• 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.

    Jax CBC 20191228 091952Counts 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!

    Common Ground Dove Penny Farms 20191221 CarlyWIn 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 (left) and Least Sandpiper. Fifteen volunteer participants documented a total of 111 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 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

    Deer Family Trailcam1 20191209Duval 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 Trailcam 1 Raccoon 20191127 STC 0128on 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

    To help you create bird friendly habitat in your landscape, we are spotlighting a native plant every month that is beneficial to birds and pollinators.

    This month's plant is:

    Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

    Eastern Red Cedar IMG 20191225 152507This 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 SocietyThey 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, Duval Audubon Society


     
  • Wild Birds Need Your Help!

    201904 Sweetwater SNKI Shane CarrollA recent study of bird populations in North America published in the journal Science revealed that nearly 3 billion fewer wild birds are alive today compared to avian abundance in 1970, a loss of 29%! In addition, Audubon's new report, Survival by Degrees, estimates that two-thirds of North American birds (389 species) are at increasing risk of extinction from global temperature rise.

    In the face of these threats it's easy to lose hope, but we want to focus on what we as individuals, families, and communities can do to turn these trends around. In the past, some species have been nearly eliminated by hunting or pesticides, yet conservation measures (like eliminating DDT) helped these populations to recover, so we still have a chance to bring birds back from the brink!

    Here are twelve things YOU can do to give birds a better chance of survival:

    1. Vote for candidates who place environmental issues front and center. Public policy has a huge impact on survival of the bird species we love.
    2. Stop using single use plastics, especially straws, plastic bags, and balloons. Plastic pollution 20180113 092540These items can end up in our waterways where they can be mistaken for food by birds, fish, and sea turtles, often killing them. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Refuse straws and bring your own take-out containers when dining out. Dispose of cigarette butts properly - butts are the most common trash found on the beaches during cleanups, and the filters contain plastic. (Another reason to quit smoking.)
    3. Keep cats indoors - they will live longer and healthier lives. Support measures to eliminate feral cat colonies over time. There are 60-100 million free-ranging cats in the US, and they are non-native predators against which our wild birds have no natural defenses. It is estimated that cats kill 1 billion birds and 6 billion mammals each year in the US alone. Outdoor cats typically have a very short life span and can transmit diseases to humans and wildlife. Audubon supports the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors program.
    4. Use traps for a rodent problem instead of rat poison, many forms of which move up the food chain to also kill eagles, hawks, and owls, which eat rodents.
    5. Swear off herbicides and pesticides and reduce or eliminate fertilizer use in your yard. A chemical-free yard provides safe food sources for birds and other pollinators. Organic farms provide the same benefits on an agricultural scale. Pesticides containing neonicotinoids are directly responsible for the disastrous decline of bees, monarch butterflies, and other beneficial insects. We are joined by other organizations including the Garden Club of America, St. Johns Riverkeeper, and the Florida Wildflower Foundation in opposing the use of them.
    6. Plant native plants in your yard, especially fruit and nut bearing trees and berry producing shrubs, which are an excellent food source for birds and pollinators. An easy way to learn what will work in our yards here in northeast Florida is to use Audubon's Plants for Birds website. Go to the native plants database and type in your zip code, and you will get a list of plants for our area, including pictures for easy identification.
    7. Maintain a brush pile so birds have a place to hide from predators.
    8. If you can do it safely, let dead trees stand in your landscape as nesting sites for cavity nesting birds such as woodpeckers. They are also a source of insects which provide protein for birds.
    9. Keep fresh water readily available. In a drought, it’s easier for birds to find food than water.
    10. Reduce deadly bird collisions with glass by keeping screens up year-round. Or, install feather guards which interrupt reflections. Window decals to reduce bird strikes are also available from several vendors, including Wild Birds Unlimited.
    11. Enroll your company in Audubon’s Lights Out Program, which promotes safe migration for birds through urban areas by taking actions such as turning off outside lights on buildings and using window shades during nighttime work. There are currently 30 cities participating in this program throughout the US already and we hope to add Jacksonville to that list soon. At this time there are no cities in Florida that participate in this program and we would like to be the first.
    12. Buy shade grown, bird-friendly coffee. Not only will you be helping small farmers in South and Central America use good growing practices but you will also help our bird species that migrate there in the winter. It is easily obtainable online and several local retailers carry it as well. Ask your local coffee shop to stock it.

     

    If everyone would do at least one of these things now, such as bringing your own reusable bags when shopping, keeping your cat indoors, stop using chemicals on your lawn, or stop using plastic straws, we can have a positive impact on the survival of the birds we love. Doing nothing guarantees that nothing will change.

    Chapter president Jody Willis and Duval County conservation chair Carolyn Antman appeared on WJCT's First Coast Connect radio show on October 30, 2019 - read the story and listen to the program here.


     
  • Upcoming Programs

    Lakewood PresbyterianHere are some of the great programs we have planned for our 2019/2020 season:

    - Expert Florida Birding Guide David Simpson will tell us all about birding in the Dry Tortugas (February 17, 2020)

    - Kelly Tesiero, owner of The Elegant Garden, will present "Ten Terrific Tips for Beginning a Beautiful Bird Garden" (March 16, 2020)

    - Jordan Huntley, Technical Forester at Rayonier and Duval Audubon Society Clay County Conservation Chair, will present about "Florida's Forests: History, Management, and Impact" (April 20, 2020)

    These are just a few of the fascinating programs we have in store for you this year! Check out our Calendar of Events for a complete listing of all of our upcoming activities!

    Our next program, "Conservation of the Swallow-tailed Kite," presented by Gina Kent of ARCI (Avian Research and Conservation Institute), will be held on Monday, January 20, 2020 at Lakewood Presbyterian Church, 2001 University Blvd W, Jacksonville, FL. Meetings start with refreshments and networking at 6:30 pm, with program presentations starting at 7 pm.

    Please join us - everyone is welcome!