Last Month's Newsletter

ARTHUR R. MARSHALL LOXAHATCHEE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

December 2020

Fishing Pier Now Open!

The new Lee Road Fishing Pier is now open to the public! The new pier is made of aluminum and steel and is extremely solid. Come check it out! While the Visitor Center remains closed due to the pandemic, the Refuge trails and waterfront have been enjoying record numbers of visitors.

Giving Tuesday, December 1

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement, unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. You can be a part of this worldwide event by making a donation to help the Friends support the Refuge and its wildlife at www.loxahatcheefriends.com/contributions/contributions.shtml

Your donations will help fund the Education Outreach intern who has been helping staff, virtually for now, work with schools and other community service providers to bring nature into the everyday lives of our urban neighbors. The Friends have been providing funding for this position since 2018 as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Urban Outreach program.

Reports from the Field - Deer, Alligators, Sandhill Cranes & Bobcats

The volunteer program remains suspended due to the pandemic, but volunteer Barry Willette has been keeping active, sending us reports from the field. Here are some excerpts from one he sent on October 17:

"It has been a good year for alligator viewing. We had not one, not two, but three alligator nests where visitors could see them. Props to law enforcement and maintenance for quick action in putting up barricades between the public and the nests.

This has been a banner year for the deer family out on the Marsh Trail. Solo (the 3-year old doe) had a female fawn in early March. Mom had a late fawn in early May. It was a boy and he already has an impressive set of nubs.

Bucky (the male half of last year's twins) is doing great. He has gone from being a runt to an impressive young buck. He acted as guardian of the family right up to the beginning of the rut, when hormones kicked in and he started running with the other bucks.

We had a somewhat successful season with the Sandhill Cranes. They had two colts this year. As you know last year they had one colt that died because of human interference. This year one of the colts fell prey to a bobcat but the other one successfully fledged. The adult cranes recently returned to the Refuge.

I have not yet seen them, but according to reliable reports we have not one, but two female bobcats with kittens. Talk about endurance, the old male bobcat is still very much alive. He looks bad and I refuse to photograph him anymore but I saw him this morning. Talk about longevity! I have been following him for nine years and he was already an older cat."

November 20 update:
"For the benefit of all who are not currently in Florida we have had a very wet year. In the 42-plus years that I have been coming to the Refuge, I don't remember this much water. Absolutely every impoundment is covered with water. The high water level has been a double-edged sword. With the impoundments flooded there have been more deer on the levee making for more sightings by early risers and evening visitors. I have discovered two previous unknown deer families. I have seen more bucks this year than the last three years combined.

The other edge of the sword is that with the amount of water there has been more interaction between alligators and the deer in the Marsh Trail area. Two members of the family of deer that I have followed for three years have been injured by alligators. Solo had a nasty bite on one of her front legs. She had swelling of four times its normal size for several weeks. Fortunately the swelling is down and she is walking much better. Solo's little girl born just before the shutdown lost part of one of her front legs, probably to a gator also. Showing how resilient animals are, this young deer is adapting to her situation and gets around better every day."

Everglades Day Canceled

2021 will be the first year since its inception in February of 2000 that our Everglades Day family festival will not be held. Refuge management and staff and volunteers want everyone to know that while we all remain committed to cultivating an awareness and understanding of this fragile ecosystem, we do not feel we can maintain public safety and still live up to the high standards we've come to expect for this event, given the challenges posed by the pandemic. We will use the time until the 2022 event, scheduled for Saturday, February 12, 2022, to take a fresh look at what Everglades Day can become in the future.

Friends Annual Membership Meeting - Save the Date!

Save the date for our virtual annual Friends membership meeting with a great guest speaker, Sunday, January 24, 2:00-3:15pm. Details to follow.

2021 Refuge Calendar Now Available!

The beautiful 2021 Refuge calendar is now available and should soon be arriving in the mail for all Friends members. Friends President Ron Seifer says, "It's the one nature calendar that hangs in my home annually - in which I note daily reminders and events - and a great holiday gift for anyone you would like to introduce to Palm Beach County's wetlands and wildlife treasure." If you are not a Friends member, or if you would like to purchase additional copies, contact Cathy Patterson at capatterson51@loxahatcheefriends.com.

And congratulations to Meg Puente, our calendar's featured photographer for September, whose anhinga with fish photo just placed 2nd in the National Wildlife Federation's 2020 photo contest in the Birds category! Check it out at www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2021/Dec-Jan/PhotoZone/2020-Winners or better yet, get one of our calendars and admire it on your own wall!

Holiday Special - Brick Pavers Now Two for the Price of One!

Have you considered engraving a brick for our paved path at the entrance to the Cypress Swamp? It's a thoughtful way to commemorate a loved one or yourself, for that matter, and help the Refuge at the same time. From now through the end of December, $100 buys two for the price of one! Up to 3 lines, 18 characters per line. Installed within 30 days of order. For an additional $25 you'll also receive a matching 4" x 4" tile, suitable for display in your home or office. Email elinor@loxahatcheefriends.com or go online at www.loxahatcheefriends.com/brick/brick.php.

