The Audubon Observer, February 2023
FREE THE OCKLAWAHA: A CONTINUING SAGA
The Ocklawaha River is the largest tributary to the St. Johns River. Since the late 1960s the natural flow of the Ocklawaha has been blocked by the Kirkpatrick Dam (more commonly known as the Rodman Dam), a remnant of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. The Canal project was halted in 1971 due to the severe environmental damage that would be caused by its completion, but the dam remains, serving no function other than to create a huge pool of water that has drowned at least 20 natural springs and submerged 16 miles of the river and thousands of acres of forest. Debris and vegetation build up behind the dam, and the state of Florida regularly spends millions of dollars treating invasive aquatic vegetation in the pool. In addition, the gates of the dam must be opened every three to four years to draw the water level down to further control the excess vegetation. Much more information about this situation can be found on the Free the Ocklawaha website and in this video on their YouTube channel.
You can also learn more by attending this FREE concert hosted by St. Johns RIVERKEEPER to show your support for breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam and reuniting Silver Springs, the Ocklawaha, and the St. Johns. 1-3 pm, Saturday, February 4, 2023 @ Jacksonville University. Register here.
As this year’s Florida legislative session starts, we want to remind and encourage our legislators to deal with the fact that the dam is old and could collapse at any time. Now is the time to breach the dam and restore the natural flow of the Ocklawaha River. PLEASE reach out to your legislators and ask them to act now on this matter. Find out who your legislators are at www.flsenate.gov and www.myfloridahouse.gov.
Remind the legislators that restoration of the natural flow of the Ocklawaha River would:
~ Carolyn Antman
WINTER RARITIES AT HUGUENOT MEMORIAL PARK
Recently there have been a few winter rarities at Jacksonville’s Huguenot Memorial Park. Below is a brief review of the birds. Thank you to Marie Chappell for spotting and getting people on the birds quickly and thank you to Dave Foster for alerting the Northeast Florida Birders Facebook group.
Surf Scoter (not a true rarity)
~ Jessica Dyszel
BOOK REVIEW: PROJECT PUFFIN
This year I joined Hog Island Audubon Camp’s Tern the Page Book Club. As a repeat participant in wonderful Hog Island camp sessions over the last several years, it was a way for me to stay in touch with other Hog Island alumni and enjoy some excellent “birdy” books!
Project Puffin, published in 2016 by authors Stephen Kress and Derrick Jackson, is the story of the herculean efforts to restore Atlantic Puffin colonies to islands off the coast of Maine, where they had been completely extirpated for nearly 100 years due to overhunting. While Atlantic Puffins were still fairly plentiful further north in the Canadian province of Newfoundland, they had not nested off the coast of Maine since the late 1800s, and as a young ornithology instructor at Hog Island in the 1970s, Dr. Kress decided to try to see if they could be brought back to their traditional nesting grounds on Maine islands.
The book details the many difficulties in developing such an ambitious project: getting approval from fish and wildlife officials, securing (and maintaining) funding, digging nesting burrows, figuring out the best way to get pufflings (baby puffins!) from another colony and into the human-built burrows, protecting them from predators, feeding the pufflings correctly, and waiting and hoping for them to come back to the island to nest, typically at least five years after fledging. It was an exercise in patience, trial-and-error, frustration, and sorrow when their young charges sometimes didn’t survive.
The incredible dedication of the Project Puffin team is apparent throughout the book. It took eight long years for the first adult Atlantic Puffin pair hatched at the pilot location (Eastern Egg Rock) to return to nest on the island, and during that time, the researchers battled primitive living conditions, horrible weather, boating accidents, equipment losses, and many other challenges. They also pioneered new conservation strategies that are now consistently used in conservation projects all over the world.
Thanks to their efforts, Maine visitors can now regularly see these adorable "clowns of the sea" on boat trips out to Eastern Egg Rock and several other Maine islands during the summer months.
Even though I had heard Dr. Kress speak several times during my Hog Island Audubon Camp sessions over the years, I found the book to be an engaging read; just as exciting as any adventure story! If you’re looking for an inspiring conservation success story, try Project Puffin – it’s a winner!
~ Carol Bailey-White
JOIN OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS
This year we are working to recruit additional board members to help us continue to achieve our mission to connect people with nature in the coming year and beyond. If our chapter is going to continue to be able to offer great monthly programs, bird walks, and educational outreach events in our community, we need additional volunteers to step up and take on some of those responsibilities. We are an all-volunteer organization and can only achieve our mission if we have willing volunteers to do the work required to make these offerings a reality.
Next year may be a challenging one for our chapter, as my final term as president of Duval Audubon Society will end on June 30, 2023. We currently do not have a vice president and at present, nobody has come forward as a candidate for the office of president after my term ends. We also need help with programs, youth outreach, and volunteers.
If you would like to join our board of directors to help our chapter achieve our mission or have questions about what it would entail, please complete our online application or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Carol Bailey-White
Here's what's happening this month:
We look forward to seeing you soon!
Duval Audubon Society, Inc.