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Log Cabin Quilters Levy County HardisonInk.com
Column and Photo
By Myrtice Scabarozi
Published March 30, 2020 at 9:10 p.m.
     LEVY COUNTY --
The Log Cabin Quilters did not meet in the Levy County Quilt Museum -- 11050 N.W. 10th Ave., because the museum has been closed for two weeks.

 

 

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     All of the members of our group are okay.
     Some quilters thought this might be a great time to clean house and gain a little more room. I don’t think they’re making a lot of headway. Every time you start in a room, you get sidetracked and start all over in another room.
     I’ve been busy sorting the various fabric panels that have been donated. It’s amazing how many times the same type panels get donated. Remember the small squares with waterfowl that had a brown or blue background. I even got in a panel with hunting dogs with the same waterfowls. I had not seen that one.
     Then think of all the Christmas panels – appliqués, Santa, bears, cats, snowmen, vests and dozens of Christmas apron panels. I think we have two dozen Christmas aprons and aprons for other seasons. Some of the panels would be ideal when teaching someone to sew. Just cut out the pattern, assemble it and sew and you’re done.
     The rest of our snowbirds might be leaving after Easter. Wish you a safe trip and to stay safe. We’ll see you in December.
     The Backyard Pickers hopefully will be able to return in June.
     It looks like the Levy County Quilt Museum will be closed through April, and perhaps even longer.

Log Cabin Quilters Levy County HardisonInk.com
One of the more fun appliqué panels is seen here.

Log Cabin Quilters Levy County HardisonInk.com
This is a larger version of the waterfowl patterns.

Log Cabin Quilters Levy County HardisonInk.com
Another popular quilt square from the past is seen here.

 


Cedar Key tourists
spillover to Shell Mound Park;

Wooden fishing pier
packed behind FWC building

Shell Mound Park in Levy County
The grassy marsh visible from the area just before the boardwalk at Shell Mound Park in Levy County is among the natural beauty found at that park.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 30, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.
     LEVY COUNTY –
A male tourist from Kentucky, with an age estimated to be about 20 to 30 years old, approached an elderly Levy County couple Sunday afternoon (March 29) as the two county residents made their way onto the boardwalk at Shell Mound Park.
     “So, is this the high point for this park?” the tourist asked.
     “There is a trail leading to the shell mound, which is the highest point here,” the Levy County resident said as he backed away from the Kentucky visitor.
     The tourist said he went to Shell Mound Park after learning Cedar Key was closed to everyone except residents and essential service providers.
     The visitor from Kentucky then walked onto the boardwalk and approached a family with a small child, introducing himself and not remaining six feet or farther away as he chatted with them for more than 10 minutes, when the Levy County couple left that county park.

Shell Mound Park in Levy County
One of the many snails attached to some of the submerged grasses in the water adjacent to Shell Mound Park in Levy County is seen in the sun late Sunday afternoon (March 29).

Cedar Key Closed
Approaching the gatekeeper for Cedar Key shows signs warning motorists of limited access to the island town.

Cedar Key Closed
A Cedar Key Police officer mans the post setup to filter residents and non-residents from visiting the island town.

Cedar Key Closed
An osprey perches on a utility wire near the No. 4 Bridge to Cedar Key on Sunday (March 29).


