Conservation

 

Seminole Audubon Society Conservation Initiatives 

 

Coastal Habitat

Least Tern Nesting Project

Wekiva River Ecosystem

Wekiva Parkway

Florida Scrub Jays in the Wekiva Basin

The Green Swamp Area of State Critical Concern

Project Colony Watch

Wading Birds

Bird Island (Jane Isle) Colony Counts

Eagle’s Nests on “Bird Island” (Jane Isle)

History of “Bird Island” (Jane Isle) and Lake Jesup

Bird Species found on Bird Island (Jane Isle)

Jane Isle Vegetation Survey

 

Conservation Priority: Coastal Habitat

Florida’s coasts and coastal areas include a rich assemblage of essential habitats used by diverse species of birds, fish and other wildlife and plants. Coastal habitats include reefs, shoals, islands, beaches, marine waters, mangrove swamps, estuaries, marshes, wetlands, floodplains, rivers, streams, coastal hammocks, and maritime forests.  These habitats have evolved under the influence of long-term climate, hydrologic, and geologic forces.  Abundant and seasonal freshwater flows from Florida’s many rivers, streams, springs and the Everglades are vital to create especially diverse and productive estuaries.

Coastal habitats are enjoyed by people for birdwatching and other wildlife observation, fishing, hunting, swimming, boating, and other recreation and are used for scientific and historic discovery, food production, navigation, trade, and locations for people to live and work.  Many of Florida’s coastal areas are now altered, disturbed, and dominated by human use as population growth and development have located people and human use in places that once supported abundant and balanced populations of birds, fish, and other wildlife. 

Freshwater flows into estuaries have been significantly altered by upland and upstream drainage, flood control, development, and water use projects. Water quality in many coastal waters is declining as a result of sediment, nutrient, and chemical pollution. Populations of many coastal bird species are at risk due to alteration of coastal habitats and disturbance by people and their pets during nesting seasons, causing death of eggs and young birds.  

Many species including shorebirds and colonial wading birds have declined in their historic ranges and many are listed by federal and state agencies and by science organizations and require significant intervention and management efforts to prevent extirpation from Florida’s coastal areas or extinction. Each species that make use of beaches and other coastal habitats such as wintering and migrating birds also have specific habitat requirements for reproduction, foraging, and resting.

SAS makes protection and restoration of colonial wading birds a conservation priority by monthly monitoring and flight-line surveys of  Bird Island” (Jane Isle), a significant wading bird colony in Lake Jesup, part of the St. John’s River.  Jane Isle was recently included in Audubon of Florida’s Project Colony Watch.  Monthly survey data will be compiled and reported to the Audubon of Florida for inclusion in the statewide Project Colony Watch database, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the St. John’s River Water Management District, and Seminole County.

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Least Tern Nesting Project

In addition to colonial wading bird surveys, SAS supports protection and restoration of coastal habitat by partnering with local and regional land management agencies to encourage or re-establish nesting of Least Terns in Seminole County.  Re-establishing nesting habitat for Least Terns, who have been documented nesting in Seminole County in the past, will be accomplished through cooperative agreements with local governments and land management agencies to develop and maintain unique nesting structures protected from predation and disturbance. 

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Conservation Priority:  Wekiva River Ecosystem  

The ecosystem comprising the Wekiva River and its tributaries, the St. Johns River and associated lands, the "Wekiva Basin Area," represents one of the most valuable natural assets of this State.  The Wekiva area is joined with a major springshed in excess of 300,000 acres in size that provides groundwater to maintain the base flows of the springs which make up most of the flow of the Wekiva River and associated streams; and the Wekiva ecosystem is joined by a relatively unbroken corridor of habitat with the Ocala National Forest, and constitutes one of the most important habitat areas for the black bear in the state.  The State of Florida has acquired over 60,000 acres of public conservation lands in the Wekiva area, which is experiencing tremendous development pressure.

Audubon of Florida has maintained a leadership role in efforts to protect the Wekiva River Ecosystem for over 20 years and has successfully undertaken efforts to create protective regulations and promote acquisition of land to protect this vital Florida resource.  Working with others, Audubon pushed passage of the Wekiva River Protection Act (1988), the Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act (2004), and the designation of the Wekiva River as “Outstanding Florida Waters” and a national Wild and Scenic River.

SAS continues its partnership with local conservation groups, including Friends of the Wekiva and the Wekiva River Basin Committee, to actively pursue conservation, legislative, and public outreach efforts in the Wekiva River ecosystem.

