History of Flint Pen Strand: Part Four

photos by Bill Zaino

by Jayne Johnston, Education Coordinator, CREW Trust

I sincerely hope you enjoyed the previous blogs in this series by our CREW Trust Volunteer, Nan Mattingly, and the people who provided support for the information she shared (Brenda Brooks, Executive Director, CREW Trust; Ben Nelson, CREW Trust chairman.)

Nan did a great job providing an eagle’s eye view of hydrologic restoration. The intent of this final blog in the series is to fill in some of the finer details. I hope as you’re driving to CREW, you take notice of the changing landscape around you, from the developed areas to our conserved and restored lands of the CREW Project.

Sunrise above the lakes at Flint Pen Strand

Let’s start with a liquid water molecule, which is 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen. H2O has cohesive properties, meaning the molecules bond tightly to each other. Liquid water molecules condense in the sky (clouds) and fall to the ground (rain). The land absorbs the liquid water through soils, roots, and leaves of plants. Absorption slows as soils become saturated over the rainy season. Molecules in marshes, sloughs, domes, and swamps bond with the falling molecules, volume increases, and water levels rise. Water molecules also interact with our ecosystems through evaporation – water becomes gas (think humidity!) – and transpiration (plant sweat from leaves). There is one state of water that CREW does not experience and one of the reasons so many of us live here and that is its frozen state more commonly known as snow and ice.

Water on the landscape moves from higher elevation (uphill) to lower elevation (downhill). Then gravity plays a role – the important role – of recharging the aquifer by pulling the water through the soils and the porous limestone (percolation) and into the aquifer where it is stored for later use.

Wading birds at the Flint Pen Strand Lakes

Water also moves in the path of least resistance on land. Before development, that would have been along the uneven landscape of rivers, streams, and creeks, created over 20,000 years by a changing climate. Post development – ditches, canals, or channels – were dug to drain water, creating dry land for buildings like where you and I live, work, and play. These paths concentrate the flow of water causing it to move away from the CREW Project. Sometimes this can happen too quickly for contaminants to be filtered, flooding to be controlled, or the aquifer to be recharged and less drinking water for people.

Water that is not absorbed and filtered by the soils, plants, and limestone, or deposited in ditches, canals, or channels, flows across the land in a thin sheet of water (sheetflow), to the Imperial River, then Fish Trap Bay (the southernmost end of Estero Bay) and into the Gulf of Mexico. Even estuaries like Fish Trap Bay and the Gulf of Mexico need freshwater because of the plants and animals living there. When water flows across the landscape, it can pick up speed and contaminants along the way, which is what the CREW Project attempts to mitigate.

Permeable roads allow water to absorb into the ground and flow “downhill”

Wetland restoration improves the functionality of ecosystems of the CREW Project by removing invasives and surfaces like roads that prevent water absorption. Additional benefits are flooding mitigation and wildlife protection. The CREW watershed lands are owned by the South Florida Water Management, Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Lee County Conservation 20/20, Conservation Collier, and a few private inholdings. The ownership collaboration is why we call the CREW Watershed the CREW Project. Through these owners, the watershed will remain undeveloped in perpetuity. You can support our collective efforts through memberships and volunteering for the CREW Trust, supporting land purchase opportunities by government and nonprofit organizations, and speaking up on behalf of the land, the plants, and animals, to your family, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens. Thank you for your support!  

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


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 “

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Game Cameras at CREW

Wildlife at CREWdeer and baby

Tom Mortenson, CREW Volunteer

June 30, 2015


I operate five game cameras on trails, roads and edges at Cypress Dome and Caracara Prairie Preserve.  You may have seen one or more of them when hiking trails there.  They are tied to trees, often cabbage palms, or posts where they get a clear view of whatever walks past.

These cameras photograph anything that walks past them, day or night. Since these cameras were installed, they have photographed raccoons, deer, bobcats, wild hogs, panthers, raccoons, turkeys, sandhills, hikers, their dogs, horses, hawks, cows, raccoons, possums, vultures, and more raccoons.  Most of these pictures—at least for animals– were taken at night because that is when wildlife are most active and least likely to encounter humans.

Here are a very few of the many thousands of pictures.  I also share these with FWC and Collier County Conservation Collier in effort to help enhance the monitoring program they established years ago.  These are mostly daylight pictures to capture colors.  Remember that you share the hiking trails of Cypress Dome and Caracara Prairie Preserve with wildlife who call this home.

