Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, encompassing 110,000 acres of protected lands and waters on the Gulf coast near Naples, provides unique opportunities to explore coastal uplands and enjoy barrier island beaches. The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center provides hands-on exhibits, Observation Bridge, nature trail with viewing platform, daily programs, an art gallery, gift shop, and more! Located at 300 Tower Road, one mile south of the intersection of US41 and Collier Boulevard (CR951), less than 10 miles from downtown Naples, on the way to Marco Island. Winter hours are open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-12 and free for members, unless otherwise noted for special activities. For more information, call 239.530.5940 or visit rookerybay.org and facebook.com/friendsofrookerybay.
Often heard before seen, the blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) is a lively bird that makes a wheezy, nasal call as it flits about the leafy canopy and understory shrubs in oak hammocks and pine forests. Closely related to warblers, blue-gray gnatcatchers are found throughout most of the eastern U.S., but in our area are more numerous in winter. They can be identified by their small size, blue-gray coloring, long dark tail, and animated behavior. They often cock their tails as they hop from branch to branch, searching for insects to eat. Hone your birding skills at the next Wing It! workshop, February 8 from 8 am – 12 pm. Cost is $30 ($25 for Friends of Rookery Bay members) and registration is required. Also offered March 8.
Explore the unique ecosystem of Rookery Bay on a guided kayak tour or small boat tour. Both opportunities provide an up-close and personal experience of this irreplaceable national treasure. Paddle lazily through the shallows and mazelike mangrove tunnels while learning about the surroundings from an experienced guide and naturalist. All equipment and instruction is included, cost is $45 ($40 for members). Or, relax aboard a small boat tour. Several different trips are available, each with a different theme. All tours provide a chance to see a diversity of native wildlife and offer a comfortable platform for photography. Tours are $70 ($65 for members).