Audubon Florida News

Topic: Coastal Conservation,Events,Gulf Oil Spill

Gulf Ecosystem Advocates Needed as Restoration Planning Gains Steam

posted on August 28, 2014 in Coastal Conservation,Events,Gulf Oil Spill

[object Object]Slowly but surely, things are starting to move with the RESTORE Act process and the flow of money.

This time last year, all interested parties were commenting on a proposed set of regulations from theU.S. Department of the Treasury that will govern how the Gulf States and municipalities spend money resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. After considering those comments, the Department of the Treasury issued an Interim Final Rule earlier this month.

The RESTORE law steers 80% of any civil and administrative penalties under the Clean Water Act into the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. The law designates the estimated $5 to $20 billion dollars to ecosystem restoration, economic recovery, and regional tourism promotion. Most of that money will come from BP once federal court proceedings conclude. Approximately $1 billion has already been collected from a settlement with Transocean, the company that operated the doomed oil rig.

Some RESTORE funds will be available for dispersal once the Treasury rule is final. Barring any challenges to this rule, this is expected to happen on October 14, 2014.

While we wait for the Treasury regulations to be final, you can feel the activities of the Counties stepping it up as well. The Gulf Consortium, consisting of Florida’s 23 Gulf counties, is anticipating receiving some grant funding to assist with the development of Florida’s State Expenditure Plan. This group will select a consultant to help guide them through the process.

Most of those 23 counties also have their own RESTORE Act Advisory Committees. These committees oversee a separate revenue stream of trust fund dollars received based on the extent of damage done in the county. Each committee has one environmental representative dedicated to ensuring that their County spends funds to address environmental and ecological damages.

On August 21, 2014, those representatives from the Panhandle area (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay and Franklin counties) gathered for a day at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center near Freeport, Florida to share updates and look for ideas on how to advance shared priorities. The meeting was organized by the Defenders of Wildlife and also included representatives from Audubon Floridathe Nature ConservancyNational Wildlife Federation and the Florida Wildlife Federation.

The Panhandle Counties are all working on their individual expenditure plans and processes and are all in different stages of readiness to accept project proposals. All committee meetings are open to the public.

One resounding cry heard at the August 21 meeting was the need for more public involvement. Consider attending one of the below public meetings. All times local. For additional information, please click here.


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

Eagle Eyes on the Everglades at the Bass Museum, March 30

posted on March 27, 2014 in Events

Event at Bass

Everglades Day at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

posted on February 19, 2014 in Chapters,Events,Everglades

EvergladesDay_Alligator_2014_LoxahatcheeThe 15th annual Everglades Day was held February 8 at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

Audubon Society of the Everglades, located in Palm Beach County, is one of the main organizers of this family-friendly annual event. Over two thousand attendees enjoyed guided nature walks, canoeing, educational exhibits, a great line-up of speakers, and other fun activities.

EvergladesDay_2014_LoxahatcheeLoxahatchee is home to Wood Storks, Everglade Snail Kites, alligators, bobcats, river otters, and lots of other wildlife. The refuge also serves as a Water Conservation Area and provides flood control for surrounding areas, and helps improve water supply in addition to providing important habitat for wildlife.

Thanks to the members of Audubon of the Everglades who help make this event such a great success!

If you missed the fun this year, you can still visit the refuge which is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Learn more about the refuge and plan your visit here:



Do you love birds? Then why not spend some time with them on Valentine’s Day?

Orange-crowned Warbler in a backyard bird bathClean those binoculars, grab your notebook and get ready to head outdoors because you are invited to join the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count!

WHAT:  The GBBC  – A four day window each year where people all over the world take time to count birds and report what they see.

DATE:  FEB 14-17, 2014

TIME:  Any time when you can spend a minimum of 15 minutes (hopefully more) at one location

Enjoying birds outdoors

WHEREYOUR BACKYARD or one of Florida’s Special places (outdoors of course)

WHY:  Because capturing a snapshot each year help scientists understand the impacts of a changing planet on bird populations.  Your observations make that possible.

