Many of our members and visitors to the Venice area have visited the Sarasota Audubon Nature Center and the Celery Fields in Sarasota to enjoy birding, wildlife viewing, and the overall ambiance of the Celery Fields that have been beautifully and thoughtfully transformed from agriculture to a wildlife-sustaining habitat. Venice Area Audubon Society schedules field trips to the Celery Fields every year to observe an amazing diversity of bird species that utilize the wetlands, riparian buffers, and gardens throughout the year. Sarasota Audubon, Sarasota County Stormwater Management, and many other organizations and individuals have invested heavily and worked diligently for years to reclaim the area for wildlife and birds, which is now at risk due to impending development.
Celery Fields field trip
A Texas developer, D.R. Horton, recently submitted a re-zoning permit to the Sarasota County Planning Commission to allow construction of a high-density neighborhood on the Smith Farm property, directly across Raymond Road from the Celery Fields. The impact on birds and wildlife will undoubtedly be felt immediately due to habitat loss, landscape changes and increased traffic during construction and, unless adjustments are made to the proposed high density plan, the impact will continue to have a detrimental effect into the future.
Sarasota Audubon Society has done an excellent job articulating not only their concerns and position but also offering options for balancing development with existing and future wildlife areas. The Board of Directors of Venice Area Audubon Society unanimously:
Please utilize the attached resource provided by Sarasota Audubon Society for taking action: https://www.sarasotaaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Call-to-Action-November-2023.pdf
For information on Sarasota Audubon Society's position: https://www.sarasotaaudubon.org/sas-position-regarding-smith-properties-on-raymond-road/
Venice Area Audubon Society is the featured display at the William H. Jervey, Jr. Venice Library on Venice Island for the month of November. The display is located in the entry hall on both sides of the permanent Walter Farley exhibit.
Featured are elements of our chapter's history, including minutes from the first meeting in 1965 and the first newsletter in 1972. Also included are a Purple Martin display, for which Venice Area Audubon is a colony landlord, and our three Audubon Florida award winning education programs for children. A beautiful Florida Scrub Jay painting by VAAS Board member, educator, and artist Linda Soderquist and a Great Blue Heron chick print by conservation photographer and writer Mary Lundeberg are also on display.
Stop by the library located at 300 S. Nokomis Ave, Venice this month to take a look. The display is available during library hours from November 1 to November 30.
Audubon Florida’s Conservation Leadership Initiative (CLI) pairs Florida college and university students with Audubon chapters throughout the state to provide an experiential learning opportunity through Audubon activities, intergenerational mentorship, and networking.
Venice Area Audubon is pleased to welcome CLI student Colin Jefferis, a third year Environmental Studies major at New College of Florida who has been paired with mentor Jean Pichler until May 2024. During this year, Colin will attend some of our meetings and events and will also develop a project of his choosing that enhances his studies. We’ll hear from Colin throughout the coming months and learn more about the perspectives of the next generation of conservationists through his experiences.
Here's an introduction from Colin!
My name's Colin Jefferis, I'm a 3rd year Environmental Studies student from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. I am currently studying at New College of Florida and am excited to be a part of Florida Audubon's Conservation Leadership Initiative. I am also Student Body President at New College. In high school, I found the classes I enjoyed the most were my government classes and my environmental science classes. So, I decided to combine the two and focus on Environmental Policy. I hope to continue to advocate for the environment (as the environment cannot advocate for itself) through litigation and eventually, policymaking.
I'm currently working on a thesis project that looks at how Indigenous voices have been included and excluded in Everglades restoration efforts. With this project, I hope to find the best policy to improve our Everglades and uplift Indigenous voices. I have worked as an outdoor educator at a summer camp as well as a sustainability policy intern at the Southeast Sustainability Directors Network. I am excited to continue to learn more about the people in conservation as I work throughout the year with Venice Audubon!
Colin and Jean
Venice Area Audubon’s Little Naturalists program, developed by VAAS Board Member and environmental educator Eileen Gerle, was a big hit with the wee crowd last season.
Audubon Florida recognized the Little Naturalists Program with the 2023 Outstanding Education Program Award at the Audubon Assembly held in late October. Congratulations to Eileen for creating this amazing education program for our local 3 to 5-year-olds!
The Little Naturalists program begins again on Saturday, November 4. To learn more about the program and to register for the 2023-2024 sessions, please visit the program page.
