Monday, February 16, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count

(wood duck in back yard retention pond)

Today is the last day for the 2015 Great Backyard Bird Count. This is an annual joint project between Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. As the website says:

Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.
Since then, more than 100,000 people of all ages and walks of life have joined the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.

(Loggerhead shrike at the local shopping center)

All you need is 15 minutes of your time! Anyone can do it - and it needn't be in your yard. You can watch birds at home, at school, at the park, at the local shopping center. Thousands of reports have been submitted already just since this past Friday. Today is the last chance for 2015 so get out and look at birds today. If today doesn't work for you then set your sights on 2016 and we'll do it again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


October is a wonderful time of year for birding here in Northeast Florida. Some of our summer birds are still lingering. Some of our winter birds are starting to arrive. Migratory birds are passing through.

painted bunting

So what birds have you been seeing in the last weeks? Palm warblers and eastern phoebes have begun to show up. In the last couple days I've had a painted bunting and an indigo bunting at my feeders.

palm warbler

Warblers are certainly in abundance right now too. If you feel uncomfortable with your warbler skills it's a great time to join a group bird walk. More birds always seem to get spotted where there are many eyes looking.

eastern phoebe

St. Johns Audubon is currently going through a reorganization and we have no bird walks or field trips scheduled at present. But there are always other options.

Duval Audubon has a full slate of trips scheduled.

Volunteer Arliss Ryan leads monthly walks at Fort Mose and Anastasia State Park. Contact her to get on her mailing list of when the walks are scheduled as it varies from month to month depending on the tides. Note that her Fort Mose walk for October is this Sunday, October 20, at 9 AM.

Flager Audubon also has some walks scheduled.

So get out there and brush up on your birding skills. Enjoy this perfect time of the year.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Audubon volunteering activities

Dear Auduboners, the birds you care about need your help! Spend a few hours on the beach and give a better chance of survival to some Least Tern and Wilson’s Plover chicks!

It is this time of the year again: nesting time for Least Terns and other beach-nesting birds. And our County, once again, looks like it will be home to the highest number of beach-nesting Least Terns on all of Florida’s East Coast! We currently have Least Terns nesting at Porpoise Point, Anastasia State Park and Summer Haven. Wilson’s Plovers are nesting at Anastasia State Park, Fort Matanzas National Monument and Summer Haven, and they already have chicks running around.

With these good news of the nesting comes the responsibility of having the birds protected, and with three Least Tern colonies active simultaneously, we are in need of bird steward help. Bird stewards are volunteers posted by a nesting colony; they mostly do outreach – showing the hard to see birds to beach goers and sharing conservation concerns about beach-nesting birds - and they help prevent disturbances that could be fatal to the eggs and chicks like dogs or people walking through the protected area.

Over Memorial weekend, stewards were posted at all sites and their reports show how much people appreciated learning about the birds and how they prevented several problems to occur. Last year, high school students joined the bird steward program as part of a community project, and they felt so rewarded helping the birds, that several of them are back this year, bird stewarding the terns at Anastasia!

The bird steward program is organized in partnership with all the land managers (State Park, National Park Service, GTM NERR and St. Johns County), with FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), and their law enforcement staff.

Please consider joining us for a shift or more protecting the Least Terns on the beach. To volunteer please email us here at and we will forward your email to the appropriate person. Thank you in advance, even a few hours of your time will help!

Anastasia recap

Anastasia has long been one of my favorite parks since I began exploring them 1 1/2 years ago when I moved to Florida. Miles of pristine ocean beaches, dunes, salt marshes, wooded areas - it has all my favorite things. And of course lots of birds!

And many other species as well, as Audubon members and guests learned at our last meeting, when park ranger Drew Turner came to speak to us about threatened and endangered species like the beach mouse and the gopher tortoise, though his talk, and the following Q&A session, ranged over many other species as well like the raccoons, coyotes, sea turtles, nesting shorebirds.

But the beach is certainly a primary draw of the park. We had nine people show up for our last walk of the season, some who had been at Drew Turner's presentation, some fairly new to birding and just starting to develop an interest. We got there early enough to be ahead of the holiday crowds, and started out with a long walk along the beach.

Not only birds caught our eye, but other creatures like this crab scuttling across the sand as well, but among the bird sightings we saw a snowy egret fishing in the surf! Several least terns flew overhead, and we talked about the terns nesting, and the marked nesting areas in the dunes, and the importance of staying away from the areas so as not to disturb the nesting colonies.

Then we walked back over the long boardwalk across the dunes, and back to the wooded areas near the picnic grounds, and along the road past marsh and fields,

As far as sheer numbers go we all agreed that the brown pelican was the "bird of the day" - as we saw them by the dozens! Ungainly, yet graceful in flight, they few constantly along the water's edge in flocks of varying sizes.

