A gopher tortoise removal and relocation training course is being offered in Venice, FL this week, March 6-9. It is short notice, but a link to future class schedules can be found in the announcement.
Spring raptor migration is underway, and one of the beauties you can see is the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). Most kestrels seen in St. Lucie County are migratory birds traveling to and from Canada and the Northern United States to wintering grounds in the southern U.S. and Mexico. A few overwinter here, staking out a temporary territory before returning north.
American Kestrels are the smallest falcon in North America, living and breeding from Alaska, through Canada and the United States, down into Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. This includes Florida, where the birds breed in Central Florida along the Lake Wales ridge. I once saw a breeding pair nesting in a dead tree at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. American Kestrel populations have been increasing recently, and are listed as a “species of least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
American Kestrels are one of the few sexually color dimorphic raptors, meaning males and females have different plumage colors. Male kestrels have slate blue-gray secondary wing feathers, a rufous tail with a black subterminal band, and black banding on the underside of the wings.
Females are larger than males and have rufous coloration on the wings, backs, and tails. Females’ tails have multiple dark brown or black bands instead of the one band present in males.
As a small raptor, American Kestrels hunt small prey. They forage for grasshoppers, dragonflies, mice, voles, and lizards from perches on power lines, dead trees, or roadside signs. Wintering kestrels will also hunt small birds such as sparrows, warblers, and wrens. It is common to see kestrels perched with Mourning Doves on power lines; the kestrels are identifiable by their “no neck” look in silhouette.
Recent research using kestrel DNA indicates American Kestrels are not genetically related to the European Common Kestrel and others in that family. Instead, the American Kestrel appears most closely related to the Peregrine and Aplomado Falcons, having genetically diverged from European kestrels during the Ice Ages. So during spring, look up for a small, Ice Age falcon hunting grasshoppers from roadside perches!
There are still openings for the trip to see the Buntings - both Painted and Indigo — on Saturday March 1. As a fund raiser for the Society, the requested donation is $10. Maryellen McGarry is taking reservations for this outing. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 772-359-5416.
Say NO to Route 1C! Tell your representatives: Don’t allow permits for route 1C (in purple in the photo) for the Crosstown Bridge in Port St. Lucie. This route goes through Savannas State Park’s Halpatiokee Canoe and Nature Trail, and the North Fork of the St. Lucie River Aquatic Preserve. Seven habitats of the “ecological gem” in our State park will disappear, endangered wildlife will be further threatened, and noise & water pollution will be created in both the park and aquatic preserve even though less costly and less ecologically damaging alternative routes exist, like Route 6A. We may also lose federal funding because of an existing precedent.
Please call or email the following people:
* Patrick Murphy’s office: sherlean.Purvis@mail.house.gov, 561-253-8433
* Bill Nelson: email@example.com, 888-671-4091
* Joe Negron: Negron.firstname.lastname@example.org, 888-759-0791
* Larry Lee Jr.: Larry.email@example.com, cc to Maryalice.firstname.lastname@example.org, 772-595-1391
* Governor Rick Scott: http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/, 850-488-7146
Please read the FL FWC’s Species Action Plans for the Limpkin, Southeastern American Kestrel, Burrowing Owl, the Brown Pelican, the Florida Sandhill Crane, the Imperiled Beach Nesting Birds, The White-crowned Pigeon, the Osprey, saltmarsh songbirds, and wading birds. After reading, PLEASE COMMENT.
A vital opportunity exists where you can prevent a portion of a valuable national wildlife refuge from being degraded by a commercial enterprise. Space Florida wants to convert the northwest portion of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge into a commercial space port. This is not acceptable! The wildlife refuges were not created as “placeholders” to save land until a “better” commercial venture came along! Public meetings are being held February 11 & 12 in Brevard County. The opportunity for public comment is open until February 21. The information is in the text below from Space Coast Audubon.
Audubon Florida report: Charles had two items to be discussed. First item was the two upcoming scoping meetings to be held by the FAA to solicit input from the public on potential issues that may need to be evaluated in the EIS associated with Space Florida’s request for issuance of a Launch Site Operator License that would allow Space Florida to construct and operate launch facilities that would include the Shiloh area part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR). The meetings will be on Feb. 11th from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., at the New Smyrna Beach High School Gymnasium, 1015 10th Street, New Smyrna Beach, Florida 32168 and Feb. 12th from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., at the Eastern Florida State College, Titusville Campus, John Henry Jones Gymnatorium, 1311 North U.S. 1, Titusville, Florida 32796. It would be a good idea to carpool in order to get a good turnout of the environmental community. It is important that we be there and that we speak!!
RCC members had received an attachment that was a copy of the letter from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the Federal Register notice of the upcoming “Scoping meetings”. The meeting format will include an open- house workshop from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., an overview of the environmental process provided by the FAA from 6:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., followed by a public comment period from 6:15 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. It is important that the EIS point out all bad effects that could result as a consequence of such licensure. The USFWS letter took a very strong position against allowing any of the Launch Facility in MINWR, instead suggesting use of NASA facilities. Audubon suggests adopting comments of the DOI (Department of the Interior/USFWS) letter; there is no need to take a new position. All chapters should send a letter to be added to the ‘public comments’ stating such, but also as many individuals as possible should plan to attend and speak to the adoption of the comments of USFWS. Also, encourage individuals to send in public comments by the February 21st deadline. [Comments go to: Ms. Stacey M. Zee, FAA Environmental Specialist, Shiloh EIS c/o Cardno TEC Inc., 2496 Old Ivy Road, Suite 300, Charlottesville, VA 22903. Comments may also be sent by email to email@example.com or by fax to (434) 295-5535.]
There seems to be a coming together of ‘community’ support; Coastal Conservation Association (fishermen) are ‘cranking up’ against the proposed launch site. Space Florida may be spinning its wheels; it is developing ‘space’ in TX, but wants access to NASA facilities at Canaveral. Other NASA facilities (MS, Houston & others) are fighting against Space X getting into NASA ‘fence line’.
On Feb. 12th Charles has been asked by Congressman John Mica to testify at a Congressional meeting regarding NASA surplus property, which may result in 140,000 acres at MINWR being officially transferred from NASA to DOI(Dept. of Interior).
Space Coast Audubon Society
Board Member/Publicity Chair
Today is World Wetlands Day, and the Indian RIver Lagoon with its associated wetlands is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. Do your part to reduce polluted runoff into the lagoon and preserve this magnificent resource!