Now in the second year under Audubon Florida’s umbrella the Jay Watch program is thriving as evidenced by the big turnout this past weekend. On Saturday, Nov. 9, 75 Jay Watch volunteers from around the state came together at Bok Tower Gardens to celebrate their efforts in 2013.
Special guest, Disney’s Safari Minnie, and Audubon’s Jacqui Sulek shared registration duties and distributed the gorgeous new Jay Watch hats. The program was kicked off by Marianne Korosy, Audubon’s Jay Watch Coordinator, with an overview of the status of the program and the birds and recognition of volunteers from each site. In 2013, 258 volunteers invested 2,044 hours in Florida Scrub-Jay surveys and training sessions!
Marianne thanked the Jay Watch program sponsors, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Wells Fargo, the Batchelor Foundation, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Michelle Dent, Research Biologist from Archbold Biological Station, provided a comprehensive history of the Station’s 44 years of research on Florida Scrub-Jays. The note-taking audience was full of questions on jay behavior and ecology. After a delicious lunch catered by the Blue Palmetto Café, Jess Rodriguez, Northeast Florida Volunteer Coordinator for FWC, unveiled a masterpiece of a cake decorated with a Florida Scrub-Jay and the Jay Watch logo.
Even habitual afternoon nappers perked up to listen to St. Johns River Water Management District Biologist and land manager, Maria Zondervan. Although probably not too amusing at the time, Maria’s “lessons learned” had the crowd howling with laughter as she shared stories on Scrub-Jay translocation efforts around the state.
There were representatives from various agencies, US Fish and Wildlife Service, FWC, and the Water Management Districts, but most of the attendees were Jay Watch volunteers. Without whom the Jay Watch program would not exist.
When asked what motivated them to do Jay Watch volunteers exclaimed, “it’s fun”, “it’s something the whole family can do together”, and “it’s a way to see special places that you would not otherwise visit”.
“Coming together makes you realize that you are part of something greater than yourself and it really lifts your spirits and level of enthusiasm,” shared another.
The camaraderie, laughter, informative presentations, Jay Watch logo hats, and tasty lunch were shared in a celebration the provided an opportunity to thank these dedicated volunteers. And then there was the cake. We got to eat it too!