Audubon of Florida News

Community Rallies Around Topsail Hill State Preserve

posted on July 31, 2014 in Coastal Conservation,Wildlife

topsail_hearingA public hearing in Walton County, Florida regarding a proposed beach access point through the famed Topsail Hill Preserve State Park was met with passionate opposition from attendees.

Local citizens, part-time residents, business owners and others packed the South Walton County Courthouse annex building on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 – it was standing room only out into the building’s lobby. The meeting was facilitated by Jim Bagby of the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC), who made a brief presentation before the public comment portion began. Click here to see the TDC presentation.

By the end of the evening, over 50 people made public comment. The crowd was overwhelmingly in opposition to the proposed beach access through Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. Audubon’s Jonathan Webber was in attendance and spoke to the incredible natural beauty and rare species that make Topsail so special.

Audubon and others cited many reasons for the Walton County Commission to oppose the Topsail proposal:

  • Cost
  • Lack of Management Funds
  • Lack of Guard/Monitoring
  • Harm to plants and animals
  • Disturbance to nesting birds
  • Unnecessary (main entrance is nearby)
  • Importance of maintaining natural conditions

There will be ample opportunities for the public to make their voice heard during this process, as (if) it proceeds. Last night’s hearing was just the beginning. Thank you to everyone who made their voice heard for Topsail Hill, it was an inspiring evening for conservation in Florida.

For an archived video of the hearing, please click here.

National Research Council Releases 2014 “Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades”

posted on July 11, 2014 in Everglades

progresstowardrestoringtheeverglades-cover_2014The National Research Council released a new report assessing progress towards Everglades Restoration. This independent review stresses the need to re-invest in restoration efforts, noting that the ecosystem continues to be in peril. Insufficient funding and delays in project authorization have slowed the pace of restoration efforts, leaving this unique habitat cutoff from the freshwater flows that keep the Everglades healthy. View Audubon’s summary of the Report here.

Audubon urges state and federal decision-makers to heed the Review’s call to reinvest in science and monitoring, complete the Central Everglades Planning Project and accelerate restoration efforts in the face of rising seas and other impacts of climate change. 

Life as an Education Intern at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey

posted on in Birds of Prey Ctr.

Rosemary JensenThe Audubon Center for Birds of Prey is a wonderful place. The volunteers, interns, and staff play an integral role in the health of Florida’s raptors, returning dozens of birds each year to our skies. The following is a blog post from the Center’s new education intern, Rosemary Jensen. We don’t doubt you will enjoy learning how the Center is changing the way she looks at Florida’s wildlife. Enjoy!

From presentations to conversations, I have learned so much as the new Education Intern here at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. The staff and volunteer crew have taught me a lot, but I also learned from the guests. From them I have learned about the reintroduction of Osprey in Europe and the story of the two Peregrine Falcons, Scarlet and Rhett. It’s great news to hear that many people have these wild avian neighbors in their backyards or at their schools. It’s even better news to hear how they are helping them or how they want to help, especially from the children. For conserving wildlife and their habitats, I feel that education is an important role that many may not know.

It’s about reconnecting people to nature.

On my first day I went on a Bald Eagle release with Matt and Sam J. It was magnificent! I don’t remember how much that eagle went through, but it is still heart lifting to see the eagle fly in the wind gliding towards the forest and lake. I would be so excited and nervous if I was that eagle.

Participating in Raptor Camp has shown me the coordination and planning that takes place behind the scenes. It has also shown all of the effort that we put into the day to day production of Camp. It’s fun showing the children what nature has to offer and teaching them about birds of prey. The most satisfying part is seeing the light bulb go off and see them further their quest for knowledge. Thanks to raptor camp and the staff, I have learned more in depth about the resident non-releasable birds. During lunch each day a couple of campers and I have quizzed each other on the birds.

I have learned more about how the Center rehabilitates the patients as well. Each bird has it’s own personality. It may sound obvious, but it still goes unnoticed. Since I have been volunteering here for almost a year, I have gotten to know the residents not only by their story, but their own individual personality. I am still learning and I feel that is a whole new learning experience in itself.

Invasive Species Spotlight: Bullseye Snakehead

posted on July 10, 2014 in Invasive Species

bullseye snakehead

Bullseye Snakehead are a large, elongate fish (looking similar to our native bowfin) with sharp teeth and the ability to breathe air. Native to southeast Asia, these ambush predators are bottom-dwelling, feeding primarily on small fish and crustaceans but able to eat a wide variety of prey including turtles, amphibians and snakes.

