A View of Bird Rookery Swamp- Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

black Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, October 24 ~ 7:10 am-1:20 pm

“Nice day with 36 species of birds and 13 species of butterflies. Top birds were a flock of 9
black Black-bellied Whistling Ducks foraging in the Pickerelweed to the east of the gravel path leading to the boardwalk. A photo with one adult and three of the juveniles in the family is attached. Also had two Pied-billed Grebes in one of the large open water areas between markers 6 & 3.

Lots of night herons were back — 15 Black crowned combinations of adult and juvenile. I didn’t see any gators the first three and a half
hours, but it was cooler then. Once the sun warmed things up, they came out. A photo of a seven-eight footer is attached; it was acting as “greeter” between the end of the boardwalk and Ida’s pond (no Ida, though).” – Dick Brewer Gator on the BRS trail

Pied-billed Grebe – 2
Black-bellied Whistling Duck – 9
Anhinga – 18
Great Blue Heron – 8
Great Egret – 6
Snowy Egret – 2
Little Blue Heron – 7
Tri-colored Heron – 7
Green Heron – 16
Black-crowned Night Heron – 15
Yellow-crowned Night Heron – 3
White Ibis – 91
Black Vulture – 39
Turkey Vulture – 29
Red-shouldered Hawk – 12
American Kestrel – 1
Limpkin – 1
Barred Owl – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 15
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 20
Downy Woodpecker – 2
Pileated Woodpecker – 6
Great-crested Flycatcher – 6
Eastern Phoebe – 15
American Crow – 4
Tufted Titmouse – 4
Carolina Wren – 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 19
Northern Mockingbird – 3
Gray Catbird – 35
White-eyed Vireo – 2
Northern Parula – 1
Palm Warbler – 9
Common Yellowthroat – 4
Northern Cardinal – 9
Common Grackle – 46

Palamedes Swallowtail – 15
Spicebush Swallowtail – 1
Tiger Swallowtail – 4
Ruddy Daggerwing – 1
White Peacock – 46
Viceroy – 1
Phaon Crescent – 2
Fiery Skipper – 1
Least Skipper – 1
Brazilian Skipper – 12
Long-tailed Skipper – 1
Dorantes Longtail – 3
Tropical Checker – 7

Eastern Pondhawk – 28
Needham’s Skimmer – 1
Eastern Amberwing – 2
Blue Dasher – 3
Citrine Forktail – 1

Raccoon – 2

Alligator – 42
Brown Anole – 5
Red-bellied Turtle – 2
Green Treefrog – 3

By Dick Brewer


Wildfile Q & A: What left that scat?

Q: What left that scat?

A: The six larger mammals plus the alligators that inhabit CREW lands may not always be seen, but evidence of their presence is common. Distinguishing the scat (excrement, droppings) of those animals is relatively easy based on shape and size.

Three of the mammals consume plant material and leave scat that usually contains seeds or berries: raccoons, black bears, and white-tailed deer.

The three other mammals are carnivores, so their scat will contain fur, bones, and/or bits of shell, but no seeds.

Alligators are primarily carnivores, too, but their digestive systems are so strong that there is rarely any recognizable material in their scat.

Below are identifying characteristics for each of the seven animals, first by shape and then by size.

1. PILEscat photos (3)

small– Raccoon

Scat can either be a small pile or small and tubular. If tubular, both ends are rounded; usually full of seeds; color will vary depending on what was recently eaten. For example, purple-tinted scat can come from a diet of elderberries, beautyberries, or cabbage palm fruit.

large– Black Bear

Scat is a humongous pile, usually full of seeds which the bears don’t digest. Color can vary depending on what the bear has recently eaten. Oval, almond-size seeds are from saw palmetto.



small– Bobcat

Frequently segmented; can be up to 3 inches in length and around 3/4 inch in diameter; one end rounded while the other usually tapers to a point; contains visible fur and possibly bones

large– Panther

Frequently segmented; can be up to 5 inches in length and over 1 inch in diameter; one end rounded while the other end tapers to a point; contains bits of fur and bone. Panthers, like many cats, often scratch dirt or leaves over their scat. The bare patch where they scratched is called a “scrape.”

gigantic– Alligator

Can be up to 5 or 6 inches in length and over 2 inches in diameter; rounded at both ends; light gray when fresh and drying to almost white. Scat really stinks, even after drying up.



River Otter

Found near water; scat may have no recognizable shape but contains fish bones and scales and pieces of shell; oily, tar-like appearance. Otters mark their territories by leaving scented scat on the highest ground they can find, which is usually a trail. Fresh scat really stinks.



