South Florida wading birds nested like crazy in 2018, a great sign for the Everglades

Reader Mumbles McGuirck makes a cogent observation:  “Hmmm … Why don’t they blame it on climate change?”

All bad news is climate change.  All good news is news.~ctm

From the Miami Herald

By Adriana Brasileiro

May 17, 2019 06:00 AM, Updated May 17, 2019 09:15 AM


Dr. Jerry Lorenz, Audubon Florida research director, explains during a visit to South Nest Key why roseate spoonbills, along with other wading birds, are a major indicator of the health of Florida Bay. By Carl Juste  

Wading birds in the Everglades built more nests in 2018 than any other year in the last 80, a record-breaking nesting event made possible by the right balance of wet and dry conditions in the delicate ecosystem. And after heading north to nest in recent years, the birds returned to the southern Everglades, their traditional nesting grounds.

More than 122,000 wading bird nests were counted in the Everglades during the 2018 nesting season, which ranged from December 2017 to July last year. Overall in South Florida more than 140,000 nests were found, the most since counting began in 1995, compared with an average of about 40,000 a year in the past decade.

“We have never seen anything like this in the last 80 years,’’ said South Florida Water Management District scientist Mark Cook, the lead author on the agency’s annual wading bird report released Thursday. “These numbers highlight the resiliency of these birds and that of the Everglades.’’

Read more here.

HT/Mumbles McGuirck

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May 21, 2019 3:30 am

There may be a temporary increase in the number of birds counted, but state-of-the art computer models show that they are in fact declining and, if model projections continue, may soon be extinct.

It’s worse than we thought.

Reply to  Phil
May 21, 2019 3:47 am


Reply to  Phil
May 21, 2019 4:46 am

Mark Twain had something to say about that:

The Mississippi between Cairo and New Orleans was twelve hundred and fifteen miles long one hundred and seventy-six years ago. . . . Its length is only nine hundred and seventy-three miles at present.
Now, if I wanted to be one of those ponderous scientific people, and “let on” to prove what had occurred in the remote past by what had occurred in a given time in the recent past . . . what an opportunity is here! Geology never had such a chance, nor such exact data to argue from! . . .
In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long. . . . There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. link

Scientists will complain that their computer models are way better than mere extrapolation. I would counter that, “To err is human, it takes a computer to really foul things up.”

Bill Powers
Reply to  commieBob
May 21, 2019 9:16 am

But it takes a computer programmer to get the results to look really scary so you can score more grant money.

Reply to  Phil
May 21, 2019 8:15 am

Computer models. Chuckle.

Reply to  Phil
May 21, 2019 8:15 am

Computer models. Chuckle.

Mike Lowe
May 21, 2019 3:30 am

Why have we heard no criticism from these Audubon people about the dreadful slaughter of raptors around those hideous windmills? That should never have been permitted, without at least the semblance of a truthful scientific investigation of the worth of the electrical output. Maybe some of the more courageous bird enthusiasts will come forward, now that skepticism is being pronounced by so many.

Bob Bunnell
Reply to  Mike Lowe
May 21, 2019 5:07 am
HD Hoese
Reply to  Bob Bunnell
May 21, 2019 7:07 am

Often their prey is ignored, but from a link in the Audubon link– “… but they often can’t find enough to eat.” We have small flocks of Ibis walking down the street and poking for food in adjacent yards. Seagulls are already pests and predators on other seabird nests.

Reply to  Bob Bunnell
May 21, 2019 10:04 am

Audubon says that they encourage proper siting of windmills to minimize effects on birds and bats. I agree. Windmills should only be built in airspace where birds and bats have never flown and where it can be reliably determined that they never will fly.

Bryan A
Reply to  BCBill
May 21, 2019 2:29 pm

Don’t windmills in fact exist to create airspace in which Birds and Bats WILL NEVER FLY?
Kind of self fulfilling
1.2-1.4 birds and 2 bats killed per turbine average

Mike Lowe
Reply to  Bob Bunnell
May 21, 2019 6:32 pm

Audubon strongly supports wind power. Says it all – plenty of Grant money available to the believers!

