2021 Year in Review

As we start a brand-new year of connecting people with nature, here’s a look back at some of our chapter’s most notable accomplishments of 2021:

Although we reluctantly concluded at the beginning of the year that it was still not safe to hold in-person meetings or hosted outings due to the pandemic, we continued to offer our monthly Open House events at our Crosby Sanctuary conservation property in Orange Park, giving folks a welcome opportunity to safely get outside on their own in a beautiful natural setting. We hosted nearly 200 visitors at Crosby in 2021 and plan to continue the monthly Open House events indefinitely (excluding June, July, August & December).

Red cockaded Woodpeckers at Camp Blanding WMA watermark Jessica Dyszel 20211002 IMG 5556In May, with the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines, we were delighted to resume our expert-led field trips with an outing at the St. Augustine Road Fish Management Area, one of our favorite birding spots. Other field trip destinations last year included the Pioneer Trail at Jennings State Forest, a fabulous visit to the Camp Blanding Wildlife Management Area (Red-cockaded Woodpeckers!), and an excellent outing in partnership with the Amelia Island Bird Club at Egan’s Creek Greenway in Fernandina Beach, where the group saw 50 different species. In all, our chapter hosted 27 outings at some of our favorite area parks and preserves last year, including several in partnership with organizations like the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens, the UNF Institute of Environmental Research and Education, the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, the Florida Master Naturalist Program, and Clay County Libraries.

Our chapter was also deeply involved in our Lights Out Northeast Florida (LONF) partnership initiative with St. Johns County Audubon Society and the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens last year. The initial phase of the project began in March, when 25 volunteers hit the streets of downtown Jacksonville to collect data about birds killed or injured by building/window strikes. Even more volunteers (36) signed up to walk the same routes during the fall migration season to collect this important data. Armed with the 2021 data, the LONF partnership will ask building owners and managers in downtown Jacksonville to take our pledge to reduce nighttime lighting on their buildings during the spring and fall migration seasons to help save the lives of migrating birds. We also plan to continue the data collection effort in 2022 and beyond to track changes over time.

Heritage River Rd Cleanup CBW PXL 20210423 155540481We hosted several cleanups in 2021 at some of our favorite local birding spots to reduce the amount of plastic trash getting into our waterways and help keep trash from harming the birds and other wildlife we love. Please consider joining us on Friday, April 22 for our special Earth Day Cleanup at the Joe Carlucci Boat Ramp Park.

During the worst of the pandemic, we continued our free monthly informational programs virtually via Zoom, including such fascinating presentations as “Birding and Beyond in Cuba,” “The Secret Lives of Seabirds,” “Make Your Sightings Count with eBird,” and more! Recordings of our virtual program presentations are available on our YouTube channel for viewing anytime.

In the coming year we are trying a hybrid approach, with some in-person program meetings and some virtual, depending on the availability and preferences of the speakers. Our virtual Zoom platform has enabled us to present some amazing speakers not based in Northeast Florida, so this hybrid approach allows us to offer a wider range of programs and presentations than relying on locally available speakers alone. Our January program meeting will feature bluebird expert Brett Moyer, PhD. Please check our calendar of events for specifics on meeting locations for in-person events as well as details for Zoom meeting participation.

Even though 2021 was a challenging year for everyone, our chapter accomplished a great deal with the help of our dedicated board members and volunteers, and we look forward to an even better year in 2022. Wishing you a happy, healthy and BIRDY New Year!

~ Carol Bailey-White, President