The Audubon Observer, January 2022
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).
In 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.
We 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
CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT REPORT
Audubon's 2021 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is ending soon, and our chapter’s two CBCs for this year are complete. The Clay County East CBC occurred on December 18th, and the Jacksonville count was Saturday, December 26th.
Clay County East compiler Steve Raduns reports that 26 volunteers participated in the December 18th count and recorded 104 different species for the day, including a rare (for this time of year) Northern Parula and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Other standout species observed during the Clay CBC were: King Rail, Virginia Rail, Sora, White-throated Sparrow and Grasshopper Sparrow. Unfortunately, he says, “There has been a significant amount of habitat loss to the Clay County East CBC circle since last year primarily from construction of the new highway that is passing through the county. There is also a lot of new home construction being built because of this new toll highway.” His team was also prevented from surveying a normally fantastic wading bird rookery site by a wild hog hunting party with many ATVs and hunting dogs converging on the property. Despite the loss of this key location, his team still managed to get 77 species for the day.
Jacksonville CBC compiler Anne Turner tells us that more than 50 volunteers participated in the count this year, an impressive number considering it was held on the day after Christmas! 157 species were reported for the count, two more than last year, even though several species seen last year were missed this year. The star species of the day was a Lapland Longspur, a bird that breeds in the High Arctic and typically migrates to the central and far western US during non-breeding season. This bird was first spotted at Huguenot Memorial Park on December 10th by Doris and Pat Leary and was subsequently seen by multiple local birders until mid-December, when it seemed to disappear from the area. Luckily, it reappeared for the Christmas Bird Count and was spotted by Bill George’s team during their survey at Huguenot.
Other notable species seen during the Jacksonville CBC were: Western Tanager, Nelson’s, Saltmarsh, Seaside, and White-crowned Sparrows, Piping Plovers, Whimbrels, and 12 different species of ducks.
Both counts were blessed with incredible weather, which makes the long day (pre-dawn to dusk for many participants) so much more pleasant. Many thanks to everyone who volunteered their time and energy to participate in the 122nd Audubon Christmas Bird Count this year. CBC observations help Audubon scientists track bird populations over time, aid in the development of strategies to protect birds and their habitats, and help to identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. Check back with us in the fall of 2022 for information about next year’s count.
AUDUBON’S CLIMATE WATCH PROGRAM
Audubon’s 2019 “Survival by Degrees” report documented the alarming conclusion of many years of ornithological and climate research: fully two-thirds of North American bird species are at risk of extinction due to climate change. Many species will see their ranges shift as the climate warms and human development reduces suitable breeding habitat. Soon, some species may have nowhere left to go.
As a result of the report, Audubon initiated several new programs and website features, including their Birds and Climate Visualizer page, which allows you to type in your zip code and see how climate change is predicted to affect the birds that live in your local community.
Audubon’s Climate Watch Program began after an earlier Audubon report published in 2014 on the impact of climate change on North American birds and has become even more critical since the 2019 report. This community science project aims to test the predictions in the report with volunteers who are documenting specific species’ responses to climate change in their local areas. Climate Watch volunteers survey bird species targeted by Audubon based on climate models and ease of detection. The program is currently focusing on bluebirds, nuthatches, painted bunting, and two species of goldfinch and towhee.
Participants survey the target birds in their chosen areas during thirty-day periods in the winter non-breeding season (January 15 through February 15) and/or in the summer breeding season (May 15 through June 15). To facilitate participation at the local level, Audubon set up a grid of 10 x 10 km Climate Watch Squares that cover the USA. There are multiple ways to participate, but the simplest is to volunteer as an individual and report your findings to the national Climate Watch team.
It is also possible to participate as a local coordinator for a specific area. Climate Watch coordinators manage their area’s participation in Climate Watch by recruiting participants, training them to plan and conduct Climate Watch surveys, and ensuring that the data they collect are submitted to the national Climate Watch team. Our chapter doesn’t currently have a local Climate Watch coordinator, so if you are interested learning more about what’s involved with this role, please review this information to find out more about how to participate as a Climate Watch coordinator.
As Audubon says, “The data collected by our dedicated Climate Watch volunteers are already helping us to tell the story of the birds we love, aiding in our understanding on how these birds are responding to climate change.” If you would like to find out more about becoming a Climate Watch individual volunteer or coordinator in our area, please contact the Audubon Climate Watch Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NATIONAL BIRD DAY
Did you know? January 5th is National Bird Day! Why are birds important? They benefit our ecosystems by controlling pests like rodents or insects. They share a special relationship with native plants through pollination, fertilization, and spreading seeds, while plants provide shelter and nutrition.
What can you do to help birds and celebrate National Bird Day?
~ Jeffrey Graham, Field Trips Director
Here are our scheduled events for this month:
We look forward to seeing you soon!
All content by Carol Bailey-White unless otherwise noted.
Duval Audubon Society, Inc.