Monthly Archives: October 2015

Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

Diamondback Terrapin Turtle                   click on pictures for larger images

Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

The Diamondback Turtle (Malaclemys terrapin) is native to the United States and can be found in coastal swamps and marshes in coastal areas from the Florida Keys all the way to Cape Cod. The turtle gets its name from the diamond shaped rings on its shell. It prefers brackish water which is a combination of salt and fresh water. Its habitat also includes estuaries, marshes and lagoons.

The Diamondback Turtle is threatened by natural causes such as predators but they are also threatened by man-made causes such as habitat destruction and climate change. The female turtles lay about 8-12 eggs each year from May to July. The sex of the new turtles is often determined by the temperature of the nest with higher temperatures producing more females. The chances for survival of the eggs is only 1%-3% and many more die off due to natural or man-made causes before reaching adulthood. Their predators include alligators, large birds and other reptiles who search for their eggs

The diet of a Diamondback Terrapin consists of fish, snails, worms, clams, crabs and marsh plants. I have never seen a Diamondback in the wild myself. I love the colors of it’s shell and other unique features.

I saw this turtle at the Calusa Nature Center in Ft. Myers which has a collection of live turtles, snakes and other types of wildlife that can be found in Florida. The nature center also has a great exhibit of stuffed animals that look real and are standing and walking through their natural habitats.

You can learn more about the Diamondback Turtle at defenders.org website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Orchid

Ghost Orchid

Ghost Orchid

 

 

 

 

Click on picture for larger image

The Ghost Orchid is very rare and has been spotted in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary by a visitor who was probably looking for birds in the swamp. She told others about her sighting and the staff of the sanctuary has been recording and observing it’s growth and flowering blooms over the past few years. The Ghost Orchid use to be found in other wetlands in South Florida including the Fakahatchee Strand, and Big Cypress National Preserve but they have largely disappeared. Their disappearance has made the remaining ones more valuable and sought after by collectors and poachers. The Ghost Orchid needs a special moth called the giant Sphinx Moth to pollinate it’s flowers before they bloom. The destruction of the swamps in South Florida by urbanization, development of farms and canal construction to dry out the land has probably reduced the number of these moths.

Orchids are epiphytes or types of plants that do not have a normal root structure but instead grow and attach themselves to trees and other plants and derive their water and moisture by water running off these plants. The picture of the orchid above is an artificial replica that is located in the visitor center at the Calusa Nature Center in Ft. Myers. You can learn more about the Ghost Orchid by visiting the website of the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary or the ghostorchid.info website.

 

 

 

 

Pine Island

Pine Island is located to the west of Cape Coral and  connected to the mainland by Little Pine Island, Matlacha and a draw bridge. Pine Island is the largest barrier Island in SW Florida at 17 miles long and 2 miles wide but also one of the least populated because it contains mostly native plant and tree nurseries, small neighborhoods and fishing villages. Stringfellow Road runs the entire length of the island and will take you from Bokeelia at the north end of the island to St. James City at the south end.  Beachgoers to the island will be disappointed since most of the island is surrounded by mangrove forests.  The island is trying to keep their quaint character and small size  by limiting the number of homes per acre and maintaining restrictive zoning regulations.

There are very attractive places to visit on the island including Bokeelia where you can see beautiful Charlotte Harbor which is world famous for it’s Tarpon fishing. I stopped at a tropical fruit nursey and bought some mangoes which are grown widely throughout the island. I also had a coconut drink from a freshly picked coconut tree. There is a ferry boat service for people who want to see neighboring Cayo Costa Island. The restaurants on and near the island are mostly small and casual places. It is worth the trip to see the native nurseries and views from either end of the island. You can learn more about the island by visiting The Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce or the  PineIslandFl.com  websites.

 

 

Salt Water Marshes and Amelia Island

Amelia Island, Florida located in the northeast corner of the state just north of Jacksonville is a beautiful barrier island with 13 miles of beaches. Salt water marshes surround much of the island and provide protection against beach erosion as well as providing a rich marine environment for aquatic marine life. The beaches are deep and long and provide people with plenty of room to walk, jog, lay out a blanket and enjoy the surf and views. Amelia Island has a rich history and has belonged to 8 different countries during Americas’ history . The name of the island came from Britain who named it after Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II.

During my brief stop on the island I enjoyed looking at the historic section of the island that has been preserved, the beaches which seem to go on forever, a long pier jutting out into the Atlantic ocean and the beautiful salt marshes which surround much of the island.  The salt water marshes provide food, spawning areas and protection from predators. Other coastlines and barrier islands like those which used to protect the Louisiana coastline near New Orleans could learn a lesson from the healthy salt marshes that protect Amelia Island. Amelia Island has a good website with additional information about this barrier island.

 

Gator Lake – Six Mile Cypress Slough

Gator Lake at the Six Mile Cypress Slough in Ft. Myers is a man made lake that was excavated and made into a large lake back in the 1970’s.  The slough pronounced “slew” was re-established and made into a wetland again so that rainwater and storm water could follow its’ natural course southwards towards the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve. The lake is several hundred yards long and wide and several feet deep. It is the centerpiece of the wetland park owned and operated by Lee County Parks and Recreation. A boardwalk  runs 1.5 miles throughout the preserve and winds itself around the lake and other small ponds where you can observe the native beauty of native birds, trees, plants and other wildlife. There is a team of interpretive naturalists who can take you on guided tours of the park and explain the history of the park, and point out the native trees, plants and wildlife.

Large amounts of soil and landfill had to be removed from the lake bed when it was excavated and created back in the 1970’s. Some of the landfill was used to help build the nearby Six Mile Cypress Pkwy and Page Field Airport.  It took a lot of engineering and landscape work to get the slough back in working condition and the work is continuing. Native trees like the Bald Cypress, Pond Cypress, Oak, Red Maple and Tupelo are located near the lake and in the slough. The lake acts as a wildlife habitat where hundreds of birds use the trees for nesting and migration. Turtles, birds and alligators are often seen sunning themselves on the wooden raft in the middle of the lake. The slough is 11 miles long and 1/3 mile wide. The headwaters of the slough is currently under development and will be added to the preserve when it is finished. Visit the website of the preserve at Lee County’s Parks and Recreation.  There is also an indoor  interpretive visitor center at the park with a beautiful raised wooden porch in the back of the nature center. Parking is $1 per hour.  Click on any picture to enlarge images.