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As we all know, Florida's renowned heat, humidity, and seemingly endless sunshine can wreak havoc on anything left outside for an extended period of time (including my fair skin). That is why Rookery Bay Reserve's  Communications Team (Amber Nabors, Renee Wilson, and I) set out last Thursday to replace sun-worn informational signs along Shell Island Road.

gophertortoise-sWe loaded our gear into one of Rookery Bay's well-used pick-ups and began the short jaunt from the Environmental Learning Center to Shell Island Road. What I had assumed to be a short maintenance task and a chance to enjoy some fresh air during the work day quickly proved to be so much more. After only a few minutes of coasting down the road towards our first sign in need of repair, Amber shouted, "gopher tortoise!" The truck came to a halt, and we all looked on as the deceptively quick, ancient-looking creature ambled away from the road's edge and into the sheltered palmetto scrub. It had been quite a while since I last saw one of these mild-mannered reptiles, so I was pretty excited about this sighting.

Despite the questionable forecast, we set to work amidst some threatening clouds and a flurry of mosquitoes. (Note to visitors, if you plan on enjoying Rookery Bay's nature trails this time of year, be sure to bring protective clothing and/or bug spray!) Armed with a power drill and some cleaning products, we three ladies made quick work of repairing some of the Reserve's weathered signage. During this process, we continued to happen upon unsuspecting wildlife including a few tree frogs, who had sought protection within the sign display cases, some mud dauber wasps defending their mud homes, and a camera-shy reef gecko that successfully avoided my attempts to get a photograph.

sign-install-250Eventually the morning became clear and bright—a welcome reprieve from unpredictable summer thunderstorms. We did encounter one of Southwest Florida's notoriously fleeting sun showers, but it worked wonders to help cool us off a bit. After our work was complete, we gathered our equipment, climbed into the truck, and began our return to the Environmental Learning Center when we made another wildlife sighting: two white-tailed deer grazing lazily in the shade of a mango tree. Back on the main road, I gazed out the window at the sky above the reserve and caught a glimpse of my favorite bird gracefully riding the air: a swallow-tailed kite. It was a great end to a day of tough, yet enjoyable, fieldwork at Rookery Bay.

I encourage you to visit our Shell Island Road trails and appreciate all the wildlife and beauty that the Reserve has to offer. (Including our handiwork on the newly renovated signs!)

huntsberry-lett-lr-ssAshley Huntsberry-Lett, Communications Intern

 

owl-poo-sSPLAT!
With that sound so began the mystery.
Borne in darkness several months ago, the mystery was as confounding as it was repetitive.
SPLAT!
It happened again!
SPLAT!
None of us here actually heard the poo falling through the depths of the night, but, like a tree falling in the forest with no one around, it happened nonetheless. Signs on the courtyard paving stones most mornings let us know that we'd been hit again by the mystery pooper.
Splat! Splash!
Large puddles of white poo continue to be left by the mysterious perpetrator (poopetrator?) at the entrances to the Environmental Learning Center. Sometimes our photo stand out front would be hit and the dolphin or seahorse would be victims of the aerial barrage – they didn't complain but it often took a lot of cleaning to have it be a photo stand rather than a photo "stained."
Splat!
Ok, now this is getting ridiculous.
Is nature making a statement about what it thinks of us? Should we be taking this personally?
Splat!
'nother day. 'nother splat.
Who or what could be leaving these "presents" nearly every night?
Splat...

Click here to read part 2 of the mystery pooper investigation...

Master-Nat-Seine2-sRookery Bay Reserve staff recently visited Tigertail Lagoon with the Florida Master Naturalist Coastal Module students to study the diversity of life within coastal systems. They used a seine net to reveal several different species, such as: gulf killifish, pipefish, and sheepshead minnow. The Master Naturalist Coastal Module, hosted here at Rookery Bay, addresses society's role in coastal areas, develops naturalist interpretation skills, and discusses environmental ethics. This class is one of the many different ways that Reserve staff is continually working to provide a basis for informed stewardship of estuaries through increasing awareness and appreciation for the diverse array of life that resides within Reserve waters.

Check out our Coastal Training for Ecotour Professionals Series for upcoming professional development programs.

The video below with my unrestrained response says a lot about how I am touched by the wonders of nature! The staff at RBNERR has provided so many opportunities to learn about and to observe nature up close in the 10 years I've been an ELC volunteer. Watching the Giant Red Hermit Crab move into a new home is indeed just one of the highlights of my experience at Rookery Bay.


Learn more about the giant hermit crab

marilyn-100Marilyn McCollister,
Volunteer at Rookery Bay Reserve

Jill-Sea-Turtle-Research-Board-sRookery Bay Reserve's GIS Specialist, Jill Schmid, recently escaped the office and joined approximately 800 sea turtle scientists, students, government, and NGO staff from around the world at the 34th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation in New Orleans! She presented the results of her 4-year long research study on the influence of rainfall in sea turtle nest temperatures and how it affects the sex ratio of sea turtle hatchlings.

More info about Jill's Sea Turtle Incubation Temperature Study

Water Quality Monitoring Program Manager Julie Drevenkar shares a glimpse into the world of water quality!

More info about Rookery Bay Reserve's System-Wide Monitoring Program

nesting-sandhill-crane-2-sReserve staff Dave Graff discovered a new species using the Reserve as nesting habitat during his photography class last month. Sandhill cranes occur in pastures, open prairies and freshwater wetlands in peninsular Florida from the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp. While they are often observed feeding on golf courses and in cleared fields associated with neighboring developments such as Fiddler's Creek, this was the first time nesting activity has been documented in the Reserve's upland habitats.

Learn more about these majestic birds

SWAMP-sWhat comes to mind when you think swamp? Alligators? Yes! But the surrounding water these roaming reptiles depend on is not as stinky, slimy and dirty as you might imagine. In fact, the water in our Big Cypress Swamp is clear and clean. Good thing too! This water, as it slowly moves south to the estuary, seeps down into the aquifers below to supply us with drinking water! Not many have had the adventure of being out in the swamp to fully understand the value this habitat brings to our daily lives. But for the 6th graders of Collier County, they've experienced it first hand. Field trips in the rainy season often lead to wet clothes and for the shorter students a memorable swim through the swamp.

As the coordinator for the 4th grade Estuary Explorers program here at Rookery Bay Reserve, I took the chance to learn more about the diverse and unique ecosystem that is the Big Cypress Swamp by tagging along with the Big Cypress Park Rangers who lead the trip. Cypress trees, ferns, saw grass, and panther scrapes make for a completely different learning environment from the estuary. Walking through the different habitats we spotted fresh bear scat, a prominent panther scrape from a male marking his territory and some bobcat tracks. Using some telemetry equipment that the real Big Cypress scientists use to track panthers equipped with radio collars, the 6th graders were able to practice finding their own panther! Overall the experience of learning in a different environment enriched my understanding of South Florida ecosystems and I hope to use that to enhance the 4th grade program in the years to come.

Itching to take your own trip out into the swamp? Big Cypress National Preserve wants you to come visit! Please check out the link below so that you too can enjoy the beauty of our backyard.
http://www.nps.gov/bicy/index.htm

 

joyce-100Megan Joyce, Education Specialist

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