Environmental Times Summer 2022 Published by the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management
Tracking Swallow-Tailed Kites Between Palm Beach County and South America The Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) has once again teamed up with two amazing non-profit organizations, the Palm Beach Zoo and the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) to further our understanding of swallow-tailed kites. Swallow-tailed kites breed in the southeastern United States and winter in South America. To understand more about these far-flying birds, ARCI deploys GSM-GPS-equipped cell phone transmitters on adult birds that produce highly-accurate and time-stratified location data that is used to address important questions about the species’ conservation biology. Funding for these transmitters is provided by the Palm Beach Zoo and its long-time sponsor Florida Power and Light. At the end of May, the team put transmitters on three adult kites from breeding locations within Juno Dunes, Cypress Creek and Loxahatchee Slough Natural Areas. The kites were captured with the help of the Zoo’s animal ambassador “Hino”, a great horned owl trained for educational programs. Great horned owls are predators that no swallow-tailed kite wants around their nesting area. As the birds came in for a closer look at the owl they were caught and fitted with a hood to calm them down. Then they were measured, tagged, got a health checkup and finally a transmitter. In July, the three birds moved to areas where they gorged on abundant food and acquired the necessary fat to prepare for their migration to South America. Juno spent a good part of her pre-migratory prep in north central Florida. On August 13 she started south, spending a night on the Babcock Ranch in Charlotte County. On the evening of August 14, she headed south over water, crossing the Florida Keys before continuing southwest into Cuba. She made landfall west of Havana, near Abajo around 4 am. She continued to the south coast, then west to the Guanahacabibes Peninsula followed by an easy overwater trip to Cancún. Juno was in Honduras as of August 25 and is our southernmost GPS-tracked swallow-tailed kite. Lox 22 spent pre-migration in Brevard County and started south on August 14. She spent one night in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and the next day she left Florida to Cuba, making landfall 70 miles west of Havana near Las Cadenas and continued along the north coast to Guanahacabibes where she spent the night. She had an easy seven-hour flight across the Gulf of Mexico on August 17 and made landfall north of Cancún. Currently she is in the northern part of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Meanwhile, back in south Florida, Cypress is still feasting on insects in Palm Beach County. Any day now, he too will make his way to Mexico. You can follow their migration along with other tagged kites by visiting ARCI’s blog at https://www.arcinst.org/. By Melissa Tolbert
Environmental Times Ruby Lockhart (right) caught 39 fish consisting of 14 different species during the Summer 2022 Lake Worth Lagoon Fishing Challenge. Ruby fished five days during the two-week challenge. Her largest catch was a 25-inch ladyfish.
Congratulations to the Summer 2022 Lake Worth Lagoon Fishing Challenge winners: Youth Angler Overall: Ruby Lockhart (caught 39 fish) Youth Angler Sportfish: Cameron Kent (caught 2 sportfish - snook and permit) Adult Angler Overall: David Markle (caught 52 fish) Adult Angler Sportfish: Alonzo Nunez (caught 27 sportfish - snook and tarpon) A total of 283 fish were caught during the fishing challenge. The catches consisted of 34 different species, including four species of sportfish. What sportfish hang out in Lake Worth Lagoon during the hot summer months? Data shows, common snook, tarpon snook, tarpon and permit. A large number of common snook (28), ranging between 19-38 inches, were caught in the Central lagoon near habitat restoration sites. The most frequently caught fish species was lane snapper (49).
Cameron Kent (right) caught three fish, two of which were sportfish - a 36-inch common snook and a 19-inch permit, the only permit caught during the Fishing Challenge. His other catch was a 66-inch nurse shark. Cameron fished 2 days in the lagoon.
David Markle (center) caught 52 fish consisting of 12 different species. David fished eight days in the
The data obtained from the Summer 2022 Lake Worth Lagoon Fishing Challenge helps local scientists better understand the current state and health of the lagoon. This valuable information will help guide future lagoon habitat restoration projects. Stay tuned for the Winter Lake Worth Lagoon Fishing Challenge in February 2023! A special thanks to the generous donors that made this tournament happen - West Palm Beach Fishing Club, Angler Action Foundation, MANG, Engel Coolers and Coastal Angler Magazine Palm Beach County.
lagoon. Many of his catches were near habitat restoration sites in the lagoon. David’s largest catch was a 40-inch great barracuda.