Free Passes for Veterans

All veterans are entitled to a FREE Annual Military Pass. You just need to show one of the accepted forms of identification - Department of Defense ID Card, Veterans ID Card, Veterans Health ID Card, or a Driver's License with Veterans Designation - to pick up your pass. Since the Visitor Center is closed, please contact Ranger Serena Rinker at serena_rinker@fws.gov to set up a time to stop by and receive your pass.

Refuge Entrance Passes Now Available Online

Entrance fee collection resumed in late September, after several months' suspension due to the closure of the Visitor Center. Daily and annual Refuge entrance passes are now available for purchase online at www.recreation.gov/. Search for "Loxahatchee" and click on the button to "Buy a Pass." One day passes are $10 and the annual pass is $25.

America the Beautiful passes and several other kinds of entrance passes can be purchased online for those who frequently visit National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks and other federal recreational fee areas: store.usgs.gov/pass/

Annual Butterfly Count

Here are 25 years' of butterfly counts on the Refuge from the Atala Chapter of the National American Butterfly Association, updated with stats from the most recent count held on June 20 of this year:
loxahatcheefriends.com/upload/LoxahatcheeButterflyCount2020.pdf

Discover the Refuge - for Your Health!

Friends President and semi-retired Psychologist Ron Seifer has been touting the benefits of getting outdoors and exploring the Refuge for years. He finds solace in lichens, among other things, in this story he recently had published in the Sun Sentinel's Gateway Gazette:
www.sun-sentinel.com/community/gateway-gazette/fl-cn-opinion-roaming-the-refuge-20201009-knj4aenbuvbuhip5qvqednkduq-story.html

National Wildlife Refuges to Benefit from Great American Outdoors Act

Chronically underfunded National Wildlife Refuges will receive some help from the Great American Outdoors Act, signed into law on August 4, but the magnitude of the problem can't be overstated, as highlighted in this story from Audubon magazine's fall issue:
www.audubon.org/magazine/fall-2020/overwhelmed-and-understaffed-our-national-wildlife

While the National Wildlife Refuge System has grown to 568 refuges spanning 95 million acres and visitation has increased year after year, basic wildlife management and visitor services are being shut down and essential infrastructure is crumbling at many of them. The Act sets aside $1.9 billion each year for the next five years to tackle the maintenance backlog of our nation's public lands. The National Wildlife Refuge System will receive 5% of this funding each year, or $95 million, to go towards repairs of visitor centers, boardwalks, signage, and trails. The largest recipient of this funding by far is the National Park System, with the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service also receiving a small portion.

The Great American Outdoors Act also provides full, dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This Fund has been the principal source of funding for land acquisition for conservation and outdoor recreation by four federal agencies: the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. Established by Congress in 1964, the Fund was intended to receive $900 million annually from royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling, but it has only been fully funded twice in its 55-year history.

Invasive Species Battles Continue

Invasive exotic plants such as Old World climbing fern and melaleuca pose a serious threat to the wildlife communities on the Refuge. Floating exotic plants such as water lettuce and water hyacinth threaten to clog Refuge canals, restricting navigation, water flow and water drainage. Many exotic plants were intentionally introduced to our area for a variety of reasons. Melalueca trees were imported from Australia in an attempt to drain the Everglades. Hydrilla imported from Asia was intentionally planted in our canals and rivers to sell in the aquarium trade. These non-native plants grew so quickly that the native plants could no longer survive. Lacking natural predators and insects to keep them in check, these alien plants rapidly expand, forming dense, monotypic forests and thickets. This type of habitat does not support a large diversity of wildlife.

The Refuge recently completed multiple vegetation management projects on 295 acres of wetland impoundments in the A, B and C Compartments. Aerial spraying was done by helicopter for non-native and some native invasive species, including water lettuce, Cuban bulrush, possum grape, cattail, and willow. To prevent the spread of invasive animals like the Burmese python and Nile monitor, Early Detection and Rapid Response methods are being used. This work requires enormous effort and expense and can only be accomplished by working closely with partners like the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Florida, among many others. Recent attempts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get water hyacinth under control on Lake Okeechobee and the Moore Haven Lock and Dam are detailed in this article:
www.palmbeachpost.com/story/weather/2020/10/07/delicate-purple-water-flower-wreaks-havoc-south-florida/5884573002/

Everglades Restoration Projects Advance

In August, blasting began for the construction of the 6,500-acre Stormwater Treatment Area that will clean water from the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir before sending it south into the Everglades. This important Everglades restoration project will reduce the need for harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and coastal estuaries.
www.palmbeachpost.com/story/weather/2020/08/31/reservoir-supposed-keep-toxic-algae-bay/5678630002/