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Mike Lowe
May 21, 2019 10:16 am

“Why have we heard no criticism from these Audubon people about the dreadful slaughter of raptors around those hideous windmills?”

The other day in a speech Trump said if you wanted to find a bird cemetary all you had to do was walk underneath a windmill.

Oddly, none on the Left sought to criticize Trump for this remark. Usually they say Trump doesn’t know what he is talking about or has the numbers wrong or something, but on this bird-killer subject we haven’t heard a peep out of the alarmists.

May 21, 2019 3:43 am

‘And after heading north to nest in recent years, the birds returned to the southern Everglades, their traditional nesting grounds’.

Maybe its getting to cold up north??
Just saying.

May 21, 2019 3:44 am

“These numbers highlight the resiliency of these birds …”
Ah, so this is DESPITE climate change. That makes it so much more interesting, probably qualifies his next piece of work for a larger grant.

May 21, 2019 3:47 am

The lobster fishermen are catching lobsters like crazy this season in the Canadian Maritimes. Not a peep blaming it on climate change.

May 21, 2019 4:13 am

For a whole bunch of reasons, the Everglades is in a poor way. Those reasons are mostly due to human activity. Sea level rise due to global warming is only a potential problem. link The greater number of wading birds could be due to the restoration efforts and is to be celebrated.

Tom in Florida
May 21, 2019 4:52 am

Al this is well and good, however, there are still hundreds of hungry pythons that will eventually find these nests. Build it and they will come.

May 21, 2019 4:55 am

“Wading birds in the Everglades built more nests in 2018 than any other year in the last 80, a record-breaking nesting event made possible by the right balance of wet and dry conditions in the delicate ecosystem. And after heading north to nest in recent years, the birds returned to the southern Everglades, their traditional nesting grounds.”

Format highlighting is mine. The bolded words appear to be based upon a nesting bird survey performed in all North American swamplands instead of just Florida.
A doubtful assertion that appears to be gross assumptions based upon Florida’s nest counts.

Nest counts that are entered into formula to ‘estimate’ nest counts over larger areas. I am reminded of biologists’ counting polar bears
More skillful nest counters, greater numbers of nest counters, clear weather providing better visibility, greater diligence at spotting nests, or even less dedicated nest counters counting ordinary brush piles are all just a sample of nest counting factors that affect nest counts.

One suspects merit increase, annual bonus or career enhancement a more likely reason for the claims.
Nor can one help but wonder if 2018-2019’s winter affect where the wading birds nest this year.

Rhys Jaggar
May 21, 2019 5:33 am

Based on my vegetable garden last summer, I could have written you one of two stories:

‘Imminent starvation due to poor potato crop yields’.

‘Superb winter squash crop presages bountiful hungry gap (what late April to mid June was called traditionally in UK as winter stores declined but summer crops were not ready to harvest).

Each crop has a sweet spot and for potatoes it is a mild, wet summer. For winter squash, a hot dry summer means bountiful harvests.

As we had aMediterranean summer, Mediterranean crops did very well.

If we have an Irish summer, potatoes and other crops which do well in Scotland will flourish down here in NW London.

So with global cooling, more carrots, cabbage, broad bean, runner bean, potato, pea etc.

With global warming, more French beans, tomatoes, winter squash, cucumber, melon, aubergine, pepper etc.

The intended outcome is plenty to eat whatever happens.

Jon Baker
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
May 21, 2019 6:15 am

THat assumes warming equates to more sunshine which isnt necessarily true. In fact it might be possible .

May 21, 2019 6:22 am

When I first arrived in Florida’s capitol there was a huge debate going on over white ibis in our Legislature. We were in a drought as Florida tends to do every 11 years plus or minus a few. The wildlife agency at the time had done their annual bird counts. White ibis appeared from their counts to be the lowest levels ever. The agency wanted to list white ibis as threatened or even endangered. The Legislature was not happy about the potential listing for a variety of reasons, and this is when the Democrats were still in control.

