Wednesday, April 30, 2014

F.N.P.S. 2014 Conference- Sunday Field Trips

Posted by Laurie Sheldon

The F.N.P.S. Annual Conference is less than a month away, and I'm sure that everyone is starting to get excited about the fabulous lineup of speakers. There's so much more to this event than listening to brilliant lecturers and attending the evening social events. In fact, some of the biggest draws to the Conference are the field trips! Scheduled the Thursday before the Conference begins and the Sunday after it ends, these excursions vary widely in length, difficulty, and setting and are an excellent resource for those hoping to familiarize themselves with regional flora and fauna. If you're having a hard time deciding which trip(s) you'd most enjoy, let the following blog be your guide. This year's Sunday field trips include…

This spring-fed pond at End of the Road Ranch
supports an abundance of wildlife.
Field Trip M:
End of Road Ranch Landscape Tour
This ten-acre country property, located outside of North Ft. Myers, won the FNPS Residential Landscape Award in 2012. Its design focuses on the restoration of the flatwood plant community that existed on the site prior to development. After removing numerous invasive exotics, the owner provides habitat for native wildlife within the 2.5 acres immediately surrounding the home in the form of mulched beds of native plants. The overriding style is Japanese rustic.The remaining 7.5 acres contain native slash pines, saw palmettos, and naturally occurring understory plants, including grasses, weeds and numerous wildflowers. Carolyn Moore, ranch owner and designer, and Dick Workman will guide you through this delightful landscape.

Florida panther kittens found in Okaloacoochee
Slough State Forest. Photo by FFWCC.
Field Trip N:
Okaloacoochee (OK) Slough State Forest
FWC Biologist Jean McCollum, Forester Chris Schmiege and Jim Rodwell will guide you through the State Forest’s wet and dry pine flatwoods, marshes and the slough itself. You will also get to observe some exotic species removal and replacement with native species. The Okaloacoochee Slough is a 13,382 acre pristine slough that is oriented north-south through the forest. The natural systems of the Fakahatchee Strand and Big Cypress Preserve are dependent on the water supplied by the Slough. Additionally, the Slough is one of the few places in south Florida in which the pre-Columbian landscape, north of the Everglades or Big Cypress National Preserve, can be observed.

Cayo Costa Island State Park, a pristine barrier island.
Map graphic by Laurie Sheldon.
Field Trip P:
Cayo Costa Island State Park
Cayo Costa Island is one of a very few remaining undisturbed and undeveloped barrier islands in Florida, with Calusa Indian mounds from 2000 years ago. Just west of Ft. Myers and Cape Coral, it is accessible only by boat. About nine miles long and about one mile wide, it is transected by nature trails abundant with plants native to Florida’s pine forests, oak-palm hammocks, mangrove swamps, freshwater marshes, and beaches. Margi Nanney, island resident and President of Friends of Cayo Costa and Roger Clark, former Conservation 20/20 Land Steward will be your guides through the island's extraordinary and diverse landscapes.

Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area.
Photo by David Moynahan
Field Trip Q:
Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area

This 65,000 acre management area includes pine flatwoods, hammocks, cypress stands freshwater marsh, and wet prairie. Alongside Denny Girard, Al Squires and Management Area Staff, you will be looking for spring wildflowers, primarily in the area's  hydric pine flatwoods and wet prairie. You will likely come across the beautiful false pawpaw, Deeringothamnus rugelii var. pulchellus, which is found in only Orange, Lee and Charlotte counties. The WMA's extensive use of prescribed burning has been a key component to its management. Birding fans might be interested to learn that this area is home to a large bobwhite quail population.

Wildflowers at Naples Botanical Garden.
Field Trip R:
Naples Botanical Garden
Scott Davis and Chad Washburn will bring the history and exciting future of Naples Botanical Garden to life during this walking tour of native plantings in the Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden, Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Caribbean Garden, Mary and Steven Byron Smith River of Grass, and Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden’s Wildflower Meadow. Learn how native plants function in both cultivated gardens and the award-winning stormwater treatment system at Naples Botanical Garden. This tour will remain on paved sidewalks and have easy access to water fountains and restrooms.

