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Habi-Chat - newsletter of the Merritt Island Wildlife Association

Newsletter of the Merritt Island Wildlife Association
Volume 8, Number 3                   Fall 2002

|| MIWA | MINWR (Official) | MINWR (Local) ||

You are cordially invited to attend...
The Sendler Education Outpost
Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

ribbon cutting

Monday, October 7, 2002

(In case of NASA closure ceremony will occur the following Monday, October 14, 2002)

9:00 am

Join us in dedicating the Sendler Education Outpost. Program to include remarks by Congressman Dave Weldon, Roy Bridges (KSC Director), Margo McKnight (Brevard Zoo Executive Director), Ron Hight (Refuge Manager), and Forrest McCartney (MIWA President). Brevard County students will participate and refreshments will be provided. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Please RSVP to Sandee Larsen at 321-861-2377
no later than Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Directions: from US 1 or I-95 in Titusville
Take SR 406 (Garden Street) east to SR 3 (fork left at SR 402)
Take SR 3 north to Dummit Cove (entrance is on left).


Sendler Education Outpost A Success Thanks To MIWA

Sendler Education Outpost The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge wants to thank MIWA for taking on the significant financial challenge of funding the Sendler Education Outpost. Last year, when the Refuge presented MIWA with the challenge of funding an educational facility, MIWA did not hesitate. In just a few months, MIWA’s Board used its connections in the community to raise over $50,000, more than enough to fund the pavilion. Educating young people about environmental issues is a priority for the Refuge. MIWA and this facility will make it possible to launch a new education venture that will affect the lives of 6,000 children in its first year. Congratulations to MIWA for its support, vision and commitment to making a difference in our community.

A dedication of the Sendler Education Outpost is planned October 7 at 9:00 am. You will find an invitation to this event on the back cover. Please mark this date on your calenda and take the time to celebrate with us. Your support made this possible. Allow the Refuge and the community the opportunity to thank you for this great new facility and educational cause.
Dorn Whitmore

Black Point Wildlife Drive Reopens

If you’ve driven on Black Point Wildlife Drive since its reopening on August 16, you’ll have noticed some differences since the road was closed in mid-April. The Drive was resurfaced using a honeycomb material filled with lime rock that should help control erosion, stabilize the Drive and reduce road repairs for potholes and ruts. Another improvement to the Drive is the addition of 72 cabbage palms along the straightaway. These trees were planted to help slow traffic and create a buffer between the road and the wildlife. Additional improvements will be made in the coming months, including new interpretive signs and a new leaflet return at the exit. So come out and see our improvements. We feel you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.
Sandy Edmondson

Merritt Island NWR Comprehensive Conservation Plan

As many of you already know, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is beginning the process of developing a 15-year management plan, called a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP). This CCP will provide vision and direction for the future of the Refuge, especially for fish, wildlife, and plant populations; habitat management; land protection and conservation; education and visitor services; and Refuge administration. We are kicking off this plan with an informational Open House on Saturday, September 21, 2002, 10 am - 2 pm. This Open House will be followed by a series of public meetings to gather input and issues from the public during October and November. Public meetings will be scheduled on an as needed basis and may extend past November. To get on the mailing list or for more information, go to merrittisland.fws.gov, fill out a mailing list request form, and send it to the Refuge, or simply call the Refuge for the form (321.861.0667). We look forward to hearing from everyone, especially MIWA, on the future of the Refuge! Also, call Cheri (321.861.2368) if you are interested in helping out with the CCP public meetings (e.g., providing assistance and information to meeting attendees).
Cheri Ehrhardt, AICP

Message From The President...

The Sendler Education Outpost has been completed and it is simply "outstanding". A dedication ceremony will be conducted at the site at 9:00 am on October 7. The program will be short, but we will have several local dignitaries in attendance. Your invitation and directions are contained on the back page of the Habi-Chat, so please plan to be present at this major event. The Outpost will provide a place each year for over 6,000 school children to learn about our environment and how to preserve it. The program, conducted by the Brevard Zoo, is outstanding and we are pleased to be able to supply their "field laboratory". Please plan now to join us at the dedication.

The rains this summer have turned the Refuge into a very lush and green area. It is good to see all of the water and the green vegetation. The road at Black Point has been completed and opened. It is a beautiful drive, so plan to come by and enjoy it.