If you happen to see my game cameras while you are out enjoying the CREW trails please respect the ongoing research by not tampering with them. You can get involved with the CREW volunteer program, or report any suspicious activity by emailing crewtrust@crewtrus.mystagingwebsite.com or calling 239-657-2253.


This bobcat has appeared at this location on many occasions.  His coloration is unusually dark.
This bobcat has appeared at this location on many occasions. His coloration is unusually dark.

cow kiss little deer pantherwild hog with babies

I understand that ranchers detest wild hogs because of the damage they do to pastures.  But they are survivors, prey, and I admire their jaunty air.
I understand that ranchers detest wild hogs because of the damage they do to pastures. But they are survivors, prey, and I admire their jaunty air.


This panther has been photographed before, and my photos are mostly at night.  He appears to be well fed.





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

Book Release by Bernard F. Master

Bernie Master


Author Bernard F. Master chronicles his adventures as a medical professional, businessman and legendary birder in No Finish Line.

Yellow-throated Warbler, BRS

Bernard Master is a avid hiker of the CREW Trails, a phenomenal birder, and a great educator. We have been lucky to have him as a leader in our Strolling Science Seminar series. He lead Birding with the Master at Bird Rookery Swamp in March 2015 and will be returning in our 2015-2016 series. Below details Dr. Master’s new book.

No Finish Line, Discovering the World’s Secrets One Bird at a Time, is one man’s epic journey through life as a successful doctor, businessman, lifelong birder and internationally recognized conservationist. Readers will be mesmerized with his travel adventures spanning six continents and 105 countries. He shares his most exciting adventures searching for the rarest birds in the world. He is the first American to see a representative from each of the 229 bird families in the world, as well as Vireo masteri, a bird in Colombia named after him.

Whether he is meeting Queen Noor of Jordan to discuss birds and world conservation or attending a special dinner in his honor with Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands to receive a commendation in recognition of his world conservation efforts, there is always an interesting story to tell. His forays take him to exotic locations including Venezuela where he rediscovered a bird that had been absent for fifty years. Additional adventures include a thwarted kidnapping in Brazil. His quest to see a representative from all the bird families takes him to Rwanda, the Arabian Peninsula, Cameroon and China, providing readers with photos of extraordinary birds and accounts of his 7,800 species to date.

In between birding trips, Dr. Master was busy building two thriving companies, Health Power, Inc. and its sister company, the MEDCenters. His thirty-five year medical career begins with a tour in Vietnam as a battalion surgeon in a combat unit and a year as post surgeon for the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence School. Obstacles and successes are the narratives he shares outlining the intricacies of founding a healthcare company and ultimately taking it public on the NASDAQ.

“My own life has been one amazing adventure after another with no finish line in sight.” Author Bernard F. Master currently resides in Worthington, Ohio.

No Finish Line, Discovering the World’s Secrets One Bird at a Time is available on amazon.com.

Bernie Master
Bernie Master

A View of Bird Rookery Swamp- May 2, 2015

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

barred owl
By Dick Brewer

“Water levels are down more, even after the recent rains. Consequently, gator and wading bird numbers are down too. 

One Roseate Spoonbill spent most of the day at Ida’s Pond, so visitors coming in had a spoonbill, Banded Water Snake, gators, Anhingas, Red-bellied Turtle, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, and Great Egrets to greet them.

The “hot spot” for the day was past marker 2 where the barbed wire fence ends and a service road splits to the left. There’s a depressionnat the junction of the main tram and the service road where a River Otter spent time catching and eating Crayfish that were left. A young
Barred Owl was in a cypress overhead, and while I was talking with four women who were enjoying the otter and owl, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called from behind us. Later, hikers and bikers all commented about the otter and owl, so it was a great day for everyone.

The tram between markers 6 and 3 hasn’t been mowed recently, so the higher grasses are attracting lots of butterfly species, especially skippers”.

By Dick Brewer

Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, May 2 ~ 7:15 am-1:30 pm

Anhinga – 11
Great Blue Heron – 2
Great Egret – 6
Snowy Egret – 4
Little Blue Heron – 3
Tri-colored Heron – 1
Black-crowned Night Heron – 3
White Ibis – 1
Roseate Spoonbill – 1
Wood Stork – 8
Black Vulture – 44
Turkey Vulture – 18
Red-shouldered Hawk – 11
Common Ground Dove – 6
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 1
Barred Owl – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 15
Downy Woodpecker – 2
Pileated Woodpecker – 4
Great-crested Flycatcher – 6
Blue Jay – 2
American Crow – 1
Tufted Titmouse – 7
Carolina Wren – 11
White-eyed Vireo – 14
Northern Cardinal – 23
Common Grackle – 6

