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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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


O'Leno State Park
April 2017
Santa Fe Audubon enjoyed yet another beautiful morning for an April field trip to O'Leno state park. We were looking for migrating species, but our most memorable encounter was with a permanent resident, a stunning barred owl, up close and personal. [pictures]
Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve
February 2017
The many micro-habitats of the Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve made for a very pleasant hike on a comfortable February morning. The bird population was sometimes very visible, but often only audible, so it was a good opportunity to try to improve call recognition skills. Among the highlights seen were a very colorful Bluebird and his mate that joined a varied group of warblers to greet our party at the gate and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker who obligingly continued its lunch search right beside the trail. A variety of early spring wildflowers were an added treat. [pictures]
La Chua Trail
January 2017
The brisk, beautiful January morning was a perfect day for checking out the record numbers of sandhill cranes who have been visiting Paynes Prairie this winter. In addition to the impressive crowds of cranes our field trip participants enjoyed seeing an interesting variety of avian species, including several Wilson’s Snipes, Long-billed Dowitchers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs (conveniently near each other for field mark comparisons), Blue- and Green-winged Teal, Savannah Sparrow, Cooper’s Hawk and even a Dickcissel, rare in this area. Fifty-two species were recorded. A large contingent of the bison herd was also in view. [pictures]
Christmas Bird Count
December 2016
On Thursday, December 15, Santa Fe Audubon once again participated in the nation's longest-running citizen science project, fielding 13 teams of birdwatchers across the area to collect data on birds for the 117th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. This year's tally showed 107 bird species and 7,493 individual birds. Interesting finds included Northern Flickers, Eastern Screech-Owls, a Great Horned Owl, Northern Flickers, Fish Crows Loggerhead Shrikes, Black-and-White Warblers and an Eastern Wood-pewee. Also noteworthy was a Rusty Blackbird, not only spotted, but also photographed, convincing even the sceptics who monitor the tallies! [pictures]
Oklawaha Paddle
November 2016
An intrepid group from Santa Fe Audubon joined other paddlers on an exploration of the Oklawaha River led by Lars Anderson. The day was overcast, but comfortable and the colors of the fall foliage beautifully bright. Sightings included ibis, eagles, yellow-rumped warblers and, for some, a clumsy young bear. While stopping at Davenport Landing for a snack break, Lars also shared details about the river’s history as a steamboat route and pointed out some of the native vanilla tobacco that was used during that era. [pictures]
Ordway-Swisher Biological Station
September 2016
Fourteen people from Santa Fe Audubon Society and one Ordway-Swisher volunteer climbed aboard the Ordway-Swisher’s tram for an informative talk on fox squirrels, the nuances of timing prescribed fire to manage long-leaf pine habitat and the variations of that habitat for different species, and the reptiles and insects of the ephemeral ponds. Steven Coates, Associate Director of the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station, led the discussion and was joined by Catherine Frock, a graduate student at UF. Dick Franz, a member of Santa Fe Audubon, retired Herpetologist and long-time researcher at the Ordway also joined the conversation. The group was able to see first-hand the differences made to the environment by altering burn schedules even slightly and Coates explained how the fire teams worked to mimic natural lightning ignited fires to achieve stunning restorations. All the while the fire teams are paying close attention to protocols to achieve safety for the fire team members and for the neighbors of the property. “Fire is welcome to come in from the neighbors, but we don’t want it to leave.” Frock, who is researching fox squirrels, displayed one of the radio collars describing its capabilities and limitations for providing data to the research team. Franz told of a flightless grasshopper found only in one pond at Ordway and one other pond nearby. Coates described how various animals have adapted different strategies to survive (and capitalize on) the periodic fires. One day after a recent fire, turkeys were first on the scene to feast on invertebrates. [pictures]
Christmas Bird Count
December 2015