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Comments on the proposed Wekiva Parkway

The rich diversity of species that live and migrate through the northwestern portion of Seminole County, in the vicinity of the Wekiva and St Johns rivers, has long been a source of recreational and scientific fascination for Seminole Audubon Society members. We have worked jointly with county and state officials in numerous efforts to preserve the habitat conditions that make these areas wildlife friendly. Our county government has already made significant purchases and negotiated agreements specifically to provide protection for the plants and animals in the area.

We believe a road anywhere through the Lower Wekiva River State Preserve, Seminole County Yankee Lake property or the County Natural Lands Black Bear Wilderness Area (part of which was formerly known as Riverside Ranch) would fragment and reduce the value of this important habitat and lead to a reduction in the native plants and animals, including listed species, that sustain themselves on these lands. In addition, a road here would violate the clear intent of the citizens of Seminole county who voted to tax themselves to protect these natural resources.

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Florida Scrub Jays in the Wekiva Basin

Florida scrub jays, one of the most habitat-specific federally-listed birds in Florida, are residents at the county-owned Yankee Lake property. When the county applied in 1993 to the US Army Corps of Engineers for a permit modification to construct Rapid Infiltration Basins, the State Audubon Ornithologist provided the survey and management plan that was submitted with the application. Twenty-five scrub jays were documented representing six family groups. The Corps of Engineers issued the permit in 1994. In 2000, the USFWS informed the county that the conditions of the management agreement were not being conducted satisfactorily. The County responded by contracting PBS&J to restore suitable habitat and prepare another plan to perpetuate the conditions necessary for the long-term survival of the jays.1 We are hopeful that the careful attention by this professional environmental team will allow the population to expand. The Audubon ornithologist believed that the Yankee Lake site is capable of supporting ten families of jays.

 

In conjunction with this habitat restoration task, PBS&J also performed a total species survey in the Phase One Wetland Reuse System at Yankee Lake. The survey found that this ecosystem could support nineteen federal and state listed species. Fourteen listed species were actually observed in the survey. The soil and vegetative conditions are noted to be suitable for the potential occurrence of ten federally listed plant species.2 The annual field trip our Audubon Chapter now makes to Yankee Lake is one of our most productive for number of bird species observed. Including the scrub jays, we normally see more then fifty species of birds in just few hours. 3

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection supplies more evidence that the habitat conditions near the Wekiva River in northwestern Seminole County are congenial for birds. From 1999 to 2002, a FDEP staff person conducted regular bird surveys in the River from the Wekiva Marina to the confluence with the St Johns. This includes the Lower Wekiva River State Preserve adjacent to the county Yankee Lake property. A total of 120 bird species were recorded. 4  Audubon conducts an annual Wekiva Christmas Bird Count. The radius of the Wekiva count circle includes the Lower Wekiva State Reserve, Yankee Lake and the Black Bear Wilderness Area. Audubon volunteers observed 184 bird species over the last ten years. 5
 

Our members applauded the 1988 legislature that enacted the Wekiva River Protection Act. We believed the native plants and wildlife in the Protection Zone had been assured a safe haven by the new state statute even as development in Central Florida was rapidly converting many other habitat areas to human uses. When developers attempted to loosen the restrictive phrasings in the Wekiva Act with applications for increased intensity of human activity in the Protection Area, our Chapter joined with other environmental organizations and individuals filing objections.

 

Of the several controversial applications for development in the Wekiva area that we opposed, the Astor Farms application was most egregious. Astor Farms was a meadow in the middle of a wildlife wilderness. When not in agricultural production, the fields at Astor Farms provided ideal hunting for kestrels and hawks. Sandhill Cranes were often seen foraging there. A common remark from area residents was that black bears always took a large share of the watermelon crop. Bobcats and fox were also reported.


The Department of Community Affairs supported our interpretation of the Wekiva Act and forced a settlement action at Astor Farms that reduced the total number of houses and required specific lower densities for the portion of the property inside the Wekiva Protection Area. Acknowledging the proximate nature of the area wildlife, the developer agreed to construct a fence completely around the development site even before the construction of any houses. It was well known that bears and other wildlife would present a conflict with humans at this location. The developer also agreed to other design strategies that could reduce the negative effects on wildlife. On the expressway map of proposed routes, Astor Farms can be seen adjacent to the Black Bear Wilderness area, just to the south of the northern most alternative route through Seminole County.    The evidence at Astor Farms suggests clearly that this northern alternative route through undeveloped wilderness area would be devastating to wildlife.

