Co-President's Message

Welcome to a new year with Venice Area Audubon Society (VAAS)! Whether you’re a local, a snowbird, or an occasional visitor to the Venice area, we invite you to take part in the many activities and events that will be offered during the coming year. The Board of Directors has been hard at work over the summer and we’re excited to get things going. September’s edition of ChipNote will provide details about the upcom-ing schedule of events, programs, and volunteer opportunities. In the meantime, the Rookery Park continues to be home to birds, bees, butterflies and bats and they’re all waiting for you to stop by to check them out.

While diving into file drawers and boxes in the Audubon Center over the past couple of months, I came upon some very special pieces of history, including the minutes of our chapter’s initial formation meeting in 1965. The document began with this sentence: “A meeting of a group of 23 men and women interested in chartering a chapter of the FLORIDA AUDUBON SOCIETY met at the Sarasota Federal Bank in Venice on July 6 at 7:30 PM.” As I read through neatly typed, yellowed pages with handwritten corrections documenting Board meeting minutes from the first years of our chapter, I was struck by the resolve, determination, and energy of these founders. Challenges were met head on without hesitation. Venice Area Audubon Society’s presence and voice were well-known from Nokomis to Port Charlotte, pre-dating the founding of Peace River Audubon in the mid 1970’s.

I also read every issue of the VAAS newsletters beginning in 1972 and continuing until 2018 when the online version overtook printed copies. Conservation and education were mainstays from the first chapter meetings in 1965 and continue to the present. In a small way, I feel as though I met the past presidents and so many others whose vision, volunteerism, and participation created a legacy of VAAS projects, programs, and activities. After many years of service and involvement, some of the people who ensured the continuing success of our chapter are still active today, providing an amazing testimony to their commitment to VAAS and a valuable source of experience and wisdom as we go forward.

Our chapter’s history mirrors the history of the newly born environmental movement of the 1960s. National, state, and local concerns are clearly documented, many of them still unresolved in our present day – clean water from inland to ocean, rapid development in southern Florida, loss of wildlands and wildlife habitats, impacts of weather and particularly hurricanes on birds and wildlife, creation of and challenges to environmental and conservation laws, and protections for Florida Scrub Jays, sea turtles, and gopher tortoises, just to name a few. The ebb and flow of victories and setbacks is not new, and reading the long history of this chapter solidifies further the need for organizations such as Venice Area Audubon Society and other conservation groups now and well into the future. Our continuing education about and support for research and conservation efforts locally and globally are our best hope to be better

prepared to respond to the changing neighborhoods and environments around us. It’s quite a challenge.

In closing, thank you for this opportunity to serve our Venice Area Audubon Society chapter as Co-President. I’m humbled, excited, a tad bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks before us, but definitely up for the challenges. Please feel free to contact me anytime via email at I look forward to our paths crossing in person soon!

- Jean Pichler, Co-President

2023-2024 Board of Directors:

Co-Presidents – Roy Musick and Jean Pichler

Treasurer – Rick Cordner

Secretary – Barbara Zittel

Membership – Linda Moore

Directors: Eileen Gerle, Neil Milligan, Linda Soderquist


Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan                                             Photo by Blake Musick

With more than 1,600 species of tropical birds, exotic Ecuador is a birder's dream destination. We hope you'll be able to join VAAS for a 9 day tour January 9 through 18, 2024. The trip is centered around the lush Mindo Valley, home to 500 species of birds, including many of the 152 species of hummingbirds found in Ecuador. On a similar excursion several years ago, VAAS members identified more than 210 bird species.

The tour is being arranged by eco-specialists Holbrook Travel and local expert Latin Roots Travel. Visit for a description of a similar trip in the Choco cloud forest.

The tour will include hotel, meals, local transportation, expert guides and bird reserve fees. The cost of the tour will be approximately $3000 per person, not including flights, which are currently costing round $500 out of Miami international. Car pooling to Miami will enable VAAS participants to fly together.

To secure reservations and obtain more details about this tour contact Roy Musick, VAAS co-president at A deposit of $350 must be paid by October 8.

Spots are limited. Please let Roy know

if you are interested by August 15. 

Bird Bits

  • BirdCast goes “live” on August 1 st . A project of The Cornell Lab and Colorado State University, BirdCast predicts and monitors bird migration during fall migration from August 1 to November 15 and spring migration from March 1 to June 15. Check out the migration predictions, live migration maps and alerts for your area at
  • The 2023 Florida Birding & Nature Festival from October 12 to 15 at Apollo Beach offers four days of field trips, seminars, keynote speakers, and a nature expo. More information and registration are available on the Festival website:
  • Audubon Florida Assembly is back! Save the date for October 26-28, 2023 for this year’s in-person event to be held at the Sheraton Tampa Brandon Hotel. The theme is Conservation in a Changing Landscape. The event includes learning sessions, field trips and opportunities to meet and network with other Audubon members and staff from throughout Florida. Details and registration will be available at               

Birders Delights

Do you have an interesting summer bird sighting you’d like to share with us? Maybe you spotted an unexpected visitor in your backyard, at the beach or while traveling, or you finally found that long sought and elusive bird that graced you with its presence in a forest or hiding in plain sight among a group of its kin. Perhaps your tried-and-true, signs of summer bird showed up particularly early or late this season or you experienced the delight of introducing a bird to someone for the first time. If you’d like to share your joyful sighting, let us know! Send an email to with the bird species, a general location (state, county, or park is good enough) and what made this sighting notable for you. We’ll put together a list of delights for an upcoming ChipNote.