In its 17th year, the Great Backyard Bird Count known affectionately as the GBBC will once again bring birding enthusiasts from around the world together to create a snapshot of the birds that live with us. This citizen science project is the perfect way to bring together birders of all experience levels.  Go it alone or join a group of friends.

Chipping Sparrows at a backyard feederAnd for those of you who are camera buffs, THERE IS EVEN A PHOTO CONTEST!

To find out how to get started and much more, please click here and watch the instructional video about GBBC’s history, how to contribute your data via the ebird program and the scientific and conservation value of your participation.

You might just have a sweetheart of a time!

Ferman Audubon Truck Challenge

Paul Ferman Blog 1Help Audubon’s Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries through the Ferman Audubon Truck Challenge.

For the second time, we have a special matching offer this year.  Jim and Cecelia Ferman and Ferman Motorcars have generously offered us an opportunity to purchase a new truck at more than one-third off!

Last year donations to Audubon’s Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries matched the 2012 Ferman Audubon Truck Challenge and we replaced one truck.

In this picture, Ferman Chevrolet’s Mark Wilson gave Audubon Sanctuary staff Ann Paul and Mark Rachal the keys to a brand new Silverado truck purchased through the 2012 Ferman Audubon Truck Challenge.  This new truck replaced one of the aging, high-mileage trucks in our two-vehicle fleet.

We want to do that again!  Our old and rusty 1996 Chevy truck has been great, pulling boats to ramps near colonies across west central Florida, but as a boat hauler exposed to salty water, the work for Audubon has been heavy duty.  Several times, we have been stranded on the side of the road, with our Audubon boats in tow behind us, hoping not to be hit by traffic and waiting for rescue.  This is not fun or funny — it means that we have wasted a day during the busy nesting season when we didn’t get our work on the colonial waterbird colonies done, and the maintenance expenses for the old truck are expensive.

Paul Ferman Blog 2

Here is a photo of Audubon’s old, high-mileage, rusty Audubon truck, a 1996 Chevy Silverado 1500.  It has done a good job, but now it’s time to get a replacement.

We appealed to long-time Sanctuary supporter Jim Ferman, and he has suggested a way: Ferman Motorcars will provide a new truck to us at cost, and he will kick-off the match, offering one third of the cost of the new truck.  Now, we need to raise the balance.  Now, we need your help.

Will you make a special donation to the 2013 Ferman Audubon Truck Challenge so that we can safely tow our boats and protect our island sanctuaries?  Donations are, of course, tax deductible and will be Very Much Appreciated!

Online donation:

For more information about how you can participate in the 2013 Ferman Audubon Truck Challenge or for more information about the Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries, please contact Ann Paul at the Sanctuaries office (telephone 813/623-6826 or

Tropical Audubon Society Environmental Leadership Workshop a Huge Success

posted on October 9, 2013 in Events

Deering Estate - Tropical Audubon EventThis weekend, Tropical Audubon Society held its first annual Environmental Leadership Workshop at Miami’s Deering Estate.

The presentations focused around the themes of local conservation issues, advocacy, and grassroots organizing. Afternoon breakout sessions provided additional focus on other topics including citizen science, fundraising, diversity in conservation, public speaking, and communication through traditional and social media.

Deering Estate - Tropical Audubon - ViewJulie Hill-Gabriel, Audubon Florida’s Everglades Policy Director, gave a presentation on Sunday entitled “Advocacy and Lobbying 101.” Drawing from her insight and experience in the policy world, Hill-Gabriel offered tips and advice for seeking out conservation allies as well as how to get and maximize meetings with relevant decision-makers. Other speakers included Katy Sorenson of University of Miami’s Good Government Initiative, Eric Eikenberg of the Everglades Foundation, Laura Reynolds of Tropical Audubon and many more. Audubon’s Everglades Policy Associate Tabitha Cale joined students, Audubon chapter members, concerned citizens, and members of the business community, who participated in the Workshop that proved to be informative and energizing.

