Palmetto Historical Park nature program Wednesday

vmannix@bradenton.comJuly 23, 2013 

PALMETTO -- People young and old who attend Wednesday's "Summer Learning: Life on the River" will hear all about nature's residents along the Manatee and Braden rivers and on Manatee County's wetlands.

Like the familiar egrets, gators and herons. And otters and raccoons. And unique insects like diving beetles, swimming spiders and water scorpions.

They'll also hear about the "toe-biter."

The toe-biter?

Melissa Cain Nell can't wait to talk about that one.

"It's an amazing aquatic insect with a mouth big enough that captures other insects -- and even fish," said the manager of the volunteer and education division of Manatee County's natural resources department.

Toe-biters, turtles and tadpoles will be just a few of the critters in the 11 a.m. Wednesday exhibit at the Carnegie Library in the Palmetto Historical Park, 515 10th Ave. W.

The hour-long program will include games, songs, stories and hands-on exhibits such as:

• Seeing the secrets of a turtle's shell.

• How to "talk" to alligators.

• Hunt like a heron.

"There are all sorts of neat things living along our rivers and wetlands," Nell said. "Even things people might things are kind of gross and scary -- salamanders and snakes -- you gain an appreciation for."

The Rockledge native grew up poking around a ditch near her home near Florida's Space Coast. She'd chase lizards and catch tadpoles.

Turned out Nell was just starting on her life's work.

"We're going to talk about some of the common creatures they'd find if they took a walk along the Manatee or Braden Rivers, species fairly representative of that environment," she said of Wednesday's program.

"We also want to help them not just learn more about the creatures, but also be able to better understand why those creatures are there, how are they surviving in that environment and how important they are to the habitat and to us."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: Summer Learning: Life On The River

Where: Carnegie Library, Palmetto Historical Park, 515 10th Ave. W., Palmetto.

When: 11 a.m.-noon Wednesday.

Admission: Free, but reservations required. Call 941-721-2034 to register.

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