Day 13 – 8 March – Barred Owl, Pigs and was it the wife or the dog?

A little time to myself so a trip to Six Mile Cypress Reserve east of Fort Myers and then a drive out to walk some pine flatwoods at the CREW trail reserve near Corkscrew Swamp. None of it was very successful despite some pleasant time out in the boonies.

Six Mile Cypress is a pleasant reserve that serves Fort Myers both as an educational point and one that is clearly perceived as a recreational destination for those with time on their hands. As there were no groups of garrulous children on guided walks I spent a lot of time in the company of retired persons enjoying the walk around a longish boardwalk. None of them seemed to be particularly concerned with what they might see but they were, of course, noisily interested in anything that caught their attention. The time in between was spent in social chatter that was both inconsequential [to me, anyway] and intrusive. The boardwalk was marked to keep people walking in the same direction so that every point where a choice was on offer a ‘one way’ sign was prominently nailed to the handrail. Being the clever guy that I am, I ignored these and walked the opposite way so that apart from being undisturbed for periods I wasn’t walking along with the chattering masses. This meant, however, that I did continually encounter people walking towards me from the opposite direction.

The boardwalk is marked in different places with painted footprints of otters, deer, ducks and so on that are matched to signboards set to catch children’s interests as they walk the trail. So, while I was between the otter and the duck footprints, it was ironic to find one young guy purposefully walking the circuit who had clearly been advised to walk and walk by his chiropodist. To judge by the sound of his footfalls the reason for his determined effort was that he had exceedingly flat feet and it was easy to guess who was coming as he approached me the second time.

I encountered one particular group of seniors several times as they were walking their circular constitutional. That was actually a little frustrating as I picked up only parts of their animated gossip each time we nodded a ‘good morning’ with increasing familiarity. Consequently, I overheard only parts of the story of someone’s son who was in rehab. Apparently his wife, or maybe his dog or perhaps a child had gone missing. Something else had happened that was ‘awful’ and ‘so terrible’ and there was mention of someone ‘being Latin’. My last encounter delivered something of a silver lining as the son, or maybe the rehab doctor, was such a good person or doctor or perhaps it was the dog that they were certain it would all work out. I suspect that they had a more interesting time than I did.

Nonetheless, by secreting myself away in the corners of the reserve I had splendid views of warblers, Yellow-crowned Night-herons and a Barred Owl, which is always special.

There are a lot of wild pigs – wild hogs – in southern Florida and there is sufficient concern for discussions to be taking place about eradication. I hope that doesn’t happen but expect that there will be enough to go round for a while yet. I was thrilled to see a huge and slightly tired-looking sow taking care of several piglets that could only have been a few days old. Ahh.

The CREW trail isn’t a birding site as such, although you would expect to see something of interest there. I didn’t and, the woodland aside, it was a bit dull. The surrounding area is protected as part of a vanishing flatwoods ecosystem and it is impressive that large tracts of land are set aside and managed. Road signs give you adequate warning to slow down and notifications of wildlife management areas are frequent. There are always excellent information boards and, unlike Blighty, clean and useable toilets. It always comes as a surprise then to find the land immediately on the other side of the fence – literally – to be marked for sale for development. Just down Corkscrew Road and along from CREW is a place called Panther Island. It’s another managed area, with restricted access as it is known habitat for Florida Panther. There are high fences and road crossings under the carriageway to minimise road deaths and it’s easy to see that a significant amount of money has been spent on the wildlife management aspect. Why then is the adjacent plot – also comprising unspoilt forest land – marked ‘for sale with zoning for industrial’? I just don’t get it. The disturbance of any kind of development, let alone industrial, will have a significant impact on the area; I wonder why a buffer such as farming, orchards or some other agricultural use isn’t zoned there to separate it from the encroaching housing and retail development. I feel another rant coming on.


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