Dedicated to the protection of birds, other animals, and their habitats through education and activism
Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170; president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org
One of my field trips, during the Space Coast Birding Festival, was to Seminole Ranch Conservation Area just east of I-95 and between SR-46 and SR-50. The property comprises over 29,000 acres and includes pine woods, South Lake, scrub land and lightly treed areas with palmetto ground cover. The area is well managed and habitat is mostly maintained by controlled burning with some mechanical cutting.
Weather was less than ideal so birding was poor but the experience was still positive for a number of reasons; the main one being positive news about their Florida Scrub Jay population. There are four distinct populations or family groups on the property, ranging in size from two to five birds each. They are found at two separate locations, some distance apart. The birds are banded, usually every year, with four bands per bird, one of which indicates family, another birth year, etc.
We saw four birds at the location we passed. They were not particularly skittish but they sure didn’t come down and sit on anybody’s hat either. In fact, none came within fifty feet of our group. One of the rangers brought out a can with corn in it, shook it and finally dumped some on the ground. No reaction! The birds all stayed in trees a short distance away. The ranger thought that if he had been there himself they might have come to the corn but they weren’t about to come into a mob of people. In actual fact, the only time they feed the birds are the few days leading up to banding day. They get suckered in to coming to the corn then follow the trail into the trap cages. Scrub Jays have long memories!
Another item of interest is that as well as using fire to control the scrub, the staff cut down many of the nearby pine and oak trees. The concern is these taller trees may provide cover for raptors who could prey on the jays.
The best news of the day was that this property is so successful that it is now exporting Florida Scrub Jays. One of their young males moved to a site in an adjoining county-managed property to the north, attracted a mate from another property several miles away and has now established a new family group.
There may yet be hope!