White-tailed Deer

Small, round, individual scat shows deer has been browsing on things such as leaves twigs, and acorns. Lumpy scat is more indicative of a meal of easier to digest grasses, clover, and other forbs.


By Dick Brewer


ACT NOW- Upcoming CREW Events

Pine lily

CREW kicks off this season with three great Saturday events:

Fungi/Mushroom Hunt with Ben “Mykes logos” Dion- September 26th 

Ben Dion leads mushroom walkThis walk will feature an in-depth introduction into the world of fungi, a discussion about fungi and their roles at CREW, and hands-on mushroom hunting and field identification. It takes place at the CREW Marsh Trails off Corkscrew Road. Benjamin Dion is the founder of the Southwest Florida Mycological Society. Known as “Mykes logos” in the mushroom world, Dion is a local expert on the identification, use, and ecological role of various fungi in the Southwest Florida area.

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fungimushroom-hunt-with-ben-mykes-logos-dion-


Fall Wildflower Walk with Brenda Thomas- October 3rd 

Join FGCU instructor and wildflower expert Brenda Thomas for this fabulous walk to identify fall-blooming flowers and grasses along the CREW Marsh Trails. The fall flowers are always spectacular after the wet growing season of summer. This is your chance to learn from someone whose passion for plants is unsurpassed!Pine lily

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fall-wildflower-walk-with-brenda-thomas-registration-18247392442




Florida’s Fabulous Spiders: A CREW Strolling Science Seminar- October 10th 

 This is CREW’s first Strolling Science Seminar- We are starting off the season with one of the top Spider Specialist, Dr. G.B. Edwards.

Do you know how many types of spiders are in the Florida and in world?  Do you know what the role of spiders are in nature?  Can you identify the few types of spiders that are medically important?  Do you know how to safely catch and release spiders in the home?  If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then this  program is for you.

We will go on a hike, looking for different kinds of spiders in their natural habitat.  In the fall, we should find many large orbweavers, but many other types of spiders as well.  Participants are encouraged to take photos, and in some cases, feed the spiders to observe their prey-capture behavior.  We will discuss do’s and don’ts of handling spiders!  Get all your questions about spiders answered!

A View of Bird Rookery Swamp- Water on the Trails

Black and White Warbler
Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, September 5 ~ 7:15 am1:15 pm
“Below are my observations from today at Bird Rookery Swamp (BRS). Not a bad day for birding, especially with more Barn Swallows over the meadow opposite the start of the boardwalk and a small “flock” of Eastern Kingbirds between markers 6 & 3. Attached is a photo of a Black-and-white Warbler that was prying little insects from bark crevices in a cypress near Ida’s Pond; it has one in its bill. Ida wasn’t visible while either going out or coming back. Several pairs of hikers armed with cameras were on the trails plus two bicyclers; the bikers turned back a little past marker 3 toward marker 6 when the mud got slippery and the water was flowing over the trail. Other than that, a nice day!

Black and White Warbler
Black and White Warbler

Anhinga – 1
Great Blue Heron – 2
Great Egret – 4
Snowy Egret – 9
Little Blue Heron – 11
Tri-colored Heron – 10
Green Heron – 8
White Ibis – 6
Black Vulture – 71
Turkey Vulture – 12
Red-shouldered Hawk – 7
Mourning Dove – 2
Common Ground Dove – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 13
Pileated Woodpecker – 5
Great-crested Flycatcher – 2
Eastern Kingbird – 7
Barn Swallow – 46
Blue Jay – 5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 3
Tufted Titmouse – 10
Carolina Wren – 12
Northern Mockingbird – 1
White-eyed Vireo – 13
Prothonotary Warbler – 1
Northern Parula – 1
Black-and-white Warbler – 1
Ovenbird – 1
Louisiana Waterthrush – 1
Northern Cardinal – 12
Common Grackle – 7

Palamedes Swallowtail – 11
Spicebush Swallowtail – 4
Ruddy Daggerwing – 8
Zebra Longwing – 1
White Peacock – 15
Gulf Fritillary – 1
Viceroy – 1
Common Buckeye – 1
Pearl Crescent – 1
Cloudless Sulphur – 3
Brazilian Skipper – 7
Silver-spotted Skipper – 1
Tropical Checker – 2

Eastern Pondhawk – 34
Eastern Amberwing – 2
Blue Dasher – 3

Raccoon – 2
Cottontail Rabbit – 1

Alligator – 39
Brown Anole – 13
Red-bellied Turtle – 1
Pig Frog – 17
Greenhouse Frog – 2
Green Treefrog – 1
Cuban Treefrog – 1 “

