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Habi-Chat - newsletter of the Merritt Island Wildlife Association

Newsletter of the Merritt Island Wildlife Association
Volume 8, Number 4                   Winter 2002

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

General McCartney Completes Term as President

General Forrest McCartney (ret)
McCartney speaking at the Sendler Dedication.
Photo by Cheri Ehrhartdt.
General Forrest McCartney served as the President of MIWA from October 2000 to October 2002. Under his guidance and leadership, MIWA has achieved several significant milestones. During the past two years membership has grown from 211 to more than 500 members, due in part to a grant MIWA secured to boost membership. MIWA’s revenues also increased from $133,700 to $174,600 over the past two years, despite a decrease in state tourism. This is pretty amazing considering the bookstore has been closed 63.5 days following the events of 9/11. Perhaps, the General’s most enduring contribution was the completion of the Sendler Education Outpost.

Soon after General McCartney assumed office, the Refuge identified the need for an education facility. The request was hardly spoken when the General got the wheels turning. Within months $50,000 in funding had been secured for the facility. Soon the Board was busy reviewing and selecting facility design plans. The General ushered the project through the siting, review and approval process with the US Fish and Wildlife Engineering Office and NASA. Using his influence, he secured additional financial assistance from NASA to install power and lightning protection and guided the development of a partnership with the Brevard Zoo to cooperate on education programs.

After seemingly endless obstacles, construction began the Summer of 2002 and the Sendler Education Outpost was dedicated in the Fall of 2002. Several thousand school children are expected to use the facility each year, educating them on the values of wildlife and the Refuge. What a great addition to the Refuge! MIWA members wish to extend their warm thanks to General McCartney for his leadership and lasting contributions.
Dorn Whitmore, Refuge Ranger

First Phase of MINWR Comprehensive Conservation Plan Completed

Well, the public scoping phase of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) was a hit! From September 21 to November 30, 2002 the Refuge conducted an open house, held three public scoping meetings, and took public comment on future management of the Refuge and its resources. Nearly 300 people attended one of four public meetings and over 1,350 written comments were received. The comments, ideas, concerns, and issues submitted by the public are varied and cover 27, single-spaced pages. To view these comments, visit the Visitor Information Center or our web page at http://merrittisland.fws.gov. Our thanks go out to all who attended and/or submitted comments! And a special thanks goes out to Cary and Betty Salter for helping out at two of the public meetings!

So, what’s next? While a final document is anticipated by the end of 2004, we have a lot of work to do between now and then. After we gather ideas, issues, concerns, and comments from our governmental partners, the Refuge will review all the issues raised - by the public, by the experts, by the governmental partners, and by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. From this long list, the Refuge will determine the most significant issues to be addressed at the Refuge over the next 15 years. The Refuge will then develop a vision statement, goals, and objectives. During 2003, the Refuge anticipates going back to the governmental partners and the public for input on a range of alternatives (i.e., different approaches) for future management of the Refuge. Finally, in 2004 a draft document will go out to the public and the governmental partners for review and comment. This draft document will identify the preferred alternative for future management activities on the Refuge. Following this public review and comment period, a final plan will be developed. The planning process is fluid and is subject to change, depending on the issues raised and the solutions developed.

We will continue to keep you updated throughout this planning process (keep checking the Habi-Chat and the website). Please contact Cheri with any questions or for more information: 321-861-2368 or MerrittIslandCCP@fws.gov.
Cheri M Ehrhardt, AICP, Natural Resource Planner

Message from the President

I would like to thank the members of MIWA for electing me as your president. I will do my best to continue the outstanding work of the Association. It will be a challenge to match the achievements of MIWA under the leadership of the past President, General Forrest McCartney. There are a number of accomplishments that are worthy of remembering.