Our Association now has almost 500 members. It is the largest and most active ever. Thanks for your continued support and help in making the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge the very best. We are very fortunate to have such a resource and be able to enjoy it. Come often and enjoy.

See you at the dedication of the Outpost on October 7.
Forrest McCartney

Merritt Island Wildlife Association
Merritt Island Wildlife Association purpose
Vice President
President Emeritus

Forrest McCartney
Charlie Roberts
Warren Camp
Dan LeBlanc
George English
Board Members
Sam Beddingfield, Wes Dean, Judy Dryja, Bud Ferguson, Darleen Hunt, John Hutchison, Fred Mastin, George Meguiar, Jim Pedersen, Diane Stees & Laurilee Thompson
Refuge Manager: Ron Hight
USFWS Liaison:Dorn Whitmore — NASA Liaison: Mike Sumner
The Merritt Island Wildlife Association (MIWA) is a nonprofit, cooperating association for the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Habi-Chat is published quarterly. For membership, MIWA or Refuge information, call 321-861-0667.
Interim Newsletter Editor Beth Homa — Technical Consultant Sandee Larsen

Refuge Manager Update
Ron Hight

There is much going on to enhance the visitor’s experience and benefit wildlife. I want to take this opportunity to give you a few of the highlights. You have heard in previous issues of the road improvement projects on Black Point and the Bio Lab Road. These roads now are in great condition, but this is just the beginning. Next year we will repair three additional roads, including the Shiloh Marsh Road (12 miles), Peacock’s Pocket Road (6 miles) and Gator Creek Road (2 miles). These road projects will pay dividends for years, enhancing wildlife viewing opportunities and building greater appreciation for the Refuge.

You have also read about the development of a Comprehensive Conservation Plan that will provide Refuge guidance over the next 15 years. We expect several issues to come up that could have long-term impacts on the Refuge. For example, should the Refuge allow horseback riding? Should the impoundments be managed more for fisheries than for migratory birds? These and many other issues will be discussed. We encourage you to get involved in the process and help us guide the future management of the Refuge.

The Refuge is making a commitment to controlling exotic plants. This is a huge undertaking. If you have visited recently, you may have seen some of the evidence in the dead Australian pines.

They look unsightly now, but in time these areas will be replaced with natives that will enhance, not diminish wildlife habitat. The next big project is Brazilian pepper eradication. This will take years, but we think the payoff is worth it.

Finally I want to invite you to help celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System at Pelican Island NWR next March. This will be a gala event, complete with pageantry and maybe even a Presidential visit. 2003 will be declared "The Year of the National Wildlife Refuges," and it will be MINWR’s 40th anniversary. Come celebrate at Pelican Island and help us by offering suggestions on how we can commemorate your Refuge.


Species In Focus ... White Pelican

birderNewly arrived to the east coast of Florida last summer, I was inching my way along Bio Lab Drive, riveted on the scattered few birds that presented themselves to me in the marsh that time of year. I wasn’t expecting anything grand, but the egrets and herons were fascinating me anyway. I glanced up to the sky to curse at the humidity and mosquitoes, and instead spotted a large flock of white birds soaring high on the thermals. As I watched in awe, the sun glinted off the brilliant white of the flock soaring so high they disappeared if they angled just so. They were too far away to snap any pictures, so I just sat on the hood of my car and marveled at how nature can take your breath away when you least expect it. Being from Indiana and unfamiliar with white pelicans, I was awestruck as I watched them circle and meander their way north.

White pelicans, I learned as I stole a glance at my Peterson Field Guide, are similar to brown pelicans, but are much larger - with wingspans up to 9 _ feet. White pelicans have black primary feathers, giving them a similar appearance to the smaller wood stork, and adults have an orange-yellow bill, while immature bills are gray. White pelicans inhabit a variety of habitats, depending on the time of year. During breeding season, they nest on isolated islands in lakes and feed in shallow waters such as lakes, streams, rivers and marshes. While migrating, they frequent lakes and rivers for stops. They winter along the coast, in shallow bays and in estuaries. White pelicans eat mostly fish, but unlike brown pelicans that dive for their prey, white pelicans scoop up fish as they swim. During breeding season, males have a bump on the top of their bills, but its exact function is unknown.

pelican White pelicans can be year-round residents in Florida, but most populations are migratory. It is estimated there may be as many as 300-400 white pelicans on the Refuge in winter, with some flocks reaching sizes of 200 individuals. White pelicans tend to be colonial - they migrate in large flocks and nest in colonies. In addition, the nest is built by both the male and female and both parents feed the young.