2015-2016 Strolling Science Seminar Series



We have an exciting line up of experts this year. Be sure to sign up in advance on our website by clicking here or selecting the specific event below:

October 10th 2015- Florida’s Fabulous Spiders by Dr. G.B. Edwards

November 13th 2015- Florida Black Bears: The Bear Necessities by Kathleen Smith FWC

December 4th 2015-  Dendrochronology (Tree Coring Science) with Dr. Disturbance by Dr. Win Everham

January 16th 2016- Snake in the Grass: Not Always a Bad Guy by Dr.John Herman

February 6th 2016- Birding with the Master by Dr. Bernie Master

March 11th 2016- Adaptation or Extinction: The Live’s of CREW’s Most Interesting Plants by Jack Berninger

To register, select the event above. To  become eligible to take advantage of the member discount for the Strolling Science Seminar Series go to https://crewtrus.mystagingwebsite.com/donate and clickon the DONATE button or call 239-657-2253.

mosquitos of the marsh
SSS with Neil Wilkinson 2015



Wildlife Q & A: How can you tell if an alligator is male or female?

Baby alligators stay close to their mother for protection.

Q: How can you tell if an alligator is male or female?

Baby alligators stay close to their mother for protection.
Baby alligators stay close to their mother for protection.

A: There are three ways. Two are easy; the third is not.

The first easy way is to gauge the length of an adult alligator. If it measures 10 feet or more, it’s a male. Females don’t grow that long. If it’s less than 9 feet in length, it could be either a male or a female.

The second easy way is to see if there are lots of small, newly born alligators around the adult. They will stay by their mother for up to a year and she will protect them. A male gator could eat them, even if he’s the father, so the mother usually won’t let him anywhere near the babies.

There are minor physical differences in head and body shape, but basing a decision on those alone is risky at best.

So much for the easy.

To be absolutely certain of an alligator’s gender, it’s necessary to either feel or visually identify the copulatory organs that are hidden inside the alligator’s body in the cloaca, or vent, on the animal’s belly. It is a slit located between the rear legs.

For newly hatched gators, the sex organs can only be seen with a magnifying glass. The baby gator is turned on its back, the vent is opened using a tweezers, and the organs are illuminated by a magnifying glass. If they fill the entire cloaca and are dark pink to
dark red, it’s a male. Female organs are half that size and are light pink or white.

For a larger alligator, the gator must be flipped over and a person must insert a clean finger into the vent and feel for the copulatory organ which is pulled out, measured and examined. This procedure does not harm the alligator if performed correctly; however, large alligators don’t allow themselves to endure such a demeaning intrusion.

So unless an alligator is over 10 feet long or it is protecting baby gators, there’s no way to be sure if an alligator is male or female.

For more than you ever wanted to know about sexing alligators, visit


By Dick Brewer


Flint Pen

PRESS RELEASE: June 29, 2015

CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us


~Project phase will restore wetlands, provide flood protection and increase water storage~

LEE COUNTY, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has authorized the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to continue the next phase of the Southern Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) Restoration Project. When completed, the project will provide significant benefits to the ecosystem including restoring wetlands and the natural sheetflow of water, improving regional flood protection drainage, increasing water storage and aquifer recharge capability, and reducing the amount of nutrient-rich stormwater reaching the Imperial River and Estero Bay.

“This project exemplifies the commitment of the state of Florida to protecting and restoring the larger south Florida ecosystem,” said DEP Deputy Secretary for Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett. “The department will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure that restoration continues.”

The authorization issued today is for Phase II of the Southern CREW Restoration Project which encompasses 4,150 acres of multiple native plant communities, including hydric pine flatwoods, strand swamps, wet prairies and marshes that have been fragmented by past construction of ditches and roads. These alterations have resulted in restriction of historic sheetflow, artificial water impoundments and flooding, increased pollutant loading to the Imperial River, an Outstanding Florida Water, and disruption of natural wetland functions.

“The project will restore the southwest corner of the larger CREW project,” said SFWMD Governing Boardmember Rick Barber. “The restoration in this particular location creates a vital buffer area between the CREW project and the eastern urban boundary.”

Phase II of the project consists of ditch backfilling, ditch plugging, road degradation and the construction of low water crossings to allow for the re-establishment of hydrologic conditions similar to those present prior to development attempts of the area in the 1960s. The project is expected to restore approximately 437 acres of wetlands. The project’s enhancements are anticipated to encourage the growth and sustainability of native wetland plant species, providing both food and habitat for wildlife.

