Audubon Florida News

Topic: Citizen Science,Florida Scrub-Jay,Land Conservation,Volunteering,Wildlife

Audubon Jay Watch Partners to Restore Rare Scrub Habitat

Audubon Jay Watch, FWC Ridge Rangers, and Highlands Hammock Park staff team

Timberrrr” calls were heard near and far on the morning of January 9th in the Tiger Branch area of Highlands Hammock State Park.  A lone pair of rare Florida Scrub-Jays calls this area “home” but the overgrown habitat could host many more birds if restoration is successful.

Paul Ahnberg, Jay Watch volunteer, cuts a sand pine sapling in a recently burned scrub zoneTwelve Audubon Jay Watch volunteers, 18 Ridge Rangers, a volunteer corps of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, three Park rangers, and three additional volunteers felled 1,891.5 sand pines up to 12 feet tall in 3 hours’ work using chain saws, pole saws, hand saws, and hand loppers.

That number, again: 1,891.5 sand pines cut. “I ran out of gas for my chainsaw while cutting the last tree,” quipped Jerry Burns, one of the three volunteers there that are both Jay Watchers and Ridge Rangers.

Audubon provided a hearty lunch for the hardworking volunteers and Park staff after a morning of cutting pines in 10 acres of scrub burned within the past year and another 27 acres planned for near-future burns.

Prescribed burn in scrub habitat; Photo by Chris Becker, Florida Park ServiceWhy spend the time and effort to cut sand pines? Years of fire suppression causes sand pines to become both tall and numerous. Sand pines have seed cones that are opened by fire, producing a new generation of saplings that create dense sand pine forest patches within overgrown scrub.

Sand pines hide fast-flying Cooper’s Hawks from the view of unsuspecting Scrub-Jays and pine stands also provide predator cover for small mammals and bird egg-loving snakes. Cutting the pines and leaving the downed wood to dry out before setting a prescribed fire prevents the cones from opening to release seeds.

Florida Scrub-Jay; Photo copyright: Susan Faulkner DaviThat’s why the sweat equity invested by 30 volunteers and Park rangers was vital to habitat restoration – work that, according to Park staff, would’ve taken them three or months to accomplish alone.

With a wave of their wings, the resident Florida Scrub-Jays say “THANK YOU” Jay Watchers, Ridge Rangers, and all who made this event possible with smiles and hard work.




Florida Audubon Society Completes Acquisition of Newest Sanctuary in the Chassahowitzka Marsh

posted on December 16, 2015 in Coastal Conservation,Land Conservation,Wildlife

John Emory Cason SanctuaryThe U.S. Family Foundation has completed a transaction deeding 80 acres of pristine coastal marsh and hammock habitat in Citrus County to the Florida Audubon Society.

Located just southwest of the community of Homosassa and immediately north of the boundary of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, the new Audubon property will be known as the “John Emory Cason, Jr. Bird Sanctuary” in honor of its former owner.

John Emory Cason Jr, who passed away in 2012, was a lifelong resident of Inverness, Florida and an avid outdoorsman and well-known local farmer. Cason had a wish that his coastal property be preserved forever as a sanctuary in the hands of an owner who would guarantee its permanent protection.

The location of the property is far out in the marsh west of U.S. 19 and has no road access, not even walkable access from adjacent roads – the closest being S. Rooks Drive in Homosassa. Other than reaching the sanctuary via airboat or kayak, the only visitors this new sanctuary will see are the birds themselves, and there will be plenty of them.

Over 200 species of coastal birds have been documented by the staff at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. A copy of the bird checklist can be downloaded here.

Roseate SpoonbillsCharles Lee, who manages sanctuary properties for the Florida Audubon Society, Inc., commented, “This is one of the most diverse and compellingly beautiful tracts of coastal marsh and hammock I have seen. It has wide open marshes and some pockets of open water against a backdrop of towering sabal palms at the edge of the hardwood hammock. There are Roseate Spoonbills and Wood Storks in the marsh and a wide variety of birds of prey, such as Bald Eagles, Coopers Hawks, Red Shouldered Hawks, and several species of owls that patrol the edge of the forest and marsh looking for their next meal. It is truly an extraordinary place”.

The Florida Audubon Society, Inc accepts the donation of sanctuary properties that meet its standards for ecological value and fit within the organization’s management capabilities. As the government programs that purchase and conserve land have become less reliable, Audubon seeks wildlife sanctuary donations from individuals who want to preserve their land. The donation of land and the donation of cash and securities are tax deductible.

