The Audubon Observer, November 2020
YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE
As we all know, Election Day 2020 is right around the corner. If you haven't voted yet, please make sure you know your polling location, as some have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now that Early Voting is over in Clay County and only available for one more day (November 1st) in Duval and Nassau Counties, this Tuesday, November 3rd could be your last opportunity to make your voice heard. As a 501(c)(3), Duval Audubon Society cannot and does not endorse specific candidates, but we CAN ask you to vote for those who recognize the reality of our changing climate, the necessity for making our communities resilient against rising waters, and the importance of protecting and preserving our natural environment - not just for the birds we love so much, but for all of us.
Please do not think your vote doesn’t count, because it does. We strongly encourage everyone to exercise your right and VOTE. It is your chance to make your voice heard. Thank you!
MANY VOICES FOR CONSERVATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Continuing our series focusing on the contributions of Black Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans, and other historically under-recognized groups to conservation and environmental sciences, this month we are featuring local Eastern Bluebird hero Charlene West.
Charlene is retired from the US Navy and in 2014 her son left for college, leaving her more free time for exploring nature and the outdoors. She and a friend began participating in local hiking trips with various groups and started attending bird walks hosted by Duval Audubon Society as well. She has been a nature and bird enthusiast for many years.
In early 2020 Laura Johannsen, the Northside Bluebird Trail monitor, needed assistance with monitoring while she was out of town for work. Charlene volunteered to help and started monitoring the more than thirty Eastern Bluebird nesting boxes in the Yellow Bluff Road area of Jacksonville in March.
The original boxes were set up over thirty years ago by Duval Audubon members Mildred Dixon and Pat Anderson, and about ten years later Laura took over the responsibility of checking each box weekly during nesting season and reporting the status of each box to Cornell Lab of Ornithology's NestWatch program. Over the years Laura has created a valuable dataset on Jacksonville-area Bluebirds (not to mention helping these birds survive and breed), so it was critical to be able to continue this effort while Laura was away.
Charlene’s commitment to monitoring the Northside Bluebird Trail during this year’s nesting season has been invaluable, and she went out at least once a week for the entire six months (March to August) to check all of the nesting boxes, a chore that took about two hours each time. She reported a total of 32 nesting attempts, 112 eggs, and 99 fledglings. Charlene tells us that it was a memorable experience.
Charlene, we thank you for your dedication and hard work on behalf of Jacksonville’s Eastern Bluebirds!
--Carol Bailey-White, President
NATIVE PLANTS FOR BIRDS: SILVER LEAVED ASTER
To help you create bird friendly habitat in your landscape, we are continuing our monthly series featuring a native plant that is beneficial to birds and pollinators.
This month's plant is: Silver Leaved Aster (Pityopsis graminifolia)
Autumn is a wonderful time of year for blooming asters and this class of flowers is one of my favorites.
There are many asters to choose from but the Silver Leaved Aster is a lovely native which is found throughout Florida in scrub, sandhills and flatwoods ecosystems. It is also called Grass-leaved Goldenaster or Narrowleaf Silkgrass. It blooms later than most of the other fall wildflowers and can provide color from late fall into early winter.
Silver Leaved Aster lives up to its name as the leaves are covered with silky hairs which give the plant a silvery look. It is a perennial with short or long rhizomes, depending upon the variety. It is only a foot tall most of the year until the fall, when it sends up bloom stalks on stems which can be up to three feet tall and sprawls several feet wide. The flowers are lemon yellow in color. Since this plant spreads from rhizomes it can make a dense groundcover over a large area but can also be controlled if you only want a spot of color here and there in your fall-blooming garden and it is easy to grow. It does well in dry to moist well drained sandy soils and will grow in full sunlight or partial shade. Once it has finished blooming, it can be mowed or cut back to the ground. Please be sure to use a very sharp blade as the stems and leaves are quite tough.
It is a great nectar plant which attracts butterflies and various pollinators.
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 Society. They 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, Past Chapter President
CLIMATE CHANGE AND RESILIENCY IN NORTHEAST FLORIDA
Northeast Florida decision makers have taken a long time to come to the realization that our climate is changing, ocean levels are rising, and our communities need to make serious efforts to improve our resiliency in the face of these threats. We are glad to see that government leaders and environmental organizations in our area have begun several initiatives this year aimed at reaching solutions to address the effects of climate change and sea level rise.
Duval Audubon Society supports the following resiliency and climate change initiatives:
The Resilient Jax coalition was formed in early 2020 with members representing a variety of environmental and conservation organizations in our area. The mission of the Resilient Jax coalition is, “To work collectively to propel equitable and proactive solutions that address the cause and effects of climate change in Northeast Florida through advocacy, education, and community involvement.”