In Florida, the snakehead population appears to currently be isolated in Broward County, although they have the potential to succeed throughout the southern half of peninsular Florida, if introduced. In the Everglades CISMA’s recent Non-Native Fish Round Up, one winning fisherman returned over 60 pounds of snakeheads. Fishermen should refrain from re-releasing all non-native fishes and should be particularly careful to avoid spreading non-native fish, invertebrates and aquatic vegetation to new locations.

Audubon encourages the use of IveGot1 to report sightings of snakeheads and all other non-native fishes to help track their spread.

While visiting Florida’s Special Places, help early detection and tracking efforts by reporting any non-native species you see online or using your smartphone (call 1-888-IVE-GOT-1 if you have a live animal in front of you).

Exotic Pet Amnesty Days

posted on July 9, 2014 in Invasive Species

6642955311_0dda941bd0_zBecome part of the solution to our non-native animal problem. 

The outlook for Florida’s native ecosystems can seem grim as we hear more about the spread of non-native animals, and so many cases where it seems we are unable to control or exterminate populations once they’ve become established. Unfortunately, this is often a sad reality due to our sub-tropical climate, interconnected wetland habitats, and highly-mobile human population, among other factors. While it appears many unwelcomed non-native animals are here to stay, one of our greatest tools for protecting our state is helping prevent new releases.

The majority of non-native animals threatening our native species are former pets who have either accidentally escaped or been intentionally released. In an effort to reduce the latter, FWC organizes Exotic Pet Amnesty Days where pet owners who can no longer care for their exotic pets can surrender them to willing adopters. From snakes and turtles to hedgehogs and parrots, to date this program has helped re-home over 1,900 unwanted pets that might have otherwise been released into our neighborhoods, parks, or canals, and has helped educate the public about the problems created by releasing non-native animals.

Helping with this amnesty program is a great way to be part of the solution to our non-native animal problem. Audubon members and other friends are needed to volunteer at or help sponsor or organize events in their community. Pet lovers can also help by signing up to become adopters.

Information on all aspects of this program can be found online, or by contacting Exotic Pet Amnesty Program coordinator, Liz Barraco, at 954-577-6409 or Liz.Barraco@MyFWC.com.

Least Terns Experience Fourth of July in Northeast Florida

posted on July 5, 2014 in Birding,Northeast Florida,Wildlife

July 4th was a busy weekend on the beaches of northeast Florida, for humans and terns alike. The Least Tern colonies from Nassau to Flagler counties all seemed to fare the fireworks and beach goers well. Some of our chicks even look like they may fledge very soon! Please spread the word to family and friends to share the beach the rest of the summer as our feathered friends continue to raise their young.

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Hotel Staff Keep Watchful Eye on Rooftop Nesters

posted on June 20, 2014 in Coastal Conservation,Wildlife

The Chateau Staff with Audubon's Michelle LandisAudubon Florida would like to thank the caring management and staff of The Chateau Motel in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Least terns have been using the Chateau’s gravel rooftop as a nesting area for several years. The proximity of the motel to the beach makes this retreat attractive to humans and Least Terns alike. However, as chicks hatch and start moving around the rooftop, there is a risk of them falling from the edge.

The Chateau staff have made it a point to look for any wayward chicks around the motel and parking lot in order to return them to their nesting sites. Motel guests are made aware of the birds and chicks and are asked to keep an eye out but to leave the birds alone. In their dedication to the nesting birds, the motel management has gone as far to offer free car washes to their guests so no one can complain about the birds overhead…or their droppings!

Thank you Chateau management and staff, your dedication is much appreciated.

The Lake Okeechobee Ecosystem: A Delicate Balance of Water

MacStone_LakeOkechobee-3614The marshes of Lake Okeechobee are a paradise of biodiversity. Everglade Snail Kites, Roseate Spoonbills, Tricolored Herons, and a plethora of other wildlife abound in this great ecosystem at the heart of the Greater Everglades.

For this incredible habitat to thrive, Lake Okeechobee’s water levels cannot be too high or too low. Marsh habitat drowns when water is too deep. When water is too low, marsh habitat dries up and is destroyed.

Last century, the Northern Everglades faced serious alterations to its natural system, as developers ditched and drained land. As a result, the natural system is off kilter and Lake Okeechobee now experiences rapid fluctuations in water levels. This results in harmful effects to the delicate Lake ecosystem. Water managers send large releases of Lake water to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries for flood control. These releases have long term negative impacts on their ecosystems and local communities.

In addition, some water users in the south demand the Lake function as a reservoir for their water supply needs, despite the fragile nature of the ecosystem.

Lake Okeechobee’s natural balance of life must be protected. The Audubon Everglades Conservation Team advocates to state and federal partners to manage Lake Okeechobee with its precious ecosystem in mind. The long term fix is to store more water north of the Lake. Audubon supports Kissimmee River Restoration, easement programs, and partnerships with ranchers and landowners to achieve this goal. There are many exciting Everglades restoration initiatives that can help.

