April 15, 2016
Yesterday I went searching for reddish egret nests at the ABC Islands Critical Wildlife Area, one of the most important bird rookeries in the region. I was joined by Gina Kent, a biologist with ARCI (Avian Research and Conservation Institute in Gainesville), Don Drake (Team Ocean) and Lewis Barrett (FGCU student/volunteer).
This is the second year of a two-year project ARCI is working on with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the breeding and foraging ecology, threats, and causes of decline of reddish egrets in Florida. Reddish egrets are the rarest wading birds in the US and the Florida population is estimated to be only 350-400 pairs. Last year, Gina and I spent two days nest searching from Rookery Bay to Chokoloskee Bay and only found nesting reddish egrets on the ABC's. This year we revisited the ABC's and the Caxambas Pass oyster bar mangroves. Check out the ARCI webpage for more project information here.
I hadn't been to the ABC's since last April and am pleased to report nesting is underway for brown pelican, double-crested cormorant, anhinga, great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, tricolored heron, reddish egret and black-browned night-heron. Magnificent frigate birds were resting on the islands and there were black vultures and several pairs of fish crows hanging around.
We found 14 reddish egret nests on the three mangrove islands. Gina was impressed as that's a high concentration of nests in a small area. Most pairs were nest building or incubating but several pairs had small to medium chicks that we could see with binoculars.
The bad news is the amount of fishing line we saw...especially on the more hidden back sides of the islands.
Sadly, we found a dead entangled brown pelican and a dead entangled reddish egret. The fishing line that entangled the reddish egret ran for 20 feet along the water's edge and then up into the mangroves to near two reddish egret nests. Gina and I determined it would be worth it get the line away from the nesting birds and that we could remove it quickly and quietly from the boat with minimal disturbance.
Rookery Bay research staff will go out to the CWA when the birds have completely finished nesting (Oct. or Nov.) and remove all fishing line from the islands. We appreciate everyone's help in keeping fishing line where it belongs.