The vague wording in the Wekiva Statute continued to be a problem. It became clear that the Wekiva Act’s protective provisions were not adequately incorporated into the Seminole County Comprehensive Plan. The County Board of Commissioners then initiated meetings among concerned environmentalists, developers and county staff that resulted in an agreement that became known as the Wekiva Global Settlement. After several years of meetings, public hearings and scrutiny by the DCA, the BCC adopted numerous policies into the County Comp Plan for the preservation of the Rural nature and character inside the Protection area. Ten new policies in the Future Land Use Element require specific actions that will contribute to the preservation of Wekiva natural resources. The concept of rural character is defined by means of seven new planning policies. 6


Perhaps the most significant of the new policies was the agreement to trade higher housing density in a transitional area remote from the River for permanent land preservation on the Yankee Lake property. The county agreed to conduct a study to determine what portion of the Yankee Lake property would be surplus to the functions necessary for water treatment and then incorporate that portion into the County’s Natural Lands Program. Approximately 1100 acres have now been permanently preserved and will be managed for their natural resource value because of this provision in the Global Settlement. This area has recently been combined with the Riverside Ranch Natural Lands property to form the Black Bear Wilderness Area. County staff has conducted species surveys over these combined lands since 1995.7  Seminole citizens, developers and county commissioners all agreed this area should remain wild and undeveloped.

All the human activity and development that occurs in our region increases the importance of preserved lands for wildlife, water recharge and our own psychological need for open space. Land use changes and development have already forced wildlife to look elsewhere for sanctuary. Seminole County Government has established a vision and practical plan for the beneficial coexistence of nature and humans. We believe the species identified in this report are evidence that the plan can succeed.

We strongly believe a road as proposed anywhere through the Lower Wekiva River State Preserve, the Yankee Lake property or the Black Bear Wilderness Area would fragment and reduce the value of this important habitat and lead to a reduction in the native plants and animals, including listed species, that sustain themselves on these lands.

Notes:

1 Yankee Lake Scrub Jay Survey Summary, October 2002

                        Susan Shaw – PBS&J

2 Threatened and Endangered Fauna and Floral Species Listing 

                        Phase One Wetland Reuse System Susan Shaw - PBS&J

3 Field Trips to Yankee Lake Scrub Jay Preservation Area Report  

                        Seminole Audubon Society

4 Birds Found at the Wekiva River and St Johns River Aquatic Preserve 

                            Lorne Malo - FDEP

5 Audubon Wekiva Christmas Bird Count, 1991 – 2001

(including Lower Wekiva State Reserve, Yankee Lake and Black Bear Wilderness Area)

6 Seminole County Vision 2020 Comprehensive Plan, Pages FLU-50 – FLU-57

 

7 Black Bear Wilderness Area Boundary map; Total Count for Wilderness Area by Species 1995-2002   Seminole County Natural Lands Dept.

 

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Conservation Priority:  Green Swamp

The “Green Swamp” is one of Florida’s largest contiguous ecosystems remaining in relatively undisturbed condition. The Green Swamp is comprised of wetlands scrub sand hills, lakes and rivers and occupies approximately 560,000 acres, including parts of Hernando, Lake, Pasco, Polk and Sumter counties. Audubon has designated the Green Swamp as one of the largest “Important Bird Areas” (IBAs) in Florida. The Green Swamp occupies an area at the highest potentiometric surface of the Floridan Aquifer and portions of it are highly important recharge areas for the Floridan Aquifer.

Other parts of Green Swamp are areas where rainfall and groundwater accumulate and discharge in wetlands, forming the headwaters of 4 major river systems that ultimately flow to both the east and west coasts of Florida. While about 60% designated as an “Area of Critical Concern” by the state in 1974, and approximately 173,000 acres of the Green Swamp has been purchased for Conservation, this ecosystem is under rapidly increasing pressure for development as the urban areas of Orlando and Tampa press against it from the east and west.

SAS will actively promote the environmental significance of the Green Swamp by hosting a public presentation during our 2005 program schedule.  This special Green Swamp presentation will be made by a subject matter expert and will provide Seminole County residents with an opportunity to learn about the history, science and politics surrounding the Green Swamp. 

 

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Project Colony Watch 

Many of Florida’s most spectacular waterbirds (wading birds) nest in groups called colonies.  A colony may include just a few nests, or thousands, and may occur on an island or in a marsh or swamp.  Colonies are sensitive to disturbance because many birds gather to lay their eggs and nest in a relatively small geographic area. 

