Where do you look when you hike?

By Allison Vincent

Guided program at CREW Flint Pen Strand on the Purple Trail this rainy season – summer 2021

What is your hiking personality type? Do you have one? Never thought about it? Some would say that where you spend most of your time looking while on the trail says a lot about your interests, like one of those repetitive questionnaires that asks the same question several different ways to find a pattern. For instance, is your head up in the clouds with the birds or are you flipping through your wildflower book while you crouch near the flora? Does every little insect catch your eye, or are you more the type to roll over a downed tree to see what’s hiding underneath? Whatever your type, when you’re out hiking the CREW trails you’ll find a rich assortment of interesting distractions to catch your eye, hold your attention, and spark your imagination.  

If you’re the kind of person that tends to look down while you’re hiking you can fit into several categories. For one, perhaps you’re simply clumsy and/or cautious about wildlife crossing your path – in which case I suggest finding a good hiking stick. However, you might be the type to look to the ground with intention, scanning the earth for a sign of life, whether that be a wandering turtle or a seasonal wildflower. 

CREW Cypress Dome Trails

If you have a practical preoccupation with the ground in front of you – often you’re a quick trail runner or speed hiker who doesn’t slow down for anything, except perhaps a faster runner. You’re on the right track as long as you’re moving fast enough to blur your vision of the verdant landscape surrounding you. You prefer the smells of the trees over the blast of exhaust fumes and therefore opt to test your endurance in the company of wildlife, even if you’re moving too quickly to witness them. That’s alright, because you yourself are a wild thing, gracefully caressing the ground with your quick footsteps under the canopy of trees and sky. You are a trail runner.

Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) at CREW with CREW Trust intern Angel Kelley

Then again, maybe you’re one of the many who take their time looking at each leaf and petal, searching through the many layers of green to identify something unique in the abundant chaos. You have the ability to see hidden gems, glowing silently in the leaf litter, distinct in their ecosystem. You admire how they grow, for no one in particular, but simply because we have set aside spaces like CREW for them to do so. They blossom with their seasons, adorning the landscape with pops of improbable colors. They complete their life cycle unaided and unattended, capturing your attention if you’re one of those who seeks out their inherent beauty. You are a wildflower seeker. 

Julie Motkowicz, CREW Trust Education Coordinator, often discovers and teaches about the bugs of CREW – here she’s observing a Malachite butterfly

Then there are the unique people who find themselves seeking out the most diverse group of organisms on the planet, insects. Given that insects represent approximately 80 percent of the world’s species, it’s a fair bet that you’ll find a good collection to observe on each hike. In fact, at any time, it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive. Bug nerds like you probably already know that, which is why you’re out with your macro camera lens, focusing in closely on that mother green lynx spider protecting the next generation in her silken web. You are a bug person.

Photo from past CREW Trust Strolling Science Seminar, Herping the CREW Lands (tickets on sale now)

The last predominant subcategory of those that ‘tend to look down while hiking’ includes the herpetologists. These patient seekers know where to look and also that it’s unlikely to find anything. Not to worry though; when you’re as patient and observant as those in this category tend to be, you’ll eventually be rewarded with a cool snake or mud-soaked turtle when you least expect it. That’s when you impress your friends with your reptile spotting skills and knowledge of their behavior, calming your friends’ nerves with helpful advice about how best to interact with our reptile neighbors (give them lots of space and respect). You are a herper. 

Photographer and CREW Trust volunteer Bill Zaino out shooting on the Red Trail of CREW Flint Pen Strand

Let’s not forget about those who look up to the sky for the birds. You know you’re a birder when you prefer trails with level ground or bring along a friend specifically to walk in front – so you don’t trip. Bird nerds, as you’re often called by your nearest and dearest friends, will sometimes  politely hush hiking friends not so immersed in the sport to allow you to parse out the chorus of warblers, distinguishing their unique calls. You’re an eagle-eyed scout who can often tell a species by their wing shape or flight patterns, counting the number of birds flocking with a best estimate. With all the migratory birds finding their way to or through Florida this season, you’re sure to find your way to the CREW trails soon and often. You are a birder.

