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.
We 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.
Eventually 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!)
Ashley Huntsberry-Lett, Communications Intern