Sarasota County is to be congratulated for preserving a significant amount of natural habitat despite an overwhelming tide of human development. The area of Pinebrook Rd just north of Venice Ave is a good illustration of this with Pinebrook Park catering to sports with some naturalized areas and Curry Creek Preserve East all natural habitat. An often over looked feature is Curry Creek aka Blackburn Canal which extends from Roberts Bay east 5.3 miles to the Myakka River. The Curry Creek Preserve allows access to the western end of the Curry Creek/Blackburn Canal system and the eastern end can be visited within Sleeping Turtles North/ Rohlwing Preserve. I was surprised to find that this canal was part of an early 1926 development plan for the Venice area. The purpose of the canal was to mitigate seasonal flooding and to provide direct boating access between the river and the coast. While this may seem a noble effort, such disruption of natural drainage pathways can cause serious adverse impacts to coastal ecosystems and human endeavors. A particularly bad example is the diversion of water from the Everglades to the eastern and western coasts down the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers/canals. This has resulted in serious outbreaks of harmful algal blooms and red tide and other adverse impacts of polluted freshwater flows on coastal ecosystems, and a loss of fresh water from the Everglades ecosystem..
An aerial photo from 1948 allows us to step into a time machine and look into the past. In 1948 the western end of Curry Creek was still a naturally twisting creek and the channelized portion was just approaching from the east (notice white spoil piles along the banks near the present Pinebrook bridge). The ranchlands were mostly denuded of palmettos and trees which were presumably originally thickly grown under pristine conditions. The current pine flatwoods have some large trees including some beautiful longleaf pines, distinctive with their whitish growth tips. But there are relatively few young trees present which would be part of a healthy natural ecosystem. These may have been destroyed by unnatural winter-set fires, which normally would have occurred in summer during thunderstorms. In summer the ground water table would be higher and protect many plants from fire damage.
I found a spectacular Jack O’Lantern fungus growing along the trail ( https://www.inhs.illinois.edu/outreach/spotlight/jack-o-lantern-mushroom/ ). This mushroom resembles the delicious chanterelle but is poisonous. It glows in the dark for some unknown purpose.
There are not many flowers blooming this time of year (early winter) but innocence is a special find due to its bright white hue against the dark ground. It is related to northern bluets and is an important nectar source for small insects in winter.
The greenish false rein orchid (Habenaria) is inconspicuous but is a regular find along the flatwoods trails. The pollinators are not known but the color and unusual odor suggests a moth is involved.
There are many ferns in the damp woods along Curry Creek and this chain fern is distinctive IF you look closely underneath the leafy blade where you will find a series of chain-like links. This species is an Obligate Wetland species and is thus a bioindicator of wetland habitat.
One of the more distinctive types of moths is this Tersa sphinx caterpillar which was found hiding in plain sight on a Spermacoce plant along the trail. These may be either brownish or greenish and are an interesting compromise between camouflage and scary “snake eyes” to deter predators.
One of the insect predators at Curry Creek is the six lined racerunner lizard, a rarely seen and very fast species that is believed to have originally migrated to FL from the SW deserts. It is most active on very hot days.
An animal you will only see indirect evidence for in winter is the ox beetle, a scarab or rhino beetle. You may notice piles of sand along the trail which is evidence that the larval beetle grub is underground feeding. This adult male appears in late summer and may do battle with competitors for females ( https://www.independencedeclaration.com/content/december-bug-bonanza ). White ibis probe for these and other choice morsels in yards.
I hope this brief introduction to Curry Creek Preserve East will help you to understand what a marvelous place it is. Walk it repeatedly and watch for the seasonal changes in plants and animals. Occasionally you will see something unusual or just enjoy the relative solitude of this remaining speck of what real Florida used to be.