Several of the Resilient Jax coalition members are also serving on subcommittees of Jacksonville City Council’s Special Committee on Resiliency, which was appointed in January 2020 by then City Council President Scott Wilson in order to “comprehensively assess the resilience and health of the beaches coastline and the St. Johns River system, including its tributaries, wetlands and riparian land. As part of this assessment, it will review city environmental, land use and infrastructure policies that affect these valuable and often vulnerable county assets and the health and safety of our citizens.” The Special Committee on Resiliency is tasked to report its findings and recommendations by June 30, 2021.
Proposed funding for a Chief Resilience Officer was included in Mayor Lenny Curry’s 2020/2021 budget, which was passed by the City Council on September 21, 2020. It’s not certain when this position will be filled, but Jacksonville will be the last of Florida’s major cities to hire a resiliency officer, so the Jacksonville community has a lot of ground to make up in terms of implementing effective actions to protect the city.
Local Groundwork USA affiliate Groundwork Jacksonville is building an “Emerald Trail” around the downtown and northwest area of Jacksonville. This project will provide parks and walking/biking trails along McCoys Creek and Hogans Creek (both tributaries of the St. Johns River) and will also incorporate flood zones for these two creeks which have historically been major flood areas. One of the most important aspects of this project is that it is in the urban core and will provide parks and flood relief to many underserved communities.
Riverfront Parks Now, an initiative of The Garden Club of Jacksonville and joined by Scenic Jacksonville, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER and the Late Bloomers Garden Club and supported by other conservation organizations including Duval Audubon, has proposed the development of much of the city’s downtown north bank of the St. Johns River into a resiliency park. This area was heavily flooded during Hurricane Irma in 2017. Jacksonville's mayor has been inclined to sell this property to private businesses who would (presumably) fortify the riverbanks with hard structures and build right up to the river. Riverfront Parks Now instead proposes the creation of a riverfront park with areas of natural wetlands and flood overflow that would also provide natural recreation open to all, encourage people to go downtown, and provide business opportunities as well as flood protection for downtown businesses.
Our chapter has also lent support to Free the Ocklawaha, a coalition of many of Florida's major environmental organizations. Its mission: "To restore the Ocklawaha as a free-flowing River, reconnecting the Silver and St. Johns Rivers, and elevating the regional benefits for all." The Ocklawaha River is the largest tributary of the St. Johns River and flows from Silver Springs to the St. Johns south of Orange Park in Clay County. This initiative seeks the removal or breaching of the Kirkpatrick Dam (also known as the Rodman Dam), which would result in the restoration of the natural flow of the Ocklawaha River and release the flow of twenty springs that have been suppressed by the weight of the water in the pool created by the dam.
Duval Audubon has also joined Florida Climate Voices, a new clearinghouse for climate related activities and experiences. This is a movement that grew out of Rethink Energy Florida and is trying to spread to all areas of Florida to let people know what climate and resiliency activities are available. The Florida Climate Voices coalition is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the direct climate threats Florida faces, with a special emphasis on action and equity.
Many of these efforts are just starting and Duval Audubon, representing members in Clay, Duval, and Nassau counties, is trying to get involved wherever we think we can be useful.
--Carolyn Antman, Conservation Director for Duval County
CROSBY SANCTUARY PAST AND PRESENT
Crosby Sanctuary, with over 550 acres of bottomland swamp and oak hammock, hides in the heart of suburban Clay County, Florida. Would you believe, our Crosby Sanctuary conservation property has been in our hands for more than thirty-five years! Our chapter received the original donation of around 340 acres through the generosity of J. Ellis and Addie Weltch Crosby in the early 1980's, and additional parcels have been added through the years. The most recent addition was a 64-acre acquisition in 2014 in partnership with Taylor Morrison Homes. This addition completes the sanctuary’s connection to the Orange Park Country Club.
We have made many improvements to the sanctuary over the years to both enhance the visitor experience and at the same time maintain the natural beauty and biodiversity of this amazing place. More work needs to be done, but we thought it would be fun to see some “then and now” photos to show how things have changed at Crosby over the years.
We plan to continue enhancing and improving Crosby Sanctuary in the future - we'll keep you posted!
--Carol Bailey-White, President
As we announced previously, no group outings or indoor gatherings are planned for this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But we still have some fun and informative events planned! Here's what's coming up for November:
We look forward to seeing you soon!
Duval Audubon Society, Inc.