Humans Helping Wildlife

February 5, 2017

Nature Notes by Bill Dunson

It is heartwarming to see various local examples in SW Florida of people assisting wildlife to survive.

Birds that are primarily beach species are in a struggle for existence, yet at Englewood Beach the gulls, terns, and shorebirds are appreciated by the many people who enjoy the sand and surf. Indeed this beach park seems to provide a refuge of where the birds feel safe, likely because the county and state beach ban on dogs is honored by all. What a great example of how people and birds can share a common space.

Usually we would not consider a small board floating on the water to be desirable, but this young snowy egret within Cape Haze Marina was able to use it as fishing platform . A group on a CHEC boat tour enjoyed watching this clever egret’s surfing skills. You can tell it is a young bird since the legs are half yellow and half black.

An anhinga sunning on our dock felt secure there and uses it to dry off after a session of fishing underwater. Although it has been suggested that these birds may warm up by facing the sun with open wings in the morning, this late afternoon behavior with the back to the sun seems more likely to be a method of drying off. It is quite unusual to see an anhinga in a salt water area since they apparently lack salt glands and normally fish only in fresh water.

Since many man-made ponds are deep and places to bask are very limited, this raft constructed for a pond at Wildflower Preserve has attracted a male peninsula cooter turtle to catch a few rays. This not only allows it to warm up and enhance digestion, but dries growths and parasites that attach to the skin. The long tail reveals that this is a male.

Monarchs are attracted to many local yards to milkweeds that are planted for them. This female is laying eggs on a giant milkweed. The eggs are tiny yellowish oval capsules that are often subject to predation by paper wasps, as are the caterpillars. So we bring the leaves inside with the eggs attached and hatch them. Then the caterpillars can grow up in safety for later release outside.

So there are many simple ways we can help our precious wildlife to thrive, even in the midst of our human-dominated landscape.

Bill Dunson

About Bill Dunson

Bill Dunson, born in rural Georgia, skipped 12th grade and went directly to Yale. Bill subsequent-ly received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan, studying softshell turtles. Bill is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research on the physio-logical ecology and ecotoxiciology of reptiles, amphibians and fish. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. He has served on many advisory boards here in Southwest Florida to preserve the water that gives life to our region.

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