Programs and field trips resume in September. Have a great summer!


SFAS Program Meetings
Active: Sept - April
Annual Report
When: Program Meetings are held the Second Tuesday of each month at 6:45pm.

Where:Trinity Episcopal Parish Hall, 204 SR 26, Melrose

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Audubon Society
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Florida

Photo Credits
Photographs displayed on this website are copyrighted and were provided with permission by:
Ann Stodola
Dr. Jeff Smith
John Sloane
Richard Segall
Carol Sallette
Anne Pierce
Ida Little
Joyce King
Ray Franklin
Bill Chitty
Sallie Carlock
Jan & Bill Bolte
Keith Bollum
Bob Bird


Santa Fe Audubon Kestrel Project
Current and Ongoing
In February 2015, Bill Chitty, a long time Florida Forest Service Volunteer and then board member of the Santa Fe Audubon Society, approached Scott Crosby, the Forestry Supervisor in charge of Etoniah Creek State Forest about a conservation project. The idea was to place nesting boxes for the Southeastern American Kestrel in the Forest along the two power line right of ways going through the forest. Nesting kestrels appear to be in serious decline in north Florida. And much like Blue Bird houses, correctly placed nesting boxes seem to increase the population.

The Kestrel is our smallest member of the falcon family and feeds mostly on insects such as grasshoppers. It favors large grassy areas such as pastures and power line right of ways.

Scott’s reaction was an enthusiastic approval. When the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved the project, Bill took a prototype box to the Santa Fe Audubon Society board meeting and presented a plan to build and place the boxes. SFAS will contribute to the science, by meticulously following the FWC protocol for monitoring and gathering data. The Santa Fe Audubon board approved funding for construction of 20 boxes and appointed Betty Rosenblatt and Bill as co chairs for the project.

In early April, Bob Simons, a recognized authority on Southeastern American Kestrels, kestrel box construction and placement, joined several board members and toured Etoniah Creek State Forest to pick locations for kestrel boxes. The next week, Laura Berkelman and Bill retraced the 20 mile route and designated specific trees and marked them with paint. The following week, Joy and Richard Segall assisted in recording exact GPS coordinates for the designated trees. Over the next month or two, with permission from the Forest Service, small areas around the marked trees were cleared of palmettos, small sand pines and gall berry bushes in order to ease access with ladders.

Bill ordered the red cedar boards from Lowes, hardware from Palatka Bolt and Screw. Laura, Betty and Bill built the first box and developed instructions to assist other members in constructing the boxes.

Richard and Joy Segall helped Bill cut all the boards in specific lengths with cutouts, groves, and sanded ragged edges, 161 pieces total, 230 holes drilled and 115 corners cut at 45°. Sallie Carlock and Betty painted numbers on the bottom side of the floors and “SantafeAudubon.org” on the bottom edge of the mounting boards. Richard and Joy made construction jigs to make the assembly go smoother.

With preparation complete, a construction “party” was held on June 27th. Numerous general members joined most of the board and the boxes were all put together. Joy, Richard and Bill later went through the boxes one by one to fix any mistakes (there were very few) and caulk the roof seam. Refiguring the cuts had yielded enough pieces to put together a total of 23 boxes.

The boxes were then weathered for several months.

Over three days in early January, 2016, Bill Chitty and Bob Bird, assisted sometimes by Sallie Carlock and sometimes by Betty Rosenblatt, placed each of the 21 boxes 12 to 15 feet off the ground in the designated trees. Aluminum screws were used in order to minimize damage to chainsaws and their users in the event the trees should be harvested in the future.

Starting in early April, SFAS volunteers checked each of the boxes once a month for three times. Unfortunately, no local Southeastern American Kestrels used our boxes in 2016. One box was destroyed by fire on a prescribed burn before the first monitoring visit.

The April monitoring visit found two sets of Eastern Screech Owls, one pair of Eastern Bluebirds, one Great Crested Flycatcher. There were seven boxes with multiple flying squirrels and seven boxes with no discernible use. Two boxes had the nesting material seemed disturbed, but no real indication anyone was living in either of them.

During the May visit, an experiment was put in place. For the boxes with flying squirrels, the squirrels were evicted and small containers of house cat feces were glued to the box floor. The hope being the feces would repel the squirrels but not Kestrels looking for a home. The residential status of the 20 boxes had not changed much except we now had four boxes with Great Crested Flycatchers.

The final 2016 official monitoring visit was conducted in early June. Use of the boxes had changed but little. The cat feces seemed not to bother the squirrels; in fact several of the containers with feces had squirrels curled up inside them. However, two of the squirrel boxes no longer had squirrels. Three of the boxes with persistent squirrels were removed from the trees and will be relocated to places less appealing to flying squirrels.

We decided to try large grassy areas with absolutely no nearby trees, with boxes mounted to articulating poles. Three locations were installed in December 2016. One is a private pasture across the Coral Farms Road from the forest, another is the grounds of Q.I.Roberts Jr-Sr High School, across SR100 from the forest and the third is Etoniah Creek State Forest land at the edge of the FPL power line easement west of Holloway, just south of State Road 100.

The advantages of using the pole system were immediately apparent. Since we do not use a ladder, installation, monitoring and maintenance are all safer, quicker, and easier. Moving a nesting box on a pole is actually far less trouble than one nailed to a tree. Flying squirrels are far less likely to take up residence in a box that is on a pole. For all those reasons, Santa Fe Audubon Society has high hopes of obtaining permission from Florida Power and Light to let us install nesting boxes in the open grassy areas of the power line easements going through Etoniah Creek State Forest.