Category Archives: Southwest Florida

The arch at the Ding

20140530-143424-52464700.jpgThis arch marks the entrance to the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Center. It was made by the same artist who made the faux scat for the scat trail at the new wildlife boardwalk. There are a number of plant and wildlife species woven into the design. People were standing around the archway, trying to count how many. I heard the number "17" being tossed around…

Environmental education at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

20140530-102337-37417005.jpgThis morning, I’m attending an environmental education conference at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida. The conference opened with a short hike to the new Wildlife Education Boardwalk. Here’s the view of the “tunnel” into the mangroves that flows beside the new observation tower. Looking forward to learning more today on beautiful Sanibel Island.

Some FUNky facts about the osprey

Some FUNkey facts about the osprey

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:

A Sanibel osprey vogues for me

Critter encounters at Bowditch Point (scroll to the bottom on this one)

Sunset cruise on Rookery Bay, Part 5

Inaugural photo foray – Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

© Copyright 2013 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

IMG_0231I’ve got a new camera. I promised myself that if I could sell $X amount of stuff on eBay within Y amount of time, I could have it. Coveting a camera makes for some powerful motivation, and I not only met my sales, goal, I exceeded it. This is the camera: Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 50x Wide-Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom

I did a little messing around with it at home once it arrived, but yesterday – Easter Sunday – was my first foray into the world to give it a test drive. The primary reason I wanted 50x zoom is because I get frustrated with not being able to get close enough to wildlife to take a decent shot. It always astounds me that even with the near-sightedness of middle age, my eyes sometimes see more than my camera can. On the flip side of that, there are some particular wildlife specimens to which it is quite inadvisable to get too close. Therefore, a healthy amount of zoom is in order.

I have much to learn about this camera! Without further ado, here are some of the inaugural shots, taken at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, aka “my cathedral”. Let me know what you think! There will be more posted to my Facebook page.

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I was surprised to find out that there is more than one green anole; I’d thought the green one was the American native (Anolis carolensis) and the not-green are invaders. I have since discovered that there is a Cuban green anole (A. porcatus), and that it has blue stripes or specks, like this one (see the area of his shoulder). So maybe this isn’t Anolis carolensis, and it’s actually a Cuban.

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A little blue heron hangs out on the “barge” in the middle of Gator Lake. There were also a number of turtles parked on the platforms, sunning themselves.

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I don’t really see the blue stripe phenomenon going on here, so my guess is that this anole is a native Floridian.

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Up until now, we’ve been looking at zoomed photos. This one was taken as a macro. The macro button is in a different spot than it was on my previous Canon camera, but I finally found it! Oddly, the legs are looking really good, but the body is a bit vague… possibly because it is shiny? The spider was really delicate but patiently waited for me to get my shot. I thanked her profusely 😉

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From death springs life; the swamp is really cool that way :)

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In addition to heat-seeking anoles, there were quite a few gators sunning themselves, too. In this particular pond were three 1 – 1.5 footers, like this one. Of the other two, one was sleeping and the other was quite actively swimming around. This time of year, the livin’ is easy, what with the water levels lower and the ponds shrinking into concentrated pools of food. No wonder they are all tuckered out by afternoon!

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I took lots of pictures of this little green heron. He was quite accommodating. Want to know what he was looking at?

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There was another little green heron resting in the shade on the far left of the pond.

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LOVE this shot – this gator, about a 5-footer, looks so smugly satisfied and comfy in his napping spot in the sun. The arc of his reflection is kind of neat, too.

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A bit dark and not the best, but this shot of the pileated woodpecker at work would not have been possible with my old camera. He was simply too far away to capture without massive zoom. According to something the instructor said in a photography class I took last month, I might actually have been able to help this shot along with a long-distance flash.


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A random act of shelling at Bunche Beach

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
MANY shells.

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]

Striped burrfish at Bunche Beach

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.

Downtown Pizza! In Fort Myers

Downtown Pizza! In Fort Myers, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

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!

Today’s Adventure: Roots Heritage Urban Food Hub in Fort Myers, FL



RootsHeritageOpening2013, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

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! :)

Honoring CREW volunteers



Honoring CREW volunteers, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

CREW’s management honored a selection of their volunteers for their dedication to the cause and to the trails. After some goodie bags were awarded, they all posed for a few photos. Congratulations and well done, all of you – and thanks you to CREW for a lovely evening.

Tonight’s adventure: wine and cheese under the stars

As a member if CREW – Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed – I was invited to a wine and cheese party this evening under the stars and the Full Wolf Moon. Fun and nature geek friends shall ensue. lets go!

Six Mile Cypress Slough – it’s for the birds!

