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.

Where the panther was seen

Where the panther was seen, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

Several nature lovers have reported panther sightings in the Slough this spring – and one was right around this spot! I’m seated in a rocking chair in the shade, back porch of the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve visitor center. Breezy back here – nothing but the sounds of the wind, the birds, insects humming and singing, and the occasional plop of a fish jumping. I could be persuaded to nap…

Pineland – Calusa Heritage Trail, Part 2

IMG_1258We’re picking up the walk around Pineland where we left off. Here’s a bird who’s got a lot in common with that guy who still lives in his mom’s basement. He sure looks like a grown-up osprey, but he was whining like a baby. “Feed! Me! Feed! Me! Feed! Me! he cried, in clipped, rapid succession.
IMG_1266Meanwhile, an adult in a tree some distance away flatly refused to bring food. Instead, she ocassionally called out encouragingly, “Get a job, you slacker – go out and hunt! The free ride is OVAH!” 😉 I have encountered this sort of stand-off before, at the Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel. Coaxing the young adults out of the nest seems like hard work, and it probably is – but in the case of the osprey, we cannot blame the economy!

IMG_1247On a mound that overlooks the water, we found a spot where a rabbit had been shedding (there wasn’t really enough of it to assume there had been a “circle of life”-type struggle).

IMG_1270This sign looks melted. We’re wondering if fire came through once upon a time and also wondering why no one has carted it away.

IMG_1277This made me laugh. Yes, OBVIOUSLY, one can hike in either direction, but more to the reason for laughter, it reminds me of the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. “Of course, some people do go both ways.”

We came upon an entire osprey family on their nest, which had the most unfortunate piece of lumber sticking straight up, bisecting the tableau. Upon closer inspection, it looks like it was nailed up there on purpose to keep the nest from toppling over. At first, I didn’t see the two chicks in the center, and thought it was just a parent and a juvenile. Then the chicks popped their heads up, all staring curiosity, and the whole family posed nicely for me. I think the one on the right is from an earlier brood; he doesn’t look quite adult to me, but he’s clearly more mature than the two in the center.

IMG_1285Osprey chicks – faces only a mother could love. Despite their scrawny little heads with large staring eyes, they are somehow still every inch adorable!

IMG_1305This dead tree was riddled with line after line of perforations – must be a real favorite of the local woodpecker population. The air plant attached to the side looks like it’s still got a few buds left to bloom for the season.

Once we’d done the loop, we decided to take the shortest way back to the parking lot and get into some air conditioned goodness. Pineland is a very interesting place, and I’d like to take another tour sometime with a knowledgeable guide. However, since the trails don’t have a whole lot of shade, I think my return will be next winter, when the weather is kinder.

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Pineland – The Calusa Heritage Trail

IMG_1308After a hike at Conservation 20/20’s Galt Preserve and lunch at the Lazy Flamingo, we explored the Calusa Heritage Trail at Pineland. This site is on Pine Island off the Lee County, Florida coast. It was once a part of the Calusa nation in Southwest Florida. The remains of several shell mounds still stand here, as well as part of the Calusa-built transportation network of canals. It was a hot afternoon – unusually hot for April – and we probably made quicker work of our self-guided tour than we would have in more pleasant weather. Still found beautiful things to see and wonder about. Let’s go!

IMG_1202At least six feet tall, this agave rises impressively from the base of on of Pineland’s shell mounds.

IMG_1206The view from the top of the mound. There are lots of theories – they’re burial grounds, they’re ceremonial, they’re sacrificial. But one thing is clear – this is pretty far up for storm surge to get you. My money is on the practical purpose – shell mounds are hurricane evacuation points.

IMG_1223Along about the beginning of June or so, the entire top of the mound is going to be bursting with the orange glow of royal poinciana.

IMG_1227Whelks were by far the most common shell I saw on the mounds, but there were ocassional other types of gastropods, such as this tulip and the fighting conch by my toes. Of course, these shells are antiquities and therefore NOT candidates for collection.

IMG_1230We found wild native poinsettia plants growing on the ascent to another mound. These are great for attracting pollinators to your garden. Notice how small the red leaves are, as compared to the cultivated variety.

IMG_1246We also found some fiery lantana setting fruit. Lantana is not a native plant, so this was something of a surprise for us. I think we can conclude that Pineland is not under a native-only mandate when it comes to planting.


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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

Frilly, yet functional – egg capsules of the true tulip

Every so often, the southwest Florida beach comber will run across a
delicate, bouquet like mass tossed upon the beach. If it’s a
particularly frilly-looking mass, chances are pretty good that you’ve
stumbled upon the egg capsules of the true tulip. I found this one on
Bunche Beach in Fort Myers, Florida. Click here for a page that shows a
row of empty true tulip shells – – now,
imagine them smaller than the head of a pin, and encased in a
tough-yet-bendy (something like a finger nail) substance. When you pick
up the mass and shake it, a rattling sounds means that the young snails
are still in there, waiting to hatch. Return it to the beach and let
Mother Nature do her thing. 🙂

egg mass of the true tulip snail, bunche beach, fort myers, florida

Have Signal, Will Blog! Mobile/photo blogging the Florida lifestyle and vacations