Saturday, November 19, 2016 - Jay Watch Appreciation Luncheon and Program.  Helen Obenchain and Roberta Lake were on hand to represent our chapter by assisting where needed.  Our very own Julie Henderson was to be part of this amazing gathering of Jay Watchers from all over Florida but she is a bit under the weather so she will have to attend the sixth anniversary celebration next year.  Julie is a member of Jay Watch and helps locate and record Scrub Jays here in Highlands County. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016 - Eagle Watch Training Session

The training session hosted by Highlands County Audubon was a great success.  The star of the session was of course the rescued thirty-year-old bald eagle named "Trouble"  however our presenter Reinier Munguia was equally entertaining.  The information gained will help protect the existing bald eagles in Florida.  Representatives from Manatee and Martin counties were present.

Vaughn  Whitesides

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - Avon Park Airforce Range

We had a good turnout, with eighteen attending including a couple of "Newbies" and migrated snowbirds.  Michelle Dent from Archbold Biological Station (ABS) was our guide and she did a GREAT job! It started out with a Red Tail Hawk perching on a wire just outside the ABS offices as we arrived and just continued from there.  We toured the southeastern portion of the Avon Park Airforce Range, along Arbuckle Creek,  a hammock area with Scrub Jays, and a few other locations.  A total number of species seen is estimated to be between 40 and 50.  There were multiple lists that are still being copiled to get the final number.  Some species spotted include the bald eagle, a flock of night herons, tricolor herons, great blue herons, white egrets, little blue herons, black bellied whistling ducks, comorants, anhingas and on and on.  A Great Day! 

Account and photos by Stephen Blair

Saturday, November 12, 2016 - CCC Festival at Highlands Hammock State Park.

Highlands County Audubon once again participated in the CCC Festival.  Many of our Audubon members were present and lots of people stopped by.  Our display of bird houses and wares relating to Audubon were sold.   Vaughan’s plants took in $68 and the grand total was $154  Vaughan said this is the last time for him.  Vaughn's beautiful plants will be missed.  A special thank you to Vaughn for his many years of helping our chapter with his plants.  Each month Vaughn has graciously donated plants to raffle off as a fund raiser to help pay for the meeting hall.  In addition Vaughn heads up our Holmes Avenue Clean Up twice a year. 

Saturday, October 16, 2016 - Northwest Lake Okeechobee

The day started out with a few rain showers that subsided by the time our trip began.  We started at the pier in Okeechobee city and observed several species including limpkins, herons, gulls, and the ever present pigeon.  The small warblers and finches were not present in any quantity.  We did however see a snail kite land between the land and shore in the marsh on a shrub.  Going down the road to Okee Tanti was a similar experience.  Here we saw sand hill cranes, egrets, and ibis in abundance.  A solo gull perched on a buoy in the Kissimmee River caught our attention but once again the smaller birds were not abundant.  Our final stop at the Harney Pond area was much more productive.  Here were what we had already seen but many more including the Great Blue Heron and many water fowl.  Thanks to all who attended.  Our trip through the reservation gave us even more to see.  Lots of belted kingfishers.

Photos by R. Lake

Additional photos by Jim Upchurch

Patrons with Jim Upchurch

Photos by Fran Rolston

Susan Corbett, Fran Rolston, Bob Hummel, and Jim Upchurch setting up Audubon Booth.

Photos by R. Lake

   Owl Prowl December 12, 2016 - Hickory Hammock - An interesting first for HCAS.  It was a hot afternoon but there were enough species to see before snacks by the fire with smores then on to the trail at dark to spot owls.  It was very dark when suddenly we were greeted by a barred owl.  His LOUD call caught us off guard but once spotted he continued his calls to our delight.  Then he silently flew off.  Once back in the parking lot another was spotted by the vapor lights munching out.  Only photo was of this pileated woodpecker. Had we stayed longer than an hour after dark our chances of seeing more owls would have increased greatly.  Well, maybe next year we will start later and stay later.

