While staff and volunteers were working on the Cannon Island trail recently they came upon a very unique yellow jacket hive. No one had ever seen a hive this large or so unusually shaped: it completely encircles the trunk of the cabbage palm. While humans try to avoid yellow jackets because of their sting, this insect is actually an important food source for Florida black bears. According to FWC, about 15% of the Florida black bears' diet consists of insects, such as the yellow jacket.
Staff and visitors out in the Reserve occasionally encounter wildlife in need of a hand. This loon, spotted on the Life's a Beach boat tour last week, seemed like a sick bird; however, it was probably just resting. After walking down the beach, the group returned to find it swimming off the beach. Upon discovering potentially ill or injured wildlife, a good rule of thumb is to give it some space and observe the animal to ensure it is impaired. If it is unable to walk, swim or fly successfully, it may need medical attention. Contact the Conservancy's Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at 239-262-CARE for guidance on how to assist injured or ill wildlife.
Steven Bertone, a Resource Management Specialist at Rookery Bay Reserve, recently got a snapshot of a coyote on one of his wildlife cameras positioned on Shell Island Road. The cameras were originally set up to track any panther movement in the area, but coyote images have been captured here several times in the past three months on two different cameras. It seems that the coyotes, which have historically been more common in northern Florida, are moving into the Reserve to forage since these lands provide one of the last remaining undisturbed habitats for large game in this area. Coyotes are a member of the dog family and generally weigh between 20-30 pounds. Coyote tracks are elongated and narrower than dog tracks, although they look similar. Check the Florida Fish and Wildlife website for more info on coyotes in Florida.
Rookery Bay Reserve staff hosted Big Cypress Basin staff on Reserve grounds for a tour of the area on April 8, 2013. This interaction was very informative and helped the staff of Big Cypress Basin better understand the estuary that Reserve staff works so hard to protect. The week before this tour, Reserve staff was hosted by the Big Cypress Basin field staff to tour their operations and to see the progress on their cornerstone project: constructing pump stations for the restoration of the Picayune Strand restoration area.
Conditions were perfect for catching sharks on the evening of April 16th, 2013 when Rookery Bay researcher, Pat O'Donnell, and his team of volunteers took the boat out to Faka-Union Bay in hopes to catch and tag more sharks for his ongoing research study. The night was balmy with an intermittent breeze and after baiting and setting up the nets, they waited for four hours watching the lines for the tell-tale signs of a catch—the drop and wiggle of the buoys. Nothing came. Only the slight dip of a single buoy, which signaled that a catfish was caught in the net, and the buzz of hungry mosquitoes echoed off the still night water. This doesn't happen often for the research
team, but participants in the study are always made aware that when animals are involved in the project, the outcome is unpredictable.
Rosalie Walter is the winner for the 2013 Collier County Public School art exhibit, which is displayed in the art gallery at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. She is in second grade at Tommie Barfield Elementary School. Rosalie won a $50 gift certificate to the Rookery Bay Reserve gift shop plus a Guy Harvey "Protect Our Oceans" poster. Rookery Bay Reserve is honored to have hosted pieces from many of the budding artists in Collier county's public schools!
Mission San Juan Capistrano may have its swallows, but Rookery Bay Reserve has its least terns! Least terns are small (nine inches long with a wing span of 20 inches) and have been called "sea swallows" for their rapid, darting flight. Each year in early April, like clockwork, migratory least terns return to Florida and Rookery Bay beaches to lay their eggs and raise their chicks.
This year, least terns were first seen on Rookery Bay Reserve grounds on April 3, at Second Chance sandbar near Cape Romano by Reserve staff and volunteer bird monitors. On April 9, over 30 least terns were recorded resting along the southern tip of Keewaydin Island during the Reserve's weekly beach-nesting bird survey.