The Audubon Observer, February 2024
2023 AUDUBON CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
2023 marked the 124th Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) since Frank Chapman and 26 other conservationists started it on Christmas Day in 1900 as a way of promoting bird conservation by counting instead of hunting. Thanks to their dedication, 25 Christmas Bird Counts were held that day, with locations ranging from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California.
In December, two counts were held in our chapter’s tri-county (Clay, Duval, and Nassau counties) coverage area: the Clay County East CBC and the Jacksonville CBC. Count compilers Steve Raduns (Clay) and Anne Turner (Jacksonville) shared these results:
Clay County East CBC, held December 23rd: “We had 95 species, which is the lowest number since beginning Clay CBC E in 2019. We were, however, short 2 teams. Some cancelled due to Christmas obligations and the count being only 1 day prior to Christmas Eve, plus some called in sick at the last minute, so unfortunately we ended up with only 10 participants this year.
The only other bit of usable info is the fact that there has been a lot of habitat loss in the past year due to construction of the new highway as well as a huge number of new subdivisions and other construction in the last year.”
Jacksonville CBC, held December 30th: “We had 8 teams and 52 participants, and spotted a total of 163 species, a very high count. The day started with cloudy skies and a chilly 44 degrees, but by the afternoon the sun was shining, and it was 60 degrees.
The Vermilion Flycatcher was back for the third year in the exact same spot (Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island, restricted access only). The only other flycatcher besides Eastern Phoebe was the Western Flycatcher seen in Mayport and along Heckscher Drive. Huguenot came through again with 2 Purple Sandpipers, and both Black and Surf Scoters, and a Long-tailed Duck. Other uncommon ducks seen on the count included one Northern Pintail and 2 Common Goldeneyes. A Whip-poor-will and all three species of owls (Barred, Great Horned, and Eastern Screech-Owl),were heard at Cedar Point. Every team reported seeing sparrows for a total of ten different species. One American Bittern was seen in the New Berlin Road area.
This count was the 74th Jacksonville Christmas Bird Count. The count started in 1949 and has been held every year since.”
Thanks to everyone who participated!
BOSQUE DEL APACHE BIRDING FESTIVAL
If you love Sandhill Cranes (and who doesn’t?), one place to visit where you have a 100% chance to see thousands of these beautiful birds during winter is the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, New Mexico. The refuge is a wintering location for Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, and several species of ducks that migrate south, with some species migrating from as far away as Alaska. The federal government manages the refuge with water pumps, canals, and gates that move water around the refuge to provide feeding areas and wetlands for the birds. Much of the water comes from what remains of the Rio Grande River as it makes its way to the dry landscape of central New Mexico.
Every year the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge hosts a birding festival called “Festival of the Cranes,” which is sponsored by the nonprofit organization, Friends of Bosque del Apache. The festival takes place over several days and has a wide variety of classes and field trips. The timing of the festival is dependent upon the anticipated arrival of the Sandhill Cranes.
Last year, the festival was held December 11-14, 2023, and I was fortunate enough to attend two out of the four days. I scheduled back-to-back field trips for each day with very knowledgeable guides that focused on the birds, landscape and photography. The daily highlight of the festival was watching the morning “lift off” of the Sandhill Cranes as they awaken and fly out for their morning breakfast. It is definitely a spectacle to see. However, be prepared for chilly weather to see the “lift off” as your field trip may begin before sunrise. The day I attended the sunrise temperature was 29 degrees so don’t forget your hand and foot warmers.
In addition to the Sandhill Cranes and various waterfowl, the refuge provides habitat for many other bird species. The refuge is a prime spot for raptors. I was able to see Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks, Bald Eagles, Merlins, American Kestrels, and Northern Harriers. I also spotted several typically western-only species such as Gambel’s Quail and Greater Roadrunner.
Due to its wetland environment in a primarily dry area, the refuge also attracts the occasional rare bird. While I was there, I was able to see a Long-tailed Duck in a wetland area close to the refuge’s loop road. Unfortunately, I missed a White-tailed Kite although I tried several times to find it.
Bosque del Apache is a wonderful place that you won’t want to miss. If you can’t make the festival, you can visit on your own. There is a visitor center that provides plenty of refuge information and can answer all of your questions. The main road is a twelve-mile loop with various stops and some hiking trails. Learn more about the refuge and the festival here.
BOARD MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, my journey into the world of volunteering began as I joined the Americorps National Civilian Conservation Corps. This experience immersed me in diverse projects spanning disaster relief, environmental conservation, and addressing unmet human needs throughout the Southeast.
Currently, I proudly hold the position of Volunteer Director on the board for Duval Audubon Society. This role not only allows me to contribute actively to the non-profit sector but also fuels my passion for environmental stewardship. Working alongside fellow enthusiasts, I am dedicated to the preservation of bird habitats and the promotion of sustainable practices.
Beyond my commitment to the Audubon Society, I serve as the Resource Development Coordinator at United Way of Northeast Florida. In this role, I focus on coordinating resources to support initiatives that make a meaningful impact on our community. It's a role that aligns seamlessly with my dedication to making a positive difference.
My journey has been shaped by the belief that community service is a powerful force for change. Whether in the realm of environmental conservation or community development, I am privileged to contribute to causes that resonate with my values.
RAPTOR TRANSPORT DRIVERS NEEDED
Local conservationist and former Duval Audubon Society board member Lesley Royce asked us to share this plea for raptor rescue drivers:
“Some of you know that I am involved in rescuing ill or injured raptors as a volunteer for The Ark in St. Augustine, the only licensed bird rehab operation in Northeast Florida. Unfortunately, there is no longer a rehabber for birds in Duval County. Raptors that can be rehabbed have to be driven to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland or the Avian Reconditioning Center in Apopka. That is a 2 hour drive each way.
At left is an example of a bird that needed transport. This is an immature Red-tailed Hawk that I rescued recently. Poor thing is missing a toe and has bumblefoot.
I am looking for people willing to transport raptors. My hope is to have a small group of volunteers. When a raptor needs to be transported, I would send out a group text to this group of volunteers, looking for that one person who is available for this transport.
If you are interested in transporting raptors, please reach out to me via email: email@example.com.”
Here's what's happening this month:
Hope to see you soon!
Duval Audubon Society, Inc.