Congratulations Tropical Audubon for envisioning and organizing such a compelling and successful event!

Audubon Thanks the Great Backyard Bird Count Citizen Scientists!

During the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), people all over the country – and all over the world now that the GBBC has teamed up with eBird – become citizen scientists and count birds, in their yard, their neighborhood or their favorite park.

GBBC. Vilano Beach. Black Skimmers and Forster's Tern. Feb. 2013. Photo Monique BorboenA partnership between Audubon, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada, the GBBC is held annually in February. People are asked to count birds for at least 15 minutes, record their effort and enter their data into a centralized database. The data can be used to track year-to-year changes in the abundance and distribution of birds, to learn about the complex patterns of winter bird movements, and to look for trends that indicate how well birds are faring in the face of environmental changes such as urbanization, global climate change, and disease.

In St. Johns County, thanks to the Anastasia Island library, the GBBC reached far and wide into the community.  People fabricated and decorated bird houses; kids and adults wrote bird-themed haiku poems. Library visitors judged bird houses and poems that were entered into a contest. Library volunteers provided an afternoon of kids’ crafts focused on birds. Audubon staff gave a lecture for people interested in becoming citizen scientists. The St. Augustine Record provided welcome press coverage on the weekend’s events.One of the Haiku poems entered in the competition at the Anastasia Island Library. Feb 2013.

On the GBBC weekend of February 15-18, courageous participants braved an Arctic front to count birds on their own or with teams led by birding guides from St. Johns County Audubon Society. For some people, it was their first experience surveying birds!

Nine year old John Brice, who was recognized as Junior Volunteer of the Year at the Audubon Assembly, led a beach walk at Fort Matanzas with his grandma, a beach where they volunteer as bird stewards. At Vilano Beach, a Peregrine Falcon was seen causing quite a stir in a flock of over 100 Black Skimmers.

Fort Matanzas beach walk led by Audubon volunteers John and Peggy - orange caps. GBBC Feb 16 2013. Photo Monique Borboen .The GBBC events sponsored by the Anastasia Island Library introduced many new people to bird surveys. And surveys are an important first step in bird conservation. Audubon wishes to thank the library for its leadership and to thank all of you new citizen scientists for your collaboration: the birds we are protecting need you!

We encourage all first-time and returning participants to keep up the good work by entering bird sightings into eBird and by helping us with other bird surveys throughout the year. To find out if regular bird surveys are being held in your region, contact:

2012 Jay Watch Volunteers Celebrated

posted on February 1, 2013 in Events,Volunteering,Wildlife

Marianne Korosy, Jay Watch Coordinator, addresses the crowd. Photo: Jacqui SulekJanuary 12th was the perfect weather day for the more than 35 Jay Watch volunteers who attended Audubon’s first Jay Watch citizen science volunteer event!  Hosted by Blue Spring State Park (in Volusia County), volunteers and land managers came from all over the peninsula to attend, representing Jay Watch in Manatee, Polk, Highlands, Indian River, St. Lucie, Seminole, Orange, Volusia, Marion and Lake counties. Fred and Ann Hunter, owners of private property that is home to Florida Scrub-jays in Lake County were also there to share their unique perspectives.

Blue Spring run - a refuge for manatees in winter.Early arrivals had the opportunity to join one of the morning nature walks along the breathtaking spring run led by Megan Keserauskis, the Park Biologist, and Wayne Hartley – manatee volunteer extraordinaire.  It is no wonder this park receives thousands of visitors each on a busy summer or winter weekend.

After a welcome and introduction by Jacqui Sulek, Audubon Florida’s Chapter Conservation Manager volunteers lounged at picnic tables in the River Pavilion to learn about “Florida’s Fire History” by Craig Faulhaber/FWCC and the “Importance of Citizen Science” programs shared by Stephen Kintner/West Volusia Audubon.

