a sunset cruise on Rookery Bay for $200, so I decided to go for it. I would have renewed anyway, but that’s what made me call right then and there.

Look at all the stuff they sent! In addition to my pass for the cruise and directions (the directions are on the blue sheet; I’m not posting a copy of the invite on the internet!), I also received two canvas totes, a DVD and a CD.

The DVD is an episode of Nature called Raptor Force, and looks to have been produced by my old PBS station in New York, WNET thirteen.

The CD is called Steel Away, by someone called J. Robert. Looks to be tropically flavored.

I didn’t expect to get so much stuff. I thought it was just going to be the cruise, and believe me, that would have been plenty for me.

Did I mention that the Rookery Bay cruise is coming up on April 26th? It’s in the early evening, so I’m sure I’ll be able to live-blog some photos, and come home with a bunch more to post later.