Then the farmers showed up with date stamped picture and videos. Most in the Everglades Agricultural Area and throughout the state in citrus farmers were irrigating more than usual due to the drought White ibis prefer to feed in declining or changing water levels. Welllll, turns out that white ibis had moved into the EAA and irrigated citrus groves and were doing quite well for a drought. Meanwhile the wildlife agency had only done their counts in “traditional natural areas.” Not a single person in that agency had thought that the ibis might have moved some place else.

Florida has and is spending a lot of money to “restore” the Kissimee River-Lake Okeechobee-Everglades-Florida Bay system. It has been so manipulated over the past century and half that no one knows for sure what it should look like today. Florida Bay had become a very clear water, relatively high salinity, monoculture of one species of seagrass. They began to put more freshwater down the system and the monoculture didn’t do so well. Florida Bay went through transitions relatively suddenly changing into something different.

Bryan A
Reply to  Edwin
May 21, 2019 2:34 pm

Is there a Correlation or a Strong Correlation between an 11 year +/- Florida Drought cycle and the other 11 year +/- solar cycle??

May 21, 2019 6:41 am

The increase in nesting activity in the Everglades is tied both to recent weather patterns as well as to the ongoing and planned restoration of the Everglades. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) began in 2000, but most of the first decade was tied up in studies and design work. The actual construction of modifications to the water control systems in the Everglades did not begin until the past decade, and only a small number of the eventual total number of projects has been completed and put into operation to date. It is expected that the full implementation of CERP is still roughly 30 years in the future.

It should be noted that the 80-year timeframe cited by the SFWMD scientist quoted here is approximately the same time that the Everglades replumbing effort actually began modifying the hydrology of the area, which itself continued for decades longer. Initially those changes were directed to preventing a recurrence of the mass flooding that occurred in 1928, which led to construction of the Herbert Hoover dike around Lake O. Since then a system of drainage canals was also built to dry out large portions of the Everglades to allow development for both agriculture as well as urban water supply.

The long term outlook for the Everglades is good – though it will never be fully restored to its predevelopment condition. At the moment, the biggest struggles in South Florida have to do with water quality rather than water quantity. The pollution that has ended up in Lake Okeechobee, due to a combination of upstream farming activity and residential development (particularly septic systems) combined with very wet recent years contributed to large blue-green algal blooms in the rivers and canals and estuaries on both coasts due to outflow from Lake O via the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie River resulted in a very bad look for coastal Florida. The State has authorized additioanal expenditures to speed up construction of treatment cells for Lake O outflows that will also contribute more water to hydrating the Everlglades. The Federal government also needs to step up its CERP expenditures, but getting more money out of Congress is a challenge.

Reply to  Latitude
May 21, 2019 7:50 am

Hurricane Irma had an impact on rainfall in September 2017, but not really a decisive factor. The Everglades do not store much rainfall – it mostly runs off into the Gulf of Mexico. What matters more than a specific rainfall event is sustained rainfall across months, which tends to keep the soils well hydrated for an extended period of time.

The rainfall total from Irma wasn’t even all that much. At Everglades City, located at the southwestern extreme of the Everglades system, the rainfall for the entire month of September was just over 20 inches, but in June, the rainfall total was significantly more at over 27 inches. The entire rainy season in South Florida was much wetter than normal that year. This year we’re having an unusually wet spring, with nearly 5 inches of rainfall in a month that normally averages only 1 to 2 inches. That is helping too, since the dry season also coincides with nesting season.

Reply to  Duane
May 21, 2019 8:37 am

The rain before Irma was not enough at one time to flood…the rain from Irma was enough at one time that allowed their food to move back in where it had been bone dry…the rains after that keep it there… the water is receding and concentrating their food

Reply to  Latitude
May 21, 2019 10:18 am

Sorry, you don’t know what you’re talking about. The entire Everglades floods every wet season every year. It is a gigantic wetland filled with sawgrass and cypress. Wet season generally runs from early June through early October which accounts for about 2/3 to 2/4 of the entire annual rainfall totals.