      Meanwhile, license tags and signs on vehicles showed visitors from Kentucky, New Jersey and Columbia County (Florida) were among the several vehicles parked at Shell Mound Park in Levy County late Sunday afternoon.
     The wooden fishing pier located near Levy County’s Cedar Key No. 4 Bridge Boat Ramp (11311 S.W. 153rd Court, Cedar Key, FL 32625) – behind the Senator George G. Kirkpatrick Marine Laboratory – had several people seen on it fishing a bit after 4 p.m. yesterday (Sunday, March 29).
     No journalists or other “non-essential” or non-residential individuals have been given access to Cedar Key via the bridge since noon on March 24.
   The Senator George G. Kirkpatrick Marine Laboratory is governed first by the Division of State Lands, Office of Environmental Services of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, acting as agent for the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (the Governor and Cabinet), and that building is not connected to the wooden fishing pier, but it serves as a landmark.
     The laboratory is leased to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and there is an FDEP-FWC management plan, which was approved in 2018 with an update due Aug. 3, 2028, according to records.
     Meanwhile, the Levy County Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to conduct an emergency meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, March 31) in the Levy County Annex, located on School Street behind the Levy County Courthouse. There is an auditorium there, where that structure once was part of the former Bronson High School.
     Shell Mound Park, a Levy County Park, includes a boardwalk and the trail around the large shell mound. This shell mound is a relic of native Floridians from centuries ago.
     There are boat ramps at Shell Mound Park as well.
     The list of Levy County’s open boat ramps as of Sunday includes:

Shell Mound Public Boat Ramp
17650 S.W. 78th Place
Cedar Key, FL 32625

Levy CR 40 West Boat Ramp
8000 Levy County Road 40 W.
Yankeetown, FL 34449

Allen Park Road Public Boat Ramp
1911 SE Allen Park Road
Yankeetown, FL 34449

Camp Azalea Public Boat Ramp
4591 N.W. Levy County Road 347
Chiefland, FL 32626

Clay Landing Public Boat Ramp
11850 N.W. 130th St.
Chiefland, FL 32626

Elkins Boat Ramp
160 Elkins Road
Inglis, FL 34449

Fowlers Bluff Public Boat Ramp
15253 N.W. 46th Lane
Chiefland, FL 32626

Rest Haven Shores Boat Ramp aka Kitty Lane
20296 SE 115th Avenue
Inglis, FL 34449

Cedar Key No. 4 Bridge Boat Ramp
(next to the wooden fishing pier)

11311 SW 153rd Court
Cedar Key, FL 32625

Waccasassa Public Boat Ramp - Gulf Hammock
8060 SE 5th Avenue
Inglis, FL 34449

     As for the Levy County parks, the Blue Springs Park and Henry Beck Park, they remain closed as a result of COVID-19.
     The Levy County Commission is anticipated to take some degree of other action tomorrow in regard to helping residents and visitors in relation to COVID-19.

 

 

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Inky Watches TV
Inky the cat Watches TV at The Ink Pad In Levy County March of 2020
Inky the junior mascot of HardisonInk.com is seen in this photo with a ‘cutout’ to better show her face. The little cat is watching a news show with information about COVID-19. She seems concerned here. Like senior mascot Goldy and outdoor community cat Needles of Jemlands, Inky continues enjoying her normal fun life of being a cat, which includes a consistent supply of food, water and litter service (indoor cats only), catnaps at any location at any time, and lots of petting and love from a couple of humans. Many cats and dogs across America are seeing more of their pet humans as people follow advice about staying home except for essential outings.

Photo By Jeff M. Hardison © March 28, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.

 


FWC provides listing
for boat ramps in Florida

By Karen Parker of the FWC
Published March 26, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
     LAKE CITY --
Currently, many of the boat ramps throughout the state remain open to the public and users are urged to engage in social distancing.
     The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is updating its “Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder” page every 24-hours to include information regarding boat ramp open/closed status.
     Individuals can find information specific to their county under the special comments section of each ramp here: https://public.myfwc.com/LE/boatramp/public/CountyMap.aspx.
     Please note if the comment box is blank, it means the ramp is currently open.
     However, out of an abundance of caution, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends checking with the local county government on boat ramp open/closed status as well as local Emergency Orders issued under the Governor’s Executive Orders prior to scheduling trips.
     The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages the public to use guidelines outlined by DOH and the CDC regarding social distancing. https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/.
     For updates on FWC’s response to COVID-19, please see https://myfwc.com/recreation/notices/covid-19/.

 


Armadillo And Cat

This set of videos from a trail camera show an armadillo and then Needles the community cat of Jemlands (Levy County) investigating the trail camera that the cat was told to not look at, because of a plan to capture armadillo video.