Over the past few years, Seminole Audubon Society has conducted several wading-bird surveys around Jane Isle, in Lake Jesup. These surveys have culminated in the inclusion of Jane Isle in Florida Audubon Society’s Project Colony Watch, a statewide wading-bird, nesting inventory, Project Colony Watch.  In July 2004 SAS hosted Ann Paul and Bruce Ackerman from Audubon of Florida on the first-ever Project Colony Watch research tour of Jane Isle. The objective of this inaugural Project Colony Watch excursion was to view and record Jane Isle’s significant wading-bird colonies, implementing flight-line techniques and GPS waypoints for data quality consistency.  Ms. Paul and Mr. Ackerman were impressed by the volume and quality of wading birds in residence on the island, even in July, and endorsed taking steps to preserve and protect this valuable habitat.

Lake Jesup is the only really large lake wholly within Seminole County. As you cross the lake on the expressway (Greenway or 417), you can see Bird Island to the East. It is roughly circular in outline, low enough to be sometimes covered in water, and about one quarter of a mile in diameter (giving it an area of some 31 acres).  Because of its relative inaccessibility, Bird Island has developed into a significant roosting and nesting area for wading birds and was used for years as a nesting site by Bald Eagles.

 

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Wading Birds on Jane Isle

The most conspicuous birds on the island at present are the wading birds, many of which nest there.  Many of these birds nest in colonies on islands or over water, and their use of alligator habitat for nesting is well known.  Often freshwater colony sites are protected from raccoons and mammalian predators by patrolling alligators, which, unlike raccoons, don’t climb trees.  Even with this ideal balance of habitat and protection from predators, the nesting birds could still be vulnerable from vegetative changes or impacts from human activity.  SAS has identified Jane Isle as the largest colony of wading birds in Seminole County, providing refuge and nesting habitat for the following regularly-observed species: 

bulletDouble-crested Cormorant
bulletAmerican Anhinga
bulletGreat Blue Heron
bulletLittle Blue Heron
bulletCattle Egret
bulletGreat Egret
bulletSnowy Egret
bulletTri-colored Heron
bulletGlossy Ibis
bulletWhite Ibis
bulletRoseate Spoonbill
bulletWood Stork

 

Bird Island” (Jane Isle) is listed with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as significant wading bird nesting colony #612110, and is included in Audubon of Florida’s statewide Project Colony Watch data-collection program for nesting wading birds.  During the nesting season, roughly January through June, Seminole Audubon Society conducts monthly flight-line surveys from a boat anchored offshore of the island.  The results of SAS’s 2001 – 2005 Jane Isle wading bird surveys are listed below.  For current information on this season’s counts, contact: puffin_fj@yahoo.com.

 

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Jane Isle Colony Count

The Seminole Audubon Society has conducted surveys of the wading bird colony on Bird Island (Jane Isle) in Lake Jesup since the mid 1990's. This colony is identified in the Florida Atlas of Breeding Sites for Herons and Allies as colony 612110.  The surveys are conducted by boat, using the Audubon of Florida Flight-Line protocol.  

Click here for the Jane Isle Count Totals and details of the last 12 Counts

Click here for a sattelite view of Jane Isle

 

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Bald Eagles Nesting on Jane Isle

An active Bald Eagle nest was reported in 1998 and 1999 to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and was inventoried as nest SE056.  FFWCC conducted their annual aerial census in the spring of 2001 but was unable to locate a nest.  In May 2001 SAS monitors noted two adult Bald Eagles and a juvenile flying around the island, indicating that the territory was still active.  SAS monitors were later able to locate a large stick nest that was almost certainly built by the Eagles.  In subsequent surveys the adults and a juvenile have been seen on the island. 

 

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The History of “Bird Island” and Lake Jesup

Information concerning the history of Lake Jesup can be found on a plaque at Clifton Springs, the Seminole County Natural Lands property on the South Lake Jesup shore, recording the fact that naturalists John and William Bartram camped there during their excursion up the St Johns River in 1765-66. Scientists distinguished Clifton Springs again in this century as the location where an endemic fish (Fundulus bartrami) and snail (Aphaostracon theiocrenetus) were first identified. There was reportedly an indigo plantation on the shores of the lake in the late eighteenth century. However, it appears that little was known of the area, and the territory was largely left to the Indians and escaped slaves until its "rediscovery’ in 1837. Lieutenant R H Peyton of the Second Artillery was sent by Colonel Harney to make a map of the area upstream of Lake Monroe. His report, from Fort Mellon, May 24, 1837 states:

