Natural fit: Friends of Tigertail invite public to discover the beach

Lance Shearer

Saturday morning, you have the chance to see the beach as you perhaps have never seen it before. The Friends of Tigertail is hosting their annual “Discover Tigertail” event, offering perspectives from knowledgeable naturalists to help you understand more about what is happening in this beautiful natural environment.

A beach is more than just a strip of sand. This is particularly true at Tigertail Beach on Marco Island’s northwest, where a complex ecosystem includes a lagoon, osprey nest, butterfly garden, mud flats, and an observation tower.

Families wade the lagoon to access the Gulf. The Friends of Tigertail will present "Discover Tigertail" on Saturday, Feb. 24 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Tigertail Beach park, a free program offering residents and visitors the chance to learn more about this unique wild resource.

Humans who visit the beach daily will get a chance to learn more about the permanent residents, or other visitors such as sea turtles and migratory birds, at Discover Tigertail. The Friends group will host eight different exhibits or “information stations,” where naturalists and volunteers cover a wide variety of topics that are part of the natural beach experience. Topics of the information stations range from loggerhead turtles and their nesting behavior to “Shelling 101,” butterflies, “Digging into Gopher Tortoises” and wildlife rehabilitation, which will be presented by a Conservancy of Southwest Florida staffer whose day job finds her working at their wild animal hospital.

Conchologists from the Marco Island Shell Club will “show and tell” the marine mollusks of the area, which can be seen in the shallow waters of the Tigertail lagoon. Visitors will have the opportunity to feel the shell of a loggerhead turtle, get a closeup view of birds through powerful telescopes, and learn to identify the full-time birds as well as the “snowbirds,” including the black skimmers, and the least terns who migrate all the way from South America. Event chair Susan Kubat, a member of the Friends of Tigertail board, will share her ornithological expertise.

“Seining: Meet the Creatures of the Lagoon” had to win the prize for most creative, not to say creepy, title for any of the mini-workshops, and has been a major hit with the younger generation at previous Discover Tigertail events. Assisted by Nicole Meyer from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, kids waded out into the calm waters and dipped nets into them, bringing up sea life including shrimp, hermit crabs, and juvenile flounder. Naturalists then explained their life cycles, and how they fit into the overall natural picture.

Saturday also provides a look at, or look from, the new observation tower erected at Tigertail, with its high-powered spotting scopes, including one with a great view of the nearby osprey nest. A pair of ospreys is sitting a clutch of eggs on the nest, and may perform a “changing of the guard,” switching off duties between sitting the eggs and foraging. While one guards and warms the eggs, the partner can often be seen skimming above the surface of the lagoon hunting for fish.

There is no charge for any of the presentations or activities, but there is a fee to park at Tigertail Beach, which is a Collier County park, for anyone whose vehicle does not wear a beach parking sticker. And when you feel you have spent enough time listening to the experts at Discover Tigertail, you can head out on your own to…discover Tigertail.

For more information on the Friends of Tigertail, to join the group, support their efforts, or see a fascinating progression of historical aerial photos showing the area’s evolution, go online to