Next time you’re out hiking CREW trails, take note of where you tend to look. And then try looking elsewhere to discover new interests. There are many other wonderful things to observe out hiking around the CREW Trails this winter. What do you look for on the trails? Will you try something new?

Barred owls nuzzle at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp Trail – a resident hidden in the trees

Let’s All Leave No Trace

Blue skies, cool breezes and dry trails mean a lot of us are heading to our favorite spots on the CREW trails.

Last weekend, a group of campers reported that they found an old pile of trash at one of our primitive campsites. I returned later that day to clean it up for our next group of campers and, what was one small pile of old trash led to three different areas behind the camping area where trash had repeatedly been dumped.

I apologized to the new campers for the trash, cleaned up three bags and left. On the way back to the gate, I collected candy wrappers, a disposable coffee cup, and a pile of dog waste bags that were neatly placed next to our only port-o-potty.

I had two teenage helpers with me, and one of them said, “Why don’t you just have a trash can out here?”

That’s a very good question. And we have very long, detailed answers we can give. But, the simple answer is this:

Leave No Trace.

There are seven Leave No Trace principles, found here at lnt.org:

Plan ahead and prepare: Know where you are going and the regulations for that area.

Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Concentrate on using existing trails, campsites and surfaces. Good campsites are found, not altered.

Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out. This includes waste created by pets.

Leave what you find: Refrain from taking rocks and sticks to stack near trail heads for future use; do not remove anything you find on the trail.

Minimize campfire impacts: Keep fires small and only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. This is highly important during our current very dry season.

Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance and never feed them.

Be considerate of other visitors: Treat others on the trail as you would wish to be treated.

In addition to our posting signs about leaving no trace, we also have trail use guidelines, which go into more specific details on our website: crewtrust.org/home/trail-guidelines.

It would be easy to post more signs, but the reality is, the best way to change behavior is to model the behavior we want to see.

Which is what most of our visitors do, and we appreciate you and your continued efforts to leave no trace. And we hope that, as you meet new hikers on the trail or take friends and relatives out, you pass the leave no trace principles on to them.

For complete SFWMD public use rules, visit sfwmd.gov.

For more information on how you can help with trail clean-ups and become a volunteer, email anne@crewtrus.mystagingwebsite.com.

A View of Bird Rookery Swamp- Belted Kingfishers are Back

Belted Kingfisher
Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, August 22 ~ 7:15 am-12:35 pm
“It was a good day with 33 species of birds. Nice ones were a dozen Barn Swallows flying over the gravel path on my way out, and a pair of Prothonotary Warblers in the cypress/maples between markers 6 & 3 and a pair of Belted Kingfishers around the parking lot pond. Also had a Marsh Rabbit scurry across the tram.

Tutriculata in tree
By Dick Brewer

Attached are some photos from today: a Polystachya orchid in bloom with another on the same branch showing buds; one of two Tillandsia utriculatas with flower stalks that had fallen onto the trail and which I put up into trees, although much lower than they originally
were; and an Eastern Pondhawk eating a Halloween Pennant. I was just getting ready to photograph the pennant when the pondhawk swooped down, grabbed it, and flew to another perch.

Totally absent this week were Common Green Darners after there were 18 last week, and Limpkins when there were a half dozen last week and also the week before.

