Chirp chirp CHECK! Take these wildlife checklists with you when you hit the CREW Trails.

Our volunteer naturalist of many years, Dick Brewer, is well known on our website, blogs and social media for his hours of work as a citizen scientist in the field and for his almost-weekly critter counts.

Now you, too, can complete a critter count! Even if you aren’t quite sure what animals are out there.

Dick has combed through years of observations by himself and others and created two wildlife checklists: one for Bird Rookery Swamp and one for the Cypress Dome Trails. The lists have everything from alligators to skippers, bitterns to bats. Check them out and print a copy for your next visit to the trails!

CYPRESS DOME TRAILS wildlife checklist

BIRD ROOKERY SWAMP Wildlife Checklist

How to make your wildlife observations count

For me, it started with something as simple as an odd bird call.

We heard the loud call at dusk and tiptoed into the backyard. I turned on my phone to record the sound and shushed the kids, afraid we would scare away the bird.

(apologies for the video being sideways- I was a bit excited)

A quick text to a birding friend revealed it was a Chuck-will’s-widow and, while it was new to us, it wasn’t as uncommon as we thought. A little curiosity about our backyard resident led to a bit of research and learning for our family. I added the bird to my lifetime birding list (which is admittedly shorter than I’d like it to be). The experience certainly meant something to my family but, beyond observation, would it count to anyone else?

Making our wildlife observations count is the topic of the CREW Trust’s final Strolling Science Seminar this season. Dr. Win Everham will lead us along the trail at Bird Rookery Swamp in Naples for a hands-on learning experience.

Our everyday observations can be scientific and can help conservation efforts. It’s just a matter of knowing how.


One of our volunteers, Tom Mortenson, wanted to learn more about the wildlife in his new Florida home. He set up game cameras, similar to those he had up north, on parts of the CREW Project. That led to his first images of Florida panthers and he now submits the data he collects to the FWC panther biologists. His curiosity led to his contributions as a citizen scientist.

From backyard calls to uncommon sightings, your observations count.

Want to learn how you can also be a citizen scientist? Join us on April 29 at 9 a.m. Tickets are $15 for members, $25 for non-members, and must be purchased in advance (

This week’s Bird Rookery Swamp critter count

Each week volunteers Dick Brewer and Rick Mears walk the trail at Bird Rookery Swamp and complete a critter count. Below is this week’s list. This is a great example of citizen science and we hope you’ll hit the trails and see if you can match any of their findings!


Bird Rookery Swamp observations

Tuesday, February 21

6:50 am-2:05 pm


Wood Duck – 2

Mottled Duck – 2

Pied-billed Grebe – 2

Double-crested Cormorant – 16

Anhinga – 21

Great Blue Heron – 16

Great Egret – 48

Snowy Egret – 54

Cattle Egret – 2

Little Blue Heron – 13

Tri-Colored Heron – 14

Green Heron – 13

Black-crowned Night Heron – 23

White Ibis – 90

Roseate Spoonbill – 3

Wood Stork – 4

Black Vulture – 27

Turkey Vulture – 51

Red-shouldered Hawk – 16

Common Gallinule – 2

Limpkin – 1

Mourning Dove – 1

Common Ground Dove – 3

Barred Owl – 3

Belted Kingfisher – 12

Red-bellied Woodpecker – 24

Downy Woodpecker – 2

Pileated Woodpecker – 7

Eastern Phoebe – 4

Great-crested Flycatcher – 13

Carolina Wren – 29

Tufted Titmouse – 6

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 13

Gray Catbird – 20

Northern Mockingbird – 1

White-eyed Vireo – 21

Common Yellowthroat – 2

Palm Warbler – 18

Yellow-rumped Warbler – 3

Northern Cardinal – 5

Common Grackle – 15



Black Swallowtail – 3

Spicebush Swallowtail – 1

Zebra Longwing – 31

Julia – 6

White Peacock – 70

Gulf Fritillary – 4

Phaon Crescent – 10

Great Southern White – 2

Barred Yellow – 2

Cassius Blue – 1

Horace’s Duskywing – 1

Clouded Skipper – 8

Dorantes Longtail – 2

Three-spotted Skipper – 2

Tropical Checker – 2

Red-waisted Florella Moth – 5

unknown skipper – 1


Eastern Pondhawk – 11


Alligator – 142

Brown Anole – 5

Red-bellied Turtle – 5

Banded Water Snake – 2


Gray Squirrel – 1

A View Of Bird Rookery Swamp- “A family of five Otters”

River otter

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:

By Dick Brewer

Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, May 23 ~ 7:15 am1:00 pm

“It was a so-so day for birds but a great day for butterflies and mammals, River Otters especially. I saw seven– a family of five and two other individuals in separate places. The family retreated into what was probably their den in two fallen tree trunks, a nice
two-story place. Once inside, there was some grunting and huffing, and two of the juveniles peeked out, one from the second story and one from the ground level (photo). Another young otter was on its own a little past Ida’s Pond and alternated between catching fish and
watching people watch it.

