Northwest portion of Love Creek, a tributary of Rehoboth Bay, closed to shellfish harvesting

REHOBOTH BEACH (May 16, 2013) – Effective immediately, the northwest portion of Love Creek, a tributary of Rehoboth Bay, is closed to all commercial and recreational shellfish harvesting. DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara signed the Secretary’s Order after routine water quality sampling of shellfish harvesting areas in and around Love Creek found an increase in the level of an indicator bacteria in these waters. NOTE: Shellfish include clams, oysters and mussels; the harvest of crabs is not affected by this closure.

The affected waters are monitored for total coliform, an indicator of potentially harmful bacteria and viruses. Clams, oysters and mussels are filter feeders and can accumulate bacteria, viruses and other pollutants.  The risk of illness from contaminated shellfish is much greater than other seafood, because they are frequently eaten raw. However, even cooking does not eliminate the risk of illness from consumption of tainted shellfish.

The shellfish harvesting closure area includes the northwest portion of Love Creek beginning near where Love Creek and Arnell Creek meet to just south of Boathouse Lane. The coordinates for the closure area include: 380 41’ 21.14” N, -750 8’ 2.74” W and 380 40’ 59.85” N, -750 8’ 22.33” W.

The Department is still investigating to determine the precise cause of the deterioration of water quality at Love Creek.

DNREC’s Shellfish Program performs shoreline surveys as part of its public health protection activities. Staff surveys all properties adjacent to shellfish harvesting areas and documents potential sources of contamination.  Although a small number of septic systems were identified as potential sources, these systems alone could not possibly contribute enough bacteria to cause the significant increase detected by DNREC.

Based upon clam surveys conducted by Shellfish Program staff, the clam population in the portion of Love Creek now closed is not sufficient to support a commercial or recreational harvest. However, the downstream portions of Love Creek and Rehoboth Bay are very productive clamming areas and will be sampled often and with increased vigilance given the nearby increase in levels of indicator bacteria. DNREC’s Watershed Assessment and Management Section Shellfish Program will continue to monitor water quality in the area to protect public health.       

The Secretary’s Order on the shellfish harvesting area closure at Love Creek can be found on the DNREC website.                                                                             

Vol. 43, No. 201
Contact: Debbie Rouse or Michael Bott, Shellfish Program, Division of Watershed Stewardship, 302-739-9939; or Melanie Rapp, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902


State awarded $1 million federal grant to protect critical lands in the Delaware Bayshore

DOVER – More than 800 acres of valuable coastal lands in the Delaware Bayshore, will be conserved and protected thanks to a federal grant awarded to DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act award of $1 million will be used, along with matching funds from the state Open Space Program, conservation partners and private contributors, to acquire property along the Bayshore in Kent County.  Nearly ten conservation partners have pledged matching funds that helped to make the grant award possible.

Our appreciation to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our Congressional Delegation and our partners for their tireless efforts in protecting our precious Bayshore lands and providing access to premier Bayshore habitat,” said Governor Jack Markell.  “By conserving this land, we can offer world-class outdoor experiences supporting ecotourism, helping to ensure a diverse natural legacy for future generations.”

The grant and support from critical partners will conserve lands that will fill a gap in a network of more than 4,000 acres of protected wetlands and uplands in the St. Jones River watershed. The conservation of these lands is a key priority of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative that protects coastal wetlands and globally significant wildlife habitat and expands public access and low-impact recreational opportunities. The conserved lands will provide opportunities for hunting, fishing, birding and other wildlife watching, photography and nature study activities.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous financial support of Mt. Cuba Center and the hard work of DNREC’s team in securing this important grant that will help preserve critical lands along the Delaware Bayshore,” said Richie Jones, state director of The Nature Conservancy’s Delaware Chapter.

Delaware’s matching cost share for the grant is anticipated to be about $2.2 million in Open Space Program Funds and partner contributions. Partners include: Mt. Cuba Center; The Nature Conservancy, Delaware Chapter; Ducks Unlimited; Delaware Wild Lands; Delmarva Ornithological Society; DuPont Company; the Town of Bowers Beach and Mayor Ron Hunsicker; Delaware Greenways; and Kent County Conservancy.