By the time we finished up at noon the parking lot was fast filling up, and there was a bumper-to-bumper line of cars waiting to get into the park at the ranger station. But by that time we had already had a full morning. And here is a list of the species we saw on the walk. I hope to catch some of you again in the fall!

Mallard (Domestic type)
Mottled Duck
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Clapper Rail (multiples heard, but not seen)
Ruddy Turnstone
Laughing Gull
Least Tern
Royal Tern
Black Skimmer
Mourning Dove
Merlin (a rarity, but the group best guess based on field marks seen)
crow sp.
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Anastasia - Chapter Meeting and Field Trip

What: St. Johns Audubon Chapter Meeting
When:  Monday, May 20
Where: St. Augustine Public Library
Time: 6:15 PM for presentation, 6:00 PM for social time

What: Field Trip
When: Saturday, May 25
Where: Anastasia State Park, meet at the concession stand
Time:  9 AM to 12 noon

We hope you'll turn out this Monday night for our last Audubon Chapter Meeting before the summer. As you know, last year, Anastasia State Park hosted a colony of Least Terns and they are back this year. But the park is also home to other imperiled species. Cristy Leonard, park specialist and a ranger will be presenting about the Wildlife Treasures of Anastasia State Park at the St. Johns Audubon program meeting this Monday May 20th at the Main Library 1960 N. Ponce De Leon Blvd, St. Augustine.

They will talk about the Anastasia Island beach mouse, an endemic species found nowhere else in the world and listed as endangered at the federal level., as well as about Gopher Tortoises, a Florida threatened species, so important to our coastal ecosystems that we have to forgive them for eating a Least Tern egg here and then…

The program is free and open to all, please help pass the word around.

In conjunction with this talk we will be having a field trip to Anastasia on Saturday the 25th. Meet at 9 AM at the concession stand. We may catch site of a gopher tortoise or two, and hope to see some of the many birds that make Anastasia their home or breeding ground. It's Memorial Day weekend but we should be there ahead of the crowds! We hope to see you then.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Alpine Groves Nature Walk recap

One never knows what Mother Nature will have in store for us in May, so how nice that she smiled this morning for our nature walk at Alpine Groves. It was a glorious 60 degrees and there was a tang in the air that invigorated. The sun was shining, and dappling along the pathways through the trees.

Alas, however, not one single person showed up for the nature walk! What a shame. They really missed a perfect morning for being out of doors in the crisp fresh air. No other birders showed up, but there were mothers with babies in strollers, and dog walkers, and other folks taking advantage of the excellent day.

As a birding day the count was light, but would undoubtedly have been higher if I was better at birding by ear, or getting better glimpses of little feathered creatures flitting high up in the canopy. Birding is often about "the one that got away" and by sight or by ear I'm sure I missed at least 4-6 additional species. If only someone else had been with me to help...

But I did have good sights like the spotted sandpiper, a first for me at Alpine Groves.  And I could not have asked for a better day to be there. However it was also a quiet day, with no raptors soaring overhead, no wading birds dotting the shores of the river.

Audubon Magazine recently featured an article on people now chasing dragonflies and damselflies as many of us chase birds. To be honest - bugs are not my thing! Give me the feathered friends every day. But if you are one of the dragonfly hunters here's one you can try to ID for us.

In the meantime, this is the list of birds I saw or heard this morning:

Spotted Sandpiper
Royal Tern
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Northern Parula
Pine Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird

Monday, May 13, 2013

Alpine Groves Nature Walk

Date: Tuesday, May 14
Time: 9:00 - 11:00 AM
Meeting: At the parking lot at the end of the road, closest to the river

Tomorrow is our last neighborhood nature walk of the season, so we hope you can come just us at Alpine Groves Park.  Alpine Groves is located along the historic St. Johns River in the western part of the county. If you don't know this park you owe yourself a chance to come discover it. If you do know the park then you know what a true gem it is!

Along the river you can see wading birds, nesting wood ducks, gulls and terns. The woodlands are home to seasonal, migrant and resident warblers, woodpeckers. Bald eagles and ospreys can be seen soaring overhead.

Nature walks are shorter and less strenuous than some of the field trips and are appropriate for most. We will start at the end of the park near the river and go out onto the fishing pier looking for water birds of all sorts, and then will walk through the woods looking for and listening for woodland birds. The woodland path is paved, so wheelchair or stroller accessible.

This will be our last nature walk for the season, but keep in mind we do have an upcoming chapter meeting on  Monday, May 20, at the main library in St. Augustine, 6 PM where Kristi Leonard from Anastasia State Park will talk about the beach mouse and the gopher tortoise, following by our last field trip of the season - also at Anastasia State Park on Saturday, May 25 - 9:00 AM to 12:00 noon. We hope you can join us for those events also!