Alonzo Nunez (right) caught 34 fish, 27 of which were sportfish - 18 common snook, five tarpon snook and four tarpon. The largest sportfish was a 38-inch common snook. Alonzo fished nine days in the lagoon.
Green Futures Interns Explore the Underwater World
Every summer Youth Services and Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) collaborate on a program called Green Futures. This program exposes students to different career opportunities within ERM. It is a paid, 4-week session internship that inspires youth to think beyond what they know. The students learn about invasive plant species, local wildlife, maintenance of natural areas and many more environmental jobs. They experience hands-on training and work in a professional environment. This work can be on land or underwater. One of those underwater adventures took place at Peanut Island in Lake Worth Lagoon. For some of the students it was their first time on a boat and first time snorkeling. Once comfortable in the water, students saw angelfish, parrotfish, different types of coral reefs and even squid. By the end of the day the students couldn’t wait to get back in the water. These experiences give the students an appreciation for the natural world and a glimpse of what an environmental career is all about. It also reminds ERM staff of the importance of our jobs - to preserve, protect and enhance Palm Beach County’s land and water resources. By Dayana Castillo
Tackling Invasive Plants in the Chain of Lakes Environmental Resources Management Mosquito Control staff manage aquatic invasive plants on the Osborne Chain of Lakes in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The Chain of Lakes is a system of local water bodies connected by canals. The Chain of Lakes includes lakes Clarke, Ida, Eden, Osborne and Pine. Invasive aquatic plants growing in the lakes degrade water quality and recreational opportunities. The goal of removing invasive plants is to improve the quality of these important urban habitats that support wildlife, boating, fishing and the local economy. Hydrilla, water hyacinth and water lettuce are just a few of the plants that are controlled through this program. Recently, staff completed a treatment targeting crested floating heart (Nymphoides cristata). Check out the before and after photos below to see the effects of this invasive plant removal program. By Steven Fazekas
Tarpon Cove Is For The Birds!
Restoration work continues at Tarpon Cove, located in Lake Worth Lagoon just south of Okeechobee Blvd. and adjacent to the El Cid neighborhood. Two northern mangrove islands are under construction. This multiyear restoration project, begun in 2018, will encompass 46 acres that includes five islands and approximately 23 acres of seagrass habitat. One of the most visible successes of Lake Worth Lagoon restoration projects like Tarpon Cove is the wildlife attracted to the islands. In 2022 the coastal bird nesting story at Tarpon Cove continued with 42 black skimmers and 310 least terns observed in early August. At least 36 black simmer chicks were observed along with 79 least tern chicks. This is the third year of nesting black skimmers and the second year for least terns. In addition to black skimmers and least terns, a pair of American oystercatchers nested on Tarpon Cove for the fourth year and successfully raised their chick. These nesting islands are marked with “Do Not Enter – Important Nesting Area” signs to allow the birds to successfully raise their young. Other birds observed at the created islands include great blue herons, black-necked stilts, Wilson plovers, white ibis, roseate spoonbills and a wide variety of gulls. Learn more about the Department's restoration work within Lake Worth Lagoon at www.pbclakeworthlagoon.com. 5
Baby Birds Galore at Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area Rookeries Staff documented another successful breeding season at the Egretta (small heron) rookeries in Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area. There were 167 nests consisting of mostly little blue herons, followed by tricolored herons, cattle egrets, snowy egrets and black-crowned night-herons. Little blue and tricolored herons were observed in varying states of nesting activity. Some of the birds had youngsters that were almost as big as the adults. Other birds were still sitting on eggs. Tricolored and little blue herons are colonial nesters. These colonies are often composed of nests from a variety of herons and egrets. These birds typically nest in flooded areas or islands with dense vegetation. Being surrounded by water is added protection against most predators - with the exception of alligators. Considering that there are only 300-500 Egretta nests documented in the Everglades, our restoration efforts within Palm Beach County’s natural areas are providing critical habitat for species that have suffered dramatic nesting declines throughout South Florida. Learn more about Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area at www.pbcnaturalareas.com. By Melissa Tolbert
Summer 2022 Volunteers removed 1,280 pounds of trash and downed vegetation from Yamato Scrub Natural Area on June 22, 2022.