Colonies of white pelicans are vulnerable to habitat loss and disturbance. With increased human populations along America’s coastlines, the white pelican is rapidly losing its important wetland and beach habitat. This is particularly true in Florida, where humans and nature often clash. The Refuge is currently developing a 15-year plan that will help us address this conflict. Our hope is that as a MIWA member, you will attend our public meetings this fall and winter to give us input and support Refuge management decisions regarding white pelicans and other resources.
Sandy Edmondson

MIWA Turtle Watch

turtleOn Saturday, June 22, after a stormy afternoon, the skies cleared just in time for the MIWA members- only turtle watch. Approximately thirty people attended the program held at the Merritt Island NWR and Canaveral National Seashore. Dorn Whitmore, Refuge Liaison, conducted an informative and entertaining program about sea turtles and the nesting process in the Refuge Visitor Center while Wayne Lindsey and Beth Homa searched the shoreline for nesting activity. After battling swarming carpenter ants and a minor power outage, the group was rewarded with the opportunity to witness one loggerhead crawling up the beach and another actively nesting. Thank you to all who attended and made yet another successful MIWA event possible.
Beth Homa

See Ya Later Alligator

Beth Homa
Beth Homa, our Refuge Volunteer Coordinator since last October, will be leaving us on September 20th. Beth managed the Refuge volunteer program, but also participated in special events and festivals, staffed the Visitor Information Center, served as a rover for sea turtle walks, participated on several alligator calls and edited this and the previous issue of Habi-Chat. Beth came to us as a seasonal park ranger from Chincoteague NWR in Virginia, where she also received her B.A. in Anthropology from William & Mary. Beth hopes to go back to school to receive her Master’s degree. We will greatly miss Beth’s humor, compassion and hard work. We wish you the best, Beth!
Sandy Edmondson

MIWA 9th Annual Meeting
Wednesday, October 9, 2002 at 7:00 pm
At Dixie Crossroads

Agenda topics include annual financial report, Board Member elections, programming ideas and Refuge update.

Refreshments will be served and door prizes given away. Members are encouraged to attend. This is a great way to meet fellow members and become involved in your association.

Please contact George English, Nomination Committee Chair, for nominations or other information 321.783.1108

MIWA Minute
MIWA is proud to announce volunteers, Joanne Napeiralski, Karl Eichhorn, Walt Kanjorski, Liz Kanjorski, Bob Anderson, Dolores Neumann, Mary Ann Theis and George Schoen have been awarded MIWA’s Certificate of Achievement. This is an annual award given to volunteers who have reached 100 hours of service. Each volunteer will receive a complimentary one-year individual membership and a certificate signed by MIWA President Forrest McCartney. Thank you to all our volunteers for their dedication and support.

MIWA would like to welcome our newest Life Members Marian Lunsford of Port Orange, FL and Lewis Oliver of Titusville, FL. Marian and Lewis will receive benefits including discounts on field trips, educational programs and purchases at the MIWA gift shop.

For MIWA membership information please call 321-861-2377 or visit our website at www.nbbd.com/npr/miwa/.
Sandee Larsen

Refuge Staff News

Big News

Hello to

... Sandy Edmondson, a recent graduate of North Carolina State, returns as a Park Ranger in the USFWS SCEP Program. Sandy intends to stay through the Centennial Celebration and is looking forward to her time here at MINWR.
... Jeff Schardt comes to us from Everglades National Park. Jeff is a Forestry Technician in the Refuge fire program and is training to be the helicopter liaison.

Goodbye and good luck to

... Gary Popotnik, Refuge Biological Technician, recently completed his four-year term position at MINWR, where he coordinated scrub-jay and bird surveys, analyzed and presented sea turtle data, and thoroughly entertained us!
... Arik Rosenfeld, a Ph.D. candidate in Ecology at Haifa University in Israel, served a two-month NASA Planetary Biology Internship. Arik’s work here focused on improving the Refuge=s feral hog control program.
... Chris Wise, a local licensed wildlife rehabilitator, spent the summer as a Biological Technician at the Refuge assisting with the sea turtle nesting index and bird counts.
... Mike Legare, a former Refuge employee and volunteer, will be heading to Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge as a Biologist.
Beth Homa


Don’t Forget!

