• Discarded Fishing Line: A Grave Threat to Wildlife

    Duval Audubon Society member Shane Carroll recently shared this remarkable story with us:

    Red breasted Merganser Rescue 20200105 Shane Carroll DSCN9416"Today I was at Huguenot Memorial Park at low tide. I was on the family beach and noted a Red-breasted Merganser just 50 feet across the pond on a sandbar. It seemed to be just sitting but then it struggled to stand. There were gulls approaching and agitating it. I set my binoculars on it to see that there was fishing line all tangled up around its bill, wings and neck.

    I knew I couldn't cross the 50 feet without getting stuck in the muck. Just then I noticed a young man walking through the reeds toward the bird. This young man slowly approached the bird, picked it up and started to unravel the fishing line. He then put his mouth to the line in an effort to cut it.

    Red breasted Merganser Rescue 20200105 Shane Carroll DSCN9426I had a pocket knife on me so I started the walk around the pond to the northern side where the young man and bird were located. It took about 10 minutes to get there and the bird had most of the fishing line removed by the time I got there. The young man said when he got to the bird the fishing line was attached to a hook and weight that were buried into the sand preventing the bird from moving more than a few feet.

    Red breasted Merganser Rescue 20200105 Shane Carroll DSCN9438Alan Troyer of Tennessee was visiting Huguenot for the first time. He said he had left his pocketknife in the car so he was glad to see me. The last part of the fishing line was wrapped very tightly around the bird's neck and not visible. I felt through the so soft feathers to locate each twine that needed to be cut and once that last one was snipped the bird knew it and gave me just a few seconds to take this photo of Alan holding it."

    Kudos to Alan and Shane for making the effort to free this innocent creature from what would assuredly have been a slow and miserable death. Audubon North Carolina estimates that "...more than 1 million shorebirds die every year as a result of marine debris. 320,000 of those deaths are said to be attributed to discarded fishing equipment, including lines and hooks." And not just birds: according to Audubon, "...littered line hurts marine recreation, too. It wreaks havoc on boaters’ propellers and along with birds and fish, can endanger scuba divers. A diver in South Carolina died a year ago after fishing line got caught in her breathing gear."

    Carelessly discarded fishing gear is literally a death trap for birds and other wildlife. Monofilament line is essentially invisible in the water, making it nearly impossible for wildlife to avoid. Not only that, but it takes centuries to biodegrade, continuing to pose life-threatening dangers to seabirds, marine mammals, sea turtles, and fishes.

    In an effort to reduce the environmental damage caused by discarded fishing line, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program has installed over 1,600 fishing line collection bins around the state at boat ramps, fishing piers, marinas, tackle shops, and many fishing supply stores. If you see discarded fishing line, please help protect our imperiled birds and other wildlife by using the bins. If you can't find one, check the MRRP website to find out how you can properly dispose of it.

    If you like to fish, please dispose of used line responsibily. Cutting it so that it just falls into the water or onto the beach is guaranteed to maim or kill wildlife.

    Thank you for considering your impact on wildlife and the environment while you're enjoying all the outdoors has to offer.

    --Carol Bailey-White, Vice President

  • Duval Audubon Society's Bluebird Trail

    Eastern Bluebird by Carly WainwrightMore than 30 years ago, Duval Audubon Society volunteers created a series of bluebird nesting boxes along the side streets of Yellow Bluff Road in Northeast Jacksonville. The original boxes were set up by Duval Audubon members Mildred Dixon and Pat Anderson, and ten years later, Laura Johannsen took over the responsibility of checking each box weekly during breeding season (March to August) and reporting the status of each box to Cornell Lab of Ornithology's NestWatch program. With the help of her husband and other volunteers, she has maintained these 30-35 boxes and created a valuable dataset on Jacksonville bluebirds (not to mention helping these birds survive and breed).

    Bluebird Trail CAntman 20200120This year Laura is taking a much deserved break. Charlene West, who lives in the area of the boxes, will be monitoring the bluebirds while Laura is away. They are pictured at left (Laura in sunglasses) when they recently went out to show Charlene the ropes. Many thanks to Laura for her years of service and to Charlene for stepping up to the job..

    Just a reminder that now is the time to make sure your bluebird nest boxes are clean and solid or to install new boxes to be ready for this year’s birds. Audubon's website has an entire section devoted to bluebirds, their nesting habits, and step-by-step instructions for building a bluebird nest box. Nesting is expected to start in mid-March.


    --Carolyn Antman, Conservation Chair, Duval County

  • Native Plants for Birds

    To help you create bird friendly habitat in your landscape, we are spotlighting a native plant every month that is beneficial to birds and pollinators.

    This month's plant is:

    Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria)

    Yaupon Holly CBW 20200111 150644This is an evergreen shrub which can reach 25 to 30 feet in height and is one of the easiest wildlife plants for you to grow in your yard. Its native range is from coastal New Jersey south to Florida and west to Texas. It is one of the most adaptable plants available as it grows in sun to part shade, in a wide variety of habitats from moist to dry, and is salt tolerant. It requires no maintenance, is drought tolerant, and can be pruned or shaped if so desired. It has an attractive whitish bark with small evergreen leaves. It produces small inconspicuous white flowers in the spring which attract many insects; the lovely red berries are produced in the fall on female plants. The berries are beloved by a number of bird species, including: mockingbirds, bluebirds, sapsuckers, flickers, cedar waxwings, catbirds, robins, and white-throated sparrows.

    It is the only known indigenous plant in North America which produces caffeine. The Native Americans brewed the leaves and stems to make a tea which they drank in great quantities for purification and unity rituals and fasted from food. These rituals induced vomiting which led the Europeans to incorrectly believe that the plant caused vomiting and that is how it got this Latin name. In small amounts, the dried leaves produce a pleasant tea which is now commercially available as well.