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

Boardwalk pavilion at Six Mile Cypress SloughI’ve been trying to make it a point to get to the Six Mile Cypress Slough at least once a week during the cooler months. So far, I’m three for three (weeks, that is!). This past Friday, I actually remembered to bring my camera with me, so I was able to avail myself of some optical zoom, which certainly helps when you’re trying to photograph things that will cut and run – or, more accurately, FLY – if you get too close.

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As I entered the gated portion of the boardwalk, I was pleased to note how much water there was in the slough. Just last week, parts of the swamp were mere mud puddles. Due to nearly four days of gray skies and rain last week, pretty unusual for December, the slough is nicely recharged. Walking through this section, I heard this little guy before I saw him – a downy woodpecker was pecking his way up and down and all around the branch of a tree. He’s fast! Hard to catch him before he ducks around the other side.

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This majestic great egret stood his ground, even when I inadvertently spooked a group of ibis and they fluttered all around him. I was on my way to one of the viewing pavilions, where I saw this next fellow…

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This male anhinga has been on the same branch in the same corner of the same pond for the last three weeks in a row. I think that’s “his” branch. He’d probably be annoyed if he ever found someone squatting on it. Also on this pond, but too far away to photograph – two turtles, a black-crowned night heron, a baby gator about a foot long, and another anhinga sleeping with his head all tucked in. Back down the boardwalk and off in the bushes, I was able to capture this fellow…

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I could barely see him in the branches – he’s well-camouflaged! I believe this is a juvenile black-crowned night heron. There were a few of these guys hanging out here several weeks ago.

Well, those are the best of the bunch for this week. It’s quite a thrill every time I get to hang out with these guys :)

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Late autumn in Southwest Florida – paradise!

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

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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!


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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A closer look at the egret – handsome fellow, isn’t he?

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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.

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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!”

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The sky is streaked in Creamsicle shades as the sun descends upon Sanibel’s east end.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 colors of autumn… in FLORIDA?!?!??

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

IMG_6572The 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!


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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!

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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…

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See that skinny little tree over there? It’s holding on to the handrail!

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Or maybe it has grown a tongue, which now laps at the boardwalk. How odd and beautiful it is, all at once.

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I then noticed something else about the little tree – it seems to be growing out of another tree, of a different species!

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See? The little tree is a cypress, and the “host” seems to be an oak of some sort.

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Further along the boardwalk, I saw the situation in reverse – a slender oak is growing out of a cypress tree.

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This cypress tree is very tall compared to the little oak.

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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.

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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.

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Here’s a young cypress just dripping in autumnal gold. See? Who says we don’t get fall colors down this way!

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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?

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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.

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And this is a bald cypress. The leaves are flatly fanned out from the stem. There. Now you know the difference, too. 😉

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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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Autumn morning walk in the Calusa Nature Center

IMG_6453Calusa Nature Center – perfect morning for a walk in the flatwoods and the swamp. It’s pretty close to where I live, and I had other errands to run this morning, so why not stop by instead of passing by? Plus, we have that extra hour in the morning now that we “fell back” on Sunday, and I was a bundle of energy because of that. Let’s go!

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A couple of rehabilitating gators were sunning themselves near their watering hole.

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The American beauty berry is in a full riot of fruit.

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Parts of the swamp are already drying up and becoming lined with fallen leaves.

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Dahoon holly trees are heavy with fruit in the cypress swamp and along the pine loop trail

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Something has raked this tree. Gashes look too wide for it to be a bear or a bobcat. Not sure how this happened!

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A closer look at the mystery gashes.

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Still water in the cypress swamp, and since the berries are popping and the leaves are falling, there are lots of feeding little birdies visible and audible here.

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A new little tree struggles to bring itself up beside the boardwalk. I predict a relocation of one or the other!

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I have found a lot of things while out walking that other people lost. But I never thought someone could lose their face..
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Disappointing

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Cassia in bloom

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Cabbage palm regeneraging – not sure if the folded-up-ness is normal, as I’ve never seen one do this before!

VIDEO: Crossing the Sanibel Causeway at sunset

I learned a valuable lesson last Friday evening as I was crossing the Sanibel Causeway at sunset – a dirty windshield is far more visible when the glare of full sunlight is not present! I turned on the radio and got a funky blues pop tune, which seemed to match the mood of the sky. Enjoy :)

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Live from the Fort Myers River District!

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!

Kris Krossing the Sanibel Island Causeway

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On Friday, I took a run out to Sanibel Island to celebrate my birthday. As I came through the toll, a really OLD song came on the radio, so I decided to “roll tape” for the perilous crossing. Join me for a ride in the “happy lane” :)

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