"Col: I have the honor to report that in obedience to your orders I started on the morning of the 22nd of May, 1837, with a command of 20 men and four friendly Creek Indians, to explore the St Johns River of which but little was known above Lake Monroe.  After leaving Lake Monroe, the river pursues a serpentine course…. winding through marshes and occasional live oak and cabbage palm hammocks…. about 11 miles, when it reaches a large lake…. it gradually expanded into a noble sheet of water and stretched in a southwest direction…. the whole length being 13 miles. In honor of our commanding Gen. I have called this Lake Jesup. In the middle is a beautiful island of a circular form containing about 200 acres covered with a high rank grass; in the center of this we observed a very picturesque clump of cabbage trees which were filled with nests of white heron, blue crane and a red bird with a spoon bill called by the Indians "hololo". From its position and shape I have called this "Circle Island".

More than 150 years later “Circle Island” is privately-owned property named Jane Isle after Mrs. Annah Jane Richardson of Tallahassee, the island’s owner since 1951. Mrs. Richardson and her family have worked to preserve the island’s wild nature and undisturbed habitat.  They’ve worked diligently to protect the property from trespassers and disturbance from boaters.  Seminole Audubon Society salutes Mrs. Richardson and her family for their commitment to conserving and protecting this glimpse of “Natural Florida”.

 

 

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Bird Species Found at Jane Isle

 

 (From the Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds, Alfred A. Knopf, 1996 Edition)

ACCIPITRIDAE

Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus (hal-ih-ay-EE-tus lew-koh-SEFF-ah-lus) Other Names: American eagle, black eagle, fishing eagle, white-headed eagle Length: 34-43 in. Wing Span: 6 to 7 1/2 ft. Weight: Male 8-9 lbs. Female 10-14 lbs. Age: 10 years plus in wild, 35-45 in captivity Flight Speed: 35-45 mph Food: fish, ducks, moorhens, small animals, snakes, carrion Color: Brownish-black, head and tail turns white at 4-5 years Eggs: in Florida Nov-Jan, 1-3, usually 2 Egg color: bluish-white Incubation time: 35 days Incubation by: both parents, the weaker young frequently starves or is killed by the stronger nest mate. Fledge: First flight 70-84 days Number of Broods: one Nest: 7-8 ft. across, can be 12 ft. deep, in trees, ledges from 10-150 feet high; fallen nests can be rebuilt in as little a five days (editor). Range: Northern Alaska to Newfoundland south to Baja California and Florida, also Siberia

Observations: Listed as a Threatened species by USFWS and FFWCC. Although a recommendation for delisting the eagle was made by President Clinton in July of 1999, the USFWS is still in the process of evaluating and responding to comments. The bald eagle is an unusual species in that, once it is delisted, it will still be protected by legislation specific to eagles; the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MGTA) and other Federal laws. USFWS is preparing clarification of the protections afforded to eagles under these existing laws. This is needed to reduce the possibility of the public unintentionally or unknowingly violating the BGEPA or the MGTA after the eagle is delisted from the Endangered Species Act.

 

ARDEIDAE

Cattle egret

Bubulcus ibis (BUE-bul-kus EYE-bis) Other Names: Cattle heron, buff-backed heron Length: 19-21 inches Wingspan: 36-38 inches Weight: about 12 oz. Age: N/A Voice: Some croaking notes in nesting season; usually quiet Flight speed:  N/A Food: follows cattle and eats insects frightened from grass as cattle walk and graze; grasshoppers, crickets, frogs, spiders, toads; differs from other herons by feeding on insects and vertebrates in fields and pastures away from water Color: An all-white heron; yellow or orange-colored bill; eyes and legs yellow; in breeding season, spring to late summer, orange-buff plumes on crown and nape and white to golden plumes on lower foreneck and mantle; legs coral pink Mating: N/S Nest: Usually with other herons in various habitats; mangroves, willows, live oaks and red cedars; nest built by female of twigs and branches gathered by male; 10-18 inches across; 5-12 feet above ground Number of Broods: N/A Eggs: April and May; 3-5 per clutch Egg color: light blue Incubation time: 22-24 days; only species of heron able to breed in first year Incubation by: N/A Fledge: Young can fly after about 40 days Habitat: Dry or moist open fields Range: Established on every continent

