“The Living Gulf Coast: A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida,” by Charles Sobczak. Indigo Press. 512 pages. $26.95.
People who live in and visit Southwest Florida are drawn by its natural beauty. In spite of many decades of development, the region still has a remarkable diversity of life forms and relatively unspoiled habitats in which they thrive. Furthermore, public and private efforts have done much to insure the future of these natural treasures. “The Living Gulf Coast” is a generous, lavishly produced, and inspiring guide to this distinctive paradise.
Mr. Sobczak’s encyclopedic effort is divided into two major sections of approximately equal size. The first section is the field guide itself. Defining the region as including Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Glades, and Hendry counties, the author provides detailed information on the birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians to be found here. He employs an efficient set of symbols and abbreviations to map basic facts of size (for birds, length, wingspan, and weight), degree of endangerment, where found, the various names applied to the species, and so forth. Mr. Sobczak also provides vivid descriptions of each creature’s appearance, behavior, habitat, and diet.
Blending information and entertainment, Charles Sobczak entices his readers to move beyond the passive engagement of entering a book. He urges them to engage directly and actively with their fellow creatures. Whether introducing the Green Iguana, the Everglades Mink, the Pileated Woodpecker, the Florida Banded Water Snake, or the lowly Nutria, the author gives each critter its due. Often, his discussions are leavened by humor and wit.
Where to engage? That’s what the second half of the book is all about.
Nature lovers will revel in Mr. Sobczak’s survey of “managed lands” available for public exploration and enjoyment in this six-county region. Over 2,000 of the region’s 6,000 square miles are under federal, state, or local public or private management, providing countless opportunities for birding, hiking, kayaking, camping, and just plain meditation. The author provides information about 162 destinations, 61 in elaborate detail and the others in a more compact overview.
This latter half of the book is arranged by county, with a north-to-south plan within each chapter. With Charles Sobczak as our guide, we can travel from Sarasota’s Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium to Punta Gorda’s Peace River Wildlife Center to Boca Grande’s Gasparilla Island State Park to the Naples Botanical Garden and to various eco-destinations out east in Hendry and Glades counties. Many of these destinations are well-known, while many others are relatively obscure. The author locates each entry not only by address, but also by GPS coordinates. You won’t get lost.
To read this review in its entirety as it appears in the May 25, 2011 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the May 26 Naples Florida Weekly, and the June 2 Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda Florida Weekly, click here: LivingGulfCoast pdf – 1 and then here: LivingGulfCoast pdf – 2