Dragon Flies
By Dick Brewer

Anhinga – 3
Great Blue Heron – 1
Great Egret – 1
Snowy Egret – 11
Little Blue Heron – 12
Tri-colored Heron – 11
Green Heron – 5
Black-crowned Night Heron – 2
Yellow-crowned Night Heron – 1
White Ibis – 3
Black Vulture – 37
Turkey Vulture – 9
Red-shouldered Hawk – 11
Mourning Dove – 2
Common Ground Dove – 2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 15
Downy Woodpecker – 1
Pileated Woodpecker – 2
Great-crested Flycatcher – 3
Barn Swallow – 12
Blue Jay – 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 3
Tufted Titmouse – 6
Carolina Wren – 9
Northern Mockingbird – 1
White-eyed Vireo – 10
Prothonotary Warbler – 2
Louisiana Waterthrush – 1
Northern Cardinal – 8
Red-winged Blackbird – 10
Common Grackle – 7

Palamedes Swallowtail – 9
Ruddy Daggerwing – 8
White Peacock – 11
Viceroy – 5
Common Buckeye – 1
Pearl Crescent – 2
Cloudless Sulphur – 1
Brazilian Skipper – 8
Tropical Checker – 8

Eastern Pondhawk – 43
Needham’s Skimmer – 2
Halloween Pennant – 1
Blue Dasher – 5

White-tailed Deer – 2

Belted Kingfisher
By Dick Brewer

Marsh Rabbit – 1
Gray Squirrel – 1

Alligator – 25
Green Anole – 1
Brown Anole – 23
Pig Frog – 45
Greenhouse Frog – 3
Green Treefrog – 1
Cuban Treefrog – 5  “

By Dick Brewer 
 Visit http://www.dickbrewer.org/CREW.html if you would like to read his weekly observations. 

A View of Bird Rookery Swamp- “A fun day for Otters”

otter at Bird Rookery Swamp

Below are first hand observations from our volunteer Dick Brewer. He 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

otter at Bird Rookery Swamp
By Dick Brewer



Saturday, February 21st- Fun day for River Otters. One was just past Ida’s pond where I’ve seen it before. It came up on land, rolled in some leaves, and went to the base of a tree. Then, it jumped into ferns at the base of the tree. I didn’t know that otters could jump. It was pulling dead vegetation out and eventually made a small pile of leaves and vegetations and then
marked its territory.


The second group was a family by the dual culverts between markers 6 & 3. There was a large gator dozing by the entrance to one of the culverts and the otters were apparently teaching the young about predators. They were huffing, snorting, and barking and then harassed the gator by dashing at it and in a few cases touching its hindquarters. The gator finally had enough and raised its head, at which time all of the otters dispersed, still very noisy. A couple of bikers came by and were totally entertained.

By Dick Brewer

Pied-billed Grebe – 1
Anhinga – 9
Great Blue Heron – 7
Great Egret – 35
Snowy Egret – 3
Little Blue Heron – 4
Tri-colored Heron – 2
Green Heron – 1
Black-crowned Night Heron – 21
Yellow-crowned Night Heron – 1
White Ibis – 91
Glossy Ibis – 1
Wood Stork – 1
Black Vulture – 13
Turkey Vulture – 18
Red-shouldered Hawk – 12
Osprey – 1
Killdeer – 1
Common Ground Dove – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 10
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 7
Downy Woodpecker – 1
Pileated Woodpecker – 2
Eastern Phoebe – 8
Great-crested Flycatcher – 3
Tree Swallow – 56
Tufted Titmouse – 4
Carolina Wren – 14
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 19
Northern Mockingbird – 3
Gray Catbird – 6
White-eyed Vireo – 6
Black-and-white Warbler – 1
Palm Warbler – 11
Northern Cardinal – 2
Common Grackle – 4


White eyed viero
By Dick Brewer

Palamedes Swallowtail – 1
Zebra Longwing – 11
Queen – 2
Viceroy – 2
White Peacock – 15
Gulf Fritillary – 1
Dorantes Longtail – 2
Dun Skipper – 1
Tropical Checker – 2
Barred Yellow – 1

River Otter – 8
Gray Squirrel – 2
Red-bellied Turtle – 11
Banded Water Snake – 3
Water Moccasin – 2
Alligator – 84   ”

Visit Bird Rookery Swamp today and experience the beauty of CREW:   https://crewtrus.mystagingwebsite.com/2013/06/26/bird-rookery-swamp-trail/

