Trash is one of the most visible kinds of pollution we encounter at the beach, in parks, forests and on roadsides. Most of us have learned from an early age not to litter, however trash often accumulates by accident. The garbage truck is one example of an accidental trash spreader: loose items can become airborne as the truck drives down the road. The end result is unsightly; however, litter is easily removed and even more easily prevented. To help reduce litter:
Bag household trash before placing it into the receptacle;
Be resposible for your trash away from home, i.e. fast food containers, balloons;
Recover lost or downed kites and fishing lines;
Carry a bag to remove trash at the end of outings;
Participate in beach clean-ups and Adopt-A-Shore programs.
Early October in South Florida brings more than long, hot days with afternoon downpours. It’s also a time when nature gets on the move. Fall migration is up and running, or flying I suppose, for many species of “northern birds.” Collier County may be one of their last stops before they journey across the Gulf of Mexico or on to the Caribbean! Even if you aren’t a rabid or avid birdwatcher (we have both on staff here at Rookery Bay), you may come across one of these voyagers in an unfortunate location – on the ground outside one of your windows.
Cane toads (Rhinella marina) are on the move and in the news. They are nonnative species that can be deadly to curious pets because they emit a milky toxin that sticks in the mouth of whatever tries to eat it. There are a lot of these guys in the areas around Rookery Bay Reserve - in fact, one of our volunteers, Paul Allen, has personally removed more than 1,000 toads from his neighborhood off Barefoot-Williams road over the past 3 years. Keep your pets safe by reducing hiding places for these toads in your yard and avoid letting pets nose around in bushes while on walks. Symptoms include disoriented behavior, red gums, foaming at the mouth or seizures. If you think your pet has come into contact with a cane toad, flush its mouth for 10 minutes, wipe inside with a dish towel, and consult your vet ASAP.
European honeybees play an important role in our community and many fertilize our local crops here in Southwest Florida. Bees can be pretty protective of their homes and offspring - always be aware of your surroundings so you don’t accidentally disturb them!
More information about honeybees: http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/honeybee/
Here’s a tip for today: Please don’t leave your line behind.
Marine debris, such as fishing line and plastic bags, continue to be a problem in Florida. It has the potential to damage boat engines by clogging intake valves and entangling in propellers, and also harms aquatic life. Plastic bags are deadly to sea turtles that mistake them for jellyfish, their favorite food. Fishing line snares pelicans and other coastal water birds. When an entangled bird is able to fly back to its rookery with yards of line dangling behind it, it can entrap other birds that fly to that location.
Help protect Rookery Bay and coastal marine life:
Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) is a large shrub or tree with dark green leaves and clusters of red berries. Introduced to Florida in the late 1800's, Brazilian pepper was cultivated as an ornamental, and is still referred to as Christmas berry. It was later discovered to grow rampantly in most warm climate habitats. Brazilian pepper is now classified as a Category I invasive plant by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council because it crowds out the native plants that serve as wildlife habitat. State and local governments spend millions of dollars per year eradicating this noxious weed from public lands.
Red tide is a natural occurrence that has been documented in the state of Florida since the 1840's. Legends and folklore indicate it has been around much longer than that. Red tide is caused by a microscopic alga (a plant-like microorganism) called Karenia brevis. This organism is naturally found in our waters in low numbers. High concentrations, also known as blooms, occur when certain environmental conditions involving water chemistry and physics are just right. Blooms sometimes change the water color to be red, brown, or dark green, hence the name red tide. Click here for more information about red tide.
Did you know that some birds nest right on the beach? Many species of migratory shorebirds travel thousands of miles each year to reach the unique habitat that Florida beaches offer. Birds such as least terns, snowy plovers and black skimmers are a few species that, instead of gathering twigs and other material for a tree nest, simply dig a shallow depression (known as a scrape) right in the sand. The eggs are camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings, and parent birds protect eggs and young from the heat, stormy weather and predators. Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve seasonally posts sections of the beach, such as the south tip of Keewaydin Island, to help alert beach visitors of nesting activity. Protection of nesting colonies early in the season is crucial. As the summer progresses, coastal areas have increased risk of being overwashed by severe storms and high tides. A combination of posting and closure, law enforcement presence, and visitor awareness is necessary to ensure beach-nesting bird reproductive success.
Your help can ensure the future of beach nesting birds by following these guidelines:
• Avoid walking near dunes or beachside vegetation where eggs may be hidden.
• Keep your distance from any birds on the beach.
• Do not force birds to fly.
• Respect posted areas.
• Report violations to FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline: (888) 404-3922.
• Keep pets leashed or consider leaving them at home.
• Never deploy fireworks at or near an active nesting area.
• Don't leave any litter or food behind – this can attract nest predators.
During beach-nesting season (April - August) no people, dogs, or vehicles are allowed within the posted areas. State Law (Chapter 68A-27 F.A.C) may subject violators to criminal penalties. The attempt to take or possess any migratory bird, their nest, or eggs is a violation of Federal Law (16 USC Sec.703).