Armadillo in Levy County in March of 2020

Armadillo in Levy County in March of 2020
The still shots were taken during pursuit of the armadillo as it went to its home (a hole in the ground). To see the story with a link to what may be this same armadillo when it was a baby in June of 2018 click HERE.

Photos and Videos By Jeff M. Hardison © March 25, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
All Rights Reserved

 


Swiftmud recreation lands
remain open;

Public reminded
to practice social distancing
 
By Susanna Martinez Tarokh
Public Information Officer
Southwest Florida Water Management District
Published March 25, 2020 at 2:10 p.m.
     TAMPA --
The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will keep District-managed recreation lands open for individual and small group day use in its 16-county region to provide the public with a place to get outside and exercise.
     However, all campgrounds and campsites remain closed.
     Recreational users are reminded to follow the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis and to uphold the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to practice social distancing by avoiding gatherings larger than 10 people and distancing themselves a minimum of six feet from others.
     As long as recreational users follow this guidance, the District will be able to provide recreational opportunities while protecting public health and safety associated with the spread of COVID-19, unless otherwise directed by an emergency order.
     The District and its partners have acquired more than 450,000 acres of conservation lands primarily through the state's land acquisition programs to protect the 16-county region's water resources. Approximately 99 percent of this land is open for public recreation. Many of these lands are maintained directly by the District and offer a more natural experience, while some of these properties are managed as county and state parks and offer a broader range of amenities.
     For more information on District recreation lands, visit https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation.

 



Florida Forest Service
closes campgrounds,
halts tours in response
to COVID-19

FDACS Office of Communications
Released March 17, 2020 at 2:17 p.m.
Published March 17, 2020 at 5:10 p.m.
     TALLAHASSEE --
Today (Tuesday, March 17), the Florida Forest Service announced actions being taken to ensure the safety of the public and state employees during the COVID-19 outbreak.
     These actions include ceasing tours and public outreach programs, and the closure of state campgrounds and campsites.
     “The public health of Floridians is of utmost importance during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Our state campgrounds are some of Florida’s best natural treasures, but in abundance of caution, we are taking these actions in the interest of social distancing. As some facilities will remain open, Floridians should contact their local Florida Forest Service office for more details.”
Effective immediately:
     ● Public outreach programs, group events and tours are postponed for the next 30 days.
     ● Group camps and pavilions on state forests will be closed for 30 days.
Effective March 20:
     ● All campgrounds, campsites and hunt camps on state forest lands will be closed for 30 days.
     ● Day use at Croom Motorcycle Area, Clear Creek Off-Highway Riding Area and Krul Lake closed for 30 days.
Remaining open:
     ● Day use at trailheads remain open for dispersed recreation. 
     ● Hunting on state forests managed as wildlife management is allowed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rules and seasons.
     For more information, contact your local Florida Forest Service offices by phone or email by first visiting the website by clicking HERE.
     The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests.
     The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects wildfire on more than 26 million acres.

 


Spoonbills, pelicans and more
Pelican at Cedar Key Florida
A pelican stands on the roof of the public bathrooms of the big concrete fishing pier on Cedar Key on Sunday (March 8).

Pelican at Cedar Key Florida
A pelican floats near the big concrete fishing pier on Cedar Key on Sunday (March 8).

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 12, 2020 at 2:10 p.m.
     LEVY COUNTY –
A venture to capture the best photos of the Full Worm Supermoon of March as seen from Levy County began Sunday evening (March 8) as the Moon was waxing.
     The projected peak of event the Full Worm Supermoon on Monday (March 9) proved to be too cloudy to be seen very well from Levy County.
     As weather and other circumstance unfolded, Sunday (March 8) proved to be the best of the two best days of potential photos of that view.
     The photo opportunities for the Moon and more on photo ops on Sunday turned out to be plentiful as a search for the Moon shot trip unraveled.
     A cute baby armadillo on the side of the road was tempting to stop and photograph, but the projected moonrise on the East Coast of the United States demanded travel on Levy County Road 347 remain at the posted speed limit that evening.
     The moon rose as projected, but clouds and buildings between the planned staging area and the actual moonrise made that photo opportunity so that it did not work. A quick trip to the wooden fishing dock on Cedar Key, near the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at George G. Kirkpatrick Marine Laboratory was the next stopping point for a potential moonrise shot.
     Simultaneously, the Sun was dropping and the view of a bird under the Number 4 Bridge of State Road 24 proved to be interesting. Click.