On December 17th, 2015, 42 participants from Santa Fe Audubon, Alachua and Duval Audubon, and others fanned out in boats, cars, and on foot to survey all the birds that could be seen and heard for the 25th annual Melrose Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This dedicated effort resulted in locating 103 species of birds. The Melrose CBC covers a 15-mile diameter circle centered at the intersection of SR 219 and SR 100 that encompasses parts of Clay, Putnam, Alachua, and Bradford Counties. Many bird-rich natural areas occur in this circle and include Lake Santa Fe, Santa Fe Swamp, Gold Head Branch State Park, the Ordway Preserve, and numerous lakes. At the end of the day-long survey, participants congregated at Betty’s Pizza in Melrose to tally the results, to share stories of the day’s birding highlights, and of course to feast on the local cuisine. Laura Berkelman compiled the list of birds that were surveyed by eleven birding groups. Interesting sightings included the seven woodpecker species in our area: Pileated, Red-bellied, Red-headed, Downy, Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and new to the count, Hairy Woodpecker, found at Santa Fe Swamp. Seven species of sparrows were found also. The most abundant ducks were 350 Lesser Scaup, and 249 Ring-necked Ducks. Begun 116 years ago in New York City, Christmas Bird Counts provide important insight into the health of the environment. Since birds are the most visible of our wildlife and the easiest to survey, bird survey data provide an indication of the overall health of the less visible wildlife species. An abundant and diverse avian community can reflect healthy ecological habitats, while declining bird populations can signify disturbing trends in our land development patterns and their detrimental effects to natural areas. Changes in the range of some bird species have implications in assessing results of climate change. National Audubon has identified 314 species of birds in the U.S. that will be affected by climate change. Results from the Melrose CBC combined with data from hundreds of other CBC surveys throughout the country allow ornithologists to assess bird trends on a national and international scale. If you’d like to see the complete list of birds seen, please request by email sjoyceking@comcast.net.
Sweetwater Wetlands Park
November 2015
On Saturday, November 21, 2015 ten members and guests visited Gainesville’s Sweetwater Wetlands Park for some spectacular scenery and birdwatching. This water polishing facility is a magnet for water birds including winter migrants, rare visitors and many of our regular favorites. The waters were filled with ducks and other floating birds including Blue-winged Teal, American Coots, Gadwalls, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and Common Gallinules. Not only were common waders such as Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron and Snowy Egret sighted, but Limpkins were everywhere, including a parent Limpkin shadowed by a large juvenile Limpkin as the juvenile was learning some fine points about fishing. 45 species were sighted in all, including the rare Fulvous-whistling Duck and Purple Swamphen. [pictures]
Fort Matanzas National Monument
September 2015
On a seasonably warm, but beautiful September Saturday morning, ten adventurers from Santa Fe Audubon walked both ocean and river beaches at Fort Matanzas National Monument and were rewarded with some memorable bird sightings. Among the scenes that captured their attention were a Willet bathing in a shallow pool, an Osprey carrying a large fish, a flock of Wood Storks with many resting on their forward-bent knees and a Reddish Egret demonstrating its characteristically energetic foraging behavior. Other sightings included Royal, Sandwich and Caspian terns; Wilson’s, Semi-palmated and Black-bellied Plovers; Sanderlings, Boat-tailed Grackles, Brown Pelicans and Ruddy Turnstones. [pictures]
Palatka Waterworks Earth Day Bird Walk
April 2015
A bird walk kicked off a full day of events at the Palatka WaterWorks Earth Day celebration, called “Birds, Bees, Flowers, Trees.” Joyce King and Carol Foil led the walk through the nature trail to the gopher tortoise habitat, and past the organic garden and wildflower garden at the WaterWorks Environmental Ed Center. Several novice birdwatchers were thrilled to count 29 species of birds. Water for the city of Palatka was supplied by the creek that carved the deep ravine at Ravine Gardens State Park; the water works is being restored, and will be the focus of the environmental education center. [pictures]
Sweetwater Wetlands Sheetflow Project
April 2015
Lightning and thunder did not deter 39 nature enthusiasts and birders from the Lake Santa Fe and Alachua Audubon Societies from exploring the Sweetwater Wetlands Park before it was opened to the public on May 2, 2015. The park is part of the Sweetwater Branch/Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Restoration Project and designed to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from water entering Paynes Prairie and to restore hydration of more than 1,300 acres of formerly impacted wetlands. Already one of the premier birding spots of north-central Florida, the park is also an outstanding habitat for other wildlife. The field trip started with a brief downpour but the rain subsided quickly and the group explored the park without getting wet. Almost 50 species of birds were observed during the 3-h trip including several migratory and rare species such as the bobolink, peregrine falcon, stilt sandpiper and Wilson's snipe. Other highlights included the sighting of a banded water snake. [pictures]