On October 21, the South Florida Water Management District announced the completion of the S-333N water management structure west of Miami which will relieve the damaging high water levels in Water Conservation Area 3A by moving more freshwater under the bridges of the Tamiami Trail. As these important projects advance and are completed, significantly more clean freshwater will be able to pass through the Water Conservation Areas, under I-75/Alligator Alley, under the bridges of the Tamiami Trail, and ultimately into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
www.sfwmd.gov/news-events/news/sfwmd-completes-s-333n-priority-everglades-project-send-more-water-south

Record Rainfall Threatens Wildlife and Wading Bird Survival

The late-season rains have inundated the Everglades and all of South Florida, forcing farmers to leave crops rotting in the fields and driving wildlife to higher and higher ground. From the northernmost parts of the Refuge to the lands north of the Tamiami Trail, water is covering vital tree islands and forcing animals to crowd onto levees. After the driest March in 89 years of record-keeping by the South Florida Water Management District, an average of 50.3 inches of rain has fallen in the 16-county region from Orlando to the Keys. That's only slightly below the 52 to 53 inches typically received during a full 12-month period. When those kinds of high water conditions last more than 60 days, a high mortality rate for terrestrial species such as raccoons, possum, rabbit and deer is expected.
www.palmbeachpost.com/story/weather/2020/11/13/farms-challenged-longer-wet-season-and-heavy-rains/6262895002/

In contrast, the 2019 rainy season was the shortest in 88 years of record-keeping, with September being the driest on record. That meant no water on the high-ground marl prairies that typically dry down in the fall to provide easy fishing for Wood Storks. So the Wood Storks waited until February and March to nest when the deeper Everglades sloughs began to dry. The delay caused nesting season to bleed into the rainy season, which cut off the Wood Storks' food supply when the fish spread throughout the landscape again, making them harder to catch. Parents couldn't feed the fledgling storks that were just weeks from adulthood. Of about 1,360 nests counted by the South Florida Water Management District, 98.5 percent failed. Wood storks are called the bellwether of Everglades health because they prosper when the natural conditions - pre-flood control - are in place.
www.palmbeachpost.com/story/weather/2020/09/04/wood-storks-can-live-outside-everglades-but-diet-isnt-always-pretty/3454196001/

The South Florida Water Management District's wading bird report for 2019 shows a decline over the previous year for most of the main indicator species, although 2018 was considered a banner year for wading birds due to well-timed rainfall. Across the greater Everglades ecosystem, Great Egret and White Ibis seem to be hitting restoration goals more frequently, with Snowy Egret lagging. Wood Storks have been moving north out of the Everglades system, as success in their historic heartland is chronically poor. Sea-level rise has already played a role in reducing the numbers of successfully nesting Roseate Spoonbills, a species that depends on specific water levels in order to gather enough prey for their chicks.
fl.audubon.org/news/2019-wading-bird-season-shows-some-success-also-how-far-we-have-still-go

Roseate Spoonbills have traditionally called Southwest Florida home, but they are nesting much farther north now. Sea-level rise is impacting the small fish the spoonbills rely on for food. Spoonbills are nesting now in Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas, and have even been spotted in Maine, Quebec and Minnesota.
news.wgcu.org/environment/2020-09-23/climate-change-inspires-roseate-spoonbills-to-relocate

What to Do in a Bear Encounter?

The National Park Service has helpful advice for what to do and not do if confronted by a bear like, don't push your slower friend down...
www.cnn.com/2020/08/08/us/bear-attack-national-park-service-trnd/

Shop on Amazon and Support the Friends!

Shop at AmazonSmile and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the Friends, at no extra cost to you! Bookmark this link: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/59-2152926
Or, if you don't have the link handy, just go to smile.amazon.com and select "Friends of the Arthur R Marshall Loxahatchee Natl Wildlife Refuge" (You can just search for "Loxahatchee" but don't try to spell out "National" or it won't work!)

Like Us on Facebook!

Thanks to Cathy Patterson we have a very active community of Friends on Facebook:
www.facebook.com/loxahatcheefriends
Please spread the word and ask the folks you know to "Like" us!

Join the Friends!

If you're not already a Friends member, why not join now? Your support helps fund Refuge programs and special projects, and helps make our annual Everglades Day possible. Dues are only $25 per person or $40 for a family membership. All members receive our biannual newsletter Gator Tales and a 10% discount in our gift shop. You can sign up online at:
www.loxahatcheefriends.com/membership/membership.shtml

Help Us Grow!

Tell your friends about this hidden treasure! How many of them know we have a piece of the Everglades right here in Palm Beach County? Bring them out, and encourage them to join the Friends. Better yet, give them a gift membership!

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Elinor

Elinor Williams
Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
www.loxahatcheefriends.com
www.facebook.com/loxahatcheefriends

"There are no other Everglades in the world." ~Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Celebrate with us, The Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, 1982-2020

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