The Water Moccasin was between markers 6 and 3. It was small, perhaps three feet, but it was easily irritated because it was ready to shed its skin. The milky blue eyes meant it was close to sightless, so it over reacted to any movement, sound or vibration. A couple from South
America bicycled by as I was watching the snake; the husband stopped but when his wife heard the word “snake,” she put her head down and quickly pedaled on by. He said snakes were not on her favorite critter list.

Cotton Mouth
By Dick Brewer

The young Red-shouldered Hawk was low in a maple watching the world go by. Mullet and its sibling have fledged and are no longer at the nest near marker 3. ”

Red Shoulder Hawk
By Dick Brewer

Anhinga – 6
Great Blue Heron – 1
Great Egret – 14
Little Blue Heron – 2
Black-crowned Night Heron – 3
Black Vulture – 41
Turkey Vulture – 19
Red-shouldered Hawk – 26
Common Ground Dove – 4
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 16
Downy Woodpecker – 2
Pileated Woodpecker – 3
Great-crested Flycatcher – 9
Blue Jay – 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 3
American Crow – 1
Tufted Titmouse – 11
Carolina Wren – 6
White-eyed Vireo – 19
Red-eyed Vireo – 2
Northern Parula – 3
Northern Cardinal – 24

Palamedes Swallowtail – 8
Spicebush Swallowtail – 2
Ruddy Daggerwing – 7
Zebra Longwing – 1
White Peacock – 67
Gulf Fritillary – 2
Viceroy – 3
Cloudless Sulphur – 1
Great Southern White – 6
Silver-spotted Skipper – 1
Three-spotted Skipper – 1
Dorantes Longtail – 1
Tropical Checker – 3
Southern Broken Dash – 1

Eastern Pondhawk – 49
Needham’s Skimmer – 2
Eastern Amberwing – 3

River Otter – 7
Raccoon – 6
Cottontail Rabbit – 1

Alligator – 77
Brown Anole – 8
Green Anole – 1
Red-bellied Turtle – 5
Water Moccasin – 1
Green Treefrog – 42
Squirrel Treefrog – 1
Greenhouse Frog – 8

Gar – 61

By Dick Brewer

A View of Bird Rookery Swamp- ” A view around the 12.25-mile loop”

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:

Deer at BRS

Saturday March 14th-  The numbers of species and individuals were larger than normal because I walked nearly eight hours and the hike was around the 12.25-mile loop.

The really large number for Glossy Ibis came when three V flights of about 22-24 each flew over at the same time — pretty awesome sight! The Barred Owl was an audio rather than visual observation, from between markers 4 and 5. The number of gators counted is not a typo; there were lots and lots of them including three clutches of six or seven month olds still staying close to their mothers. So much happening at Bird Rookery Swamp.



Anhinga – 12
Great Blue Heron – 11
Great Egret – 54
Snowy Egret – 10
Little Blue Heron – 15
Tri-colored Heron – 6
Green Heron – 4
Black-crowned Night Heron – 6
Yellow-crowned Night Heron – 1
White Ibis – 93
Glossy Ibis – 74
Wood Stork – 10
Black Vulture – 53
Turkey Vulture – 20
Swallow-tailed Kite – 1
Red-shouldered Hawk – 20
Common Gallinule – 1
Common Ground Dove – 3
Barred Owl – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 5
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 20
Downy Woodpecker – 3
Pileated Woodpecker – 4
Eastern Phoebe – 5
Great-crested Flycatcher – 13
American Crow – 3
Tufted Titmouse – 7
Carolina Wren – 33
Gray Catbird – 24
White-eyed Vireo – 28
Northern Waterthrush – 1
Black-and-white Warbler – 1
Pine Warbler – 1
Palm Warbler – 2
Northern Parula – 8
Common Yellowthroat – 2
Northern Cardinal – 20
Common Grackle – 9