“Delaware’s Bayshore is a precious environmental resource and it is vital that we act as good stewards to protect and preserve these important areas for generations to come,” said Senator Tom Carper. “Striking a balance between economic development and environmental protection for Delaware’s coast has been a guiding principle that has proven successful for the First State, and I hope our approach can be a model for other coastal states.”

“Delaware’s majestic wetlands are a source of great beauty and pride in our state and it’s important that we protect them for future generations to enjoy,” Senator Chris Coons said. “With this federal grant, DNREC, the Mt. Cuba Center, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Delaware Wild Lands, the Delmarva Ornithological Society, and many other private conservation organizations have significantly advanced the Delaware Bayshore Initiative. The nearly 800 acres that will be acquired will link some of the most beautiful pieces of coastal Delaware, and the land will allow sportsmen, sportswomen and farmers in the future to continue enjoying this undeveloped corner of land.”

“Delaware is blessed with a beautiful natural habitat that draws residents and visitors from across the region.  It is our responsibility to care for this resource and preserve areas like the Bayshore for future generations to enjoy,” said Congressman John Carney.  “Thanks to this federal funding, the support of DNREC, and many other partners throughout the state, we can meet this challenge, while supporting the businesses in our ecotourism industry.  I’m glad to see this project is moving forward and excited for more people to discover the tremendous beauty that’s right in our backyard.”

The Delaware Bayshore Initiative builds on the state’s long-standing commitment to conserving our coastal zone and on the Delaware Bayshore’s reputation as a unique and beautiful natural resource, worthy of protection. The Initiative received national recognition as one of 100 projects included in the U.S. Department of Interior’s America’s Great Outdoors 50-State Report highlighting some of the country’s most promising ways to reconnect Americans to nature. Launched last May at an event in Slaughter Beach, former U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the Delaware Bayshore a “landscape of national significance.”

“This North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant builds upon a half-century of public-private partnerships that have conserved more than 115,000 acres along the Delaware Bayshore,” said DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara. “By leveraging federal, state and private resources to meet the goals of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative, we are connecting wildlife areas and enhancing ways for the public to experience our precious natural lands.”

Lands that will be conserved include coastal salt marshes that provide important year-round habitat for waterfowl like American Black Duck as well as nesting habitat for Saltmarsh Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow and Black Rail, a species of high regional importance. Much of the East Coast’s population of the Red Knot feed along central Bayshore beaches during spring migrations and will benefit from protected roosting habitat resulting from this federal grant and key partner contributions. The Bayshore’s coastal forests and wetlands also provide valuable foraging and resting habitat for songbirds during spring and fall migrations.

“Ducks Unlimited is excited to partner with the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife and others on the Delaware Bayshore Land Conservation Initiative,” said Ducks Unlimited (DU) Regional Biologist Jake McPherson.  “The acquisition of significant coastal wetlands into the existing state lands network not only ensures quality habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, but also offers increased recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts; both of which are imperative to DU’s mission.”

“The natural beauty, abundant open space, and diversity of habitat along Delaware’s coasts are the result of a long-standing tradition and generations of dedicated commitment to land conservation,” said Kate Hackett, executive director of Delaware Wild Lands. “The award of this highly-competitive federal grant highlights the critical importance of protecting Delaware’s coastal resources and exemplifies what can be achieved when public and private interests work together. Delaware Wild Lands is pleased to work in close partnership with the state and others to protect nearly 800 acres of crucial wildlife habitat, expand networks of conserved lands and natural resources, and foster a greater appreciation and awareness of the defining natural beauty and character of Delaware’s coastal resources.”

“Delmarva Ornithological Society is proud to join the State of Delaware and other partners in supporting the Delaware Bayshore Land Conservation Initiative,” said Society President Matthew Sarver. “The society’s many volunteers raise thousands of dollars for bird conservation through our annual Bird-A-Thon event.  We are pleased to see these hard-earned donations leveraging significant funding for conservation of our coastal marshes, including many bird species most threatened by loss of habitat to sea level rise.  We need to invest now in land conservation to ensure the Delaware Bayshore continues to provide the resources that these birds need into the future.”

