The weather was perfect and the crowd was large for the 2020 Annual Meeting. From the Friends' perspective, President John McPherson provided an overview of the year's actions and a preview of what is planned for the coming year. Refuge Manager Andrew Gude did the same from the refuge perspective.
The membership elected new officers and directors. Their photos and short bios are available on the About Us - The Board tab. We also ratified changes to the Bylaws to bring them up to date. They are available on the Records Archives - Bylaws tab.
The excellent featured presentation was by Dr. Ken Meyer of the Avian Research and Conservation Institute in Gainesville, FL. He talked about their tracking studies and conservation issues of Swallow-tailed Kites. ARCI has been studying Swallow-tailed Kites since 1988, discovering their migration routes and winter range and all aspects of needs and threats along the way.
The Friends sponsored the tagging of a Kite, named Suwannee, who spends part of his year on the Refuge. At the meeting, T-shirts were available to purchase to support our Suwannee-tracking project, and donations were also accepted, reaching more than $600 during the meeting. The shirts are available at the town of Suwannee Art Festival on March 14 and at the Welcome Desk in the headquarters at the refuge. This article includes an interactive map that tracks Suwannee on his migration. Scroll down in the article to find the map. Use the dot in the caption to "fly" him from the Refuge to Brazil and as far back as he is so far.
After lunch, catered by Ken and Rose McCain, everyone walked to Vista to see the property that will eventually be added to the Refuge. It is gorgeous Suwannee riverfront acreage with several buildings. With grant support, Friends is currently having an architectural firm evaluate the historical, cultural, and structural characteristics of the property for planning purposes.
Journalist Blaine Vitallo attended the meeting, reporting for Hardison Ink. Read his story and see his photos - Annual Meeting Focuses on National Wildlife Refuges.