27 February 2008

Back to the Space Coast - Marl Bed Flats

On the last day of the Space Coast Birding Festival I headed out to the Marl Bed Flats. My main goal in signing up for this trip was the chance to find sparrows. It was a fairly cold morning by Florida standards and I was happy that some fellow birders loaned me their Neos to tramp through the wet muck. To find sparrows and wrens we had a few people fan out and rustle up the birds for us.

We had great looks at Savannah Sparrows, Sedge Wrens, and Palm Warblers. We were on the hunt for a Henslow's Sparrow or a Le Conte's Sparrow but the birds just weren't around or were hiding really well. We did manage to get a great look at a Grasshopper Sparrow. While on the search for sparrows we re-located the male Vermillion Flycatcher that was sighted all week. Roy Halpin, one of our guides, posted this great photo (below) on his website.

Photo: Roy Halpin
After a chilly morning on the Marl Bed Flats we headed into the forest walk. We found Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Pine Warblers, and a short look at an Orange-Crowned Warbler. We rounded out the day with 60 species including: Wilson's Snipe, Sandhill Cranes, Least Sandpiper, Limpkin, Northern Harrier, and Virginia Rail, to name a few. We also saw a troupe of feral pigs.

After a 60 species morning I decided that I would make it a full day of birding before heading back home. Out on Merritt Island I picked up a Bonaparte's Gull, Greater and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a Black-Bellied Plover. After cruising down Blackpoint Drive I found most of the usual waterfowl and this little Loggerhead Shrike.

Since this was my first trip to the Merritt Island area I thought I would continue out to the Cape Canaveral National Seashore area. It was a beautiful day with large alligators basking and Royal Terns diving into the water. I reluctantly left the refuge around 4:00pm and my day was over with a total of 86 bird species.

This post should have been up weeks ago but life has been busy. And today in my inbox I found this email from Laurilee (the founder of the Space Coast Birding Festival) about proposed negative impacts to the MINWR. Below you will find ways to help spread the word about this decision and contact information:

Hi All,
We appreciate any help you all can give us in getting the information out to all birders in the U.S. Please forward it to any e-mail list serves that birders and environmentalists monitor. The fishing and hunting communities should also be concerned. Public comment is critical to preserving everything we love about Merritt Island NWR. This project is on a fast track since NASA is depending on a commercial entity to service the International Space Station after the Shuttle retires in 2010. Public comment on the proposed launch complex will close early this spring.

The U.S. Air Force has 40 launch pads. They are only using 8 of them. There is infrastructure (roads, electricity, water, etc) in place on the Cape in areas that have already been disturbed. Is it really necessary to impact pristine areas?

I know that this is short notice and it will be difficult for you to attend one of the public meetings next week. But please take the time to phone, fax or e-mail your comments to NASA.

I will try to send the public notice as an attachment in a following e-mail. Thanks and best wishes! Laurilee

Public Notice
Future Plans by NASA for New Launch Facility Could Close Portions of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
NASA is proposing a new Commercial Launch Facility on 200 acres of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge which could have significant environmental and visitor impacts. Merritt Island NWR is an overlay of the Kennedy Space Center and the Refuge manages NASA lands through an agreement. The agreement allows NASA to withdraw lands for space facilities. The new facility would result in loss of scrub habitat, loss of wetlands, impact sea turtle nesting due to lighting issues, result in loss of habitat for several endangered or threatened species, and eliminate use of most visitor facilities and programs.
NASA has selected two potential sites for the commercial launch facility. Site 1 is located within the existing restricted area of Kennedy Space Center, but Site 2 is located in an area currently open to the public. Either site will have significant environmental impacts; however, Site 2 has the potential to close all areas south of Haulover Canal to the public. Impacts to Refuge facilities are still unclear, but based on the proximity to Site 2 the following facilities will likely be affected (closed):
· Black Point Wildlife Drive
· The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
· Cruickshank Trail, Scrub Ridge Trail, Oak Hammock Trail, Palm Hammock Trail
· Sendler Educational Outpost
· Bio Lab Road
· Boat Ramp at Haulover Canal, Bio Lab Boat Ramp
· Sports fishing south of Haulover Canal
· Waterfowl hunting south of Haulover Canal

The development of Site 2 would affect approximately 750,000 Refuge visitors annually.
Impacts associated with the development of Site 1 or 2 to Playalinda Beach are unclear, but could potentially affect another three quarters of a million visitors each year.
NASA is preparing an Environmental Assessment on the project and the public will be allowed to comment on the proposals. Several public meetings are planned:
February 25, 2008, Titusville City Hall - Council Chambers, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
February 28, 2008, New Smyrna Beach Public Library, 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
To provide comments or obtain additional information the following options are available:
1. Go to the NASA website
2. Send an email:
3. Call, FAX or Mail Mario Busacca; Environmental Program Office
Phone (321) 867-8456, FAX (321) 867-8040, Mail Code TA-C3, Kennedy Space Center, FL. 32899


cestoady said...

You have a very interesting blog that touches upon a wide variety of subjects. There are other ptofessional naturalists that also have blogs, perhaps you know them : Mon@rch and A passion for nature. Both are in NY. I wonder how many others there are in the country ? Enough to form an organization ??

Eva Matthews said...

I know Mon@arch but not the second one...what's the address for that?

Thre are MANY naturalists out there...I have no idea how many have blogs and such. I think it would be great to get organized.

cestoady said...

If you go to Natureremains.blogspot.com and check out the blogs listed there, you will find Jennifer, A Passion for Nature ,listed and you can take it from there.

By naturalist, I meant someone who has a job and is paid to teach, organize exhibits, or write about nature subjects. Jennifer is one of the best examples of what I mean. Check her out. I bet there is a directory somewhere of the naturalists employed by organizations like Audubon or Nature Centers -- the
only problem is learning if they have a blog.

Eva Matthews said...

I did a quick search for a National organization of Naturalists and found this: http://www.interpnet.com/

But like you said, finding out if people have blogs is a totally different story than knowing they are naturalists.