Pelican at Cedar Key Florida
A crane wades near a bridge leading to Cedar Key on Sunday (March 8) a bit before sundown.


     A family visiting the public fishing area saw what its members thought was a flock of flamingos arriving in a very shallow area near the bridge.
     They learned from a roving photographer that those birds were roseate spoonbills. Flamingos are pink, but they have shorter legs and other features that make them different. The bill of these birds looks like two spoons coming together on a horizontal plane, he said.

Spoonbill at Cedar Key

Spoonbill at Cedar Key

Spoonbill at Cedar Key
These pictures of roseate spoonbills enjoying an early evening meal were captured with a 10-year-old low cost camera.


     Having captured the spoonbills digitally, the moonrise shots were “a wash,” because seeing the Moon at that time from this part of the Earth on that evening could not work. That view was obscured by clouds.
     The drive back to a computer to view the probable successful pictures of spoonbills and pelicans led by a scene where vultures were dining on a deer or some other roadkill.
     “Vultures,” the photographer and Juke driver said, as he slowed to avoid endangering the birds.
     “Eagle!” exclaimed his lovely and talented assistant.
     The big American Bald Eagle flew to a longleaf pine that had been planted as part of a tree farm. The photo of that eagle proved unsuccessful due to the backlighting being too much to overcome for the little 10-year-old camera designated for moonshots.
     The two travelers continued toward Jemlands.
     “Moon!” exclaimed the driver’s companion as they entered the community of Fowler’s Bluff.
     A stop in the driveway of the Levy County Public Safety Department’s fire-rescue station in the community of Fowler’s bluff provided a chance to moonshots.

Full Moon March 2020 Levy County Florida

Full Moon March 2020 Levy County Florida

Full Moon March 2020 Levy County Florida

Full Moon March 2020 Levy County Florida
These views of the Moon are what was captured from Fowler’s Bluff on March 8.

     The 2020 supermoon season includes three supermoons in a row this year, in March, April, and May. The first one—the Super Worm Moon—rose on March 8 and 9.
     The Supermoon is the term for the Full Moon when the Moon is nearest Earth. When the Moon is closest to the Earth it is at its perigee, and when that time of month coincides with the Full Moon, it is significant for some viewers. A Full Moon at perigee is a Supermoon.
     When the Moon is at the farthest point from Earth for the month, it is at apogee. Fishermen and others who care about tides are among the people who consider this timing.
     As for the March Full Moon being the Full Worm Moon, the Old Farmer’s Almanac notes that native Americans named monthly full moons based on what they saw in nature.
     An astronomical website noted “The Worm Moon got its name from the earthworms that emerge at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere.
     “In most years, the Worm Moon is the last Full Moon before the March equinox, which can take place on March 19, 20, or 21.
     “In some years, however, when the winter season comprises four Full Moons instead of the usual three, the last Full Moon before the equinox is a Blue Moon and the Worm Moon falls after the equinox.”
     Another definition of a Blue Moon is the second of any Full Moon that happens within one month.

 


Wildlife is on the move in spring
Wildlife is on the move in spring
This gopher tortoise was seen on a road in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties on Tuesday afternoon (March 3). The tortoise was not quite off of the road. Motorists are asked to please watch the road as they drive to preserve life and property.

Photo by Jeff M. Hardison © March 4, 2020 at 9:10 a.m.

