Annually, the Refuge conducts a survey of nesting birds on Snake Key. Refuge staff, Friends, and other volunteers count specific birds for 3-5 days. Protocol is to start counting 90 minutes after sunrise, and count for two hours. Species counted include spoonbill, great blue heron, tricolored heron, little blue heron, black crowned night heron, snowy egret, great egret, reddish egret, white ibis, cormorant, and brown pelican. Other species of interest such as eagle, osprey and frigatebird are noted as well.
An interesting fact is that some species, such as ibis, fly considerable distances to fresh water (including the Lower Suwannee Refuge) to harvest food for their young, who are unable to digest food from saltwater.
For the 2022 survey, one volunteer reported counting over 1,100 ibis flying into the island and over 550 flying out.
Refuge staff are preparing a report that will be posted here.
Photos taken by Ann Kamzelski.
The Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates is a national nonprofit that supports all of the 250 Friends groups nationwide. It has a Facebook group where Friends can share ideas and issues. There is a monthly photo competition. April's competition theme was "refuge babies." We submitted a photo by our former deputy manager Larry Woodward
The photo with the most "likes" during the month wins the competition. April's winner was announced today and is below. Aren't these mama and baby photos wonderful!
The April Photo Contest winner was a photo by Les Heiserman of a Canada Goose and six goslings. Les captured the amazing image at the D.C Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery & Archives in Spearfish, South Dakota. Nancy Cole, Booth Society Friends Gift Shop Manager and Assistant Director submitted this winning photo. The pair of geese have been nesting on the island for at least the last 9 years. Visitors to the Hatchery eagerly await their arrival. Established in 1896, D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives, formerly Spearfish National Fish Hatchery, is one of the oldest operating hatcheries in the country dedicated to fish culture and resource management.
Rain has become a reliable partner in Friends events, or so it seems. It stormed for both the Summer Solstice Celebration and the Winter Solstice Celebration. Again today, storms were with us. As the photos below by Friends member Molly Jubitz show, skies over Cedar Key were ominous when it was time to head out to the Refuge.
Not at all deterred by the morning clouds, the midday deluge, and quite an abundance of no-see-ums, more than 110 members attended the 2022 Annual Meeting on the Refuge. It was the first in-person Annual Meeting in two years.
The day started out cloudy, warm, and threatening. Members registered, shopped for Friends shirts and the new Butterflies of the Lower Suwannee Refuge guidebooks. Seeing each other for the first time since the February 2020 meeting, conversations were warm and happy.
The rain held off until the program started about 10:00. Inside, Friends President Debbie Meeks welcomed everyone. Refuge Manager Andrew Gude gave an update on accomplishments of the past year and expectations for activities in the near future. Responding to a question from a member, Andrew described efforts to manage negative impacts on wildlife caused by airboat misuse on the Refuge.
Debbie gave an update on the Friends accomplishments of the past year and plans for the coming one. She presented the slate of officers and directors, whom the members elected. She provided an overview of the financial status of the Friends.
Members socialize over an indoor lunch.
The nature walk to Vista in the pouring rain was cancelled. However, at the end of the lunch, catered by Ken and Rose McCain, Sandra Smith presented Andrew with a symbolic key to the Vista property. She and her sister Linda Alexander recently gave up their life estate on the property, turning full access over to the Refuge for future development as an interpretive center.
It was delightful to meet back on the Refuge again.
The CDC Covid tracker now rates Levy County as LOW.
Come join us RAIN or SHINE at the Friends Annual Meeting.
Doors open at 9:30 a.m. for registration and for Friends merchandise.
Presentations begin at 10:00.
Updated April 1
Happily, we are meeting at the Refuge, in-person, for our Annual Meeting on Saturday, April 2. We re-scheduled from February to April because of the Covid situation. We know this is likely to make the Annual Meeting smaller, since so many of our members have returned to their other-season homes by now. But despite fewer attendees, our day's agenda is mostly back to pre-pandemic normal.
Wouldn't you know . . . the weather forecast, as of March 28, predicts a rainy day. That has happened before and the forecast improved by our meeting day. Indeed, the weather has tended to be good to us. Regardless, we will meet. Rain or shine.
12:00 Lunch, catered by Ken and Rose McCain. Board Members are bringing desserts. If any members would like to also bring some, they would be welcome. It is hard to imagine "too many sweets."
1:00 Nature Walk to Vista (rides provided for those who prefer them). Annual Meeting participants will be able, in small groups, to walk through the main house at Vista for short visits, if they wish.
Although everything will probably never be fully back to pre-pandemic normal, the great news is that the Covid-19 Community Level in Levy County has moved from High to Medium.
There are no limits on the number of attendees at events at the Refuge. The CDC still recommends wearing a mask if you are at high risk of illness, staying up-to-date with Covid vaccines, and not attending an event when you have symptoms of being ill.
Further changes are possible, of course. If they come up, we will send a News Brief to inform you. We also will post in this blog and on the homepage of this website.
We look forward to seeing you on April 2 at the Refuge.
Researcher Gina Kent brings good news. After 5 months, Suwannee uploaded data. He is safely back on the Lower Suwannee NWR. The Avian Research and Conservation Institute had a lot of challenges with tracking this year because the GSM/cell technology is changing rapidly and the birds are not able to upload data to the new technology. But they still are able to do so on the Lower Suwannee Refuge. We thought his tracker had died, but not so. He is here.