AUDUBON'S CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
2019 marks the 120th year for Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count (commonly known simply as "CBC"). According to Audubon.org, "Prior to the turn of the 20th century, hunters engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas "Side Hunt." They would choose sides and go afield with their guns—whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won.
Conservation was in its beginning stages in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition—a "Christmas Bird Census" that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them."
Here's how the annual CBC works: experienced birders fan out to specified locations within an established 15-mile-wide circle in the local area and count every single bird they see or hear from dawn until dusk. Some even start before dawn, listening for owls and other nocturnal species to add to the count. The results of the annual counts are uploaded to Audubon's extensive database, providing important data about bird population trends and helping to inform avian conservation efforts.
Counts can be scheduled anytime between December 14th and January 5th, and Jacksonville's CBC is typically held each year on the Saturday after Christmas. Our chapter has participated in this annual Audubon tradition since 1935, and according to an article published in the Florida Times-Union in 2009, "Jacksonville is in the big leagues of bird counting, logging more than 150 species each year for more than a decade." This trend has continued to the present day, with an average of 160 species reported annually in the ten years since the publication of the article.
This year's Jacksonville CBC, held on December 28th, was no exception: 156 different bird species were reported by 41 volunteers working in a count circle encompassing many different habitats, including coastal beaches and live oak hammocks, salt marshes and freshwater wetlands, and a variety of forested areas, not to mention suburban neighborhoods, as birds can be found literally everywhere. Species of particular interest reported during the Jacksonville count include Ash-throated Flycatcher, Surf Scoter, Marbled Godwit, Sandwich Tern, Painted Bunting, Yellow Warbler, Prairie Warbler, and eleven species of sparrows!
In addition, a brand-new count circle in Clay County was established this year under the auspices of our chapter, and was held on December 21st. Highlights from this year's "Clay County (East)" CBC include Lincoln's Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, American Kestrel, King Rail, Virginia Rail, Sora, Limpkin, Common Ground Dove (right) and Least Sandpiper. Fifteen volunteer participants documented a total of111 species, an excellent tally for a first-ever count.
Other northeast Florida CBCs include the St. Augustine and Matanzas counts, and many local volunteers participate in more than one count every year. Count compilers rely on the knowledge and expertise of the experienced birders who participate to ensure the integrity of the data to be submitted to Audubon's CBC database. Less-experienced birders can also participate under the guidance of a seasoned team leader in order to help with data collection and learn how to conduct a count. If you are interested in helping with one (or more) of next year's counts, click here to view an interactive map of this year's CBC circles, with compilers' contact information available in the popup for each circle.
A special thanks to all of the dedicated volunteers who give up an entire day during their busy holiday season to count birds in all kinds of weather. We at Duval Audubon Society are thrilled to participate in this long-standing Audubon tradition, and especially excited to add a new count circle to the annual event.
Click here to learn more about the history of Audubon's Christmas Bird Count, one of the largest and longest-running citizen science efforts in the world.
--Carol Bailey-White, Vice President
CRITTER CAMS AT CROSBY SANCTUARY
Duval Audubon’s 560-acre Crosby Sanctuary conservation property in Orange Park is a haven for wildlife of all kinds. Crosby’s cypress swamp, pine flatwood, and live oak hammock habitats provide shelter and sustenance for many wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, river otter, raccoon, armadillo, bobcat, alligator, and even beaver! Many bird species can also be found at Crosby. In fact, over 125 species have been documented at the preserve over the years, including Prothonotary Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Great Blue Heron, White Ibis, Eastern Bluebird, Red-tailed Hawk, White-eyed Vireo, and Wild Turkey, to name just a few.
Even though wildlife abounds at Crosby, visitors seldom get to see them as they are usually (and wisely) quite wary of people. To remedy this, we installed wildlife cameras to document the wide variety of wildlife species that depend on Crosby’s rich ecosystems. The cameras are motion-activated and capture still photographs as well as short video clips. So far, we have captured images of deer, otters, armadillos, raccoons, and several bird species on the critter cams, and we are very excited to have visual documentation of the amazing biodiversity at our preserve. As we gather more footage and images, we will share those on our website and social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Although the sanctuary isn’t generally open to the public, we do host a bird walk at Crosby from 8:00 am to 9:30 am on the fourth Saturday of every month from September to May. And for those who are willing and able, after the bird walk there is a workday until 11:30 am to help maintain the preserve and keep it free of invasive plants and trash. Our monthly “Crosby Saturdays” are a perfect opportunity for you to see this beautiful preserve for yourself! Please join us for birding, even if you cannot stay for the workday.
--Carol Bailey-White, Vice President
NATIVE PLANTS FOR BIRDS: EASTERN RED CEDAR
To help you create bird friendly habitat in your landscape, we are sharing a native plant every month that is beneficial to birds and pollinators.
This month's plant is:
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
This tree is actually a juniper which will grow in any kind of soil, from dry rocky outcrops to swamps. It is the most widely distributed conifer in the eastern United States, found from southern Ontario to central Florida. It grows from 30 to 40 feet tall and is resistant to extremes of drought, heat, and cold. The highly durable and aromatic wood repels moths, hence its popularity for clothes closets and chests.
The wood was so prized by the colonists from 1660 onward, that it was listed in people’s wills as an important asset. It had many uses for our Native American tribes: wood for crossbows, crushed leaves were used to relieve headaches, the twigs were burned and the smoke inhaled to relieve colds, among some of its many uses.
It is also beloved by our bird species. The Cedar Waxwing eats so many cedar berries, that it’s named after the tree. Many other birds consume the berries, including woodpeckers, orioles, grosbeaks, cardinals, warblers, mockingbirds, purple finches, and thrushes. In the spring, it is sought as a nesting site because of the dense cover it provides. The Indigo Bunting and the Gray Catbird weave strips of cedar in their nests. Truly a wonderful tree to have in your yard!
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, President
MORE TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR PLASTIC FOOTPRINT
Second in our series from board member Carolyn Antman on how you can help birds and other wildlife by using less plastic in your daily life.
"Last month I wrote about reducing your plastic consumption at the grocery store. I hope everyone is making an effort to bring your own bags. This month I want to talk about restaurants. The most important thing to remember is that demand creates supply. The less new plastic we use, the less will be produced. Therefore, we must reduce demand. In the restaurant that means:
As with grocery store bags, every plastic container that you do not use is one less in the system, but you can have a greater impact by spreading the word and setting an example. Remember 1% of the U.S. population is 3.3 million. If this 1% saved one plastic straw and one leftover container a week that’s 3.3 million fewer straws and 3.3 million fewer plastic containers EVERY WEEK! You CAN make a difference!!"
--Carolyn Antman, Conservation Chair
Our 2019/2020 season continues this month with more exciting activities. Please join us for one (or more) of our upcoming field trips or programs.
Please, always check our website for any last-minute changes before heading out the door, just in case something has come up. We hope to see you soon!
Duval Audubon Society, Inc.