The Audubon Observer, September 2020
MANY VOICES FOR CONSERVATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Continuing our series focused on the contributions of Black Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans, and other historically under-recognized groups to conservation and environmental sciences, this month we are spotlighting local environmental hero Gloria McNair.
Gloria is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Groundwork Jacksonville, the city’s primary nonprofit organization specifically created to clean and redevelop Jacksonville’s Emerald Trail and convert contaminated land into parks, playgrounds, trails, and other public greenspace. Her role is to engage Jacksonville citizens, especially residents from historically underserved urban neighborhoods, in visioning, advocating for, and shaping Groundwork projects such as the restoration of McCoy’s Creek and building the Emerald Trail. She identifies and meets with leaders and stakeholders to share information, gain support, and learn the needs of the communities impacted by Groundwork Jacksonville initiatives.
She is also the manager of the Community Restoration Environmental Stewardship Training (CREST) initiative. CREST participants are residents or stakeholders in Jacksonville's North Riverside and Brooklyn neighborhoods, and the program pairs youths and adults in mentoring relationships. In addition, there is a job training element; currently, five of the CREST apprentices have been trained as water monitoring technicians.
Working with Groundwork Jacksonville brought back memories of her rural upbringing when she absolutely loved nature, and she is concerned because today’s youth are missing out on the wonders of the outdoors and the natural world. She is most passionate about habitat restoration and conservation for people and wildlife, especially our birds. The greatest benefit she has received from working from home in recent months is being able to take breaks to walk outside and observe the hawks, herons, egrets, and turtles around her lake.
Gloria loves and believes in the benefits of the projects of Groundwork Jacksonville. She is looking forward to seeing the first mile of the Emerald Trail become a reality and knowing that she played a significant role in achieving that project. Another long-term goal is seeing the McCoy’s Creek Restoration Project completed and enjoyed by the neighborhood.
Duval Audubon had the pleasure of working with Gloria and the CREST participants last year. We presented a "Birdwatching for Beginners" program for the group and hosted a bird walk around McCoy’s Creek. We plan to continue to provide educational programs and bird walks to the CREST volunteers when our outdoor activities resume.
Thank you for your hard work and dedication, Gloria!
--Jody Willis, Vice President & Outreach Director
NATIVE PLANTS FOR BIRDS: SPOTTED BEE BALM
To help you create bird friendly habitat in your landscape, we are resuming our monthly series featuring a native plant that is beneficial to birds and pollinators.
This month's plant is:
Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda Punctata)
Also called Spotted Horsemint or simply Horsemint, this plant is a member of the mint family and is an herbaceous perennial native to North America. It is one of my personal favorites for the native garden as it is so easy to grow, looks beautiful in a mass planting, and once it blooms, it is covered with pollinators including a number of bee species, wasps, and butterflies. It tolerates full sun and part-shade; it is drought tolerant, and will be happy in dry, sandy soil.
Spotted Bee Balm blooms from August through October and has beautiful whorls wrapped around the stems in colors ranging from purple to deep pink to mauve. The leaves and stems are very fragrant and high in thymol which has antimicrobial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties. Historically, it has been used to treat ringworm and hookworm infections. In addition, the leaves can be brewed into a mild tea said to promote relaxation. However, please be sure that your plants have not been treated with any pesticides or herbicides before you decide to do this.
It grows in clumps and can rapidly expand from a seedling to a 2’ diameter mass of plants 3 to 4 feet in height. It will tend to crowd out other plant species over time and fill in any empty spots in your garden. However, it can be easily controlled by cutting it back after it is finished blooming or pulling it from areas where you don’t want it to grow. It is deciduous in North Florida and will die back to the ground in the winter. It easily comes back in the spring and grows quickly. It is extremely easy to propagate – just shake the dried flowerheads to release the seeds or it will easily reseed on its own.
Because it is such a tremendous pollinator attractor, it is excellent for birds as well, including thrushes, wrens, nuthatches, waxwings, wood warblers, woodpeckers, and orioles.
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, Vice President and Outreach Director
BE AN EAGLEWATCHER
Audubon Florida’s EagleWatch Program is a statewide network of community science volunteers who monitor Bald Eagle nests from October to May. EagleWatch provides valuable information on nesting activity and the current trends of the Bald Eagle population in Florida. This information is used by both the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enhance their conservation and law enforcement efforts.
Audubon EagleWatch is seeking volunteers to monitor Bald Eagle nests for the 2020-2021 breeding season. Training is required for new volunteers. If you are interested in becoming an EagleWatcher, register for one of the following virtual training sessions:
--Carol Bailey-White, President
FALL MIGRATION IS HEATING UP THIS MONTH!
September is the month when fall migration in northeast Florida really intensifies, with some species leaving our area after spending their summer breeding season here (Black-necked Stilt, Least Tern, Mississippi Kite, Eastern Kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Prothonotary Warbler), some species just beginning to arrive to spend the winter with us (Dunlin, Northern Harrier, Eastern Phoebe, Baltimore Oriole, Palm Warbler), and some just passing through on their way to their wintering grounds further south (Swainson's Thrush, Bobolink, Ovenbird, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak). This is by no means a complete list; just some examples of birds likely to be moving out of, into, or through our area this month.
Keep in mind, some warbler species look quite a bit different during their fall migration compared to how they look in the springtime. Male Cape May Warblers, for example, sport brilliant colors in spring as they are preparing to attract females during breeding season. But they almost look like a completely different bird in the fall, as their deep rusty-colored cheek patches and intense dark striping on the body fade to a dull grayish-brown (right).
A great way to see what birds can be expected in our area throughout the year is eBird's Bar Chart feature. Using many thousands of bird sightings contributed over the years, this incredibly useful feature is essentially a frequency chart that can help you figure out how likely various species are in a certain area at a specific time of year. We use it all the time!
With the weather finally starting to get a bit cooler this month (we hope), it's a great time to grab your binoculars, get outside, and start looking for birds. Once you start looking, you'll find that they are literally everywhere!
--Carol Bailey-White, President
As we announced last month, no group outings or indoor gatherings are planned for this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But we are still offering some fun and informative events! Here's what's coming up for September:
You can also take advantage of a wide array of fabulous, FREE online programs available from Audubon, Audubon Florida, the American Bird Conservancy, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And you can watch them on YOUR schedule, anytime you like! Below are some of our favorite recent programs:
These are just a few of the many free programs available online. They are posted on several different platforms, so check their websites (links above), look for them on YouTube, and follow them on Facebook to find more fascinating and informative online programs!
--Carol Bailey-White, President
Duval Audubon Society, Inc.