First, the major project achieved was the construction of the Sendler Education Outpost. Our President Emeritus, George English, was instrumental in MIWA receiving a generous donation from the Sendler Family for the purchase and construction of the facility. Board Member "Hutch" Hutchison took the lead in purchasing and overseeing the construction of the pavilion. This all took place under the guidance and leadership of our president, General Forrest McCartney. The board is actively working on the final phase, the construction of permanent restrooms at the site. Another significant accomplishment was a very successful membership drive spearheaded by Board Member Dan LeBlanc. With a membership drive grant obtained by Dan, we were able to more than double the number of active members in the Association. We now have just under 500 active members! Dan has also successfully obtained a grant towards the Sendler Education Outpost.

Other projects that should be mentioned are supporting of the Christmas Bird Count at MINWR, sponsoring field trips for MIWA members, supporting the Friends of Florida Refuges Association, providing support for other Refuge retailers (our own Sandee Larsen is recognized as a leader in this field), and assisting the Refuge in recognizing the valuable volunteer staff.

MIWA has elected an outstanding Board to carry out the work of the Association and I look forward to working with them during the coming year. Please give your support and suggestions for improving the Association.
Warren Camp

MIWA logo

Warren Camp
Vice President
Dan LeBlanc
Jim Pedersen
Darleen Hunt
President Emeritus
George English

Board Members
Gen. Forrest McCartney (ret), Dr. Bud Ferguson, Sam Beddingfield, Judy Dryja, Robert Hutchison, Clay Hutchison, Diane Stees, Fred Mastin, Laurilee Thompson and ...

New Board Members
Lee Solid (former head of Rocketdyne), Jim Butts (KSC employee and avid birder) and Ned Steel (Cocoa educator and outstanding birder)

Congratulations and good luck to our newly elected Officers and Board Members. Your commitment and dedication to the Refuge is an invaluable resource. MIWA looks forward to working with you in the upcoming years.

We would like to take the time for a special thank you to George Meguiar, MIWA Board Member, who retired earlier this year. Thank you, George, for your years of dedication and we look forward to seeing you at the Refuge!

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 MIWA information call 321-861-2377.

Newsletter Editor Beth Homa
Technical Consultant Sandee Larsen
Habi-Chat Committee Beth Homa, Sandee Larsen, Diane Stees, & Dorn Whitmore

Sendler Education Outpost Dedicated

screech owl released at Merritt Island NWR
Imperial Estates students watch as Chris Wise and a student release a rehabilitated screech owl.
Photo by Cheri Ehrhartdt.
seining at Merritt Island NWR
Imperial Estates Elementary School students seining for wildlife.
Photo by Sandy Edmondson.
Click on either picture for an enlargement.
Over 140 people attended the Sendler Education Outpost dedication on October 21, 2002. The dedication ceremony included remarks from Forrest McCartney (former MIWA President), Ron Hight (Refuge Manager), Lou Hinds (Supervisor of FL Refuges), Joanne Morgan (Deputy Director, KSC), and Chris DeLorey (Director of Education, Brevard Zoo). The ceremony was followed by the release of a rehabilitated screech owl, plaque unveiling and an environmental education activity. Sixty students from Imperial Estates Elementary School in Titusville attended the dedication and participated in the education activity led by the Brevard Zoo.

Don’t Forget!

Birding tours and programs have begun. Tours, led by Refuge volunteers, will be held Thursday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Keep an eye on the Refuge website www.merrittisland.fws.gov, local newspapers, or call the Refuge at 321-861-0667 for further information.

2002 Christmas Bird Count

The MINWR Christmas Bird Count was held Dec. 16th. 161 species were recorded for the count, more than the 33-year average of 157. Highlight species included: Red-throated Loon, Swainson’s Hawk, Pomarine Jaeger, Hairy Woodpecker (first time sighted in several yrs.), Great Crested Flycatcher, Empidonax Flycatcher species, Western Kingbird, and the American Pipit. Count week species also included the American Golden Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Eurasian Wigeon, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Wimbrel, and Long-billed Curlew. Nine species of hawks, 15 species of ducks, plus two mergansers were also recorded.