By FWC Office of Communications
Published March 4, 2020 at 9:10 a.m.
     TALLAHASSEE --
Spring has sprung in the Sunshine State, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding residents and visitors this is a very important time of year for wildlife.
     From manatees leaving their winter warm-water refuges to black bears teaching their young to forage for food, Florida’s wildlife is on the move!
     As the weather warms, many species begin to migrate, mate, feed and nest. This increased level of wildlife activity means people are more likely to encounter wildlife and should take precautions to avoid disrupting these natural behaviors and prevent conflicts with wildlife.
     “Spring is one of the best times to enjoy viewing wildlife with your family, but it is also a very important time of year for many vulnerable species, including sea turtles and beach-nesting birds.” said Melissa Tucker, deputy director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “Be sure to keep a respectful distance from wildlife as you enjoy the outdoors this spring.”
     Tips on how to enjoy and help conserve Florida wildlife during spring:
     Manatees - Chances of close encounters between manatees and boaters increase in the spring, as manatees leave their winter-use areas and travel the intracoastal waterways along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and other inland waters. Look out for manatees when on the water. For boaters, it is a critical time to be on the lookout for manatees to avoid collisions with these large aquatic mammals. Boaters should follow posted speed limits as many areas have seasonal zones in spring that reflect manatee migration patterns.
     Nesting Birds - Keep your distance from birds on the beach and birds gathering on tree islands. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. Disturbance can cause birds to abandon their nesting sites, which exposes their eggs and chicks to predators, sun exposure and other harm. Shorebirds and seabirds lay their eggs in well-camouflaged shallow scrapes in the sand. Eggs and newly hatched chicks blend in with sand and shells and are vulnerable to being stepped on unless people look out for them. Wading birds, such as herons and egrets, and pelicans also are nesting now on mangroves and tree islands.
     Alligators - American alligators, which are Florida’s official state reptile, are fascinating to see. They occur in freshwater lakes, slow-moving rivers and wetlands in all 67 counties in the Sunshine State. When the weather warms up in the spring, they become more active and are visible as they begin seeking food. While serious injuries caused by alligators are rare in Florida, it’s important to be safe when in or near the water. By following the FWC’s living with alligator tips, you can reduce the chances of conflict. If you’re concerned about an alligator, call the FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286), and we will dispatch one of our contracted nuisance alligator trappers to resolve the situation. 
     Gopher Tortoises - Spring days are a good time to spot a gopher tortoise, as Florida’s only native tortoise becomes more active, foraging for food and searching for a mate. If you see gopher tortoises or their half-moon shaped burrow entrances, it is best to leave them alone. You can help a gopher tortoise cross a road by picking it up carefully and placing it in a safe location along the roadside in the direction it was heading. But only do this if it is safe for you to do so, andRemember the tortoise is a land animal, so never attempt to put it into water.
     Bears - As spring temperatures warm, bears become more active, increasing the opportunities for conflicts with people. During this time of year, females are teaching their cubs what to eat and the skills necessary to survive. Do your part to make sure eating garbage, pet food or bird seed in your yard is not part of that learning experience by securing or removing those and other attractants. If they can’t find food around your home, bears will move on.
     Sea Turtles - These large marine reptiles begin nesting in the spring. You can help by keeping beaches dark at night and free of obstacles during their March through October nesting season. Artificial lighting can disturb nesting sea turtles and disorient hatchlings, so avoid using flashlights or cellphones on the beach at night. Turn out lights or close curtains and shades in buildings along the beach after dark to ensure nesting turtles aren’t disturbed. Clear away boats and beach furniture at the end of the day and fill in holes in the sand that could trap turtles.
     Bats - Bat maternity season begins on April 15. Maternity season is the time during which bats gather to give birth and raise their young, and it is illegal to exclude them during this time. Now is the best time to inspect your home for any small cracks or holes that might allow bats to get inside.
     Snakes - Snakes are most active in the spring and fall. What should you do if you see a snake in your yard or while hiking? Just stand back and observe it. Snakes don't purposefully position themselves to frighten people. They'd much rather avoid encounters and usually will flee.
     Injured and Orphaned Wildlife - If you find a baby animal, it is best to leave it alone. Baby animals rarely are orphaned; a parent may be nearby searching for food or observing its young. Instead, report wildlife you think may be injured or orphaned to the nearest FWC Regional Office.
     It’s illegal to harm wildlife or to harass certain species including sea turtles, manatees and state-threatened birds, so if you see someone not following the rules –call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.

