Opportunties abound for beaching and birding
Even though the mercury is throbbing, no shortage exists of things to do in Southwest Florida’s woods, along its beaches and waterways and in its lush swamps and sloughs.
Get out there and go for it with sweaty gusto. Here’s an outdoors roundup to get you started.
BUNCHE BEACH: It’s a sandy spot at the end of John Morris Road with all kinds of birds and shallow San Carlos Bay shoreline — but the parking pickle and less-than-luxurious outhouses often kept residents and visitors away.
Today, San Carlos Bay/Bunche Beach Preserve is more ready for people than ever with improvements that include nearly 100 parking spaces, two kayak launches, green restrooms (aka composting toilets that don’t smell a bit), a boardwalk, a fishing pier and a few features that may go unnoticed but are exceptionally cool for the more-than- 700-acre sensitive beach preserve. Use of solar power and subsurface stormwater
June 19, at the site. Officials made speeches, cut a ribbon and unveiled a plaque recognizing recently deceased D.J. “Petro” Petruccelli, who served 25 years on the Lee County Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee. The event also featured free kayaking, guided tours of the green building and native plants, and interactive displays from Estero Bay-related nonprofit groups.
“A lot of people said Bunche Beach was always their little hidden treasure and the secret is now unveiled,” said Vicki Little, senior supervisor of beaches and shorelines for Lee County Parks & Recreation. “A lot more people can use it now with the extra parking.”
For more information and directions, visit www.leeparks.org.
BIRDING AT BEACHES: During summer, Florida’s beaches come alive. Feathered inhabitants — snowy plovers, American oystercatchers and least terns to name a few — are busy raising their young this time of year.
Sometimes tourists and residents don’t understand diminishing shoreline areas suitable for nesting means some beach areas have to be roped off. Want to get involved in the outreach effort? Consider the Florida Shorebird Alliance.
The FSA is a statewide partnership composed of governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations. Together
they work to develop and implement conservation strategies for Florida’s shorebirds and seabirds, through research, education and management. Public awareness is a key FSA goal.
Some tips you can convey: When visiting the beach, you may see roped-off areas and signs that ask you to keep back from nesting colonies. Some areas are not well marked, so make sure to not step on eggs or nestlings, which blend in with the sand. If you notice terns or skimmers defensively “bombing” you, you are too close to their nests and need to back away.
You can also help shorebirds by participating in citizen-science projects the FSA and its partners do. There is a winter shorebird survey, as well as a Florida snowy plover survey during the spring. For more information about Florida’s shorebirds, and how you can help them, visit the FSA website at www.flshorebirdalliance. org.
FROM BIRDS TO BATS: Summer is a great time for bat-watching, as in find your favorite bridge around dusk and watch the bats emerge for their nightly mosquito feast. Bridges such as the Matlacha Bridge and the Hancock Bridge Parkway over Yellow Fever Creek as well as those along the Imperial River in Bonita Springs all offer great seating, if you can stand the heat and bugs yourself.
Along those lines, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently concluded the first-ever bat monitoring program in Collier County’s Picayune Strand State Forest and came across a find: the stateendangered bonneted bat.
Florida is home to 13 native bat species, and with a wingspan of 19 to 21 inches, the bonneted bat is the state’s largest. It gets its name from its large, broad ears that slant forward over its eyes.
Next up: FWC biologists will collect more data and create a management plan for the state forest, which currently is part of the massive Everglades restoration project to reinstate freshwater sheet flow into the Ten Thousand Islands and Rookery Bay.
For more information, visit www. MyFWC.com.
— Betsy Clayton is a freelancer based on Pine Island and also is Lee County Parks & Recreation’s waterways coo rdinator. Contact her at boatingbybetsy@ yahoo.com