    For additional information on native plants for birds, check out Audubon's excellent Plants for Birds website: Audubon.org/plantsforbirds.

    For local sources of native plants, check with the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant SocietyThey often have native plants as well as cuttings available at their monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of each month. Check out their Events Calendar for all of their upcoming activities.

    --Jody Willis, President, Duval Audubon Society

  • Wild Birds Need Your Help!

    201904 Sweetwater SNKI Shane CarrollA recent study of bird populations in North America published in the journal Science revealed that nearly 3 billion fewer wild birds are alive today compared to avian abundance in 1970, a loss of 29%! In addition, Audubon's new report, Survival by Degrees, estimates that two-thirds of North American birds (389 species) are at increasing risk of extinction from global temperature rise.

    In the face of these threats it's easy to lose hope, but we want to focus on what we as individuals, families, and communities can do to turn these trends around. In the past, some species have been nearly eliminated by hunting or pesticides, yet conservation measures (like eliminating DDT) helped these populations to recover, so we still have a chance to bring birds back from the brink!

    Here are twelve things YOU can do to give birds a better chance of survival:

    1. Vote for candidates who place environmental issues front and center. Public policy has a huge impact on survival of the bird species we love.
    2. Stop using single use plastics, especially straws, plastic bags, and balloons. Plastic pollution 20180113 092540These items can end up in our waterways where they can be mistaken for food by birds, fish, and sea turtles, often killing them. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Refuse straws and bring your own take-out containers when dining out. Dispose of cigarette butts properly - butts are the most common trash found on the beaches during cleanups, and the filters contain plastic. (Another reason to quit smoking.)
    3. Keep cats indoors - they will live longer and healthier lives. Support measures to eliminate feral cat colonies over time. There are 60-100 million free-ranging cats in the US, and they are non-native predators against which our wild birds have no natural defenses. It is estimated that cats kill 1 billion birds and 6 billion mammals each year in the US alone. Outdoor cats typically have a very short life span and can transmit diseases to humans and wildlife. Audubon supports the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors program.
    4. Use traps for a rodent problem instead of rat poison, many forms of which move up the food chain to also kill eagles, hawks, and owls, which eat rodents.
    5. Swear off herbicides and pesticides and reduce or eliminate fertilizer use in your yard. A chemical-free yard provides safe food sources for birds and other pollinators. Organic farms provide the same benefits on an agricultural scale. Pesticides containing neonicotinoids are directly responsible for the disastrous decline of bees, monarch butterflies, and other beneficial insects. We are joined by other organizations including the Garden Club of America, St. Johns Riverkeeper, and the Florida Wildflower Foundation in opposing the use of them.
    6. Plant native plants in your yard, especially fruit and nut bearing trees and berry producing shrubs, which are an excellent food source for birds and pollinators. An easy way to learn what will work in our yards here in northeast Florida is to use Audubon's Plants for Birds website. Go to the native plants database and type in your zip code, and you will get a list of plants for our area, including pictures for easy identification.
    7. Maintain a brush pile so birds have a place to hide from predators.
    8. If you can do it safely, let dead trees stand in your landscape as nesting sites for cavity nesting birds such as woodpeckers. They are also a source of insects which provide protein for birds.
    9. Keep fresh water readily available. In a drought, it’s easier for birds to find food than water.
    10. Reduce deadly bird collisions with glass by keeping screens up year-round. Or, install feather guards which interrupt reflections. Window decals to reduce bird strikes are also available from several vendors, including Wild Birds Unlimited.
    11. Enroll your company in Audubon’s Lights Out Program, which promotes safe migration for birds through urban areas by taking actions such as turning off outside lights on buildings and using window shades during nighttime work. There are currently 30 cities participating in this program throughout the US already and we hope to add Jacksonville to that list soon. At this time there are no cities in Florida that participate in this program and we would like to be the first.
    12. Buy shade grown, bird-friendly coffee. Not only will you be helping small farmers in South and Central America use good growing practices but you will also help our bird species that migrate there in the winter. It is easily obtainable online and several local retailers carry it as well. Ask your local coffee shop to stock it.


    If everyone would do at least one of these things now, such as bringing your own reusable bags when shopping, keeping your cat indoors, stop using chemicals on your lawn, or stop using plastic straws, we can have a positive impact on the survival of the birds we love. Doing nothing guarantees that nothing will change.

    Chapter president Jody Willis and Duval County conservation chair Carolyn Antman appeared on WJCT's First Coast Connect radio show on October 30, 2019 - read the story and listen to the program here.

  • Upcoming Programs

    Lakewood PresbyterianHere are the great programs we have planned for the remainder of our 2019/2020 season:

    - Kelly Tesiero, owner of The Elegant Garden, will present "Ten Terrific Tips for Beginning a Beautiful Bird Garden" (March 16, 2020).

    - Jordan Huntley, Technical Forester at Rayonier and Duval Audubon Society Clay County Conservation Chair, will share his expertise with us about "Florida's Forests: History, Management, and Impact" (April 20, 2020).

    - Join us for a fun, casual evening to see some of the amazing photographs that our members have captured at The Best of Us: Photo Sharing and Potluck Dinner (May 18, 2020). Bring your favorite dish to share, and if you want to show off your photos, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to reserve your spot!

    Check out our Calendar of Events for a complete listing of all of our upcoming activities!

    Our next program, "Birds, Birding, and History in the Dry Tortugas," presented by Expert Florida Birding Guide David Simpson, will be held on Monday, February 17, 2020 at Lakewood Presbyterian Church, 2001 University Blvd W, Jacksonville, FL. Meetings start with refreshments and networking at 6:30 pm, with program presentations starting at 7 pm.

    Please join us - everyone is welcome!