 


Annual meeting focuses
on national wildlife refuges

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Seen here are (from left) Deputy Manager of the whole North Florida Refuge Complex, which includes the Cedar Keys, Lower Suwannee, St. Marks, and St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuges Larry Woodward, National Wildlife System 2019 Employee of The Year Vic Doig, and Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge Manager Andrew Gude. They are among the people who help maintain and preserve the Refuges.

Story and Photos
By Blaine M. Vitallo
Correspondent for Hardisonink.com © March 1, 2020 at 9:10 a.m.
     CHIEFLAND —
During the Saturday (Feb. 29) annual meeting of the Friends of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges, the focus was on the story of the Swallow-Tailed Kite and the year of accomplishments since the group’s last annual meeting.

 

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Friends President John McPherson opens the annual meeting.

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Andrew Gude makes his presentation regarding an update of progress at the Refuge.


Friends President John McPherson shows the Friends the budget summary

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Larry Woodward provides his presentation regarding Vic Doig earning the title of Employee of the Year

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Vic Doig stands near the screen as he is shown to the Friends to be the Employee of the Year.

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Ken Meyer speaks about one of the many photos shared with the group regarding the Swallow-Tailed Kites.


     The message of the morning was that a community of dedicated volunteers and a small, yet passionate staff can create an effective and nationally recognized conservation effort for local wildlife.
     “Conservation brings everyone together,” guest speaker Ken Meyer told the members and guests at the Friends of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges meeting as he gave a presentation titled “Year of the Kite.” The presentation detailed the critical data on the Swallow-Tailed Kite that the organization has gathered over the last seven years.
     Meyer and the Refuge have been tracking a male Swallow-Tailed Kite named “Suwannee” for more than a year now. Using a cellphone tracking device paid for by the Friends, Meyer and his team have been keeping tabs on Suwannee during the bird’s annual migration from Florida to Brazil.
     Suwannee was recently featured in the international online publications National Audubon and bioGraphic, which sent a photographer to document the catching of the Kites. According to Meyer, Suwannee has recently gone quiet—not showing any tracking updates—for more than a month. It’s nothing to worry about, he said. Sometimes researchers don’t hear from the birds for up to three months.
     Typically Kites that vanish from tracking reappear as soon as they land near a cellphone tower, Meyer noted.
     In one slide, a map of the Gulf of Mexico showed the migration routes of Kites across the Southeast United States, Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula. These routes cross thousands of miles, in many cases directly over the Gulf of Mexico. The Kites are only able to make this journey because they are efficient flyers. They ride warm air currents and soar as high as 2,000 feet so they can fly up to four days without needing to rest.
     The presentation featured photographs of Kite breeding pairs perched on high branches, and aerial shots of trees on commercial timberland spotted with white specks, each one an individual Kite. Clusters of trees where groups of Kites land are known as roosts. Each roost can contain thousands of individuals. Social behaviors like roosting are unusual for raptors, according to Meyers.
     The Kites have “complex and beautiful stories,” Meyers said. They cause him to question whether he should be a biologist or a poet, he said.
     There are many challenges facing this species. Climate change has caused headwinds that impact migration routes, forcing Kites to fly over the ocean for extended distances. This has caused the deaths of three out of 11 tagged birds, he said. These deaths may be indicative of many others that are not tagged.
     In the winter, Kites travel to cattle ranchland in Brazil, where conditions are favorable for them. Much of this land is being taken up by industrial soybean and sugarcane farms now, Meyer said. The insecticides these farms use required researchers to wear hazmat suits to investigate missing Kites whose trackers were followed to the fields, he said.