Ardea herodias (ARE-dee-ah her-ODE-ih-as) Other Names: blue crane, Length: 42-52 in. long Wingspan: to seven feet Weight: 5-8 lbs.; males average slightly larger Flight Speed: timed from 18-35 mph; identified in flight by large size, broad wingspread and head folded back on shoulders Age: one banded wild bird was recovered after 21 yrs. Voice: low-pitched croaks; usually silent but in flight may utter honking notes Food: stands motionless in shallow water waiting to strike small fish with pointed bill which are swallowed whole; also frogs, snakes, crabs dragonflies, etc. Color: appears gray-blue except for white feathers around head and neck of adults, cinnamon on neck; legs black Nest: flimsy platforms of sticks and mosses, but older nests may be bulky 3-4 feet across; in tops of trees, also in low shrubs; frequently in colonies Eggs: in Florida, Nov-Apr; usually 4; parents roll eggs with bill about every two hours Egg Color: pale, blue-green Incubation time: 25-29 days; by both sexes Immature: nestlings fed with parents regurgitated food Fledge: may sustain flight 60 days after hatching Range: Alaska and Canada to Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, nw. S. America

Observations: Best known and most widespread of all N. American herons; the great white heron of S.Florida, largest of all white herons, is believed by many authorities to be a white color phase of the great blue heron, with which the great blue interbreeds freely.

Great Egret

Casmerodius albus (kas-mer-ODE-ih-us AL-bus) Other Names: American egret, great white egret Length: 37-41 in. Wingspan: about 55 in. Weight: 32-40 oz. Age; one banded bird recovered after 22 yrs. Voice: loud, low-pitched croak Food: fish, frogs, snakes, rats, insects grasshoppers, etc. Color: all white at all seasons (no color phases), yellow bill; beginning in January both sexes have splendid cape of white plumes growing from the back Flight: timed at 17-32 mph Nest: flimsy platform of sticks and stems usually 20-40 feet above ground; will nest singly on in colonies Eggs: in FL, Jan-June; usually 3-4 Egg Color: pale, blue-green Incubation time: 23-24 days Fledge: first flight about 42 days after hatching Range: Canada and US

Observations: tall and slim-necked; proportionately longer and broader wings than most other white herons; flight is buoyant.

Little Blue Heron

Florida caerulea (FLOR-ih-dah see-RULE-ee-ah) Other Names: little blue crane Length: 25-29 in. Wingspan: about 41 in. Weight: to about 14 oz. Age: one banded in wild found after 7 yrs. Voice: usually silent but occasionally utters low clucking or croaking sounds; quarreling sounds resemble screams of parrots Food: slow, methodical manner of feeding; seldom feeds in salt water; fish, frogs, snakes insects and spiders; can live solely on grasshoppers and insects of grasslands Color: head and neck purple-maroon; rest of plumage slate gray; dark gray bill with outer third black; eyes yellow; legs and feet dark Immature: unique among herons in being snow white in immature plumage with tinge of blue in primaries; blue bill tipped with black; legs dull green; starts molting during first February into blue of adult Flight: strong and graceful; wing strokes quicker than larger herons Nest: flimsy platform of sticks a few feet above ground or water up to 10-15 feet in trees; usually with other herons Eggs: in FL, Dec to June, usually in April; 4-5 Egg Color: pale, blue-green Incubation time: 22-24 days, by both parents Fledge: may fly about 30 days old Range: nests in summer from central OK to central AL north along coast to ME; south through West Indies to Central Argentina and Peru

Observations: FFWCC species of special concern.

Reddish Egret

Dichromanassa rufescens (die-crow-man-AS-ah roof-ESS-enz) Other Names: plume bird Length: 27-32 in. Wingspan: about 46 in. Weight: may be over one lb. Age: one banded bird found after 12 yrs. Voice: generally silent but utters guttural croaks and low clucking sounds Food: has characteristic manner of dashing or lurching when feeding; rakes bottom of shallow water to stir up prey; small fish, frogs, tadpoles Color: two color phases; more common dark phase has head and neck deep red-brown; white phase resembles great egret; both phases have stout, flesh-colored bill with black tip Flight: one timed at 20 mph Immature: Nest: platform of sticks 15 feet in trees; also elaborate nest of grass when on ground; in colonies with other herons Eggs: in FL, Dec-May, usually 3-4 Egg Color: pale, blue-green Incubation time: N/A Fledge: N/A Range: nests in Guatemala and Cuba; winters in FL, n. Venezuela

Observations: exterminated in FL by plume hunters in early 20th century; loose feathered appearance; when feathers are fluffed, head and neck appear shaggy; uncommon to rare; USFWS candidate for listing, FFWCC species of special concern.

