Wiggins Pass State Beach
Depending on which list you look at the top beaches in the United States will be different. Travel websites like TripAdvisor, Travel Channel and Dr. Beach’s top 10 Beach list will often list different beaches as being the best in the U.S. Since I live in Southwest Florida and have visited most if not all of the beaches here I will write about the most recent list by Dr. Beach which was reported recently in the press and online. Dr. Beach’s choices list two of Southwest Florida’s beaches in the top 10.
Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs came in at # 2 on the list. This beach is definitely a gem and well kept secret since I have been there and never seen it crowded. The water and sand are very clean and there are facilities to use bathrooms.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples came in at # 10. I have visited this beach and it is similar to Barefoot Beach with its beautiful white sandy beach and it’s clean waters to swim in. They are only a few miles apart.
Other beaches in and around Naples, Marco Island, Ft. Myers Beach, Sanibel, and Captiva all have their great beaches and have been listed in the top 10 at some point. Florida also has some great beaches in the Sarasota, Clearwater, St. Augustine, Pensacola, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami areas. With over 1,000 miles of shoreline and warm sunny weather in the winter, Florida is a favorite destination spot for vacationers.
photo courtesy of Collier County
Zebra Longwing – (Heliconius charitonius)
I saw this Zebra Longwing while walking along a path at the John Yarbrough Ten Mile Canal in Ft. Myers. The Zebra like most butterfly’s don’t stay in one place long enough to take a good picture but I stayed in the same place and waited for this one to land on a flowering plant and stay there long enough to catch it in a photo. The Zebra Longwing is Florida’s state butterfly and it’s host plant is the Corky Stem Passion Vine. I think the wildflower it is feeding on is called the Beggartick.
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Barred Owl – click on picture for larger image
I saw and photographed this Barred Owl while walking along the boardwalk in Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. There were several people standing only 10-20 feet away snapping pictures of this bird and it didn’t seem to mind. The Owl is looking down at something in this picture and within a few minutes it swooped down to the moist ground below it and started crunching something in its beak. A few of us thought it must have been a crayfish. The Barred Owl has a rounded gray-brown head and brown and white streaked plumage on it’s body. It lives in hardwood swamps, cypress swamps, mesic hammocks, hardwood forests, wet prairies and marshes. The owl is a cavity nester using natural holes in trees and does not build it’s own nest. It is noted for it’s loud call.
See and hear a Barred Owl in this You Tube video
Large Flower Rose Gentian – (Sabatia grandiflora)
I saw this group of wildflowers while I was walking along the bank of the Ten Mile Canal in Ft. Myers. I was actually trying to find a neat turtle that I had seen the day before. These very pretty wildflowers were in an area of a rocky ledge near the water. I had a hard time identifying the scientific name of the flowers and they were not in my field guide book. I came across them after searching on the internet. Apparently the flower is one of 20 species of the flowering plants in the family Gentianaceae. The flower is an annual, grows by dropping seeds and appears in early Spring. It has a yellow star like pattern in the middle with a reddish outline. From what I read, this species grows only in Florida and South Alabama.
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White Peacock Butterfly
White Peacock Butterfly – (Anartia jatrophae)
The White Peacock Butterfly is white with brown markings and has orange margins around its wings. It has one black spot on it forewing and two black spots on its hindwings. I spotted this White Peacock while walking along a trail in the Bird Rookery Swamp in Naples. The butterfly can usually be found along pond edges, wetlands areas, canal banks, and roadsides. It’s larval host plants are the water hyssop and frogfruit. Visit the Florida Museum of Natural History to learn and see more butterflies and wildflowers.