For more information, please contact Audubon’s Charles Lee at

Banded Snowy Plovers Tell Story of Conservation in Florida

posted on December 8, 2015 in Birding,Coastal Conservation,Wildlife

SnowyPlover_1_2015Audubon Florida’s Coastal Conservation team operates throughout the state. They are – in many ways – the eyes and ears of our shores. Please take a moment to enjoy this interesting story from Audubon’s Marvin Friel in the Panhandle:

Yesterday evening, just before dusk, we rushed down to Windmark Beach (a mainland beach located in Gulf County near Port. St. Joe). What we were looking for as the sun was quickly setting was a uniquely banded Snowy Plover – a Snowy Plover whose haunts and habitat are known only to Audubon’s research team and a few locals like Barbara Eells, a longtime bird rehabilitator, volunteer and snowy plover enthusiast.

This prominent Snowy Plover’s “name” is his band color combination: WL:RS, or as it is stated out loud White, Lime : Red, Service. We first recognized this noteworthy male Snowy Plover in 2006 during the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) state-wide Snowy Plover census.  Barbara, who had monitored WL:RS the two years prior, provided us with WL:RS’s history.

SnowyPlover_2_2015Today, WL:RS is only one of three known individuals remaining from a handful of Snowy Plovers adults originally banded in 2004 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Like him, these individual ‘Snowies’ were the first banded in Florida to study nest productivity and adult survival. Today, WL:RS is at least 12 years old!  His exact age is unknown because he was originally banded as an adult.

The reason we rushed down to Windmark yesterday evening was to check on WL:RS’s recovery. Just two weeks prior, the Florida Park Service – Audubon Florida partnership team captured him at the tip of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park (SJPSP). He had a persistent but subtle leg injury that Barbara and our team had noticed at the end of the nesting season, in late July of this year. Following the end of the nesting season, we continued to monitor him, albeit infrequently, and were hopeful that he might recover without needing recapture. However, after three months, our team decided to capture him due to his persistent limping.

SnowyPlover_3_2015On November 3, while conducting our scheduled winter shorebird surveys at SJPSP, WL:RS was observed at the park still coddling his right leg. After he was captured and in hand, we discovered that WL:RS had a small piece of shell debris lodged between his service band and leg. The shell debris was causing discomfort and inflammation.

With delicate and deliberate hands, we removed the service band and dislodged the shell debris. Almost immediately, WL:RS, appeared relieved. Because he was missing one of his color bands, we wanted to confirm his identity and upon scrutiny of his metal leg band, we were able to do so by confirming the 9 digit code engraved on his aluminum Federal Service band.

SnowyPlover_4_2015Recognizing that he would likely recover from his injury, we replaced his missing lime band with a green band and replaced his old faded service band (now difficult to read) with a new one. To allow the injured leg to heal without further harm, we changed the location of his bands to the upper right leg instead of the lower right leg. All this was to ensure recovery of the leg in the short-term, but in the long-term it would allow researchers and volunteers like Barbara to continue monitoring him in the years to come.

Running out to see WL:RS yesterday evening before the sunset was much more than a crazy birder’s bizarre compulsion and obsession. For over 10 years, the life of WL:RS paralleled our careers as researchers and how we evolved as scientists grappling with difficult questions in hopes of improving the Snowy Plover’s population in Florida. As our monitoring program grew at the Florida State Parks in the Panhandle, as more and more beachgoers visited the Florida Gulf Coast beaches, as the need for public awareness and participation in conservation increased, what we realized is that WL:RS has already persevered and transcended many of the aforementioned obstacles.

SnowyPlover_5_2015Despite weather events, tropical storms, increases in recreational pressures and the numerous native and non-native predators present on our beaches (such as coyotes, ghost crabs, raccoons, fish crows or gulls), WL:RS is still cruising the shoreline looking for that next mouthwatering amphipod. Of herculean note, the extensive data collected on WL:RS has demonstrated that he has produced at least four generations of Snowy Plovers that span the panhandle beaches from SJPSP to Tyndall Air Force Base (an FWC Critical Wildlife Area) to Dog Island (land managed by The Nature Conservancy). Remarkably, one of the chicks he fathered holds the winter migration record, for plovers banded in the Florida panhandle; wintering down at Marco Island, Florida.

