What’s New In Lakes Park, March 2020

What’s New In Lakes Park

March 2020

Wildlife Updates

Snail kite seen in Lakes Park Fort Myers Florida
Photo courtesy Janet Kirk

Early in February, the birding community was all abuzz with news of snail kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis) visiting the park.

These raptors are aptly named, since they feed mostly on apple snails.

More on snail kites from FWC: CLICK ME 

Apple snail shells at Lakes Park in Fort Myers, Florida
Photo courtesy Janet Kirk

The lake’s shores and shallows are littered with empty apple snail shells.

Some of this is attributable to the presence of limpkins (Aramus guarauna), who are also fans of apple snails.

More on limpkins from FWC: CLICK ME


Birders in Lakes Park
Photo courtesy Janet Kirk

About the same time in February, birders flocked (get it?) to the Fragrance Garden at Lakes Park to catch a glimpse of the American Birding Association’s “Bird of the Year” for 2020…

Cedar waxwing bird in Lakes Park Fort Myers Florida
Photo courtesy Janet Kirk

It’s the CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)!

This is a truly good-looking bird that loves fruit so much, it occasionally demonstrates behavior associated with inebriation!

Find out more about the Cedar Waxwing from Cornell’s All About Birds site: CLICK ME  


Cuban knight anole with prey at Lakes Park Fort Myers Florida
Photo courtesy Kathy Busick

Later in February, the “circle of life” presented itself over by the Greenhouse when this Cuban knight anole appeared with a firm grip on its prey.

As their name implies, these lizards are native to Cuba; they are more and more often being spotted in Southwest Florida, where they prey upon and displace other lizards.

If you are out and about and you see a non-native species, you can snap a photo of it and report it on the I’ve Got One App

MORE about the Knight Anole and the I’ve Got One App – CLICK ME 


Birder Aki Klein from Caloosa Bird Club also sent some photos of birds recently seen at Lakes Park. Click below to check out our Instagram post featuring Aki’s photos –



Garden Updates

Cloudless sulphur caterpillar on host plant cassia
Photo courtesy Kathy Busick

 Meanwhile in the Fragrance Garden, Kathy Busick spotted this beautiful yellow caterpillar, well-camouflaged by the yellow cassia its feeding on.

This caterpillar will grow up to become a cloudless sulphur butterfly – latin name Phoebis sennae. In mythology, Phoebe was the sister of the sun god Apollo.

LEARN MORE about the cloudless sulphur from University of Florida’s “Featured Creatures”: CLICK ME


Morning glory shrub and that Florida sky
Photo courtesy Kathy Busick

This one is just because its a beautiful time of year here in Southwest Florida – morning glory shrub reaching for the sky.

Shaving brush blooms after three year hiatus
Photo courtesy Kathy Busick

Kathy Busick reported that a tree called “shaving brush” (Pseudobombax ellipticum) caused quite a stir recently when it bloomed after a three-year hiatus!


Cherub planter donated to the Children's Garden by Peggy Bruhn
Photo courtesy Kathy Busick

Foundation advisory board member Peggy Bruhn recently moved house, and donated this adorable cherub planter to the Children’s Garden. Next time you’re in the park, pay him (her?) a visit!

Volunteer gardeners preparing to tame the palmetto
Photo courtesy Kathy Busick

Ross, Johnie, Kevin, Deb, and Diane – a group forever to be known as The Palmetto SWAT Team! This group tackled the tough job of taming the palmetto wall on “the hill” at the far end of the Children’s Garden. Why would they do that, you ask? We have plans… stay tuned!


Volunteer Updates

Volunteer harvests vegetables in the Childrens Garden
Photo courtesy Ann Krull

Just when we think our volunteers cannot get any greater – they do! Volunteers have continued to show up for work days through the public health crisis and are observing “social distancing” while doing so. Lakes Park volunteers continue to grow, harvest, collect, and donate food to the Community Cooperative in Fort Myers. As of this writing, the latest donation total was 1,866 pounds of food donated during the 2020 growing season (As of March 17th).


Least bittern seen at Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers FL
Photo courtesy Benjamin Glick

Although Bird Patrol has been suspended (along with most other park programs), volunteers have provided information from the most recent tour on March 7th. “The highlight, I’m sure you’ll agree, was seeing the Least Bittern that Jose Padilla spotted in the cattails behind the concession stand,” writes Marie DiRosa.  She provided a link to the online checklist for the March 7th “Morning Meander” – click the link, and then click the name of the bird you want to know more about: https://ebird.org/checklist/S65534905

Park Improvements

We’ve saved the best for last! Parks & Recreation has been busy installing park improvements left, right, and center! First up: replacement of signage in “the circle”, an area just off Parking Lot 2 surrounded by a “circle” of palm trees. Here you will find three visual displays summarizing the history of the park and the significance of the filter marsh, aka the Lakes Park Watershed.


Informative displays in "the circle" near Parking Lot 2
Photo courtesy Kory Covaci, Parks & Rec


Visual display, Lakes Park Watershed
Photo courtesy Kathy Busick


Colorful bench in the Children's Garden
Photo courtesy Joe DeBacker, Parks & Rec

A new cement bench pad has appeared in the Children’s Garden, and a colorful bench installed.


Botanic Garden sign at Lakes Park
Photo courtesy Joe DeBacker, Parks & Rec

This sign announcing the Botanic Garden was previously located near the entrance of Parking Lot 3, where no one ever noticed it. Parks and Rec moved it to the intersection of the Children’s Garden, the Community Garden, and the Fragrance Garden – unified, they make The Botanic Garden!


New wildlife identification signs located near the Whistle Stop snack shop at Lakes Park
Photo courtesy Joe DeBacker, Parks & Rec

Over near the Whistle Stop ice cream and snack shop, you’ll find a brand new installation of signs that identify commonly-seen Southwest Florida wildlife. How many of these birds and animals have YOU encountered at Lakes Park? SEND PHOTOS to Info@LakesPark.org !

And finally, at long-last – MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS in the CHILDREN’S GARDEN!  

First installation of musical instruments in the Children's Garden at Lakes Park
Photo Courtesy Annisa Karim, Parks & Rec

After several years of fundraising and planning, our musical playstations are finally installed. The first round went in on March 21st, installed byAngel Padilla and Dave Barbour of Lee County Parks & Rec.

Another set of musical instruments installed in the Children's Garden at Lakes Park
Photo courtesy Joe DeBacker, Parks & Rec

A second set of flower-shaped instruments has been installed just around a bend in the path that flows through the Children’s Garden.  Parks & Rec has reported that Kathy Busick and her merry band of volunteers are already planning landscaping for these areas of the Children’s Garden.

We dug into the Foundation’s reserves to complete this purchase and pay for the cement work, so we are still raising funds. If you would like to contribute toward these musical play stations, please visit this link: 

YES, I want to contribute toward the musical instruments in the Children’s Garden! (CLICK ME)