Birding tours and programs will begin in November. Look for the return of Thursday, Saturday and Sunday morning tours led by Refuge volunteers. Keep an eye on the Refuge website (www.merrittisland.fws.gov) and local newspapers for further information.

Bookstore Buys...

owl Thayer Birding Software’s "Our Birds: Florida" is now available.

The software includes videos, fun quizzes, photos, personal bird lists, and maps of the 299 birds regularly found in Florida. Retail price is $24.95.

New item for children and adults, plush Audubon birds with authentic Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology calls. Retails for $6.95.

Also now available: the National Wildlife Refuge "Celebrating a Century of Conservation" poster by Carl Freeman, which retails for $6.95 and commemorates the Centennial celebration of the Refuge system.

Don’t forget to show your MIWA membership card to receive your 10% discount on all purchases.

Visitor Information Center Hours

Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday*
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

*VIC is closed Sundays from April-October

The Refuge is open daily from Sunrise to Sunset, except during Shuttle launch operations. Please call 321.861.0667 for more information.

Third Annual Mosquito Lagoon Conference

The Mosquito Lagoon Workshop (Conference) was first initiated in 1998 by the Canaveral National Seashore (Seashore) and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) to provide biologists conducting research in Mosquito Lagoon and other portions of the Seashore, Refuge, and Kennedy Space Center an opportunity to interact and explore opportunities for cooperative investigations. A primary objective of the workshop was to develop a forum by which researchers could exchange up-to-date information and data on ongoing studies.

This forum ultimately helps the biologists and managers at the Seashore and Refuge to better understand this complex system, preserving and protecting the outstanding natural resources for future generations to enjoy. The Conference is held every other year, with participation by more than 20 federal, state and local agencies and educational institutions.

The Workshop began as a one-day event and has now expanded to a 2-day conference with 41 papers being presented in 2002. About 80 participants attended each day. The wide variety of topics included historical landscape changes, weather patterns, tides, sea turtles, sea grasses, oysters, fish, horseshoe crabs, migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, dolphins, lizards, drift algae, water quality, groundwater, sea level rise, upland habitats, exotic species and wetland restoration.

Although the main focus has been on estuarine and wetland subjects, the Conference seeks an ecosystem approach to include studies of abiotic factors (e.g., weather, nutrients and water quality) and non-biological issues of public use or other socio-economic investigations that would link directly to natural resource management important to our study area. Paper presentations and abstract submissions for aquatic and terrestrial systems (upland habitats and species) are appropriate.

For the 2002 Biennial Mosquito Lagoon Conference, special acknowledgment and appreciation is extended to Ms. Laurilee Thompson of the Dixie Crossroads Restaurant for sponsoring the facilities at Emma Parrish Theater. Additional appreciation goes to all the individuals who volunteered their time to attend and present information to us and the individuals who assisted in organizing this year’s event. We are already looking forward to the 2004 Mosquito Lagoon Conference!

Abstracts from this conference can be read in PDF format by clicking here.
Marc Epstein

Volunteers Needed

Help! MINWR is in need of volunteers to provide information at the Visitor Center desk and as Refuge Rovers, lead bird tours and other programs, conduct waterbird surveys, aid in CCP efforts and assist in trail maintenance and litter pickup. If anyone is interested please contact

Sandy Edmondson at
for more information.

Wayne Lindsey

Wayne Lindsey:
Twenty Years of Service

Wayne Lindsey, Refuge Vehicle Operator and all around Gator Guy, recently celebrated 20 years as a Department of the Interior employee. Wayne spent several years as a National Park Service seasonal maintenance employee at Yellowstone National Park, Cape Lookout National Seashore and the then named Custer National Battlefield. Fourteen years ago Wayne came to work for the US Fish and Wildlife Service here at the Merritt Island NWR. Wayne performs a wide variety of duties at the Refuge, including supporting the Public Use program, responding to wildlife calls, serving as a firefighter, maintaining trails and signs and staffing the Visitor Center. Congratulations Wayne and good luck in the next 20 years.

|| MIWA | MINWR (Official) | MINWR (Local) ||