The Delaware grant was part of $19.5 million in grants announced today by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe awarded through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. The funding will support 18 U.S. projects in 15 states and seven projects in Mexico that will protect, restore, or enhance more than 170,000 acres of habitat for migratory birds. The grants will be matched by $57 million in partner contributions.

“Protection of wetlands ensures that hunters, anglers, and wildlife watchers and photographers can continue to enjoy these precious resources,” Director Ashe said.  “Wildlife recreationists make up nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population and contribute more than $100 billion to our economy.”

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. Through the Act’s U.S. Standard Grants Program, 3,300 partners have been involved in 910 projects affecting more than 7 million acres of habitat.

For more information on the Delaware Bayshore Initiative, contact Karen Bennett, Delaware Bayshore Initiative Coordinator at 302-739-9124 or visit DNREC’s website by clicking Delaware Bayshore.

Vol. 43, No. 198                                                                                   -30-

This project is part of DNREC’s Delaware Bayshore Initiative, a landscape approach to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat, increase volunteer participation in habitat stewardship projects, enhance low-impact outdoor recreation and ecotourism opportunities, and promote associated environmentally compatible economic development.


DNREC Falcon Cam update: Four chicks, all fit and outfitted with bands for future flight and fate

The 2013 DNREC Wilmington Falcon Cam chicks sporting new bands - Photo: Craig Koppie/US Fish & Wildlife ServiceWILMINGTON (May 15, 2013) – The four peregrine falcon chicks given starring roles on the DNREC Falcon Cam  – sponsored by the Delaware Ornithological Society and DuPont’s Clear Into the Future initiative – were outfitted for their own ornithological future this week. They were banded Tuesday by the US Fish & Wildlife Service so as to enable the gathering of biological and biographical data from them as they spread their wings into adulthood.

USFWS raptor biologist Craig Koppie gave the chicks colorful leg-bands Tuesday that will further knowledge about the regional peregrine population. Resightings of banded birds has provided valuable information on their movements, ancestry and adaptability to changing environments. “This data becomes even more important when we consider that the peregrine, once an endangered species, now inhabits more urban and suburban areas than natural cliff sites where it once resided,” said DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife biologist Anthony Gonzon. “Resightings of these colored and numbered bands help us to identify individual birds that may have travelled several hundred miles from their birthplaces to new nesting locations.”

The fourth chick born from this year’s clutch to Red Girl, the female adult peregrine on the DNREC Falcon Cam, is on the right in the photo – and is the only chick not yet displaying colorful downy feathers. The chick hatched more than two days after its siblings. Facing a perilous possibility of survival because of its late arrival, the chick was removed from the nest box on the 19th floor of the Brandywine Building by Mr. Koppie, nurtured by him for two weeks, then returned to the nest box where it has since thrived.

CONTACT:  Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902, or Bill Stewart, Delaware Ornithological Society, email: bird-del@earthlink.net

Photo: USFWS/Craig Koppie

Vol. 43, No. 197


Wilmington Peregrine Falcons again a full family unit after revitalized chick’s return to nest box

The two-day old falcon chick after it was removed from the nest - Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service: Craig KoppieWILMINGTON (May 14, 2013) – With the recent return to the nest box of a chick that was artificially fed and cared for by human hand while it gained weight and strength to fend for itself in the box, the Wilmington Peregrine Falcons of DNREC Falcon Cam fame have regained the family dynamic as the four chicks prepare to fledge.

 Nesting high above the streets of downtown Wilmington, on the 19th floor of the Brandywine Building, adult falcons successfully hatched four eggs in April. The hatching of the fourth egg occurred three days after the first three, leaving a smaller, virtually helpless chick with little chance to compete with its larger siblings and a low chance of survival.The falcon chick at 2 weeks ago rejuvenated and ready for a return to nest box - Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service/Craig Koppie After authorization from DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife raptor biologist Craig Koppie made an emergency intercession, and removed the chick from the nest, nurturing it for two weeks until it reached a size – and had a fighting appetite for life – comparable to its siblings’. (See adjacent photos by Mr. Koppie for growth comparison.)