Maggie, Paula, Virginia, Marilyn, Dr. Gray, Sue, Julie, Steve, Jim, Dale, Sue, and missing was Roberta

Photos by R. Lake

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - General Meeting - Guest Speaker Tom Palmer

Our evening started out with a wonderful Covered Dish dinner including baked salmon, a roasted chicken smothered with a delicious onion sauce, homemade potato salad, fresh veggies, and many other dishes too numerous to mention.  The desert selection was equally yummy.  After that we moved to the presentation area where Vice President Jim Upchurch introduced us toTom Palmer who then took center stage and informed us of many tidbits about Florida.  He started in 1947 (the year he was born) and mentioned how much wasn't being done toward conservation.  He moved forward to the 70's and brought back the efforts of many to save our bald eagles, osprey, and other birds affected by DDT.  Before the night was over we learned about Polk county and its many wonderful birding spots.  Tom Palmer has been awarded so many times that his trophy case has to be the length of a football field.  We too would like to thank him for his efforts but mostly for the informative presentation which culminated in some interesting questions and even more interesting answers.  Our President Bob Hummel conducted a brief meeting, followed by Dale Gillis conducting the drawing for Vaughn's beautiful plants. 

Photos by R. Lake

Photos by Dale Gillis

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 Bird Migration and Environmental Restoration - Dr. Paul Gray

Tonight's presentation highlighted the many trials and tribulations the migratory birds face.  Dr. Gray informed us that threats to migratory birds have grown with habitat destruction especially of stopover and wintering sites. In addition he told us how many of these migratory birds rely on Florida. The timing of migration seems to be controlled primarily by changes in day length. Migrating birds navigate using celestial cues from the sun and stars, the earth's magnetic field, and probably also mental maps.  An extremely informative evening with Dr. Paul Gray of Florida Audubon.

Saturday and Sunday November 5 & 6 Sebring Fine Arts and Crafts festival on the Circle

Highlands Art League’s 50th Annual Fine Arts Festival was a huge event with our very own Highlands County Audubon Society presenting itself for the third year.  Our very own award winning photographer Jim Upchurch once again had his wares for all to see.  Many of Jim's photos sold and everyone who stopped by were enthralled at the bird photos.  Our members set up and manned the booth.  Fran passed out our flyers diligently and we have had responses from people who may join our group.  Cudos to Fran and all who worked the booth. 

Holmes Avenue Crew - December 3, 2016 ...  Left to Right ...Dale Knapp, Sue Corbett, Helen Obenchain, Maggie Ledbetter, Bob Hummel, Vaughn Whitesides, Nancy Deyrup, and Mark Deyrup.  Missing from photo Roberta Lake

Once again Highlands County Audubon members are trying to make the world a better place by cleaning up the environment.  Today's crew collected too many bags of refuse.  Thank you Vaughn for spearheading our project once again.  Thank you to all who participated.  It was a beautiful day to do something outside, and to do some good for the planet.

Christmas Party December 6, 2016

A good time was had by all.  Many members attended dinner and festivities at Beef O'Bradys.  Our president, Bob Hummel, did it again by providing many games and my favorite Christmas Carols.  Lots of donations were collected for the Humane Society. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016—Scrub Pens Road & Highlands County Landfill.

The morning started out with a cooler than usual temperature.  For October 20, 69 degrees was delightful.  Everyone met at Dr. Gray's office and was treated to a short story about Alexander Wilson as we gazed at Wilson prints on the wall.  Dr. Gray has many wonderful bird paintings, prints, and photos adorning his office. Then it was off to Scrub Pens Road.  Killdeer flew off as we pulled our vehicles to the side to get out and observe .  Florida has had an abundance of water this year so the concentration of water fowl was scant.  A solitary grebe, some yellow legs, and an anhinga were easy spots.  As we progressed down the road we heard meadowlarks singing but not showing themselves.  On a tree row a bald eagle perched on an internal branch then flew off to the top of a nearby tree.  An American Kestrel was hanging out on a power line.  The contrast of size between the bald eagle and kestrel is such that it sometimes begs one to think are they both really birds of prey???  Once we left Scrub Pens Road it a short ride to the land fill.  Here we were warmly greeted by the director who provided us with a guide.  We carravaned to the top of the land fill and were astounded by amount of birds.  Two juvenile bald eagles put on an aerial show chasing each other around.  It was amusing to hear one of our members state that when she joined Audubon she was told she would be going places but never dreamed it would be to the top of a landfill.  The birds become even more prevalent in late November.  We may do a repeat trip just to the landfill.  The photos of today's trip speak for themselves.  Join us on a trip we have fun and who knows you may end up in a dump.  Thanks to everyone who attended and especially to Dr. Gray.  His knowledge and experience made the day.