Snowy Egret

Egretta thula (ee-GRET-ah THOO-lah) Other Names: little snowy, lesser egret Length: 22-26 in. Wingspan: 38-45 in. Weight: up to about 13 oz. Age: one in captivity aged at 16 yrs. Voice: very noisy at start of breeding season in nesting colonies Food: stirs bottom of shallows with one foot and catches small fish, shrimps, crayfishes, etc.; also grasshoppers and aquatic insects Color: all white with black bill, black legs and bright yellow feet; spotless white plumage in breeding season, adorned with waving nuptial plumes Flight: wing strokes quicker than larger great egret Nest: in willows and bulrushes or as high as 30 feet in trees; highly social nester often in large colonies Eggs: in Florida, Jan-July, usually 3-4 Egg Color: pale, blue-green Incubation time: by both sexes, approx 18 days Fledge: leave nest about 22 days after hatching Range: northern CA, Maine, baja CA, Gulf coast and Florida to S. America and West Indies

Observations: considered by many the daintiest and most exquisite of all marsh birds; extremely active, moves about with great show of energy; slaughtered in great numbers by plume hunters in early 20th century; FFWCC species of special concern.

Tricolored Heron

Hydranassa tricolor (high-drah-NASS-ah TRI-col-or) Other Names: Louisiana heron, scoggin Length: 24-26 in. Wingspan: 36 in. Weight: to about 11 oz. Age: one banded bird recaptured after 17 yrs. Voice: harsh croaks, deep groans Food: stands belly-deep in water stalking small fish or runs through shallows with wings partly raised; lizards, tadpoles water bugs, beetles Color: dark heron with slate-colored head, neck and back; front of long neck striped red-brown and white; belly and flanks white; back and wings blue-gray; long plumes in breeding season Immature: lack plumes Eggs: in FL, March to June, 3-4 Egg Color: pale, green-blue Incubation time: 21 days Fledge: N/A Range: Baja CA and Gulf and Atlantic coasts of US; coasts of Mexico and Central and South America

Observations: long neck and bill give it a slimmer appearance than most other herons; FFWCC species of special concern.

CICONIIDAE

Wood stork

Mycteria americana (mick-TEE-rih-ah ah-mer-ih-CANE-ah)  Other Names:   American wood stork, flinthead, gannet, ironhead; wrongly called wood ibis;  Length: 35-45 in. Wingspan: about 3 1/2 feet Weight: Males weigh 10 lb. or more; females less Age: One in captivity lived 6+ yrs. members of stork family are normally long lived Voice: Storks do not have muscles in the syrinx (voice box) so almost voiceless except for low grunts and hisses; however, the young are noisy Flight speed: N/A; flies with neck extended as do cranes Food: Walks about in shallow ponds and marshes groping with open bill swallowing any living thing bill touches; "rough" fishes, frogs, tadpoles, snakes, young alligators Color: Clear to white body; rear parts of outstretched wings are black; black, naked skin on head and neck; black, stilt-like legs; pink feet  Mating: An increase in available food will trigger reproductive cycle (as when marshes dry and fish populations become highly concentrated) Nest: Flimsy platform of sticks; built by pair with male carrying materials to female at the nest; in cypress trees 75-80 feet; also in mangroves a few feet above water Eggs: November-April, 3-4 Egg Color: dull white Incubation time: 28-32 days  Incubation by: both parents  Fledge: Young stay in nest 50-55 days after hatching Habitat: On or near the coast Range: Breeds in Florida; wanders to South Carolina and Texas, occasionally farther; also in South America  

Observations: Population has declined drastically due to land development, lumbering and draining and drying of their feeding grounds.  USFWS, Endangered; FFWCC, Endangered.

 

THRESKIORNITHIDAE

Glossy Ibis

Plegadis falcinellus (PLEA-gah-dis or PLEG-ah-dis fal-sin-EE-lus) Other Names: black curlew Length: smallest member of ibis family; 19-26 in. Wingspan: about 38 in. Weight: to about 28 oz. Age: one reported in Russia at 21 yrs. Voice: nasal grunting or series of guttural notes Food: mostly crayfishes inland and fiddler crabs along the coasts; also snakes, grasshoppers, insects Color: plumage mostly chestnut with metallic gloss appearing black at distance; legs gray or green-black Immature: young eat regurgitated food by putting bill in adults mouth Nest: platform of sticks on ground or cattail marsh or in trees up to 10 feet Eggs: March to May, 3-4 Egg Color: blue-green Incubation time: 21 days Fledge: 42 days after hatching Range: old world bird of Africa; found along Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida west to Great Lakes and Mississippi River; to Panama, Columbia, Bermuda; probably crossed the Atlantic from Africa to northern South America in the 19th century.