The Southern CREW Restoration Project is located in Lee County between the Kehl Canal, which is located adjacent to the northern boundary, east of Interstate 75 and north of Bonita Beach Road.

Original Article:http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLDEP/bulletins/10c091b

Wildfile Q & A: How old are the bigger slash pine trees?

pine_0604Q: How old are the bigger slash pine trees?

A: Slash Pine in South Florida lacks data, probably because there is not a local lumber industry.

However,  Roy DeLotelle, a researcher for Red-cockaded Woodpecker habitat in Collier County, has collected data on the age of pine trees important for the woodpeckers. It comes from coring pines in the woodpecker’s habitat in Picayune Strand in Collier County.

Slash Pines grow a little larger in the drier pine/palmetto forests (mesic flatwoods) than in the wetter pine/grass forests (hydric flatwoods), and there is a good deal of difference between individual trees. Note the variations between the individual dots and the
“average” line in the graph, so a tree’s diameter in DeLotell’s graph below may not tell the precise age.

In the field, biologists use a different indicator of an “old” pine tree: a flat top shape to the pine canopy.

In DeLotells’ graph of his data, DBH is the Diameter at Breast Height. The R-squared values show how well the line fits the data points. R-squared ranges between 0 and 1 with the higher number showing the line is a good fit for the data.

Slash Pines can easily live past 200 years, and there are many that old in Collier County.

-By Dick Brewer
pine tree graph

A View of Bird Rookery Swamp-“Great day for butterflies”

Below are first hand observations from our volunteer Dick Brewer. Who does weekly visits to Bird Rookery Swamp and very week sends us incredible stories of the magical 12 mile loop. If you would like to see more of his observations visit: http://www.dickbrewer.org/CREW.html

By Dick Brewer
By Dick Brewer


“Below are observations from BRS on June 6. Great day for butterflies with 19 species identified, plus three more skippers that I don’t know and haven’t identified. The attached photo shows two Silver-spotted Skippers, one Dun Skipper, and one Ruddy Daggerwing all feeding on the same Buttonbush plant.

The juvenile Barred Owl was on a limb over the pond at marker 6. It flew down into the grass one time where it caught and ate something very small; then, it flew back up to its limb and began hissing for an adult to bring it more food.

The otter family was in a water hold blanketed with Duckweed but each otter was quite successful at catching fish. The second photo shows one of the otters really chewing a fish it caught, first on one side of its mouth, then the other, and finally chomping with both sides.
The tail of the fish is still hanging out of the right side of its mouth in the fourth panel.

River otter
By Dick Brewer

Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, June 6 ~ 7:35 am1:05 pm

Anhinga – 2
Great Egret – 8
Snowy Egret – 2
Little Blue Heron – 1
Tri-colored Heron – 1
Green Heron – 1
Black-crowned Night Heron – 5
Yellow-crowned Night Heron – 1
Black Vulture – 67
Turkey Vulture – 6
Swallow-tailed Kite – 3
Red-shouldered Hawk – 20
Mourning Dove – 1
Common Ground Dove – 2
Barred Owl – 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 22
Downy Woodpecker – 2
Pileated Woodpecker – 2
Great-crested Flycatcher – 3
Blue Jay – 2
Tufted Titmouse – 10
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 2
Carolina Wren – 18
White-eyed Vireo – 17
Northern Parula – 3
Northern Cardinal – 22

Palamedes Swallowtail – 13
Spicebush Swallowtail – 4
Ruddy Daggerwing – 23
Zebra Longwing – 4
Queen – 1
White Peacock – 36
Viceroy – 3
Red Admiral – 1
Great Southern White – 10
Gray Hairstreak – 1
Cloudless Sulphur – 1
Dorantes Longtail – 1
Brazilian Skipper – 5
Dun Skipper – 7
Fiery Skipper – 2
Least Skipper – 6
Silver-spotted Skipper – 6
Southern Brokendash – 3
Tropical Checker – 3

Eastern Pondhawk – 33
Needham’s Skimmer – 4
Halloween Pennant – 3

River Otter – 4
Raccoon – 3
Gray Squirrel – 1

Alligator – 148
Brown Anole – 7
Green Anole – 1
Water Moccasin – 2
Green Treefrog – 18
Squirrel Treefrog – 4
Greenhouse Frog – 6

Brown Bullhead – 227″

-By Dick Brewer


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