On April 25, the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association (GICIA) hosted two tours of one of their most successful restoration sites. Two small groups were guided through the properties by GICIA’s executive director, Misty Nichols and consultant and certified arborist, Rick Joyce.
This remote site is not open to the public, which has allowed GICIA to use a few specimens of rare and threatened plants in the restoration of the five acre parcel. One of GICIA’s most exciting restoration projects includes an effort to reintroduce native butterfly orchids (Encyclia tampensis) to some of the land conservancy sites on Boca Grande.
The butterfly orchid was once fairly common in South and Central Florida but poaching and cold weather has severely reduced its’ numbers in the wild. In fact, there are so few remaining, the orchids are now a species protected by the state. Explorers on the land conservancy tour last Saturday where happy to observe that most of the orchids had bloom spikes. Rick stated that the blooms seem to be early this year, which may be due to our warm winter and that they will likely begin to bloom in mid to late may.
Besides seeing and learning about numerous plant species, the group enjoyed watching two young osprey chicks who appeared to be very curious about the tour going on below them. Tour participants also caught a glimpse of what may have been a juvenile mangrove cuckoo. This particular bird is not rare but extremely secretive making sightings very special.
If you missed this fun, educational tour don’t worry. The GICIA is pleased with the participation in the tours this year and plans to schedule additional trips in the fall. The goal is to keep the tours small so that everyone gets the chance to interact and ask questions of Rick and Misty.
These tours provide a terrific opportunity to “experience” GICIA’s conservation efforts and learn about the restoration of these important parcels. If you are interested in joining a tour later this year, please call the GICIA office at 964-2667 so you can be contacted when the next tour date is confirmed.