Palamedes Swallowtail – 5
Tiger Swallowtail – 1
Zebra Longwing – 2
Ruddy Daggerwing – 7
White Peacock – 58
Red Admiral – 1
Viceroy – 2
Queen – 1
Monarch – 1
Great Southern White – 12
Tropical Checker – 6
Whirlabout – 1
Twin-spotted Skipper – 1
Delaware Skipper – 1

Raccoon – 1
River Otter – 1
White-tailed Deer – 1
Alligator – 84
Brown Anole – 12
Red-bellied Turtle – 7
Banded Water Snake – 1
Pig Frog – 3
Green Treefrog – 5
Cuban Treefrog – 2
Great Blue Skimmer – 1
Needham’s Skimmer – 2
Eastern Pondhawk – 85
Gar – 28

 By Dick Brewer

Great Blue Skimmer
By Dick Brewer

2015 Southwest Florida Travel Rally

Join us at the 2015 Southwest Florida
Travel Rally in celebration of National
Travel & Tourism Week!

SWFL rally

All tourism businesses, hospitality employees, and local residents are invited to attend. Tourism partners, bring your staff to represent your company! Employees, bring your families, too, as there will be lots to do for children and adults. CREW Land & Water Trust donated a free private hike with their Environmental Education Specialist Jessi Drummond for a lucky prize winner. 

RSVP that you are attending: LeeVCB@leegov.com.
We will email you an admission and parking ticket.
You must have an admission ticket to be eligible for
prize drawings.
For more information, call Visitor Services
at 239.590.4855 or visit Leevcb.com
Join us at the 2015 Southwest Florida

Kids Luggage Lug, Bellman’s Race, Waiters Race for
the Gold, and Make that Bed! Hotels, Attractions, and
Restaurants—have fun with your hospitality friends!
Contact: sbehr@leegov.com

Tourism businesses, sports groups, special exhibits
and more!
Contact: ccocco@leegov.com

Face painting, magic, cuddly critters, Railroad
Museum of South Florida miniature train rides,
and more.


For more information please click on the flyers below:

Travel Rally Flyer

Travel Rally flyer in Spanish

Wildflie Q&A: Florida Black Bears

A Florida Black Bear looks, listens, and sniffs the air. By Dick Brewer

Q: What should people do if they see a black bear on one of the trails?

A Florida Black Bear looks, listens, and sniffs the air. By Dick Brewer
A Florida Black Bear looks, listens, and sniffs the air. By Dick Brewer

A: Florida Black Bears are the only bear species that inhabit Florida. Safety tips are different with different species of bears due to their varying life histories. The following safety tips refer to black bears and not necessarily brown bears, Grizzly bears, or other bear species.

Think of a black bear as a large, stray dog in your neighborhood. Precautions you’d take with a stray dog apply to black bears too. Don’t make direct eye contact (a threat gesture), don’t run, and don’t turn your back to it.

First, make some noise (clapping hands, bell, whistle) so the bear knows that you are there. Surprising any wild animal is not a good thing.

Stand tall and make yourself look larger by raising your hands above your head. Adults should pick up and hold small children.

Then, back away slowly and get a safe distance away from the black bear. Just like dogs, black bears have a chase instinct and will go after something running from them even if they do not mean any harm. Once you are at a safe distance, you can snap a few photos and enjoy the moment.

Black bears in the wild are shy animals and generally not aggressive towards people. Exceptions would be a black bear that is strongly food conditioned and smells any food you are carrying, and a female black bear who is protecting her cubs. If you see a small cub seemingly by itself, back off immediately. The mother black bear is somewhere very close, and she is watching her cub and she is watching you.

A black bear is a large, powerful, wild animal. It pays to be cautious and to not provoke it, so know a little about black bear behavior before meeting one.

If a black bear stands on its hind legs, it’s not a threat; it just wants to get a better look and smell of the situation.

However, stamping its front legs, jaw popping (snapping its jaws together to make a popping noise), huffing (blowing air out of its nose and mouth quickly), or bluff charging (rushing toward a person but stopping before physically making contact) means it is nervous, and you need to back away from the black bear. Allow the black bear plenty of room to escape, which is all it really wants to do.

If a black bear does approach you and attack, hold your ground and fight back.

If camping at CREW, never store food or any heavily scented items (toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) in your tent. Always store it in a hard topped vehicle, hung from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 5 feet away from trees, or in a bear proof container that can be purchased at an outdoor recreation store. Food coolers are not bear proof containers. Click here to camp at CREW.
Online resource:

By: Dick Brewer

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