SnowyPlover_6_2015So yesterday evening was a success story! Hopefully WL:RS, (now White Green: Red Service on upper leg) will continue to inspire all of the beach-nesting monitoring efforts. Snowy Plovers like WL:RS are the true Florida beach bum, they are here to be enjoyed and respected as a Florida native to our coastal beaches, like sea turtles and beach mice. Each individually banded plover has a unique story to share that ultimately shows their biological resilience in their native habitat.

We hope that birds like WL:RS will persist at coastal beaches in Florida such as Windmark Beach or St. Joseph Peninsula State Park for future generations to enjoy.

FWC Establishes First New Critical Wildlife Area in Decades

posted on November 23, 2015 in Coastal Conservation,State Government,Wildlife

Photo by Dave Graff/Florida DEPLast Thursday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted unanimously to establish a new Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) at Second Chance Sandbar in southwest Florida. The new CWA will close the bar to vessel landings during the beach-nesting bird season.

Second Chance is part of a shoal system south of Collier County’s Cape Romano. It has supported the region’s largest Least Tern colony in past years, as well as nesting Black Skimmers and Wilson’s Plovers. Least Terns and Black Skimmers are both state Threatened and Wilson’s Plovers are a declining species of growing conservation concern.

These ground-nesting birds are easily disturbed when beachgoers and their dogs approach too closely, flushing parents from eggs and chicks who can perish quickly in the hot sun, at the mercy of predators, or underfoot. Second Chance is so narrow that despite the best efforts of its manager, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), to post the nesting areas, there simply isn’t enough room on the upland to provide an adequate buffer for the birds.

Commissioner Liesa Priddy—a southwest Florida resident who has visited the site—was an impassioned advocate for passage. Commissioner Ron Bergeron also endorsed the protection, saying that he has fished this region since childhood and marveled at its bird wealth. Chairman Brian Yablonski told the Commissioners that there has only been one other CWA designation in the state in the last twenty years, but to look closely because “we’re going to be seeing more of these.”

Special thanks to Collier County Bird Steward and wildlife photographer Jean Hall for traveling 16 hours round-trip to the meeting in Panama City and to Bay County Audubon co-president Ron Houser for their testimonies on behalf of the designation.

But most of all, congratulations to the staff of Rookery Bay NERR, FWC, and Audubon, and the many volunteers who give their time to protect these special places. Because of your efforts, Second Chance CWA now has a real chance at success.

Attorney General Pam Bondi Releases Audubon’s 525th Rehabilitated Bald Eagle

posted on November 18, 2015 in Birds of Prey Ctr.,State Government,Wildlife

Bondi Release_webAudubon Florida chose to honor Attorney General Pam Bondi with a Bald Eagle release due to her consistent action as a member of the Cabinet to assure purchase of conservation easements on ranchland in the Kissimmee River Watershed.

The Kissimmee watershed is the stronghold of Florida’s Bald Eagle populations. The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program operated by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services purchases conservation easements over ranchlands, preventing them from ever being developed. Attorney General Bondi has consistently acted to vote favorably on these conservation easement purchases.

The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey treats more than 700 patients annually with 12% being Bald Eagles.

One Lucky Snowy Plover

posted on November 3, 2015 in Coastal Conservation,Wildlife

Before picA beautiful reminder of the importance of our coastal conservation work. This story was sent in by Paula Muellner, a field technician with the Audubon/Florida Park Service hybrid team in the Florida Panhandle:

On September 1, we went to Camp Helen State Park to conduct our weekly bird survey. Just like most days, we headed east on the beach and saw several different species of birds foraging at the Lake outfall. I set my scope up and scanned the area, and that’s when I saw it…that thing I don’t want to see but which I often encounter.

BeforeIt was an anomalous movement in my periphery, something clearly out of sorts. In this case, it was a Snowy Plover, hopping along the mudflat on one leg. Not just any Snowy Plover, but a recently fledged chick that we banded a few weeks prior.

When I zoomed in to get a closer look I saw a light colored monofilament tangled around its left foot. It didn’t look good and we were nervous he would potentially lose its leg.

IMG_3310bWith a bit of creativity and a lot of patience, we were able to trap the bird and assess its injury. To our amazement, the monofilament was not a fishing line, in fact, it was a human hair! The hair, as strong as a wire, was twisted around its ankle and acted like a tourniquet around its toes. The tiny bird’s foot was swollen and the skin was raw, but thankfully, nothing was broken.