VAAS Volunteers at Alligator Creek EcoFest
November is a wonderful time to consider volunteering during the winter season. Whether you’re in Venice as a full-time resident or a seasonal visitor, your enthusiasm and time make an impact on the work we engage in. Because of volunteers, Venice Area Audubon is able to fulfill our mission: to promote an understanding of and interest in wildlife and the environment that supports it, and to foster the cause of conservation with emphasis on birds and their habitats.
Do you have two to three hours a week to volunteer? One morning a month? Perhaps an hour every few days? Are you a one-project person or someone who likes to dive in deep? Do you like to work at big events? Maybe you’d like to meet new people from around the country and spread the word about Venice Area Audubon’s activities. Are you a get-up- and-go type or is your skill the power of observation? We have volunteer opportunities of all types and time commitments.
Check the website Volunteer page for details about our volunteer needs. Training is provided and the experience is guaranteed priceless. Please join us! We need you!!
Rookery Watch is an important citizen science project that monitors our Audubon Rookery island’s habitat health on a local as well as a state level. Be a part of the legacy of the Rookery Colony Watch!
Watch volunteers should be able to devote at least a couple of hours each month to the task of counting the nests and the young hatchlings on the Rookery Island. The nest counts typically take one to two hours during the busy part of the hatchling season. Watch volunteers should have binoculars, be able to walk around the Rookery pond, be able to identify the different bird species and have a bit of patience in keeping with the quadrant orientation on the island and with the young bird counts. We only ask that you do it as best as you can….it’s not easy.
Watch volunteers will need to submit their report via email to the Watch Coordinator. Birds observed in the area off of the island should be added to the volunteer’s ebird report, or the info can be shared with the Watch Coordinator to submit to ebird.
Rookery Watch is a fun and rewarding task! It’s a great opportunity to observe and appreciate different bird behaviors, and it’s a great way to serve as an ambassador to the many Rookery visitors.
Fall migration is more than just for the birds. Between dodging more pedestrians and cars on Venice Avenue and seeing more visitors at Rookery Park, it is clear that fall migration to the Venice area is well under way. It’s a wonderful time of the year for Venice Area Audubon as winter residents and visitors return to our area and we begin to anticipate the upcoming breeding season at Rookery Park. A special “welcome home” to those who’ve been away for the summer or on fall vacations! We look forward to seeing you at our next monthly program on Tuesday, November 14.
Cooler, drier weather returned just in time for the start of field trips in October. Interesting sightings including Florida Scrub Jay, Merlin, American Kestrel, a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Red-eyed Vireo were noted on our walks of the season, resulting in life list additions for several of our birders. Hopefully the trend continues as we explore more parks, preserves, and beaches in the coming weeks.
Keep an eye on the Venice Area Audubon website Events list to stay abreast of field trip additions and/or changes. Please make a special note of the BirdingPlus field trips, offering opportunities to meet and learn from researchers and conservation leaders in addition to birding.
There’s still room on our trip to Audubon Corkscrew Swamp field trip in Naples on November 9. The cost is $25 per person for the daytrip, including admission to Corkscrew Swamp for the day, a guided tour, and a presentation by Dr. Shawn Clem, Director of Conservation.
The Venice-Englewood Circle of the nationwide Christmas Bird Count is now scheduled for Sunday, December 17th. It is a long-time Venice Area Audubon tradition that involves about 100 volunteers each year and provides much-needed data on bird populations in Audubon’s largest citizen science program, now in its 124th year.
“We’ve had our challenges keeping things on track, with COVID two years ago and Hurricane Ian last year,” says Bob Clark, who has led the count the last ten years. “Fingers crossed this year for no distractions from pure birding!”
Even with the challenges, last year’s count involved 104 volunteers who together identified 130 species and a total of more than 19,000 birds. The count covers a 15 mile circumference circle that extends from downtown Venice on the north, 1-75 on the east and Manasota Key on the south
This year, in order to keep the tradition going and make it a successful count, we need your help:
Volunteers – Beginner, mid-level and expert birders are all welcome to help with the count, which involves going out in small teams to various locations during the morning of Sunday, December 17th. Some teams, or sub-groups of larger teams, continue birding in the afternoon in order to cover their areas. This year, for those for whom the morning count conflicts with Sunday services, a special team will be formed to bird just in the afternoon. NEW volunteers should email Bob Clark -- firstname.lastname@example.org – and please specify if you can volunteer in the morning or would just like to be included in the afternoon-only effort. Those who have volunteered in previous years should contact last year’s Area Leader.
