Audubon Florida’s EagleWatch Program is a statewide network of community science volunteers who monitor Bald Eagle nests from October to May. EagleWatch provides valuable information on nesting activity and the current trends of the Bald Eagle population in Florida. This information is used by both the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enhance their conservation and law enforcement efforts.
North Florida Audubon EagleWatch held its first training session in November of 2014. The region consists of 5 counties with two coordinators; Kaye Lee, coordinator for Duval, Nassau and Clay counties, and Amy Koch, coordinator for St. John’s and Putnam Counties and president of St. Johns County Audubon Society. The region was divided several years ago to allow a more focused approach to the coordination of the volunteers and more focus on the nests in each county.
Here is Kaye Lee's report about the North Florida Audubon EagleWatch program:
"All volunteers of the Audubon EagleWatch program are considered community scientists. The role of the volunteer coordinator is to act as a liaison to Shawnlei Breeding, the Audubon EagleWatch Program Manager, and as a local contact person for volunteers to seek guidance when needed. Not every county has a coordinator but for those that do, this helps to relieve some of the duties for Shawnlei. We receive a list from Shawnlei of the new volunteers who participate in the required trainings. We assign the nest assignments for all of the volunteers, returning and new, in our respective counties. We review and approve all of the observation entries in the official database that EagleWatch Volunteers enter into that database. Volunteers are required at a minimum to make observations two times a month for approximately 20 minutes to 1 hour at each visit. With over 480 volunteers statewide, 45 counties, 842 nests being monitored, and a total of approximately 1600 active nests state wide, it keeps not only Shawnlei Breeding busy but also the volunteer coordinators.
Training is a requirement to participate as a community scientist. The trainings are held prior to the nesting season, which is October 1 to May 15. This season, trainings were held online/virtually due to COVID-19. If a volunteer enters the season late, we do have online trainings to get them started and then a nest assignment can be made. We do limit the number of volunteers to a suggested number of 3 for each nest to limit the exposure of human disturbance at the nests.
Last season (2019/2020) Duval, Clay and Nassau counties monitored 38 nests. The productivity rate was 1.33 (fledglings/occupied nests). We had a 93.62% fledge rate and 87.88% rate of occupied nests that were successful. These statistics come from the observations that each volunteer completes in the database. Active volunteers last year was 40. So far this season the trainings have added 15 additional volunteers who have expressed interest in the program.
The Audubon EagleWatch program always welcomes new volunteers as community scientists. We feel there are many more nests in these five counties that have not been located or identified as protected by FWC / USFWS and one of the ways that anyone can help is to report an Eagle nest to either one of the coordinators and help get these nests under the protection of the program."