What effects nesting birds in south Florida is the dry season rainfall, not the wet season rainfall, since nesting occurs only in the dry season. Some years south Florida gets next to no dry season rainfall – an inch or less per month. Other years – like this year – south Florida gets significantly more rainfall, on the order of 3 to 6 inches per month .. like this year. When that happens, it is much more conducive to bird nesting numbers. Basically because the availability of food is much higher, and it is much harder for predators to invade the nesting areas.

Reply to  Duane
May 21, 2019 12:51 pm

Duane, they are talking about 2018…the season after Irma…last year
…it was the water flowing south from Irma that sustained it

and Audubon agrees with me….
“It’s a scene that played out across South Florida this spring, when abundant water created ideal breeding conditions.”
“Last year South Florida experienced its wettest rainy season in more than eight decades, from biblical downpours in June through Hurricane Irma’s ire in September”
“And this spring, thanks to an especially rainy June and an early September deluge from Hurricane Irma,”

Reply to  Duane
May 21, 2019 7:03 pm

Latitude – you don’t get it. The rainfall directly due to Irma was exceeded many times by the rainfall during the rest of the 2017 rainy season. The Everglades do not provide much storage, in part due to the naturally flat terrain, and in part because the replumbing of the Everglades constructed in the mid 20th century was explicitly designed to move floodwater to the east and west so as to prevent flooding in the Everglades, and to dry out the Everglades to support urban and agricultural development.

The CERP is designed to restore natural flow thru the Everglades, at least the remainder of it.

Hurricanes – which always occur during the wet season in Florida, have virtually zero impact whatsoever on aquatic bird nesting, which always takes place in the dry season.

Reply to  Duane
May 22, 2019 6:04 am

“The Everglades do not provide much storage”…and I’m the one that doesn’t get it….LOL

Irma dropped water all the way up the state….it’s that water flowing south , for months, that sustained it

The birds started moving in about 2 months after Irma

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Latitude
May 21, 2019 9:52 am

So it had been hurricane (and tropical storm) free for 80 yrs before Irma?

Short-sighted people neglect to consider the impact of such events on the water cycle (not just for coastal states but inland areas where the remnants dump extensive rainfall), but this is going a bit far.

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
May 21, 2019 10:25 am

No, of course not. But the “plumbing” of the Everglades was drastically impacted by the, well, replumbing project in the Everglades that lasted from the 1930s to the 1960s.

The Everglades is like nowhere else on earth. It is the largest continuously flowing wetland on the planet. It is extremely flat, with elevations that vary by inches over miles, supplied from freshwater coming in from the north, flowing through Lake Okeechobee (the second largest freshwater lake contained entirely in the USA), and continuing on down continuously til it outfalls into the Gulf Of Mexico (mostly) with some discharge into the Atlantic.

As a result of the replumbiing of the entire system, much of the Evergladees simply disappeared altogether, while other parts became much deprived of the annual flows needed both to sustain the Everlgades itself, as well as what was necessary to support the estuaries along the seacoast, and to support Florida Bay (between the mainland and the Florida Keys).

Hurricanes have almost no impact, one way or the other, on the functioning of the Everglades. Whatever impact there is is very short lived – a matter of a few days – and then it is gone.

May 21, 2019 11:04 am

HD posted a link to the Audubon policy on wind turbines.
Their approval includes th panacea that all will be well, due to wonderful central planning.
On it own efforts, the Audubon bases its decisions upon, and I kid you not, on “cutting edge…technology”.

May 21, 2019 12:51 pm

The somewhat rare roseate spoonbills were quite common in the nature preserve 100 yards from our long-term dock in Cape Canaveral. Wife and I regularly motored over in the dinghy and walked the access road to view them. Elsewhere in central Florida, preserves were swamped by bird watchers and photographers desperate to see them — we hadn’t realized they were so special.

Tom Schaefer
May 22, 2019 6:22 am

Birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

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