ChipNote is now an early bird!  Keep an eye on your email inbox the first day of every month for ChipNote's arrival. ChipNote can also be found on the Venice Area Audubon website at:  We hope this helps you more easily plan for monthly events.

Monthly Meeting Program

Social & Business Meeting

September 19, 2023

Location: Venice United Church of Christ – Naar Hall, 620 Shamrock Blvd, Venice


  • 6:00 pm: Refreshments and conversation
  • 6:30 pm: Meeting to discuss plans for the coming year

 All are welcome and participants are strongly encouraged to

follow current COVID health and safety protocols.

Native Plants for Birds Program

The 2023 Plants for Birds Program grant activities brought community and Audubon members together to create awareness and needed habitat for birds and other creatures at the Venice Area Audubon Rookery Park. Funded primarily by Florida Power and Light (FPL) and administered by Audubon Florida, the Plants for Birds Program focuses on restoring native plants to support the over 500 species of resident, seasonal nesting, and migratory birds in Florida and educating and engaging Audubon members and others about the importance of increasing the use of native plants in Florida landscapes.

You may remember reading about Plants For Birds activities in past editions of ChipNote. Kristin Hoffschmidt, past VAAS President, wrote and coordinated the grant which had four components:

- Plant Survey: Volunteers from the local Mangrove Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society started an inventory of plants at the Venice Area Audubon Rookery Park in January. The results will assist Rookery gardening volunteers to learn the difference between native and non-native plants and will inform our education efforts.

- Native Plant Sale and Education Event: This popular event on 3/18/23 was almost completely sold out in under two hours! We sold over 300 plants supplied by Sweet Bay Nursery, who donated a portion of the proceeds back to VAAS. Twenty-five species of native plants were represented, with emphasis on plants native not only to Florida but our local area; larval host plants; and plants with a range of blooming times. Fourteen volunteers helped customers, staffed an education table with numerous brochures and handouts, and handled the set up and take down. 

- Native Plant Installations: Sixty-five native plants representing 22 distinct species were purchased from the Florida Native Plant Nursery and installed on 4/1/23 and 5/20/23. Scout Troop #50 from Sarasota spent several hours in April learning about planting techniques, digging holes, installing plants, and watering and mulching. In May, a group of five VAAS volunteers installed a second group of plants and watered them as they became established over two months.

- Interpretive Sign: An educational sign about the importance of native plants for birds was designed and is in production. If all goes as planned, we hope to install the sign sometime this fall at the Venice Area Audubon Rookery Park.

Many thanks to Teresa Good of Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources for her collaboration; to Sweet Bay Nursery and Florida Native Plants Nursery for donations, discounts, and high-quality plants; to FPL and Audubon Florida for creating this grant program; and to all the volunteers who helped make this project happen.

We have already heard and observed the positive impacts of this program and other habitat restoration projects over the last two years. A couple from St. Augustine remarked, “We’ve been traveling to Venice for 10 years and always visit the Rookery. The additional plants and trees have improved it so much, and this is the best it has looked in years!” Several species of birds have been observed nesting in the “re-wilded” areas where nests were not observed before, including Black-crowned Night-Herons, Great Blue Herons, Common Gallinules, and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

Why Native Plants?

Native plants have evolved over millions of years with birds and provide critical food and shelter. As Sarasota County rapidly changes from natural areas and ranches to housing and other development, not only is habitat lost but native plans are replaced by mostly non-native, exotic plants that do not provide the ecological services needed to support birds and other creatures in our ecosystem. Native plants provide food to birds directly and indirectly – birds eat the fruits and seeds as well as the insects attracted by the plants, and native plants keep ponds and waterways healthy which benefits wading and water birds. Plants provide cover and nesting sites, and birds help disperse seeds and pollinate plants.

Birds cannot exist without plants and a healthy ecosystem – when you plant native, you are supporting birds!

Left to right: Native Plant Sale set-up and event, Scout Troop #50 planting, newly installed native plants around rookery pond.

Membership News

This summer we successfully completed merging several membership lists into one. Despite a few glitches and errant emails in the process, our membership record keeping for both new and renewal memberships is now much improved. You will receive an email reminder to renew your annual membership prior to its expiration. If you have any questions regarding your membership, please contact Membership Secretary Linda Moore at

Volunteering with VAAS

Volunteer Saturday

Would you like to help keep the Audubon Rookery Park beautiful and welcoming to birds and other wildlife? Why not volunteer to garden, landscape and restore habitat at this local ecological gem. Whether you can volunteer just once or on a regular basis, please join us for our next Volunteer Saturday session on Saturday, August 12, from 8 - 10 a.m.

We meet at the Venice Audubon Center and there is no need to sign up in advance. Just come and stay as long as you feel comfortable. We suggest you bring a water bottle, sunscreen, hat, and sturdy shoes. If you have work gloves and a rake or other garden tools, please bring them. If not, we have some to share. There will be no "hard labor," and you won't need special skills to participate. Just come, help keep our park in top shape and enjoy some fun and camaraderie with other members. Contact Roy Musick if you need more information mail to:

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