Blog Description

Mound House Happenings shares the latest in ongoing projects, site improvements, scheduled programs and events, plus interesting facts and photos on our unique archaeology, history and ecology.

Mound House

Mound House
October 15, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

PLANTS IN PROFILE #25 - Saltwort

 Saltwort (Salicornia spp.)

There are several species of saltwort present on Estero Island and several of them can be found growing naturally along the shoreline at Mound House. These low growing fleshy plants are extremely salt tolerant and can even spend hours at a time immersed in salt water. These plants are able to retain the sodium found in salt water. As such, the genus Salicornia includes many varieties also known as glasswort. This name taken from the ancient practice of using the ashes of Salicornia to make soda ash, a component in glass making as well as in the manufacture of soap. Also known as “sea beans,” these plants are edible and are used in salads and can be steamed or sautéed.    

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight

Mound House staff would like to take this opportunity to thank volunteer Geri Biggs for her invaluable service as a kayak tour volunteer. Her experience and patience in teaching kayaking skills and making visitors feel comfortable is a major contribution to our kayaking programs. Quietly sharing knowledge and understanding of our islands’ back bays and tidal creeks with inexperienced nervous visitors in wobbly kayaks requires a unique talent that Geri graciously provides.

Geri comes to us from the Chicago area. She has taught at all levels, from 2nd grade to High School, and it shows in her patient and outstanding lessons while kayaking. She also coached high school Track & Field, Cross Country, Soccer, and Girls Basketball.  After Geri and her husband retired 10 years ago, they began enjoying winters on beautiful Ft. Myers Beach. They have 5 children and 14 grandchildren.  Nine years ago the Biggs sold their house to one of their daughters and now enjoy the freedom of living and traveling in their motorhome. They have visited 48 states, most provinces of Canada, and Mexico. Some of her many hobbies include nature photography, kayaking, and any sport or physical activity. Recently, Geri donated dozens of stunning, matted and sealed images of native wading birds, shorebirds, and birds of prey in our area for use as reference. This resource has already come in useful as we give kayakers a close up view of the birds they may have seen only far in the distance. This valuable addition of images is deeply appreciated by staff and visitors alike. Geri shared with us, “This area of Florida is an excellent place to explore nature especially in a kayak. I enjoy volunteering at the Mound House because I meet interesting people and share my love to the water.”

Thanks again to Geri and all of our amazing volunteers that help keep Mound House running!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Moment of Zen

It is this time of year the beautiful jacaranda tree explodes in purple blooms. If you have a chance, stop by and see our jacaranda tree's stunning flowers. If you have any pictures of jacaranda trees you have taken in Southwest Florida or our trees here at Mound House you would like to share please send them to and we will share them here in our Moments of Zen.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Calusa Neighbors

 Visitors to the Mound House are offered an opportunity to learn about the Calusa culture and those who built and lived on this site so long ago. As a distinct culture, the Calusa are described as a having a well-organized and stratified society who traded extensively and collected tribute from tribes from as far away as the east coast of Florida and the Kissimmee River basin. One of the groups with whom the Calusa interacted, traded with, and may have battled, were their neighbors to the north, known by archaeologists as the “Manasota People."

 Among the various groups of people to inhabit Florida, the Manasota lived along the coast just north of here. The Manasota culture extended from Sarasota County north to Tampa Bay.  Like the Calusa, the Manasota culture evolved from the earlier Archaic cultures of mobile hunters and gatherers that settled along the west coast as far back as 4000 BC. Also, like their neighbors to the south, the Manasota developed an extensive array of settlements along the coast. They lived on mounds located in hammocks near the estuaries and derived their subsistence from fish and shellfish as well as hunting and gathering plants from the inland.
Early on, the Manasota did not have a hierarchical society, and leadership was based on individual ability, rather than inherited status. This is inferred due to the absence of artifacts in graves and there not being any indication of differential treatment in death suggests an egalitarian society.

 Later in their history, the Manasota appear to have adopted some of the religious and ceremonial practices of other cultures to the north.  Archaeological evidence of these adaptations is found in the use of sand burial mounds and the placement of ornate pottery in graves. Evidence from around 900 AD on suggests a change in political and religious practices as a result of an increasing population. At this point in history, there was a distinct change in the culture of the Manasota, perhaps as a result of the influence of other Mississippian tribes to the north, the Manasota culture as distinct entity in the historical record ceased to exist.  A new culture emerged, called the Safety Harbor culture, and practices such as division of labor and the management of resources to protect against famine and warfare became established.  The unequal status of people can be seen in the importance of flat topped temple mounds in which the most influential people, including political, religious and military leaders, lived atop the mounds with most of the rest of the population living below. A similar type of social structure and living conditions can also be found in the archaeological record here at Mound House.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Creature Feature #24 - Yellow-rumped Warbler

Creature Feature #24 

YELLOW- RUMPED WARBLER (Stetophaga coronata)

 Winter is the time of year when Mound House becomes a stopover for dozens of species of hungry migratory birds. Our rich and diverse native landscaping serves up a natural buffet where traveling birds find winter fruiting species such wax myrtle, bird pepper, white indigo berry, marlberry, beautyberry, wild coffee, dahoon holly, and annatto among others. To attract birds these berries are often bright and colorful, thereby enhancing our landscape. One of the most notable winter visitors to seek our abundant natural food source is the yellow-rumped warbler. These beautiful birds winter throughout of the central and southeastern United States and make Estero Island a regular winter destination.

Affectionately referred to as “butter butt” by birdwatchers, this is a full bodied warbler with a sturdy bill and long, narrow tail. During the spring migration, the formerly subdued colors of this warbler become a dazzling mix of bright yellow, charcoal black, and white.

Yellow-rumped warblers are often found in the outer fringes and mid-story of trees. They spend much of the day eating berries from shrubs and mid-story trees. They often travel in large flocks in winter, moving into shrubby habitats including coastal vegetation, such as here at Mound House. Look for them this winter feeding in the native coastal strand vegetation that grows along the sloping perimeter of our shell mound.