Area Leaders – Our counting circle includes 15 different sections led by Area Leaders. The area leader need not be an expert birder, but needs to be willing to serve as a captain for a small group of volunteers and compile the results of the count for that area. We will need at least 3 new volunteers willing to step up to serve as Area Leaders. Please let Bob know of your interest.
Gated-community Volunteer Contacts – One of our big challenges is gaining access to gated communities. If you live in Sarasota National, Grand Paradiso or in a new, gated section of Wellen Park, in particular, we need help in gaining access to your community on count day. You don’t have to volunteer for the count, but if you live in a gated community and are willing to provide access to volunteers if needed, please email Bob with your name and the name of your community.
Sign up now!
Have you noticed the bright rusty-red cones that are popping up around the Rookery pond? In the fall, coontie plants (Zamia integrifolia) form seed cones that are a food source for blue jays, mockingbirds, grackles, and other large birds. This fern-like plant with stiff, glossy leaves is a gymnosperm and reproduces by seed and pollen cones instead of flowers and fruits. Specialized beetles that have coevolved with coontie carry pollen from the male plants to the female plants, and other insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals benefit from its low-growing cover.
The only native cycad in the United States, coontie was a staple food for indigenous people, who knew how to remove its toxins during preparation. Coontie was then commercially exploited and almost extirpated from Florida in the early 1900s. It is a larval host plant for the endangered Atala butterfly, thought to be extinct until 1979, as well as the Echo moth. This iconic Florida plant can be viewed in natural areas and botanical gardens and is carried by native nurseries around the state – check out plantrealflorida.org.
- Kristin Hoffschmidt
Billions of birds flew South this past month. Most will return, hopefully. The journeys are getting more challenging as humans alter habitats, and climate changes are making foraging more difficult. Plants are changing their time of blossoming and seeding. The Anthropocene era is ours and it is past time to worry about what we Homo sapiens have done and continue doing to our eco-systems.
When I was born we were a world population of 2.3 billion. As a sixth grader in 1955 I lay on a classroom floor congested with smog-filled lungs in East Los Angeles. Later I wrote and spoke publicly as an environmental information representative of the Southern California Edison Company. It was the first and second year anniversary of Earth Day. Our message was simple. Which sources of energy should be used to supply the demand for electricity?
Each has its consequences. Coal and No. 1 crude oil give off horrendous amounts of CO2 (Carbon dioxide), SO3 (Sulphur trioxide), and oodles of other noxious gasses. So does natural gas. Nuclear wastes endure thousands of years. Solar panels require mining rare earth elements. Wind propellers kill birds. Back then, cost and benefit analysis rarely considered air and water pollution. Smog blanketed Los Angeles and later almost every major urban area around the Globe. Humans have been leaving scarring footprints and are consuming limited resources.
What can each of us do to reduce our unwanted environmental impacts? At Venice Area Audubon Society (VAAS) we monitor birds and their habitats, a fair measure of where earth's health is going. Doug Tallamy urges us to grow native plants in our landscape. Thousands of biologists, ecologists, and other scientists are watching mother earth ever more closely and reporting. To see healthy, fully functioning eco-systems VAAS is visiting Ecuador this coming Spring. Hopefully we will return this Spring better prepared to decide our part in our planet's fate.
- Roy Musick, VAAS Co-President
The official Bald Eagle breeding season in Florida begins on October 1. Birds are already returning to nesting territories around the state and will begin engaging in mating, nest-building, and raising young throughout the fall and into the spring.
Audubon Florida's EagleWatch Program begins its 31st season of nest monitoring involving volunteers, both new and returning, to observe nest sites and submit data to Audubon Florida throughout the breeding season. If you're interested in participating in this amazing community science effort to document our state's Bald Eagle population, EagleWatch is for you!
Information about EagleWatch is available on Audubon Florida's EagleWatch Program page. Training for new and retuning but lapsed volunteers is required. Training is free but registration is required. Click the links below to register for the date/time that best suits your schedule.
Sarasota County Call Center: 941-861-5000 (General information and directions)
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