Observations: Range is expanding.

White ibis

Eudocimus albus (you-DOSS-ih-mus AL-bus) Other Names: Brown curlew, Spanish curlew, white curlew, stone curlew Length: 21 1/2-27 1/2 in. Wingspan: 38 in. Weight: up to two lbs.Age: one in captivity lived 18+ yrs. Voice: low croak, grunt; alarm call, arnk, arnk or hunk, hunk, hunk Food: Crayfish; probes mud for crustaceans; also fishes, frogs, small snakes, slugs, snails, beetles Color: white with black wing tips which are hidden at rest; face, legs and long down-curved bill are pink, legs turn red in breeding season; eyes pale blue Immature has brown upper-parts, head mottled brown on white with brown bill and legs Nest: loosely built of sticks in trees or shrubs 3-15 ft above water Eggs: March to mid-May, 3-4 Egg Color:  green-white with brown Incubation time: about 21-23 days Fledge: Young fly at about 35 days old Habitat: Marshy sloughs, mud flats, lagoons, swamp forests Range: Coastal from South Carolina to Florida and Texas. South to northern South America

Observations: FFWCC species of special concern.

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Jane Isle Vegetation Survey

At the request of Seminole Audubon, and with the permission of the property owner, Ms. Catherine Read conducted a vegetation survey on Bird Island in 1996. She later identified a series of Planting Zones based upon a transect from the water's edge to the center of the island; photointerpretation of the 1"=200’ aerial; elevation approximations from the USGS Oviedo, Florida, Quad Map; a 1 foot contour survey of Lake Jesup provided by the St Johns River Water Management District and Lake Jesup stage data, also provided by SJRWMD. Zone 1 is near the water's edge. The zones increase irregularly toward the permanent upland central area (zone 8).

 

Plant species observed 18 August, 1996

Common Name

Scientific Name

General Distribution

Vegetation Zone

Alligator weed*

Alternanthera philoxeroides

Littoral zone

2

Amaranth**

Amaranthus australis

Between moist zone and central upland

5

Ragweed**

Ambrosia artimesifolia

Upland from literal zone

5,6

Hackberry

Celtis laevigata

Central upland

8

Day Flower

Commelina diffusa

Variously in shade

5,6,7,8

Barnyard grass

Echinochloa walteri

Moist zone between upland and littoral zone

4,5

Water hyacinth*

Eichornia crassipes

Floating mats adjacent to shoreline

1

Water locust

Gleditsia aquatica

Sporadic outside central upland

5,6

Swamp hibiscus

Hibiscus grandiflorus

Moist zone between upland and littoral zone

3,4,5

Pennywort

Hydrocotyle ranunculoides

Littoral zone

2

Moon flower

Ipomoea alba

Central upland

6

Marsh mallow

Kosteletzkya virginica

Between littoral zone and central upland

3,4,5

Loosestrife*

Lythrum alata

Between littoral zone and central upland

4

Red Mulberry

Morus rubra

Central upland

8

Common reed

c.f.Phragmites sp.

Upper littoral zone

2

Pokeberry

Phytolacca Americana

Upland

8

Water lettuce*

Pistia stratiotes

Floating

1

Camphorweed

Pluchea rosea

Variously between littoral zone and central upland

3,4,5

Smartweed

Polygonum punctatum

Moist areas between littoral zone and upland

4,5

Cabbage Palm

Sabal palmetto

Central upland

8

Carolina willow*

Salix Carolina

Upper littoral zone and moist band

3,4

Water spangles

Salvinia minima

Waters edge

1

Elderberry

Sambucus Canadensis

Various

All

Chinese tallow tree*

Sapium sebiferum

Various upland of littoral zone

5

Bladderpod*

Sesbania vesicaria

Variously throughout

All

Common nightshade

Solanum americanum

Uplands

8

Fireflag

Thalia geniculata

Upper littoral zone

2,3

Cattail*

Typha sp.

Littoral zone

2

* Exotic

** Potential nuisance for this site

Suggestions for New Plantings

Common Name

Scientific Name

Appropriate Planting Zone

Sawgrass

Cladium jamaicensis

2,3

Popash

Fraxinus caroliniana

7

Pickerel weed

Pontederia cordata

2

Bulrush

Scirpus validus

1,2

Cordgrass

Spartina bakeri

4,5,6

Cypress

Taxodium sp.

6,7

Fireflag

Thalia geniculata

2,3

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