January 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!