Identify the Plant and Give the Gift of Education

Can you identify the plant in this photo?

dog fennel

This plant, with its feathery foliage and towering stature, grows alongside the trail out at the CREW Marsh Trails. The trails get a lot of visitors this time of year, especially 3rd graders from Collier County as part of their field trips to CREW. Schoolchildren visit CREW with their teachers and spend half of their morning on a nature hike, guided by our very own Jessi Drummond, who leads them through stops that feature explanations about prescribed burns, how to identify poison ivy and why it’s an important food source for deer, and even, if they are lucky, investigating scat (most often Bobcat scat). The other half of their field trip is spent dip netting and identifying the different living organisms in their water samples. The kids then have lunch, and leave- hopefully- with a pretty clear idea of why the watershed is important, with discussions that focus on habitat, the water cycle, and how the marshlands help clean our water.

This plant that is pictured above is one of our sensory teaching tools. Jessi stops with the students, takes off a few leaves, and passes them around to the students. “What do you smell?” she asks as little hands eagerly shoot up in the air. The students share that they smell everything from licorice to mint, and Jessi then lets them know that she smells pickles when she smells this plant which is Dog Fennel. Tying in their senses- hearing, touch, smell, sight- is an important part of the field trip for so many kids who just don’t spend enough time outside.

Education is a very important part of our mission at CREW, and this year, we’ve got a fundraising campaign for the month of December. Our goal is to raise $25,000, and an end-of-year gift from you, our supporters and members, can make that happen. It’s part of #GivingTuesday, an effort by many non-profits nationwide to remind everyone that after Black Friday and Cyper Monday, sometimes it’s nice to find a way to give back and pay it forward. Your donation will help further our education efforts at CREW and support all of our educational programs, including our field trips.

You can find out more about our #GivingTuesday campaign on our website (https://crewtrus.mystagingwebsite.com/2014/11/10/6996/). All donors receive a link to a special set of photographs of our CREW wildlife and donors at higher levels can receive special goodies, like tickets to our Concert and Silent Eco-Auction in March.

Next time you are out on the CREW Marsh Trails, watch out for the Dog Fennel, and take a moment to appreciate how this plant on the side of the trail has such a huge impact on 3rd graders in Collier County.

– Anne Reed

group of students on the CREW trails

Parents: Help Your Kids Get Their “Vitamin N”

3rd grader journaling at marsh

Vitamin N is another term for Nature. Time in nature can help reduce attention deficit, increase academic performance, and boost physical and mental health.

Richard Louv, author of the bestseller Last Child in the Woods, labeled the condition caused by Vitamin N deficiency when he wrote his seminal book. “The term Nature Deficit Disorder actually started out tongue-in-cheek, but it soon became apparent that the term—which is not a medical condition—finally put a face on the profound alienation that has occurred between children and nature over the last 30 years,” says Louv, co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Children & Nature Network. (source: Are Your Kids ‘Vitamin N’ Deficient? accessed at http://parade.condenast.com/222813/juliebawdendavis/are-your-kids-vitamin-n-deficient/)

CREW invites families with children ages 3 to 12 to come out to the CREW Marsh Trails on Saturday, November 1st for a morning walk. The walk includes simple activities that engage the senses and curiosity of children and help dispel fears of the outdoors.

Pre-registration is required and is open until October 28th, so register today at http://crewvitaminnwalk.eventbrite.com


CREW Guided Walks Begin in November

Bird Rookery Swamp TrailIt’s been a long, hot summer, but the cool fronts are moving through and the rains are getting scarce, and that means it’s time for us to crank up our regular Guided Walks at the CREW Trails. Starting in November – and running through April – regular guided walks will be held at the CREW Marsh Trails (led by Dr. David Cooper) and at Bird Rookery Swamp (led by George Luther, Bob Melin,  Chrissy Podos, and Jack Shine). This year, we’re adding a third “regular” walk at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails (led by Dick Brewer). Guided walks include some history of CREW and interpretation of the natural world found at each site.