Edison and Ford Winter Estates.
Field Trip S:
Edison and Ford Winter Estates
No visit to southwest Florida is complete without seeing Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Debbie Hughes will lead your tour there, where, in addition to exploring the winter retreats of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, you will have the opportunity to enjoy its park like environment. Throughout the year, this National Register Historic Site, Florida Historic Landmark and Winner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Restoration Award offers visitors of all ages a chance to step back into “old Florida” and the opportunity to learn more about the world through unique historical, scientific and cultural experiences.

Over the years, staff has steadily added new native plants into the historic landscape and removed exotic pest plants that had no historical value. Thomas Edison did much plant related research which included find a species of native goldenrod that could be used as natural source of rubber. Edison’s research laboratory was restored and opened to the public last year.

A new beautiful waterfront restaurant called Pinchers has opened directly adjacent to the Estates and would be a great place to enjoy an iced tea, cold ale or seafood lunch after the tour.

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park -
Guided swamp walk. Photo by John Grinter.
Field Trip T:
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Mike Owen, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park Biologist and Dennis Giardina, Everglades Region Biologist are the ideal leaders for a field trip into Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Your swamp walk will take place within the central slough of the park. During this walk, you will encounter native orchids, bromeliads and other rare native plants.

Dubbed the "Amazon of North America," this linear 20 mile long/5 mile wide swamp forest is oriented from north to south and has been sculpted by the movement of water for thousands of years. Beneath a protective canopy of bald cypress trees flows a slow moving, shallow river or slough that is warmer than the ambient temperature in the winter and cooler in the summer. This buffers the forest interior from temperature extremes. As a result, the forest is home to a great number of rare and endangered tropical plant species.

The Fakahatchee Strand is probably one of the best examples of subtropical, strand swamp in the United States. The Strand harbors one of the largest concentrations and diversity of native orchids in North America, and supports numerous rare and endangered animal species. It is also one of the core areas of the current range of the Florida Panther. Linked hydrologically to the Everglades, the Strand is particularly important to the estuarine ecosystem of the Ten Thousand Islands area.

The Estero River Scrub Trail. Photo by Stephen Giguere.
Field Trip U:
Estero Bay Preserve State Park
Terry Cain, Lee County Land Steward and Dr. Jim Burch, Botanist at Big Cypress National Preserve, will lead you through the Estero Bay State Preserve, where you are likely to see wet flatwoods, tidal marshes, estuarine tidal swamp and sandy upland pine flatwoods. The trails can get mucky near the wet flatwoods and tidal swamp, so if you like getting dirty, this field trip if for you! There are 16 natural communities in this preserve; our goal is to see at least three out of the 8,486 acres.

Gator Hole Preserve contains relocated
Gopher Tortoises and much more.
Field Trip V:
Gator Hole Preserve
Conservation 20/20 has generously provided us with 3 pickup trucks to tour this site, which is normally off limits to the general public. GHP boasts a species list of over 250 plants and 150 animals, so there will be plenty to see! Management activities at the Preserve were done to accommodate gopher tortoises that needed to be relocated for a number of county projects. Restoration activities have included invasive exotic plant removal, roller chopping and mowing of palmetto, pine tree thinning and prescribed burning. The entire Preserve has been fenced with buried chain link fence to prevent relocated tortoises from attempting to return to their previous locations and out onto the adjacent Road.

The majority of the Preserve contains mesic flatwoods (also called pine flatwoods and pine savannahs). Mesic flatwoods occur on relatively flat, moderately to poorly drained soils. Standing water is common for brief periods during the rainy season. This community is characterized as having an open canopy with widely spaced pine trees and a dense ground cover of herbs and shrubs. Typical plants growing in these communities at GHP include south Florida slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa), saw palmetto, chalky bluestem, crowpoison (Nothoscordum bivalve), and tall elephantsfoot (Elephantopus elatus). In addition, two dome swamps are located centrally within the Preserve. Laura Jewell, Lee County Land Steward, and Mick Curtis will be your guides at this unique and seldom-seen Preserve.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