Slowly but surely my colleagues and I we were able to remove the hair and clean the wounds. We released it back where we found it and crossed our fingers that we would see it again. Weeks and weeks passed without seeing the bird and I optimistically hoped that the bird migrated to a different wintering site.

IMG_3309aThis past Thursday, we were at Topsail Hill State Park and saw a young Snowy Plover foraging in a dune pocket. We snapped a quick picture and zoomed in on its legs and that is when I saw the unique set of color bands. It was indeed the resilient fledgling from Camp Helen!

A big THANK YOU to all of our coastal volunteers, partners, and donors – without you, stories like this would not be possible!

Ninth Season of Nature Coast Surveys Begins With High Shorebird Numbers

Pat and Doris Leary are avid birdwatchers and citizen scientists from Fernandina Beach, FL, who volunteer their time and substantial skills to survey coastal waterbirds in Northeast Florida, coastal Georgia and Florida’s Big Bend. This continues a blog series in which they share their experiences, sightings, and photographs as well as observe the challenges these increasingly imperiled birds face.

American Oystercatcher flockTaking advantage of seasonal spring tides and a break in persistently inclement weather, we conducted our first Gulf surveys in mid September. Fortunately, persistent summer rains abated somewhat and allowed for productive outings. Beginning on the west side of Cedar Key, we noted much higher numbers of American Oystercatchers compared to a pre-season survey  three weeks earlier and, scoping the roosting flocks for markers, we noted migrants had arrived from several Atlantic coast states.

One favored, traditional, roost site was usurped by a stranded sailboat Sailboat stranded off Cedar Keycompelling the birds to seek refuge elsewhere. Fortunately, state officials were aware of the nuisance vessel for months and contractors were scheduled to remove the offending vessel. Florida FWC researchers documented the oystercatchers’ critical dependence on eroding roost sites in the region. Protecting the integrity of surviving sites is an ever-higher priority.

As frequently occurs on the Nature Coast, favored Oystercatcher roosts are often cohabited by multiple shorebird species. This was the case at one roost rake where ten federally Threatened Red Knots were present. Although none were marked, seven were hatch year juveniles – a good sign for this seriously declining species.

Due to brisk headwinds and chop we elected to avoid the Gulf and navigate through a protected, hazardous maze of salt marsh taking us to the east side of Cedar Key. Exiting the maze of marsh waters, a dense flock of American Avocet, Willet, and Marbled Godwits greeted us at the first shell rake on the edge of a wooded Key. We continued on to an Shorebird flock, Cedar Pointexpansive series of low rakes stretching into the open gulf. Approaching closer, we noted dark masses of birds clustered on several rakes and these soon proved to be densely-packed Oystercatcher flocks. We were now challenged to determine which flocks provided nearby vantage points where we could land our vessel and scan the birds for markers. During this process, we noted “clouds” of shorebirds swarming over the most distant shell rake and it soon became apparent that the flocks were being flushed by wading anglers hiking along the shorelines. Roosting shorebirds flushed by waders.

Disturbances to roosting shorebirds is a universal problem requiring considerable public education and outreach. Typically, disturbance is not intentional but the impacts can be significant where roost/rest sites are few as they are around Cedar Key or where disturbances are frequent and/or associated with pets.  Often impacts can be minimized with a little consideration for the birds, but the growing unfamiliarity with birds and associated conservation issues by today’s recreational public remains a challenge to declining bird populations. Doris and I plan to work more closely with the community and state agencies to raise awareness of these issues on the Nature Coast.

For the remainder of that afternoon, we carefully shifted from rake to rake, recording the diversity and numbers of birds and documenting unique markers.  In addition to the many marked Oystercatchers, we recorded several Red Knot bands among densely-massed flocks. One interesting observation was noting numbers of Western and Least Sandpipers perched in low vegetation on several rakes. This behavior is somewhat curious since adequate substrate is available for the normally ground-roosting birds. Least Sandpiper roosting in tall vegetation

In addition to the hordes of shorebirds, we also noted small numbers of larids, including migrant Caspian Terns but none were banded. One small flock of Blue-winged Teal passed low over the rakes as they continued south to unknown destinations. The next day, we traveled to Horseshoe Beach in northern Dixie County and visited a low shell rake south of that diminutive community. Over many seasons, we have learned where the flocks stage prior to shifting to the low jetties in the Gulf nearer the town. Initially, few birds were present, but as the tide slowly rose, many more birds arrived until ninety crowded the roost. At one point a small flock of Oystercatchers was spied passing far offshore suggesting they were actively migrating. Similarly, a lone Northern Harrier came in off the Gulf – our first sighting of the species since spring migration carried them off to northern breeding grounds.

