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


Wildfile Q& A: Do all spiders bite, and are they poisonous?

shoreline spider
shoreline spider
Shoreline Fishing Spider (Dolomedes triton) By Dick Brewer


Q: Do all spiders bite, and are they poisonous?

A: There are two problems with this question: a technicality, and a set of false assumptions.

First, the technicality. “Poisonous” and “venomous” are two different things. No spider is poisonous — harmful to eat, breathe, or touch. Mushrooms are sometimes poisonous, but spiders are not. Spiders are venomous; their toxins are proteins which only work when injected.

Second, all spiders do bite, but most local spiders are harmless because they are not aggressive and will not bite indiscriminately, or their fangs are simply too small to nip through our comparatively thick skin. Just because they are venomous does not mean they are
dangerous to people.

Spider venom does not exist to harm creatures which are too large for spiders to eat, like humans. The purpose of spider venom is to subdue the spider’s prey, almost always insects. In brief, it’s an insecticide.

Nevertheless, all larger spiders with a body length of a half inch or more should be treated with caution. Avoid flicking them away from your body. People allergic to bee stings may react more strongly to the bite of a spider than an ordinary person.

Bees and wasps kill more people in the United States in one year than spiders and snakes combined kill in ten years, and dogs and cats kill or injure more people each year than bees and wasps. Yet most people like dogs and cats and fear spiders and snakes.

For More Information: http://www.iflscience.com/brain/why-are-we-afraid-spiders


By Dick Brewer


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

Strolling Science Seminars 2014-2015

We had a great Strolling Science Seminar (SSS) series this season (say that 5 times fast). The SSS series started in 2011-2012 to provide adults with scientific knowledge from local experts. The experts engaged the participants in outdoor scientific study and enabled them to conduct citizen science as part of local, national, and global projects. Each event is filled with laughter, science, and new knowledge.

This year we were lucky to have:

  • Mad Batters of CREW- Kathleen Smith, FWC Biologistbat sss
  • Mosquitoes of the Marsh: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly- Neil Wilkinson, FGCUmosquito
  • Fire & Water: Primal Forces Shaping CREW Wildlife Habitats- Jim Schortemeyer & Joe Bozzo, SFWMD


  • The Gopher Tortoise: How Protecting One Species Actually Protects Hundreds- Dr. John Herman, FGCUjohn herman and group
  • Birding with the Master- Dr. Bernie Master & Tiffany Thornhill, FWC

Birding with the master 2015

We will start planning the 2015-2016 series of strolling science seminars this summer. If you have any ideas, comments, or contacts that you would like to share  for a SSS event please email Jessi Drummond at education@crewtrus.mystagingwebsite.com, or call 239-657-2253. All ideas are welcomed!

Guided Hikes at Bird Rookery Swamp

Free guided walks are offered each Wednesday from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. each season (November through Easter).

Volunteer naturalists will lead a small group along the shell path to our boardwalk while discussing the history of Bird Rookery Swamp, the purpose of the watershed, the importance of the aquifer and the flora and fauna of this unique ecosystem.


Bird Rookery Swamp

Registration is required, to sign up click here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2014-15-bird-rookery-swamp-guided-walks-registration-15291652745

BRS sign

Spring is here- CREW Wildflower Hike

Callisia ornata
Callisia ornata By Roger Hammer

Join our special guest Roger Hammer, for an entertaining and informative wildflower walk at CREW Marsh Trails April 18th from 9-12pm .

Registration is required. Click on the link to sign up: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/spring-wildflower-walk-with-roger-hammer-2015-tickets-12665985303

Roger Hammer
Roger Hammer

Roger is an award-winning professional naturalist, author of Everglades Wildflowers and Florida Icons, botanist and photographer. He has spent many days on the CREW trails – and all over Florida – searching for new species and photographing flowers for his new book. His stories and depth of knowledge will delight and inspire you.



Is there an age limit for the event? This event is for adults and children over 12.

What are the parking/facilities like at the trails? There is a grassy parking lot at the trail head. There is one portable restroom at the trail head.

What are the trails like?  The trails are mostly grassy/sandy ground level trails with some boardwalks over wet areas. Expect seasonally wet/muddy places on the trails during the rainy season (July – November).

Beltia purpurea
Beltia purpurea By Roger Hammer


Polygala setacea (coastalplain milkwort)
Polygala setacea
By Roger Hammer

Bike the Loop: Bird Rookery Swamp

Like to bike? Come out to Bird Rookery Swamp on February 27th, 2015 from 9 am- 1pm and  join CREW Trust volunteers Peter Tomlinson and Jan Watson for a guided  tour of the picturesque 12-mile loop. 

View beautiful scenery, great wildlife, and enjoy the company of like-minded souls.

Activity Level: Strenuous-This is a trail ride on uneven, soft, grassy/sandy trails. Ground level with swamp on both sides of the trail.

BRING YOUR OWN BICYCLE: Mountain, hybrid or fat tire bikes are recommended. Not appropriate for road bicycles. CREW does NOT provide bikes for this tour. 

Space is limited to first 20 riders that register, so use the link below and sign up fast:





Last Chance: End of year Giving #Givingtuesday

The CREW Trust is wrapping up its 25th anniversary with a year-end giving campaign centered around #GivingTuesday.

The campaign started December 2nd, 2014 and goes through December 31st.

 flyer for #givingtuesday

Help us raise $25,000 by the end of the year for our Education Fund. Donate online today at https://crewtrus.mystagingwebsite.com/donate/

  • Donors of $250 or more receive 4 general admission tickets to the CREW Concert and Silent Eco-Auction on March 21st, 2015.
  • Donors of $150 will be entered into a drawing for a variety of nature-related books
  • All donors of $25 or more will receive a link to a special set of CREW Wildlife photos taken by some of the best photographers in the area.

Your gift is an investment in the future of southwest Florida – helping us to provide more high quality environmental education experiences for people of all ages! With over 42,000 annual visitors to the CREW trails, there is much more to be done.

Help us make a difference. Give big. Give small. But give today.

Donate here picture

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