F.N.P.S. 2014 Conference - Thursday Field Trips

Posted by Laurie Sheldon

The F.N.P.S. Annual Conference is less than a month away, and I'm sure that everyone is starting to get excited about the fabulous lineup of speakers. There's so much more to this event than listening to brilliant lecturers and attending the evening social events. In fact, some of the biggest draws to the Conference are the field trips! Scheduled the Thursday before the Conference begins and the Sunday after it ends, these excursions vary widely in length, difficulty, and setting and are an excellent resource for those hoping to familiarize themselves with regional flora and fauna. If you're having a hard time deciding which trip(s) you'd most enjoy, let the following blog be your guide. This year's Thursday field trips include…

Observation tower at CREW
Field Trip A:
CREW Marsh
Roger Hammer, noted author, and Deb Hanson, CREW Education Specialist, will lead you through CREW - the largest intact watershed in southwest Florida - which straddles Lee and Collier County. CREW’s majestic 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh is the headwaters for the entire watershed (which includes the National Audubon Society’s famous Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary).

Mound House Director Theresa Schober inspects
shell layers of a Calusa Indian mound
Field Trip B:
Mound House, Ft Myers Beach
Experience old Florida at Mound House where Estero Island's oldest standing structure sits on an ancient Calusa Indian Mound. Parke Lewis and Penny Jarrett will be your guides at this incredible site, where 2,000 years of island life are revealed through archaeology and history. The William H. Case House, also on the property, is currently being restored to its 1921 grandeur. 

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) at Six Mile Slough
Field Trip C:
Six Mile Cypress Slough
Mick Curtis and other park experts will take you through the Six Mile Cypress Slough (pronounced “slew”), which covers over 3,400 acres of wetland in Fort Myers, Florida, and measures approximately 11 miles long and 1/3 mile wide. This linear ecosystem is home to a diverse population of plants and animals, including a few considered to be endangered. A natural drainage-way, the Slough collects runoff water from a 33-square-mile watershed area during periods of heavy or prolonged rainfall. During the wet season (June through October), a depth of 2 to 3 feet of water transforms the Slough into a wide, shallow stream which empties into the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve.

HCMP - Gorgeous!
Field Trip D:
Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park
At the Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park (HCMP), a mosaic of pine flatwoods, hydric hammocks, cypress swamps, freshwater marshes, temperate hardwood hammocks, riparian wetlands, inland ponds, mixed wetland forests, xeric oak, and scrubby pine flatwoods awaits you, with Annisa Karim, Senior Supervisor, Lee County Parks and Recreation, and noted author Walter Kingsley Taylor as your guides. HCMP encompasses 862 acres and is co-managed by the Lee County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Park contains both human altered and natural land forms. Hickey’s Creek, a tributary of the Caloosahatchee River, meanders through the site and provides it with both permanent aquatic habitat and scenic beauty. The area has been identified by the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, Lee County, and the FWC as a “riverine corridor” on wildlife habitat protection planning maps. Listed species it offers refuge for include the Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corals couperi), and gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). See this blog for more about what you may discover on this trip.

Field Trip E:
Canoe trip with Native Species
Dr. Douglass, Dr. Bovard and Dana Moller will lead you as you explore the estuarine ecology of Southwest Florida’s mangrove forests and seagrasses by snorkeling* and canoeing Fish Trap Bay. Your journey will begin at Vester Field Station, just 12 miles from the Florida Gulf Coast University campus. Located on Little Hickory Island, where the Imperial River empties into Estero Bay, the property was once a commercial fish house, then an old Florida-style resort. Today, the space holds the Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field Station where researchers, students and other organizations come to learn from extremely diverse and interconnected coastal plant species and animals.
*Snorkeling equipment not provided

Mangroves & signage at Matanzas Pass
Field Trip F:
Barrier Island Tour
Dr. Tonya Clayton, noted author of How to Read a Gulf Coast Beach, Terry Cain, Lee County Land Steward, and Jim Rodwell, Master Naturalist, will lead you on a tour of Matanzas Pass Preserve and Lovers Key Beach (a.k.a. Carl E. Johnson State Park). The first part of the trip will take place at the Preserve, where you will pass through a classic maritime forest, into a mangrove swamp, out to Estero Bay, then return to your starting point through black and white mangrove swamps. This will give you the opportunity to see what the bay sides of the tropical gulf coast barrier islands were like prior to development. You will also learn about the importance of barrier islands and their different ecosystems.