Predictably, the oystercatchers eventually shifted north to the jetties where we found them flushing frequently and flying over open water. Oddly, no other shorebirds flushed off the rocks and we assumed that an unseen eagle must be cruising high aloft. For unknown reasons, Oystercatchers react more adversely to eagles than any Oystercatcher with coded leg markersother raptor on the wintering grounds.  Once the birds settled down, we slowly cruised along the rocks collecting digital images for later review to identify band codes that were missed or that we were unable to decipher at the distant rake.

During our recent travels along regional highways going to and from boat launch sites, we noted remarkable amounts of flooded forest, ditches and fields resulting from the deluge of summer rains.  Most ditches were saturated with water and lush Gulf Fritillary butterflyaquatic foliage in full bloom attracted numerous butterflies. How the rain waters impact the native flora and fauna we cannot know, but if the health and abundance of regional oysters is dependent on influxes of fresh water, their historic declines may soon be reversed to the benefit of American Oystercatchers and humans alike.


FWC Adopts Audubon-Supported Panther Policies

posted on September 29, 2015 in Everglades,State Government,Wildlife

Florida Panther by RJ WileyIn June 2015, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) released a controversial plan to reprioritize state resources for Florida panther recovery. The proposed plan would have negatively affected collaboration with the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) on expanding panthers’ breeding range, an essential part of recovery.

Audubon Florida and many wildlife advocates strongly objected.

In response, FWC, led by commissioners Liesa Priddy and Ron Bergeron, revised the policy statement in a positive way. The policy statement now makes three vital points supported by Audubon: 1) the Service should greatly increase its role in panther recovery work, especially range expansion; 2) FWC will continue to collaborate with the Service on panther recovery, including range expansion in Florida; and 3) FWC, with the Service, will address human/panther conflicts, including impacts from panthers eating livestock on private lands, which is an increasing threat to recovery.

The FWC made significant progress on its first panther policy goal when the Service’s national director, Dan Ashe, southeast regional director Cynthia Dohner, and Florida supervisor Larry Williams attended the FWC Commission’s meeting in Ft. Lauderdale on September 2.  They made mutual commitments to work together on recovery of the Florida panther and other imperiled species.  The Service also committed to bringing more staff and financial resources to panther recovery.

Audubon was also encouraged to hear specific mutual commitment to an innovative program that incentivizes ranchers to manage their land for wildlife and panthers while running their commercial cow-calf ranches. “Payment for Ecological Services” (PES) programs that pay per-acre stewardship fees have excellent potential to resolve conflicts between landowners and panthers.

Audubon Florida, with these agencies, will continue to advocate on behalf of Florida panthers as part of the Service’s stakeholder-driven Panther Recovery Implementation Team. We will also remain engaged with major ranchers and farmers in occupied panther habitat as a partner in the Florida Panther Protection Program in southwest Florida.

Audubon is committed to the future success of the Florida panther. The vast habitat needed by these great cats also serves many other imperiled Everglades species.

Audubon Establishes “Reid Hughes Marsh Sanctuary” in Nassau County

posted on August 7, 2015 in Land Conservation,Wildlife

Seaside SparrowThe Florida Audubon Society has added nearly 200 acres of pristine Nassau County marshland to its system of wildlife sanctuaries thanks to a generous donation from Reid B. Hughes of New Smyrna Beach. Hughes serves as a member of Audubon’s Board of Directors and is a past member of the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Audubon will name the new sanctuary the “Reid Hughes Marsh Sanctuary” in honor of the donor.

Tree island SW property - Copy (Medium)The new Audubon sanctuary tract is located on the Bells River, which branches from the St. Marys River separating Florida and Georgia. The sanctuary is just offshore of the Pirates Wood subdivision near Yulee and consists of deep marsh with some tree islands. Audubon is increasing its efforts to protect the marshlands in the Northeast Florida area, as these marshes are vitally important habitat for both resident bird species and migratory species on the Atlantic Flyway.

The “Reid Hughes Marsh Sanctuary” is ideal habitat for Threatened Wood Storks, ibis, herons, egrets, many types of shorebirds, as well as the MacGillivray’s Seaside Sparrow and Worthington’s Marsh Wren, a Species of Special Concern in Florida.