Upon returning the chick to the nest box, Mr. Koppie reported to DNREC biologist Anthony Gonzon that “The mother” – affectionately known as Red Girl” to Falcon Cam devotees – “brought in a small bird and fed the other siblings until the very last piece, which she gave to the little one. My little buddy received his first piece of food from his mother since he hatched!” About an hour and half later, Red Girl “came in with a pigeon. The young male forced his way to the front and was fed by the mother until his crop was full.” 

Mr. Koppie himself returned to the nest box Tuesday morning to band the young falcons before their first flight and eventual departure for their own territory. All four chicks from the “class of 2013” were found to be thriving. Earlier, he had reflected on his rearing of the fourth chick, which quite likely saved its life, and its return to the nest box: “I liked his overall progress and physical abilities (for returning it to the nest box). I felt confident about the timing and development stages of the other siblings and that he would likely fit in.”

Photos: US Fish & Wildlife Service/Craig Koppie

Contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902 

Vol. 43, No. 195

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Markell, Carper, Coons, Carney announce funding to restore Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge

 WASHINGTON – Today, Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Delaware’s Congressional Delegation of U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Representative John Carney (all D-Del.) announced funding to restore the marsh and dune system at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge that has been degraded by coastal storms including Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

 Earlier today, the Department of the Interior released $475.25 million in emergency Hurricane Sandy disaster relief appropriations. The funding will also provide investments in scientific data and studies to support recovery in the region. Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge will receive $20 million from the appropriation to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to begin a multi-year marsh restoration project. This project is in accordance with the recently released Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the refuge. FWS will restore coastal dunes that were significantly eroded by Sandy and begin restoring the degraded marsh with additional sediment. 

 Large dune breaches and severe flooding has converted the man-made freshwater marsh system at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge into an open water system which no longer provides the same quality of habitat for migratory birds, and other wildlife that are reliant on marshes and wetlands. This area is a major stopover point in the Atlantic Flyway for migratory waterbirds. The degradation of marshes reduces the resiliency of Refuge lands and adjacent resources to erosion and future storms. Hurricane Sandy greatly accelerated the degradation of these areas. 

 “Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is an important conservation and recreation area, supporting hunting, fishing, birding and other outdoor activities in our state,” said Governor Jack Markell. “I appreciate our strong partnership with the Department of Interior, our Congressional Delegation, State Senator Gary Simpson and Representative Harvey Kenton, and neighbors of the Refuge all of whom helped Delaware secure this critical federal funding that will restore the Refuge and help protect our shoreline from future storms.”    “One of my top priorities has been to restore areas of Delaware damaged by Superstorm Sandy, and the impact of future storms mitigated,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. “Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge’s critical habitat, which was further damaged during this storm, needs to be restored and stabilized according to its Comprehensive Conservation Plan, and I’m so pleased that this funding will address the short-term needs in accordance with the long-term plan.”   “Superstorm Sandy was a harbinger of changes coming to our shores, and it’s important Delaware is prepared,” Senator Coons said. “I’m hopeful that between the arrival of this federal funding and the recent release of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan, this valuable and ecologically diverse Refuge system will be better prepared for the inevitable challenges that sea level rise will bring to our coastal communities.”

 “Today’s funding announcement as part of the Superstorm Sandy relief package is much-needed good news for Prime Hook,” said U.S. Rep. John Carney.  “I am hopeful that this assistance will be an important part of building a sustainable solution for the refuge and the residents of Prime Hook.  Our goal should not only be returning the marsh system to the way it was before Hurricane Sandy, but also to ensure that the refuge is protected from damage by future storms.”   “For generations, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge has provided critical habitat for nesting, migrating and wintering waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds,” said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara. “With this funding, we will be able to restore habitat at Prime Hook and improve the Refuge’s long-term resiliency to impacts from more extreme storms and sea level rise.” 

 The strategic plan and a list of the approved projects are available here.