Part two of the trip will be located at Lovers Key Park, which contains two of Florida’s younger islands. There you’ll see specialized plants adapted to life at the ocean’s edge and consider how these unique plants shape the landscape. You’ll discover how barrier islands and beaches formed and evolved, study features such as sand dunes and overwash terraces, and discuss issues including coastal change and conservation, ecological succession and restoration.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a haven for
birders and native plant enthusiasts alike.
Field Trip G:
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Maureen Bonness, Botanist and Corkscrew Swamp Volunteer and Sally Stein, Director of Public Programs for Corkscrew Swamp will lead you through this fabulous Sanctuary, a 13,000 acre preserve in northern Collier County that is owned and managed by the National Audubon Society and contains the largest stand of old growth bald cypress forest left in the world. It is a designated National Natural Landmark, an Important Bird Area, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, and the gateway to the South Florida Birding Trail. On this field trip you will hike into the heart of the ancient forest and learn about this rare habitat, its ancient trees, and some of the other plants and wildlife that depend on this ecosystem. You’ll begin in upland pine flatwoods and follow a fire-break road “downhill” into the cypress where the trail becomes an infrequently traveled narrow foot path amongst wide-bodied centuries-old cypress.

Field Trip H:
Royal Palm Hammock
Dr. George Wilder, Botanist and Herbarium Curator at the Naples Botanical Garden and his assistant will guide you through Royal Palm Hammock, which is situated within Collier-Seminole State Park – one of the finest remaining natural areas of Collier County. One of the Hammock’s most notable features is its abundant native royal palm population. You will explore, in considerable botanical detail, the plant species inhabiting this hammock and associated mangrove vegetation. Emphasis will be placed on woody plants and on the morphological feature utilized for species identification.

Above: Randell Research Center trail
Below: Sunset view at the Tarpon Lodge
Field Trip I:
Little Pine, Research Ctr. & more
With Kevin Erwin, Kris Bowman, Dick Anderson of Mariner Properties, and Dick Workman as your guides and trusty drivers, this day-long field trip can’t be beat. Sit back and enjoy your coffee as you’re chauffeured to Little Pine Island Wetland Restoration and Mitigation Bank for a morning-long tour, including a two-mile hike through high marsh and salt flats. The property, managed by a public-private partnership between the State of Florida and Mariner Properties Development, Inc., of Fort Myers, is situated within the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve on the southwest coast of Florida. It represents over 4,700 acres of unique wetland ecosystem. Take a virtual tour of the site here.

Following a lunch break, you’ll be whisked away to Randell Research Center in Pineland, where you’ll tour the Calusa shell-midden native plants and introduced species associated with aboriginal mound upland habitats. Your return trip will include a stop for some “old world charm” - a cold glass of iced tea or lemonade (cocktails on your own) while taking in the panoramic waterfront views at the historic Tarpon Lodge (est’d 1926) on Pine Island Florida. Finally, you’ll be shuttled back to campus, exhausted from a long day, but diy with excitement about all you learned and saw.

Skyblue lupine (Lupinus diffusus) is one of the species
you may come across in scrubby flatwoods.
Field Trip J:
Rookery Bay/Conservancy Scrubby Flatwoods
Glen Stacell, co-author of A Guide to Native Wildflowers of Southwest Florida, and Dr. Jim Burch, Botanist at Big Cypress National Preserve and local expert will lead you on a two-hour exploration of a remnant scrub community left over from the Wisconsin Ice Age (when most of South Florida was an Oak Scrub Savanna). Although Florida’s endemic Scrub Jay no longer lives here, Florida Panthers  frequent the area due to a healthy deer population - exciting! Further, you will definitely see evidence of active Gopher Tortoise activity.

These trips fill up quickly! Register today to ensure that you make the most of your conference experience. Check back with our blog next week, when we'll give you the run-down of Sunday field trips.