Woodstork on sanctuary property“The Reid Hughes Marsh is a great addition to the Florida Audubon Society’s sanctuary system. It provides exactly the kind of habitat we are looking for to sustain important coastal bird species that are under increased threat from development and climate change,” said Eric Draper, Audubon Florida Executive Director. “Private environmental land donations have become ever more important in recent years because of reduced state land purchases. Individual donors, like Reid Hughes, are stepping up to make a positive impact for Florida’s imperiled birds and wildlife.”

For information on Audubon conservation efforts in Northeast Florida, contact Chris Farrell, Policy Associate, Northeast Florida (904) 325-9940.  For information on donating conservation land to the Florida Audubon Society, contact Charles Lee, Sanctuary and Land Manger, at (407) 620-5178.

Florida’s State Parks Are Critical for Piping Plovers

Pat and Doris Leary are avid birdwatchers and citizen scientists from Fernandina Beach, FL, who volunteer their time and substantial skills to survey coastal waterbirds in Northeast Florida, coastal Georgia and Florida’s Big Bend. This continues a blog series in which they share their experiences and sightings as well as the challenges these increasingly imperiled birds face.

TGreat Lakes Piping Plover overwintering at Little Talbot Island State Parkhe critical role of high quality habitat protected within Florida’s coastal parks and preserves was demonstrated recently by two recent, cross-state resightings of the same banded Piping Plover. On March 23, during a routine beach survey at Little Talbot Island State Park in Duval County, I detected a flagged plover in alternate plumage roosting with several other birds. Because none of the regional winter-resident plovers were as advanced in their molt, it had to be a migrant heading back to its northern breeding grounds. Careful study through a spotting scope offered partial views of the gray flag’s code, but positive identification was impossible. And then the birds flushed and vanished in the gloomy conditions.

BaldPointObserving other birds flying south with the wind, I elected to return to the park’s south inlet shore. Approaching the area, I found a large concentration of mixed shorebird species including a few piping plovers and the “lost migrant”.  Perhaps due to the harsh conditions and presence of migrating merlins, all the birds were nervous, rushing about the beach and taking flight repeatedly. As I carefully approached the birds, they flushed yet again with most landing on the opposite side of a shallow beach overwash but I soon detected my quarry running through the milling birds toward the distant inlet shore.

I removed socks and boots and waded through the chilly waters. Fortunately, the mass of birds ultimately settled down and I was able to approach the plovers to once again study the flag code. Some time passed before I was certain of reading the bird’s plastic leg marker correctly: a gray flag on the upper right leg bearing the code “E1”. At one point the migrant rested next to another banded plover carrying a black plastic flag with the code “J5” denoting it as a Maritime Canada plover that spent the winter locally.

Upon returning home, images were processed and a report was submitted to Cherri Gratto-Trevor in far distant Canadian Maritime Piping Plover with gray flagSaskatchewan, Canada. Cherri is a long time plover associate and the current director for piping plover banding efforts across Maritime Canada. As is her practice, Cherri quickly responded and informed me that the migrant was originally banded on May 29, 2014 at Crow Neck Beach in southern Nova Scotia. This bird spent the winter on Three Rooker Island, part of Anclote Key Preserve State Park in Pinellas County. Audubon Florida’s Marianne Korosy recorded the plover there on February 6th during Florida’s statewide mid-winter shorebird survey and it was last recorded there on March 9th.

A high percentage of migrant and wintering piping plovers are annually recorded in Florida’s state park and preserve beaches every season. Two Canadian Maritime plovers wintered in Little Talbot Island State Park and several others were recorded there during fall migration. Likewise, many banded plovers were recorded as migrants and winter residents in the Gulf Coast state parks – on Three Rooker Island and adjoining Anclote Key. Several other maritime plovers wintered in Cayo Costa State Park in southwest Florida. On both Florida coasts, banded plovers from the Great Lakes and Great Plains populations have been recorded frequently in passage or winter on state park beaches.

Huguenot Memorial Park: the bird protection area keeps flightless chicks from being harmed by vehiclesWith so much of Florida’s coastlines heavily developed and impacted by burgeoning numbers of residents and tourists alike, our undeveloped coastal parks will only increase in value to Piping Plovers and other shorebirds as time passes. We must be vigilant to increased pressures to expand development and carrying capacities in our parks if we hope to maintain their natural integrity and critical functions for native and migratory wildlife for decades to come.

Next »