KEEPING IT CLEAN AND GREEN
VOLUNTEERS IN ACTION Here are the numbers for June, July and August - Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management volunteers donated 280 labor hours to help preserve the county’s precious environment. More than 100 volunteers worked on 12 projects in county-owned natural areas. They removed 4,165 pounds of trash and invasive nonnative plants, planted 1,000 grasses and built and installed two benches. Awesome job, volunteers! By Ann Mathews
Eagle Scout candidate George Winn (left) and members of Boy Scout Troop 141 removed trash and installed two benches at Winding Waters Natural Area on June 5, 2022.
Volunteers removed 160 pounds of trash from Limestone Creek Natural Area on June 25, 2022.
Volunteers removed 420 pounds of trash and invasive ferns from Delray Oaks Natural Area on August 24, 2022.
West Park Baptist Church Summer Day Campers planted 1,000 sand cordgrass seedlings at Pondhawk Natural Area on June 29, 2022.
Volunteers removed 720 pounds of trash from Jupiter Ridge Natural Area on July 21, 2022.
Sea Turtle Program Update
By Colette Biondi
Throughout the month of June, Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) staff hosted five public sea turtle walks through the Adventure Awaits Program. These special events were permitted through the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. At each event ERM biologists gave a presentation highlighting sea turtle biology and conservation. Then the group headed to the beach to safely observe a nesting loggerhead sea turtle. This season ERM staff educated over 160 guests through the public sea turtle walks and successfully observed a nesting loggerhead sea turtle on four of the five occasions. During a few of these events, Heidi Weiksnar, a high-school student collaborating with ERM to achieve her Girl Scout Gold Award, presented her final prototype of the Sea Turtle Lighting Test cards she created for ERM’s Listed Species Program. Sea turtles are strongly attracted to artificial lighting. This poses a major threat to both nesting female sea turtles and their hatchlings. Bright lighting can often alter their critical nocturnal behavior of finding the sea after emerging. If disoriented, hatchlings may use up much of their energy reserves, leaving them susceptible to harm. Nesting females can also become disoriented from artificial lights, or may even return to the water without nesting. Heidi's Sea Turtle Lighting Test cards utilize a special film that, when looked through, helps identify if artificial lighting meets the proper requirements for safe sea turtle lighting. These cards will be distributed to beachfront properties across Palm Beach County for managers to utilize for outreach and education. Want to learn more about Palm Beach County’s nesting sea turtles? Visit https://discover.pbcgov.org/erm/Pages/Sea-Turtle.aspx.
Environmental Times Volume 27 Issue 3 Published quarterly by the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management 2300 N. Jog Road - Fourth Floor West Palm Beach, FL 33411-2743 561-233-2400 www.pbcerm.com www.facebook.com/pbcerm Deborah Drum..........Department Director Michael Stahl...................Deputy Director Ann Mathews...................Editor/Graphics
Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Robert S. Weinroth, Mayor Gregg K. Weiss, Vice Mayor Maria G. Marino Dave Kerner Maria Sachs Melissa McKinlay Mack Bernard Verdenia C. Baker, County Administrator
Top Left: Heidi Weiksnar (middle), with ERM Listed Species Program staff, proudly displays her Sea Turtle Lighting Test card. Bottom Left: Kids at an ERM sea turtle walk program try out the Sea Turtle Lighting Test cards. Top and Bottom Right: Sea Turtle Lighting Test Card (front and back) - the circle at the top contains a special film that when looked through identifies sea turtlefriendly lighting.