Rookery Bay TourRookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve  hosted a workshop for nearly forty mangrove  scientists and other professionals on December  8-9. Organized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at  Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the purpose of  the workshop was to discuss mangrove conservation and  research efforts of significance to Florida and regional
mangrove systems.

Mangrove forests are important habitat for fish, shrimp  and crabs, and thus an important food source for many  seabirds and wading birds in Florida, and also larger fish  of commercial and recreational importance. Rookery Bay  Reserve protects more than 26,000 acres of mangrove forest  considered to be among the most pristine tracts remaining  in the United States. Dozens of independent studies of  mangroves have taken place in the reserve.

“Rookery Bay Reserve is a living laboratory,” said Rookery  Bay Reserve director Keith Laakkonen. “Our collective efforts  to better understand mangrove ecology and response to  environmental stressors can help guide research, restoration,  and management efforts in the reserve, and statewide.”

The workshop included meetings and presentations  followed by a field trip to the mangrove restoration and  research site called Fruit Farm Creek, off State Road 29 near  Goodland. The group evaluated the progress of the restoration  efforts that got underway in 2012.

The Mangrove Working Group, which was established at  the inaugural workshop in 2014, also includes the National  Park Service, South Florida Water Management District,  University of South Florida, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation  Foundation, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation  Commission, and U.S. Geologic Survey. Rookery Bay  Reserve and group partners have been working cooperatively  on priority projects identified at the first meeting.

Programs, Tours & Events

kayak tourTuesdays – Fridays, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. 

Guided Kayak Tours
Join a Rookery Bay naturalist to enjoy a two-hour guided tour which  explores the mangrove bays, creeks and rookeries that make this  Reserve a valuable treasure. This is a beginner’s trip and includes brief  paddling instruction and all gear. Cost is $59, $49 for members.

Tuesdays – Fridays, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. 

Guided Boat Tours
Explore the unique ecosystem of Rookery Bay through an intimate  boat-based tour. With a maximum of six passengers, these intimate  on-the-water adventures offer a relaxed pace and emphasis on  learning designed to help visitors develop a true sense of place and a  deeper connection to this  unique coastal wilderness.

Several different trips  are available, each with  a different theme. Cost  is $89, $79 for members.
Proceeds support the nonprofit  Friends of Rookery  Bay, Inc.

High Points: learn about  the geology and wildlife of  an ancient dune ecosystem (Feb. 11, 26)

Treasure Island: this ecological treasure is a rare tropical hardwood  hammock (Feb. 2, 10, 16, 25)

Essence of an Estuary: learn how human history and natural history  intersect (Feb. 4, 9, 18, 23)

Life’s a Beach: explore Keewaydin Island, home to some of the best  shelling in Florida (Feb. 3, 5, 17, 24)

Sunset to Starlight: Enjoy sunset on the beach and moonrise over the  mangroves (Feb. 20, 21, 22)

Feb. 12, 2016, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

Darwin Day BOGO
In celebration of the birthday of evolutionary biologist  Charles Darwin, the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning  Center offers unlimited $5 “buy one, get one free  admission.” Cannot be combined with other offers.

BirdingFeb 13, 2016, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. 

Wing It: A Beginning Birders Workshop
Learn basics of birding, including how to use field guides,  plumage, flight patterns, behavior and field marks in bird identification. Cost is $35 and $25 for members. This class  also provides an overview of binocular styles and functions,  including adjusting the diopter and other “tricks of the  trade.” The classroom session will be followed by a field  trip to a nearby park to practice new skills.

Feb. 26, 2016, 5:30 – 7 p.m. 

Amazing Adventures
Keynote Speaker: Leah Miller, Belize: My Own Private  Jungle

With the cost of living in the U.S. skyrocketing, zoologist  Leah Miller set out to buy property in a foreign country  for retirement. What she got was a jungle in Belize, rich in  wildlife beyond her wildest imagination. Leah will explain  her journey, show trail camera photos of her Belizean  wildlife, and answer questions about how one goes about  purchasing foreign real estate, wildlife habitat in particular.


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