Palamedes Swallowtail – 13
Spicebush Swallowtail – 9
Tiger Swallowtail – 4
Gulf Fritillary – 4
Zebra Longwing – 22
White Peacock – 13
Queen – 2
Soldier – 2
Pearl Crescent – 2
Tropical Checker – 6
Great Southern White – 4
Cloudless Sulphur – 1


White-tailed Deer – 1
Gray Squirrel – 3
Red-bellied Turtle – 16
Florida Soft-shelled Turtle – 1
Banded Water Snake – 4
Water Moccasin – 1
Yellow Rat Snake – 1
Alligator – 273
Southeastern Five-lined Skink – 1
Green Anole – 1
Green Treefrog – 2
Cuban Treefrog – 3
Squirrel Treefrog – 2
Needham’s Skimmer – 8


Wild File Q&A: What causes the small brown and yellow patches on healthy plant leaves?

Q: What causes the small brown and yellow patches on healthy plant leaves?

 An Alligator Flag leaf by the Bird Rookery Swamp boardwalk protects itself from further damage by isolating an invasive pathogen.
An Alligator Flag leaf by the Bird Rookery Swamp
boardwalk protects itself from further damage by isolating an invasive


It’s often apoptosis, a term that comes from plant kingdom where the Greek apoptosis originally meant the loss of petals of leaves. Now, it can refer to both the plant and animal kingdoms and is also called Programmed Cell Death (PCD).

Cells in plants and animals can self-destruct when they are no longer needed or if they are damaged. For plants, this achieves and maintains stability within the internal environment when it is dealing with external changes.

Natural PCD (not caused by external factors) includes the timely death of petals after fertilization and the senescence of leaves. Host-controlled PCD is also a means of resistance to pathogens. Cells challenged by pathogens initiate a hypersensitive response, which is a rapid PCD process that is activated in order to inhibit the spread of invading pathogen.

PCD in plants has a number of molecular similarities to animal apoptosis, but it also has differences. The most obvious is the lack of an immune system to remove the pieces of the dead cell.

Greatly simplified, instead of an immune response, an enzyme is activated that destroys the central vacuole (a bubble-like cavity) in the plant cell, which is followed by disintegration of the rest of the cell. This creates a protective, dead “envelope” around the pathogen to limit its spread. This is what may appear on some leaves as a yellow and brown blotch.

Some examples of apoptosis in the animal kingdom include the resorption of the tadpole tail at the time of its metamorphosis into a frog, the removal of tissue between fingers and toes of the fetus as it develops, the elimination of T cells that might otherwise mount an autoimmune attack on the body, and during the pupal stage of insects that undergo a complete metamorphosis, the death of most of the cells of the larva which provide nutrients for the development of the adult structures.

For more than you would ever want to know about apoptosis, visit

For a simpler explanation of apoptosis, visit

Pollinator Partnership

We hope summer is treating you all well. It’s quiet time at CREW, while the rainy season sets in and the tourists are away, and it’s been a couple of months since our first Strolling Science Seminar series ended with a delightfully enlightening session on Pollinators led by FGCU professor, billY Gunnels. In that session billY told fascinating stories of plants and animals – both generalists and specialists – and their quest to achieve pollination, one of the most important biological processes on our planet. Aside from the obvious ecosystems that need pollinators, we humans also depend on pollinators for food, drink, fiber, and medicines.

But worldwide there is “evidence that pollinating animals have suffered from loss of habitat, chemical misuse, introduced and invasive plant and animal species, diseases and parasites.” ( Because one of the goals of the CREW Strolling Science Seminars is to inspire people to engage in some form of citizen science, we wanted to share this pollinator resource we’ve come across recently – the Pollinator Partnership. Their mission “is to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research.”

You can use their resources to learn how to plant a pollinator friendly garden, to get involved with pollinator monitoring, to use pollinator-promoting farm practices, to volunteer, and much more. Learn the natural history and current research on bees, hummingbirds, and other important pollinators. Of course, billY might have a different thing or two to say about honeybees! 🙂

There’s even a planting guide for the Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Province, which includes most of Florida. So check it out and help all the pollinators out there do their jobs. After all, our ecosystems and our food sources depend on them!

Frogs Strolling Science Seminar Resources

Frog Resources (for April 6, 2012 Seminar)

 Frog/Amphibian Information:
  Citizen Science Projects on frogs:
Select scholarly papers on frogs:

Insects Strolling Science Seminar Resources

The Fantastic World of Insects Resources (for March 2, 2012 Seminar)

Citizen Science Projects related to Insects
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