Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Monday, September 24, 2012

Birds are on the move!

Mornings at Panther Island are often confusing at this time of year. isn't because I don't know what I am doing, it is because of all the birds passing through! Fall migration is upon us, and the woods and swamps come even more alive as winter residents settle in and others pass through.

What exactly is migration? Migration, as it pertains to birds here, is used to describe the movements of populations of birds. There are in fact multiple types of migration that I'll refrain from going into. In the Eastern United States and Canada, migrating birds use the Atlantic Flyway. There are four major flyways of north America: Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic.


Over the next few entries, I will go into more detail about flyways and the birds that use them as well as conservation needs and what you can do to help our feathered friends along their journeys!

An American white pelican flying over Panther Island. An example of a migrant bird species.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Point Counts...what are they???

At Corkscrew and throughout Audubon, we strive to make choices about land management, policy, education and more based on sound science. Panther Island affords us a unique opportunity to look at unrestored (old agricultural fields) and restored habitat. On the unrestored sites, we are hoping to track how the population densities and species diversity of birds changes during the restoration process. How do we do accomplish that?

Former intern and avid birder and scientist Kate Halstead worked in conjunction with Dr. Shawn Liston, Audubon Florida's research manager for the southwestern region, to set up a scientifically rigorous monitoring program that would allow us to monitor species diversity, population densities, assess habitat preferences, and track trends and changes in these areas for birds at Corkscrew. At their most basic, point counts involve a series of points (or stations) where birds are observed and recorded for a fixed amount of time.

At PI, I have 7 routes (a series of points is a route) with 6 points in each. I visit these routes on a quarterly basis. At first, I admit I was intimidated by the process. It is alot of information to gather through sight and sound. But it is well worth it!

Tomorrow morning I will be doing the 2nd of my 7 routes, and despite the mosquitoes and trekking through marshes with gators and snakes, I look forward to and value these opportunities. Knowing what species of birds, insects, mammals, plants, etc. we have makes me a better land manager and scientist.

A trained volunteer verifying a bird using binoculars

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Post-Isaac Update

TS Isaac dumped a mere 2.25" on Panther Island and the rest of Corkscrew. Given the late start of rainy season, we are keeping an anxious eye on our water levels. Post-Isaac signaled a need for the next round of point-counts. For those who don't know, conservation at Corkscrew and Audubon is driven by sound science. Part of that science program at PI is a bird survey using the point count method. Over the next few weeks as I do my routes. I will go into detail about this research method and why it is used. I'll also talk about citizen science and local and national programs that people can get involved in, whether you are just starting to learn and appreciate birds or you've been an avid birder for years! There's something for everyone.

Meanwhile, enjoy some photos taken the other morning when I was out to greet the birds.