Friday, November 29, 2013

Observations at the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival

Though it's been a few weeks since the Festival took place, it was such a lovely setting and such nice weather, we have to look back at the history and the highlights as a heads up for next year.  We know our rental guests, even if not kayakers, canoe enthusiasts or paddle boarders themselves, would love the feel and the sight of this special time.

Almost every section of Florida offers great places to kayak or canoe. But the southwestern section along Lee County is doing more than any other to promote itself as a great kayaking destination.

The 2013 Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival is a good example of how to bring attention to kayaking and canoeing.

The Calusa Blueway Paddling trail is a 190-mile marked and meandering saltwater trail. The annual Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival is designed to draw attention to what a great place it is to kayak.

The 2013 Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival, was held November 1 to 3. The event, which started in 2006, was named one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events for 2012.  And for good reason.

The festival included demos, competitive canoe/kayak races, a kayak fishing tournament, paddling clinics and demonstrations, seminars, family activities, environmental events, guided tours, and celebrations along The Great Calusa Blueway.

Matlacha’s Bluegrass for a Blueway and A Taste of Matlacha were certainly highlights of the Festival.   Free to the public, the events featured music from Wild Caught and served as a fundraiser for the Pine Island Food Pantry. There were “tastes” from area restaurants and event attenders were offered a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board for free courtesy of Florida Paddle Sports and Gulf Coast Kayak.

As interesting as the planned activities were, however, we were smitten with the unplanned images that typify the Festival.

We took home in our mind's eye, so many picture perfect moments.

There were the numerous couples sharing a kayak or paddle board and exemplifying the concept that couples who play together stay together.

And there were dads, and even moms, who paddled along with a youngster en board.

But our favorites "co-paddlers" were those with their pet pooch along for the ride.

Those that achieved the biggest kudos were the great gymnasts who flaunted their accomplishments on their paddle boards,  and the courageous wheel chair paddlers who managed to keep their balance even with their equipment on board.

To the organizers of this iconic event, we applaud you all.  To all those who have not yet attended, keep a look out for the dates set for 2014.  You will not be disappointed!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sanibel Island a great place for seeing Butterflies

“Butterflies are self propelled flowers. ”
― R.H. Heinlein

And so we who love Sanibel would agree.  While there is so much wild life on Sanibel Island that the "mere" butterfly can easily be missed, those who love these self propelled flowers will not be disappointed.

When it comes to the sheer variety in butterflies, Sanibel stands tall.  In fact, there are approximately 28,000 butterfly species worldwide. In the United States and Canada there are about 725 species. 80% are in the tropics, and Sanibel has quite a few to brag about.

In fact, one nice aspect of a Sanibel holiday is the tour of the Butterfly House at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF). 

The Butterfly House was conceived by the Native Plant Nursery as an extension of the Landscaping for Wildlife program. It was constructed by Foundation Volunteers (the screen enclosure was subcontracted), and financed through the Lolly Cohen Memorial Fund and donations.

One of the exhibit’s primary functions is to educate residents and visitors about butterfly biology and wildlife ecology. One can observe butterflies at all stages of their life cycle, from egg to caterpillar to pupa to adult. Plants within the exhibit provide nectar for adults from flowers and leaves as food for their caterpillars. The larval plants for the caterpillars are essential to the completion of a butterfly’s life cycle. .
Butterfly House Tours are Tuesdays at 10 a.m. for a suggested $1 donation. A guide will teach you about the life cycle and behavior of butterflies. The butterfly house is open year-round to all visitors without a guide.  It's a very special place, and we highly recommend a visit.

Some of the Butterflies you will learn about at the Butterfly House are those you will see commonly throughout the Island.

The Dingy Purplewing has an upperside  that is brown-black with a slight purple sheen. Dull, blurry white spots on forewing apex. Underside is brownish gray with no distinct pattern.  The purplewing in caterpillar stage can be found in Gumbo Limbo trees, quite prevalent on the Island.  As adult butterflies they eat otting fruit, dung, and sap; seldom flower nectar.

More brilliant in appearance is the Ruddy Daggerwing. The tip of  Ruddy Daggerwing's forewing is elongated. The hindwing has long dagger-like tails. Upperside is orange with 3 thin black lines. Underside is mottled brown and black, resembling a dead leaf. In caterpillar stage, the Daggerwing can be found living in Common fig trees (Ficus carica) and wild banyan tree (F. citrifolia) in the fig family (Moraceae).  As adults their diets are largely nectar from giant milkweed in Florida; Cordia, Casearia, Lantana, and Mikania in the tropics.