Lake Okeechobee’s water levels require proper management to protect this treasured habitat for years to come. Click the link below to download our fact sheet to learn more about the liquid heart of the Everglades. Please feel free to print and distribute at you next Audubon Chapter meeting or community gathering.

Click here to download fact sheet.

Manatee County Audubon’s Bob and Nancy Dean Receive Charles H. Callison Award

posted on May 30, 2014 in Chapters

Nancy & Bob Dean -- Nat'l Audubon 2014 Callison Award Winners

Each year a nationwide search unveils some of the most extraordinary volunteers within the Audubon Community.  Just this month, nominated by their peers at Manatee County Audubon Society, Bob and Nancy Dean were flown to Seattle, Washington to be honored at the National Audubon board meeting with the Charles H. Callison volunteer of the year award.

Charles H. Callison served with National Audubon Society from 1960 to 1977. An eminent conservationist, he was instrumental in Audubon’s fight to pass the Wilderness Act of 1964, including the Clean Air and Water acts, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act. A firm believer in the strength of the grassroots, he expanded the reach of Audubon by chartering and supporting hundreds of new chapters nationwide.  To receive an award in his name is one of the greatest honors in the conservation community.

Nancy and Bob Dean being presented with the 2014 Charles H. Callison Award certificate and Great Egret print by National Audubon Society president, David Yarnold, at the National Audubon board of directors meeting in Seattle on May 16, 2014. Photo credit: Barbara Rowse Lasseter

Bob and Nancy Dean have been a critical component of their chapter for the past 27 years.  While avoiding the traditional roles their leadership was nonetheless ever present.  Their boots have left many a footprint at the Felts Preserve where they played a significant role on the Sanctuary’s restoration team.  Their annual offering of “Beginning Birding” classes has fledged close to 400 birders over the past 12 years.  Most recently they were tireless advocates when construction of a convention center and hotel threatened an important mangrove rookery that provides habitat for a wide variety of waterbirds on Sarasota Bay.  In their free time they have created a digital library through the Chapter website that has become a valuable avian resource accessible to all.

Bob and Nancy are also passionate birders with over 4100 species on their global “life” list. Bob often remarks, their “mutual passion for birding has been the glue for their marriage”.  This passion along with their professional work lives has provided a solid foundation from which they contributed future conservation initiatives while enhancing existing programs.

Congratulations to Bob and Nancy Dean for following in the footsteps of Charles H. Callison and to Manatee Audubon for taking time to recognize the stars in their midst.

 

 

Bay County RESTORE Act Committee Needs You

posted on May 29, 2014 in Coastal Conservation,Events,Gulf Oil Spill

Wilsons Plover shading its 2 chicks. Photo by Linda MartinoThe Bay County RESTORE Act Advisory Committee met in Panama City on May 13, 2014. The purpose of the Committee is to solicit public input, draft a plan, and set goals for Bay’s County’s use of funds received from the RESTORE Act. Tuesday’s meeting was the second time this committee has met since its creation in January, 2014. And there was one important part of the equation missing that day…an ample number of interested members of the public in the audience!

The Committee is striving to have a draft implementation plan ready to present to the Bay County Board of County Commissioners in July and is approaching that assignment in a thoughtful, deliberate manner.  While many other counties are simply listing desired projects to be funded with a strategy to work out an implementation plan afterwards, Bay County knows the better approach is to devise the framework by which those projects will be chosen and establish a more cohesive approach to addressing the County’s needs. And besides that, the U.S. Treasury regulations will be requiring an implementation plan before any RESTORE Act funds can be spent.

To help in determining what priorities go into the plan, numerous “State of Bay County” presentations have been scheduled to give committee members an overview of the issues. At Tuesday’s meeting, the topics included the promotion of tourism and recreational fishing, the consumption of Gulf seafood and workforce development and job creation.

At the next meeting, scheduled for June 10, 2014, the presentation topics will focus on: the restoration and protection of natural resources, infrastructure benefitting ecological resources and coastal flood protection and related infrastructure.

If you live in the Bay County area, please plan to attend the June 10th meeting and lend your voice to the much needed support for environmental expenditures. This Committee needs to know what matters to the residents of Bay County and potential visitors to the County.

Gail Carmody is the environmental representative on the Committee and we know she would like nothing better than to look out in the audience at the next meeting and see every chair filled with people who understand the need to restore environmental damage from the oil spill if the economy is expected to have long term improvement.

Bay County Public Hearing

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
1:30 CDT
Commission Chambers
Bay County Government Building
840 West 11th Street, Panama City

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