Snook Islands Restoration Project: If You Build It, They Will Come
By David Carson, Palm Beach County ERM and Ben Kolstad, ASE
David Carson of Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) designed and oversaw construction of Snook Islands in Lake Worth (http://discover.pbcgov.org/erm/Publications/SnookIslandsRestoration.pdf). As soon as we began depositing fill in the water during the summer of 2003, Oystercatchers began stopping by to see what was up. It was in 2005 at the end of construction that our contractor first noticed Oystercatcher nesting behavior. A pair had nested on top of the riprap wavebreak next to one of our mangrove islands. This pair has nested every year since, using 3 different nest locations. From 2005 to 2009 they nested on the riprap; from 2010 to 2014 they nested on a shell mound that accreted on the riprap; in 2015 they relocated their nest to the newly created Grassy Flats restoration project across the ICW from Snook Islands (http://discover.pbcgov.org/erm/Publications/GrassyFlatsRestoration.pdf). This pair has successfully fledged 13 chicks since 2005.
In 2014, Palm Beach County ERM completed the Bryant Park Wetlands/Snook II project (see PDF flyer, http://www.auduboneverglades.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/SnookII_Bryant-fact-sheet.pdf). During construction, a second pair of Oystercatchers began nesting in the construction area, shutting down the project for a few days in 2013. The team had to redesign the project to incorporate a nesting area for the new pair, although their first nest failed that year. They then successfully fledged 3 chicks in 2014, 3 in 2015, and 2 in 2016. According to Ricardo Zambrano at the FWC, these Lake Worth birds are the southernmost nesting AMOY pair in the United States.
We have 12 resident AMOY living in the central lagoon and taking advantage of our restoration projects, including the Johns Island oyster reef project (http://discover.pbcgov.org/erm/Publications/JohnsIslandOysterReef.pdf#search=johns%20island). Carson suspects that some are chicks of the original pair, but we have no way of knowing. The fact that we have been able to establish a nesting “colony” in the Lake Worth Lagoon through our restoration efforts gives us hope for this species down the road.