But perhaps our favorite on the Island is the Gulf Fritillary, easily and often seen. This "popular" guy has an upperside bright orange with black markings; 3 black-encircled white dots on forewing leading edge. Underside brown; forewing with orange at base; both wings with elongated, iridescent silver spots.  As caterpillars, they can be found in various species of passion-vine including maypops (Passiflora incarnata) and running pop (P. foetida).  As adult butterflies, their food is nectar from lantana, shepherd\'s needle, cordias, composites, and others.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sanibel is a "tasty" place, and this past Sunday proved the point!

Generally when it comes to a Sanibel event, we like to announce it before, rather than report on it after the fact.

But the Annual Taste of the Islands bears reporting even though it is over.

It appeared to us that this was the largest of the annual tastings, and we think there may have been a couple of reasons for the growth in attendance that are very relevant to vacations on Sanibel.

Looking at all the not only happy but familiar faces, we are left suspecting that some vacationers choose this time of year because of the event.  And why not?

Being on Sanibel in November is always a joy.  The weather is usually great, the Gulf is often still warm, there are no crowds and accommodations are still at low season rates.  It's the best combination of an island vacation, and very special time in this sweet tropical place.

In addition, the combination of the "Taste" being on a three day week-end, at a time when visitors from the USA have school conventions and time off for the kids, and when Europeans are starting to experience the cool and gray weather so common in November in places like Germany and northern France.

We also wonder if the change of venues might have been a draw as well.  The Dunes Golf and Tennis Club was an excellent choice with a lovely, spacious setting ....and free parking to boot. 

And some of our favorites were again in play.  Cip's , Traders, Jacaranda nearly 20 other restaurants were there with their great fare.  Food that helps to

But perhaps the most compelling reason for the attention and popularity was the opportunity to support the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife.  C.R.O.W relies heavily on this event.  It is their premier fund-raiser of the year.  And as C.R.O.W. continues to get known for the wonderful work they do, more and more people want to attend Taste of the Islands as a way to support C.R.O.W. and get to see their friends who are there for the same reason.

So, as a heads up for next year, you might want to consider a fall vacation on Sanibel for you and your family.  And there might not be a better time to be here than for the Taste of the Islands.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Meet some of our crabby neighbors on Sanibel!

We have a lot of nice people living on and visiting our tropical Island.

But we also have a lot of crabs.

No, not human crabs, but the kind that live in our lush vegetation, or crawl on or beaches or live in our trees.

We'd like to introduce you to a few of our favorites as well as hear from you on your favorites as well.

One of  most unique neighbors is the hermit crab.  What makes the hermit crab so unusual is that he borrows "homes" from other sea creatures.  Most frequently hermit crabs use the shells of sea snails .  The tip of the hermit crab's abdomen is adapted to clasp strongly onto the columella (central axis) of the snail shell.

As the hermit crab grows in size, it has to find a larger shell and abandon the previous one. This habit of living in a second hand shell gives rise to the popular name "hermit crab", by analogy to a hermit who lives alone. Several hermit crab species, both terrestrial and marine, use vacancy chains to find new shells: when a new, bigger shell becomes available, hermit crabs gather around it and form a kind of queue from largest to smallest. When the largest crab moves into the new shell, the second biggest crab moves into the newly vacated shell, thereby making its previous shell available to the third crab, and so on. Hermit crabs often "gang up" on a hermit crab that has what they perceive to be a better shell, where they will actually pry its home (shell) away from it and then compete for it, and one will ultimately take it over.

Now how is that for strategic living?

The horse shoe crab is another favorite of ours, perhaps the most unusual looking of all our island crabs.  The entire body of the horseshoe crab is protected by a hard carapace. It has two compound lateral eyes ,  plus a pair of median eyes that are able to detect both visible light and UV-light, a single endoparietal eye and a pair of rudimentary lateral eyes on the top. The latter becomes functional just before the embryo hatches. There is also a pair of ventral eyes located near the mouth. But despite all these eyes, the poor horseshoe crab has relatively poor eyesight. The mouth is located in the center of the legs, where their base have the same function as jaws and helps grinding up food. It has five pairs of legs for walking, swimming, and moving food into the mouth, each with a claw at the tip except the last pair. The long, straight, rigid tail can be used to flip itself over if turned upside down.

Horseshoe crabs are the most commonly seen shell in the area because they are so large and many raccoons like to dine on them.

And speaking of fine dining, we must admit that our number one special crab is the blue crab. Oh, maybe they don't have the wit of the hermit crab or the looks of the horse shoe crab but they sure taste good~!

What is your favorite crab on Sanibel Island?