MIWA provided refreshments and will fund the $5.00 fee per participant. Count compilers Dan Click and Judy Dryja thank all 56 observers, including Refuge personnel who participated in the Count. Special thanks goes to Refuge Ranger, Dorn Whitmore, for his help and support.
Judy Dryja, MIWA Board Member

Annual Fall Volunteer Social

As the newly appointed Volunteer Coordinator and Public Use Ranger, I was fortunate enough to start my position in time to help coordinate and attend the annual Fall Volunteer Social. The Social was scheduled for Tuesday, November 19 at the Refuge. However, due to a shuttle delay and consequent Refuge closure, we quickly changed plans, and Dixie Crossroads graciously agreed to host our shindig.

Dorn Whitmore, Refuge Ranger, kicked off the program with a Refuge refresher. He prompted the audience of 25 volunteers to listen carefully to his spiel on the facts and figures of the Refuge. I presented a slideshow about my prior experiences at the Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City. Sandee Larsen, the Bookstore Manager, filled us in on some of the bookstore operations. Sandy Edmondson, Refuge Ranger, followed suit with a refresher on VIC desk procedures. The Refuge staff hosted a trivia game and the volunteers who answered the most questions correctly received first pick at gifts donated by MIWA.

A special thank you goes out to Laurilee Thompson of Dixie Crossroads for hosting our event and to MIWA for their contribution of gifts and refreshments. And of course a gigantic Thank You to all of our volunteers for their never ending hard work and dedication. I personally want to thank everyone for the warm welcome I received.
Nancy Corona, Refuge Ranger

MIWA Minute

The past year proved to be MIWA’s busiest and the word is out! MIWA was featured in Florida Today and The Star Tribune for our success in building the Sendler Education Outpost. MIWA was also featured in the Summer Issue of the Ford Money Market Quarterly Newsletter, spotlighting "Investors Using the FMMA in Interesting and Admirable Ways". In September of 2002, MIWA presented case studies for the National Conservation Training Center’s course "Sales Outlets: Beyond Bookstores" and for the Florida’s Friends of Refuges-Lower Suwannee and Cedar Key conference.

Membership reached the highest ever at 515 members for fiscal year 2002. We welcome our newest Life Members, Richard & Carol Loehr of Titusville and Paul & Leah Casper of West Melbourne. As Life Members they will receive benefits, including discounts on field trips, educational programs, and purchases at the MIWA Gift Shop. We encourage all members to become actively involved in our programs and we ask you all to promote membership to your friends and families. For MIWA membership information please call 321-861-2377 or visit our website at www.nbbd.com/npr/miwa/index.html.

We especially want to thank all our Life Members:

Indian River Audubon Society
Halifax River Audubon Society
Sam Beddingfield
John & Linda Boucher
Kathryn Brown
H.P. Bruckner
Robby & Sue Buckalew
Paul & Leah Casper
Judy & Jim Dryja
Lori & Steve Emly
George English
Jim Escoffier
Emmett B. Ferguson, MD

Kathy Gay
Carolyn Haas
Barbara Hoelscher
Daniel LeBlanc
Judith Lindquist
Richard & Carol Loehr
Marian Lunsford
Barry Maness
Capt. Frederick Mastin
Gen. Forrest McCartney (ret)
Lewis Oliver
Gerry & Arline Oppliger
Roy Roberts

Cynthia Schneider
Judge & Mrs. Joseph Schneider
Charles Schneider
Robert & Nancy Sieck
Sid & Carol Smith
Marcelite J. Harris, Maj. Gen. (ret)

Thank you to the following 2002 Contributors:
BP Foundation, Thomas D. Friedrichs, Ph.D., F. Warren Frost, Halifax River Audubon, Paul & Leah Casper, Marian Lunsford, Patricia & Eugene Sterns and Mr. & Mrs. Karl Sendler.

And thank you to our Corporate Sponsors:
Holiday Inn Riverfront KSC and United Space Alliance. Sandee Larsen, MIWA Bookstore Manager

Bookstore Buys…

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-sunset, except during shuttle launch operations.