     Due to the conservation efforts of the National Wildlife Refuges, the population numbers of Kites have been increasing, up from around 5,000 in 1988 to as many as 25,000 now. Even so, their range, which once stretched far into the northern United States, still only covers the Southeast, he said.
     “All this work has been done without this bird being listed as an endangered species,” Meyer said.
     This means that the Refuges did not receive any additional funding for efforts to study and protect the birds.
     Meyer encourages responsible management of timberland, because Kites are “site faithful,” meaning they return to the same nests each year. If a roost is cut down then Kites will not return to the area, reducing their range.
      “The best management practices for clear-cut sites work perfectly well for Swallow-Tailed Kites if landowners adhere to them,” Meyer added.
     These practices are better for the birds and can make timberland owners more money.
     The study and protection of Kites is just one of the projects the Refuges completed last year. According to Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge Manager Andrew Gude, the Refuges comprise the “single largest conservation entity in the world dedicated to a wildlife-first mission.”
     This means that the Refuges work to protect healthy fish, plants, and habitats, as well as wildlife-dependent recreation.
     Dan Frisk is the manager of the whole North Florida Refuge Complex—which includes the Cedar Keys, Lower Suwannee, St. Marks, and St. Vincent refuges. He said that their budget has been very tight, so it’s important for the refuges to consolidate their efforts.
     During the meeting, Deputy Manager Larry Woodward praised Fire Management Officer Vic Doig, who received the 2019 Employee of the Year award. Doig is a member of many safety and wildlife committees, and he is a nationally recognized instructor of fire safety.
     The Refuges have undertaken many projects over the last year with the help of their dedicated staff, directors, and volunteers. These projects include a controlled burn program, which saw the burning of 900 acres of land, which is a difficult task for a small crew.
      “We are in a fire-dependent ecosystem,” Gude said. “Wherever you see the pines, that area is meant to burn at least every two to five years.”
     The challenge, Gude added, is to manage mid-story growth. Controlled burns, careful insecticide use, and clear-cutting are used by the refuge to promote the growth of grasses, bushes, and other desirable ground cover rather than palmettos and other plants that, while native, are not natural in a proper forest.
     Other completed projects mentioned in the meeting were the reactivation of the Cedar Keys Light Station, which occurred on July 5; the construction of floating nesting platforms for birds; and an elevated trail for Cedar Keys’ Shell Mound.
     Friends President John McPherson said that although these projects have cost a great deal of money, the Refuges still have plenty of money saved.
      “We are not here to store money. We’re here to do good things,” McPherson said.
     As noted on the website for the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, “The Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge is unlike other Refuges in that it was not established for the protection of a specific species, but in order to protect the high water quality of the historic Suwannee River. The flow of the Suwannee feeds the estuarine waters of the Gulf of Mexico, habitat for the Gulf sturgeon and feeding grounds for resident and migratory shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl.”
     Updates to the bylaws and new members of the board of directors were unanimously voted in by the Friends, and once business was concluded everyone shared a free lunch. Then people rode out for an afternoon visit at the Vista.

 


FWC regional director
visits The Ink Pad

FWC Region Florida Chris Wynn Karen Parker Jeff Hardison
This photo taken by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) North Central Regional Director Chris Wynn who held a cell phone-camera at arm’s length moments before high noon on Feb. 26 shows (from left) Regional Director Wynn, FWC North Central Regional Public Information Coordinator Karen Parker with HardisonInk.com owner and publisher Jeff M. Hardison.

Photo by Chris Wynn.