Stephen Kintner, West Volusia Audubon Society, discusses the importance of a range of citizen science programs.

Highlights of the 2012 Scrub-jay surveys and many thank  yous followed including brief overview from Blue Spring State Park (Megan),  Lyonia Preserve (Bonnie Cary/Volusia County), and both Buck Lake and Lake Monroe Conservations areas (Maria Zondervan/SJRWMD).  Marianne Korosy, Audubon Florida’s Jay Watch Coordinator gave an overview of the 2012 Jay Watch program including plans for website improvements and 2013 training session locations.

Delicious cake! Photo by Lee Faircloth

Brian’s Bar-B-Q, a local restaurant catered a delicious lunch of barbecue chicken, local seasoned vegetables, baked beans, and coleslaw.  Bonnie Cary contributed a delicious chocolate and vanilla cake (with creamed cheese icing) adorned with a Florida Scrub-jay!

After lunch, Craig Faulhaber did an outstanding job of filling in for Karl Miller (stranded by snow) with updates on the scrub habitat management and the 1000+ Scrub-jay families being surveyed regularly in Ocala National Forest.

Florida Scrub-jay

Thanks to all involved in the planning of this great event and special thanks to all the volunteers who make the Jay Watch program such a success. This program would not exist without their passion and dedication.  Details about the program along with training and survey schedules will be posted on the Audubon Florida website soon.  So start thinking about how you can become a Jay Watch citizen scientist in 2013!

Sarasota and Tampa Bay’s Wildlife Need Your Help This Saturday

posted on September 27, 2012 in Coastal Conservation,Events,Wildlife

From Audubon’s Tampa Bay Regional Coordinator Ann Paul:

My name is Ann Paul, and I’ve been working for Audubon’s Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries since 1991. Over these years, one of the saddest things I’ve seen related to birds is the terrible loss every year caused by discarded fishing line.  Fishing line entangles wildlife, often birds, and catches on trees or brush when the birds set down to roost.  Sometimes, birds are just caught by a hook, maybe when they were swimming near a pier where fishermen are dropping baited hooks into the water, or disposing of parts of cleaned fish.  Brown pelican adults and fledged birds are particularly impacted.  Even if the lines don’t snare in trees, birds with hooks and lines wrapped around them can’t feed efficiently and so slowly starve.

Nearly every time I visit sanctuary islands across the region to complete surveys, maintain signs, work with volunteers, or to conduct tours, I see birds dead, caught in trees by fishing line. I even see live birds hanging helplessly from mangroves. Of course, we remove all the fishing line we can, but sometimes we can not help. If the injured and entangled birds are so close to other nests that we would become a disturbance, we cannot rescue these individual birds.  This is a heart-breaking reality.

Even more heart-breaking is when we find line with bones or feathers in it.  We know then that a bird died there.  Usually these were otherwise healthy, productive individual birds, doomed to a unnecessary and brutal death.

So, we are asking for your help:

  • If you are a fisherman or woman, don’t cut the line if you accidentally caught an animal you didn’t want to, as a bird or turtle.  Instead, taking precautions to protect yourself from injury as wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes, reel in the poor thing and unhook it.
  • If you are in the field and encounter fishing line, pick it up and throw it away so that it doesn’t end up back in our habitats.
  • Volunteer for a fishing line cleanup this Saturday, September 29, 2012! We organize two in the fall every year when birds are not nesting on our sanctuaries, one with Tampa Bay Watch and one with Sarasota Bay Watch.  These are fun, it’s amazing how much line and other entangling material gets collected, and we are together making key habitats ready and safer for our healthy nesting birds next spring.

You can contact me or Mark Rachal, FCIS Sanctuary Manager, at 813/623-6826 or by email

Together, we make a real difference for wildlife, especially our Florida birds.

 You can now follow Audubon’s Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries on Twitter!

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