Each trail is unique and each walk leader has his/her own special talents and stories to share. Come on out for one or all three. These CREW walks are free, but pre-registration is highly recommended since they often fill up, and registered participants get first dibs on space.

CREW Marsh Trail Walks with Dr. David Cooper
1st and 3rd Tuesdays and 2nd Saturdays (November – April)
9:00 AM – noon
Get more info and register here: http://2015crewmarshwalks.eventbrite.com
Bird Rookery Swamp Trail Walks
with George Luther & Bob Melin
Wednesdays (9 – 11:30 AM) – November through April
1st Sundays (1:30 – 4 PM) – November through April
4th Saturdays (9 – 11:30 AM) – November through August
with Chrissy Podos
1st and 4th Thursdays (9 – 11:30 AM) – February and March
with Jack Shine
2nd and 3rd Thursdays (9 – 11:30 AM) – February and March
Get more info and register here for all BRS walks: https://crewbrs2015.eventbrite.com
CREW Cypress Dome Trail Walks with Dick Brewer
3rd Fridays (November – March)
9:00 AM – noon
Get more info and register here: http://2015crewcdtwalks.eventbrite.com

CREW Marsh boardwalk
CREW Marsh boardwalk

Happy Trails – see you out there!



General Gun Hunting Season Opens Nov. 23 in CREW

Wild Hog in Flint Pen Strand
Wild Hog in Flint Pen Strand

General Gun Hunting Season at CREW opens November 23 and runs through December 1, 2013 at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails, Caracara Prairie Preserve, and in portions of the Flint Pen Strand unit of CREW. Specific General Gun season regulations for CREW are listed below. Complete regs can be accessed at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

The Cypress Dome Trails will remain open to other users – hikers, bikers, geocachers – during hunting seasons. However, camping and horseback permits will not be issued during this hunt season. Hikers and bikers are encouraged to wear bright colors (hunter orange) when hiking during hunting seasons. No hunting is allowed at the CREW Marsh Trails or at the Bird Rookery Swamp Trails.

General Gun Season: November 23 through December 1 Regulations

Permit, Stamp and License Requirements – Quota permit, hunting license, management area permit, deer permit (if hunting deer) migratory bird permit (if hunting migratory birds), and state waterfowl permit and federal duck stamp (if hunting waterfowl).

Legal to Hunt – Deer with at least 1 antler 5 inches or more in length, wild hog, gray squirrel, quail, rabbit, raccoon, opossum, armadillo, beaver, coyote, skunk, nutria and migratory birds in season.

Regulations Unique to General Gun Season –

  1. Hunting deer is prohibited in the Corkscrew Marsh Unit.
  2. Hunting with bird dogs or retrievers is allowed.
  3. Hunting with centerfire or rimfire rifles is prohibited.

The CREW lands are open to a variety of public recreational use activities. One of the most historical and storied recreational uses of CREW is hunting. Hunting is an important wildlife management tool and provides many sportsmen and sportswomen a way to enjoy the outdoors and put food on their tables. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has designated CREW as a Wildlife & Environmental Area (WEA) and regulates the hunting rules and seasons on CREW lands. FWC law enforcement officers patrol CREW lands all year long.


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What Walks the Trails When You’re Not There?

If you’ve ever walked the CREW hiking trails, you know that sometimes you get to see animals like armadillos and bobcats and black racers – and sometimes you don’t. Yet, you know they are out there – wandering, feeding, sleeping, living their lives. If you’re observant, you can see signs of them everywhere in the form of tracks, scat, nests, and trails.

So, what really walks those hiking trails when we’re not there? Remote cameras are a great way to capture animal activity. One of our CREW volunteers deploys and monitors a remote camera out in CREW. The camera location changes with the seasons, and we often get some great shots of animals rarely seen by people. If you ever wondered what walks the trails when you’re not there, take a look at these shots captured recently…and then make plans to come visit a CREW trail soon.



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