Above Photo by Jim Upchurch

Photos and Accounts Fall of 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - Myakka State Park.

A truly beautiful Florida day for birding.  Driving into Arcadia we were greeted by a beautiful bald eagle.  Several Crested Caracaras were perched on fence row posts.  Our trip through the park began with this precious doe peaking out from behind a tree as if to say, "Are you looking at me?"  Then on down the road toward the concession area were the small warblers  tucked into the trees. Then  we boarded the tour air-boat.  Down on the point was a snowy egret with its golden slippers in the water.  Our tour guide/captain concentrated on explaining things about alligators (our boat had many tourist who have never seen an alligator).  There were many birds to see including this great blue heron walking along with a little blue nearby.  Out on the birding peer was yet another cluster of birds.  Then it was on to Mary Margaret's Tea Room in Arcadia for lunch where everyone enjoyed each others' accounts.

Tuesday November 15, 2016 - Guest Speaker Mike McMillian

Mike McMillian has been monitoring the Osprey breeding population at Lake Istokpoga since 1989! He is a renown Environmental Specialist with Highlands County Parks and Natural Resources. We were fortunate to have Mike as our guest speaker.  After a wonderful covered dish (they get better each week) Mike McMillian educated us on the osprey population around Lake Istopoga.  He began telling the history of the birds decline (DDT) and eventual comeback.  He attribute Highlands County Lake Istopoga's very large population of osprey (greatest in the world) to hydrilla beds which make for a high fish population.  Sadly the hydrilla has been removed from the lake and the fish population is down so it will naturally follow that the osprey population will decline too.

Vaughn and his amazing plants.  A special thanks for all you do Vaughn.

Photos of Vaughn by Fran Rolston

Photos by R. Lake

Monday, November 21, 2016 Lake June In Winter Scrub State Park. - Yesterday our Club went to Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park. It is a quiet 845-acre preserve that provides protection for sand scrub, "Florida's desert," one of the state's most endangered natural communities. Some of Florida's rarest and most imperiled plant and animal species, including the Florida scrub-jay. The photo of the Jay is back lit so it is not such a good one but you can see the acorn in its mouth. The red-headed woodpecker was spotted by Sue Corbett and that was a real treat.

Photos by R Lake

Friday, November 18, 2016 Burrowing Owls on Cape Coral then Harns Marsh in Lehigh Acres.  This trip was special.  We were lucky to see these burrowing owls.  The interesting thing is that they are living side by side with us.  Hopefully we will be as good a neighbor to them as they are to us.  On the 16th of November they were upgraded to a State Threatened Species.  Note the two owl photos, one with yellow eyes (common and normal) one with black eyes (uncommon).  Beverly Saltonstall our guide said it could be due to inbreeding.  Fingers crossed that this fine LITTLE owl will be around for future generations to say "Awe, Look how cute".  Then it was on to Harns Marsh and a juvenile common gallinule, three sand hill cranes along with other species. 

Friday, October 28 to Saturday, October 29 Audubon Assembly 2016
Sirata Beach Resort St.Pete Beach, Florida was the location for The Audubon Assembly, Florida's premiere conservation event. Bob Hummel, Helen Obenchain, and Roberta Lake attended.  We arrived Thursday afternoon just before the Presidents Round Table meeting.  That evening we spent with Larry Rosen the President of the Kissimmee Chapter at a Greek Restaurant just down the beach.  Friday morning we were off to Boyd Hill for a birding trip.  It was delightful.  Lots of warblers stopping by for a bite to eat before resuming their migration.  A limpkin was spotted tearing into one of the exotic apple snails.  An outside rally for clean water was held just before Lunch.  Lunch was not only delicious but equally informative.  Margaret England President of Hendry Glades Audubon joined us.  The afternoon was filled with break out sessions.  Then it was time for socializing by the Gulf and a very delightful dinner.  Saturday morning was networking over breakfast.  Two more sessions before we were presented with the Regional proposals for voting.  Then off we go to fulfill our newly charged energy levels to work for a better world.

Holmes Avenue Clean-up December 3, 2016