Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;
Dedicated to the protection of birds, other animals, and their habitats through education and activism



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Scrub Jay Habitat behind Edgewater YMCA


The interim City manager, Mr. Barlow, has informed us that the City has a new burn plan (copy requested along with latest biological survey) with the intention of burning any Sunday now and that more days will be added after baseball season finishes and school is out. A concern has been raised about the possibility of burning the entire property, which initially sounds like a good idea, considering that the scrub jay has been extirpated from the habitat. However, since the habitat is bordered by civilization on all sides, the threatened gopher tortoise, indigo snake, etc, will not have anywhere to live and feed during the time it will take for sufficient regrowth of food sources. And there is the possibility that there are not enough gopher burrows for all the animals that would usually seek shelter there to escape the fire. Hopefully the burn plan addresses these concerns.

Mr. Barlow has offered to mediate a meeting between Mr. Corder, Director of Parks and Leisure, and SEVAS, in regards to Mr. Corder’s delays in responding to our inquiries about what management is taking place in the habitat, if any. We look forward to airing our grievances about the mis-management of the habitat under Mr. Corder’s tenure, to where now the scrub jay has been extirpated.

In an e-mail to Mr. Barlow, we noted that the following items were e-mailed to Mr. Corder February 26th without action being taken: some topping of trees has occurred, but it is puzzling why they are topped so high when scrub is ideally 6-8 feet high. Also we noted that some pine trees and many Laurel Oak are in the habitat, both which are not part of a scrub habitat; the former provides a perch for predation of scrub jays and the latter produce a canopy over time if not removed. In addition, there are small pine trees present that could easily be removed by clippers, if removed now; best not to wait for a burn since no telling when then will be. Not in the e-mail to Mr. Corder: Audubon is glad that mowing has been stopped, hopefully for a long time, in the habitat, to allow in-fill of the too wide areas prominent in the habitat. Right now, gopher apple is appearing in great numbers–a favorite food of the gopher tortoise–in a heavily mowed area. It would be a shame to mow over and destroy this precious food source of the gopher tortoise. Also, there is a lupine growing on a corner of one of the burn cells. This has only appeared since the mowing has stopped. We are concerned that when mowing, the maintenance personnel keep mowing more and more into the habitat cells, destroying potential low growth vegetative species, such as the lupine, that provide all sorts of food and habitat for scrub dwellers. We look forward to Mr. Barlow’s response to the above and the meeting with him and Mr. Corder.


Kathy is heading a group of volunteer members to survey the Scrub Jay habitat behind the Edgewater YMCA for use as a field trip opportunity for local schools.  They identified and tagged trees and plants and discussed best ways for presenting the information to elementary and middle school students.  This is a first step in what we hope will become a valuable resource for schools in environmental education. Perhaps the City of Edgewater will be encouraged to restore the scrub jay habitat.  If you are interested in helping, please contact Kathy.

County Environmental representative and Paula Sisson from the US Fish and Wildlife have visited the habitat. Ms. Sisson’s opinion is that the City of Edgewater, who is the caretaker of the property and is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the habitat since 1998, is not in compliance and she was going to investigate what had been done and not done in regards to monitoring and compliance with the mitigation contract. Ms. Sisson said the habitat needed a controlled burn due to overgrowth, particularly on the front side; the back side was in better shape.

A copy of the biological survey completed November 1999 by biologist Joe Young of Biological Consulting Services was obtained from Mr. Corder. The survey found a family of 3-4 scrub jays on the ~ 8 acres and advised mechanical removal of tall trees, which was done (?), followed with a prescribed burn expected before nesting began in 2000.

Kathy Booth, Conservation Chair, and Co-Chairs, Gail and Richard Domroski, met with Mr. Jack Corder, Director of Parks and Leisure for the City of Edgewater and Mr. Young, both parties conceded that the management plan has not been followed. No burn has ever taken place. Captain Cousins from the Edgewater Fire Dept says they are ready to do a burn as soon as the US Fish and Wildlife approves it. According to Mr. Young, since 7+ years have past, the habitat is in need of mechanical removal of tall trees again. He also said, “This project will not be stalled again”. Ironically, according to Mr. Corder, the City has budgeted for the maintenance of this property every year since 1998.

Subsequent monitoring of the habitat by SEVAS begun almost weekly. One lone banded male jay remaining of the family.

Per phone call with biologist, Mr. Young, he did see one scrub jay yesterday since started survey in October 1st. He will have to redo the map and burn cells since aerial views do not match original mapping of where trails were to be placed. Will send survey report to County and then start burn cycle beginning January or February. Will re-survey after first burn at beginning of nesting season.

lone scrub jay last seen

Several SEVAS members met with Mr. Corder, Director City of Edgewater Parks and Leisure Services again. In 30-45 days the City should be able to remove trees since baseball season is over. Excuses again as to why haven’t burned. Gil Miller described the concept of an environmental learning center (or as Richard says, wildlife refuge) with spots of interest identified on self guided map. Gil said if birds get people to the Habitat, then people will see it and want to preserve it. Community and schools will accept it. YMCA could hold after school program.

County representative emphatic that County has NO enforcement authority to make City of Edgewater honor mitigation contract.

Letter to City and biologist from Linda Walker, USFW, summarizing neglect of habitat resulting in overgrowth from lack of fire; requesting a copy of revised burn cell plan and recommending a prescribed burn ASAP. No mention of penalties for failure to comply over the years or recent delays.

E-mail from Mr. Corder, Director Parks and Leisure: playing phone tag with biologist, Joe
Young. The USFW official has informed me that we need to continue with our maintenance program for the area and would like us to provide them with a revised burn plan. Trying to set up a meeting with biologist and local fire officials, so we can move forward with this project. On another note, city staff are being scheduled to start topping some of the trees within the next couple of weeks.

June-December 2007
Regular monitoring by SEVAS volunteers has noted no scrub jay, maybe a dozen trees topped in only one section of the habitat, continual over mowing so that the trails are wider than the areas of habitat, and no prescribed burn. The County has declined to take over management of the habitat.