Stained Water Flowing into Our Waterways
Cleaning up Our Water Resources
The Ft. Myers News-Press ran an editorial yesterday May 18th, 2014 titled “Enormous Water Puzzle Needs Our Total Effort.” The editor lists the steps that South Florida needs to take in order to clean up the water flows that come our way when Lake Okeechobee releases billions of gallons of dirty water when Lake Okeechobee levels get too high. Huge water discharges occur going west into the Caloosahatchee River and east to the St. Lucie River which turns healthy clear water into murky dark water. This murky dark water turns our pristine clean beaches, rivers and bays into foul looking and polluted areas. The ultimate goal of the Everglades Restoration Plan is to restore the historic flows of water southward towards the Everglades instead of storing it in Lake Okeechobee. The News Press editor points out the steps needed to accomplish this as a series of steps like putting the pieces of a large puzzle together. The puzzle pieces include acquiring land south of Lake O to store large quantities of water, establishing other storage reservoirs to hold and clean water, constructing a 2.6 mile flow way under U.S. 41 to allow water to continue flowing south and many other projects. Our state legislators approved funds to create water reservoirs called C-43 and C-44 that will hold billions of gallons of water. The South Florida Water Management District is one of our state agencies involved in cleanup and restoration projects.
photo courtesy of News-Press
Pickerelweed – (Pontederia cordata)
The Pickerelweed plant is native to Florida and is a freshwater plant that grows on the edges of lakes, ponds, marshes and other freshwater habitats. It has tall violet-blue and sometimes white flowers that grow from its stem. It can grow in heights from 2-4 feet but part of this is underwater. It spreads by its root structure or rhizomes which grow and extend underground and sends up other stems nearby. I saw this clump of Pickerelweeds on the edge of a small lake in my neighborhood and was impressed by its pretty violet-blue flowers. The plant is perennial which means its flowers and stems die after they are eaten but the rhizomes stay alive and spout new leaves and flowers the following year. The University of Florida Dept. of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) has some good information about plants and ecosystems. The nectar of the flower on the Pickerelweed is eaten by insects, bees and butterflies. It produces a fruit or a seed after it is pollinated which is eaten by muskrats, white tailed deer and other animals. I have read that the Pickerelweed is helpful to our wetlands by filtering out excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous which helps to prevent algae blooms and excess plant growth in freshwater systems which can block out sunlight and kill off organisms on the lake or stream bottoms which are necessary for its health and diversity. Another website to visit is Island Creek Elementary School in Fairfax County Virginia which shows the Pickerelweed Plant in large and colorful displays
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Tickseed Wild Flower
Calliopsis or Tickseed
The Calliopsis Wildflower or otherwise known as the Tickseed flower is the state wildflower of Florida. I saw and photographed this one on the sandy edge of a lake on Six Mile Cypress Pkwy in Ft. Myers. The Calliopsis is part of the Coreopsis genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. They look like daisies with their yellow flowers. The Calliopsis can grow 2-4 ft tall and is native to several states including Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Louisiana. It is an annual plant and grows in well drained soil and thrives in hot weather. It has bright yellow flowers but can be several colors including pink and red. It was used in Florida’s highway beautification project years ago.
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Arrowhead Wildflower ( Saggitaria latifolia)
The Arrowhead Wildflower also known as Duck Potato is a common food for aquatic animals such as ducks and muskrats. It also provided food from its starchy rhizomes to Native Americans. Its name comes from the arrow shaped leaves on its stems. The three petal flower is white, crepe-liked in appearance and has a yellow stamen. It is found in the shallow water edges of ponds, marshes, swamps and other wetlands areas. I photographed this Arrowhead on the edge of a large pond in my neighborhood and was impressed by its large petals that looked almost paper like.
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Black Swallowtail Butterfly – (Papilio polyxenus)
The Black Swallowtail butterfly, state butterfly of Oklahoma is very common in North America and can be seen in fields, parks, marshes or deserts. I saw this one flying around a buttonbush plant at the Bird Rookery Swamp Trail along with a few other species of butterflies like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Sometime in history, according to Greek Mythology, it was named after the youngest daughter of the King of Troy, Prium. The Black Swallowtail prefers tropical or temperate climates. Female Black Swallowtails sometimes mimic the color of the Pipe Vine Swallowtails to reduce its chance of being eaten by predators
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