Upcoming 2003 MIWA Members Only Field Trips

Crystal River (overnight trip) — January 18 &19, 2003
Trip Leader: Sandy Edmondson
Group size: 16 Cost: Room and four meals, approx. $150. Optional snorkeling trip will be an additional fee. Transportation provided by the Refuge. The group will leave the MINWR VIC Saturday 9:00 am, arriving at Crystal River (CR) early afternoon. Following lunch the CR Staff will present a whooping crane project program and a boat tour of the springs to observe manatees. The group will then check into the hotel and dine at a local restaurant. An optional snorkeling trip with Sandy will be offered early Sunday morning. The group will visit the Homosassa Springs State Park, returning to MINWR Sunday afternoon.
To reserve your spot contact Sandy Edmondson at 321-861-2375.

Pelican Island Centennial CruiseFebruary 15, 2003
Trip Leader: Dorn Whitmore
Group size: 30 Cost: Boat Trip $10, dinner approx. $15 Transportation provided by the Refuge. Leave MINWR VIC Saturday at noon; arrive in Sebastian for Pelican Island Refuge tour. Board sunset cruise at 4:00 to view Pelican Island. Evening meal will follow at local riverfront restaurant overlooking the Lagoon and Pelican Island. Return to MINWR between 7 and 8 pm.
To reserve your spot for this trip contact Sandee Larsen at 321-861-2377.

Historical Tour of MINWRMarch 22, 2003
Trip Leader: Dorn Whitmore
Group Size: 25 Cost: None Transportation provided by the Refuge. Meet at MINWR VIC Saturday 9:30 am. Driving tour will visit the Douglas Dummit Homestead, Fort Anne, Old Haulover Canal, the Sugar Mill Ruins and several Indian Mounds. Bring a brown bag lunch and drinks. Return to VIC about 4:00 pm.
To reserve your spot for this trip contact Sandee Larsen at 321-861-2377.

Species in Focus…Birds of Prey

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge hosts many species of birds of prey (raptors) ranging from the popular osprey to the lesser loved vultures. The Order Falconiformes also includes hawks, kites, eagles, falcons, owls and harriers. The term "hawk" or "raptor" is used to describe the entire group of diurnal (active by day) predatory birds. Raptors share similarities such as keen eyesight (they can see farther and with better acuity than humans), excellent hearing, hooked beaks and taloned feet. However, they can vary widely in size. Raptors catch, kill and eat other animals to survive. Their taloned feet are ideal for catching prey and their sharp beaks are good for tearing flesh. And unlike most species of wildlife, the female raptor is bigger than the male.

All raptors are protected by state and federal laws that help protect not only the birds, but also their habitat. Merritt Island NWR is part of that process. In addition to laws that protect hawks in general, the Refuge hosts seven raptors also protected by the Endangered Species Act, including bald eagles, barn owls and the Arctic peregrine falcon. Not familiar with the Refuge birds? Try one of our beginning birding tours, held at our Visitor Information Center at 9 am Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays through the winter. It’s the best time to go birding at the Refuge. So grab your bird book, binoculars and your car keys and come on out; they’re just waiting to show off!
Sandy Edmondson, Refuge Ranger Ranger Nancy Corona

Refuge Staff News…

Welcome to Nancy Corona, the new Refuge Ranger at Merritt Island. Nancy comes to us from New York City, where she worked as an Interpretive Park Ranger at Gateway National Recreation Area for 11 years (five years at Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge and six years at Breezy Point Fort Tilden Historic and Natural Area). An avid birder and naturalist, Nancy also served as a tour leader for the American Littoral Society, a nonprofit environmental organization. Nancy, who will be responsible for managing the Visitor Information Center, volunteer program and public use facilities, first visited the Refuge with her boyfriend and fell in love with the area. After deciding to move to Florida, she was thrilled to find work at the Refuge, where she looks forward to coming to work each day.
Beth Homa

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