By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 27, 2020 at 11:10 a.m.
     LEVY COUNTY –
A couple of state employees who are among the staff tasked with helping manage fish and wildlife resources for the long-term wellbeing of animals and for the benefit of people spent two hours at The Ink Pad, in the unrecorded subdivision known as Jemlands in the unincorporated part of Levy County located between Carter’s Crossroads and the Community of Fowler’s Bluff.
     The Wednesday morning (Feb. 26) visit of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) North Central Regional Director Chris Wynn and FWC North Central Regional Public Information Coordinator Karen Parker with HardisonInk.com owner and publisher Jeff M. Hardison provided all three people with two hours of information-sharing, an enjoyable educational opportunity and moments of entertaining humor.
     The FWC protects and manages more than 575 species of wildlife, more than 200 native species of freshwater fish and more than 500 native species of saltwater fish.
     The FWC balances these species' needs with the needs of approximately 20 million residents and the millions of visitors who share the land and water with Florida's fish and wildlife.
     The FWC has its headquarters in Tallahassee, the state’s capital city. The five regional FWC offices are in Panama City, Lake City, Ocala, Lakeland and West Palm Beach.
      The North Central Region of the FWC includes 15 of Florida’s 67 counties -- Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Levy, Madison, Nassau, Taylor and Union counties. Its headquarters are in Lake City (Columbia County).
     In addition to Director Wynn and Regional Public Information Coordinator Parker, the Regional Operations staff in Lake City includes Regional Operations Manager Darlene Barry and Customer Care Specialists Leah Flores and Sharon Lyons.
     The FWC North Central Regional Division of Law Enforcement includes Major Andy Krause, Regional Commander; and Nichole Landrum, Government Operations Consultant I.
     The FWC North Central Regional Division of Habitat & Species Conservation staff includes Matt Pollock, Regional Wildlife Administrator; and Jake Boozer, Staff Assistant.
     The North Central Regional Division of Hunting & Game Management includes Matthew Chopp, Regional Public Hunting Areas Biologist; Ashley Lawson, Regional Hunter Safety Coordinator; and Karen Little, Staff Assistant.
     The FWC North Central Regional Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management includes Allen Martin, Regional Fisheries Administrator; and Brianna Vernon, Staff Assistant.
     Beyond the leadership staff in the Lake City office for this region of the FWC, there are a number of FWC law enforcement officers, biological scientists and other staff members.
     Statewide, the FWC has 2,112 full-time employees.
     Beyond the headquarters and five regional offices, the FWC has the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, and another 76 field offices and facilities throughout the state.
     The FWC is governed by seven commissioners, who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate to five-year terms.
     Their constitutional duty is to exercise the "...regulatory and executive powers of the state with respect to wild animal life and fresh water aquatic life and shall also exercise regulatory and executive powers of the state with respect to marine life, except that all license fees and penalties for violating regulations shall be as provided by law."
     Commissioners meet five times per year at various locations across the state.
     The commissioners and the dates of their terms’ expirations are Rodney Barreto, Jan. 5, 2024; Robert A. Spottswood, Jan. 6, 2023; Steven Hudson, Aug. 1, 2022; Gary Nicklaus, Aug. 1, 2022; Gary Lester, Aug. 1, 2022; Sonya Rood, Jan. 2, 2022; and Michael W. Sole, Aug. 1, 2021.

FWC Commissioners
These photos of the seven FWC commissioners are from the FWC website.

     The multiple award-winning daily online news website publisher commented about the visit.
     “I’ve seen and experienced a lot of things in my profession as a journalist,” Hardison said. “The first visitor to The Ink Pad about five years ago was Frank Schupp. Some people may remember he was among the folks 14 years ago who tried to open a hospital next to Walmart.
     “The visit on Wednesday by this regional director of the FWC, and by the regional public information coordinator, was a day brightener for me,” the 64-year-old former daily and weekly newspaper editor and reporter said. “I am certain I will continue helping humans in Florida as we all strive to coexist with the wildlife and fish in our state. My method of helping includes providing information, education and even some degree of entertainment, just as the director and coordinator and I all shared on that wonderful morning in late February of 2020.”

 

--UPDATED--
WEDNESDAY  APRIL 1  8:10 a.m.
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