O'Leno State Park
April 2015
The Santa Fe Audubon group led by Jim Swarr and Joyce King was delighted to have a wonderfully productive morning when less-than-favorable prospects at Cedar Key led to the substitution of O’Leno State Park as a field trip site to look for migrating birds. Guided by Joyce’s incredible ear and using every available eye, we identified at least 35 species. Among the most interesting were the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Waterthrush , Hooded Warbler and Black-throated Blue Warbler. The park was particularly lovely on this overcast spring morning, happily shared with, among other things, an abundance of turtles at the edge of the sink. [pictures]
Santa Fe Swamp
March 2015
Sixteen people joined biologist Mike Drummond of the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department for another awesome spring trip to the Santa Fe Swamp. The more 23 plant species explored included a bright orange milkwort whose name means yellow and a yellow one whose name means small. Mike shared many such interesting tidbits, as well as pointers for distinguishing plant species. Seen along the trail were large swarms of dragonflies, including Eastern Pondhawks, Blue Dashers, Little Blue Dragonlets and Carolina Saddlebags; at least five species of butterfly, including Zebra, Palamedes and Spicebush Swallowtails; and more than 20 species of birds, including Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Northern Harrier. Additional entertainment was provided by a trio of young raccoons noisily chasing one another on a large snag in the swamp. [pictures]
La Chua Trail
February 2015
A small but intrepid group of bird watchers set off on this cool, rainy morning to see the wildlife on the La Chua Trail. We watched from the shelters during an early shower and then moved down the trail during a break in the rain. Despite having our binoculars under our rain gear for much of the time, we saw at least 40 species of birds including the Wilson’s Snipe, White-crowned Sparrow and a Wood Stork. We witnessed the life and death struggles between species, watching for approximately five minutes as an Anhinga speared a catfish and beat the fish against a log before finally subduing it enough to swallow it whole. We also observed a Great Blue Heron rookery near the Alachua Sink, with at least four of the big birds sitting on nests.When a second rain set in, the group split in two, some turning back and the bravest venturing further down the trail to see what else could be found. We came back, damp but enthusiastic. [pictures]
Backyard Birding field trip
February 2015
More than 20 people enjoyed Ron and Elaine Robinson's wonderful hospitality during an informative and inspiring trip to their beautiful backyard bird habitat. On a property containing a wide variety of plant species that attract wildlife, we examined examples of various design and placement techniques that both attract and protect various bird species. And throughout the morning we heard and observed dozens and dozens of birds. Species ranged from piliated, red-bellied and red-headed woodpeckers to cardinals, phoebes, a yellow-throated warbler and chipping sparrows, but for most people the highlight of the visit was the flock of brilliantly colored Baltimore orioles who crowded the feeders in front of the glorious, glass-walled sunroom. [pictures]
Christmas Bird Count
December 2014
On Thursday, December 18th, 35 birdwatchers fanned across the area to collect data on birds for the 115th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Most participants came from Melrose or Keystone Heights or Hawthorne, but a few came from Gainesville, Alachua and Satsuma. This year the group tallied 106 species of birds and 7,855 individual birds. Among them were ten species of ducks, Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, Common loons, Blue jays and Bald Eagles. Over 1,000 American robins were spotted and for the first time in local history, a Ruby throated hummingbird and a Whip-poor-will were spotted on Count Day. And yes, one team successfully spotted snipe! [pictures]
Etoniah Creek State Forest Bugs and other things field trip
October 2014
The weather was perfect for the dozen enthusiastic nature lovers who started our “Bugs and other things” field trip at the Scrub Road entrance to Etoniah Creek State Forest. During a short hike through the scrub, leader Charlie Pederson, with John Masters (both from the Florida Forest Service) showed us all sorts of fascinating insects and Arachnids, many of which had been collected with pitfall traps they had set in the sand two days before. The Blossom Pond trail was also visited, where the group soaked in the flora and fauna of a totally different ecosystem. The two places visited gave us a truly educational experience with not only the dozens of bugs and birds identified, but extensive discussions about a host of native plants as well. [pictures]
Little Orange Creek Nature Preserve butterfly field trip
September 2014
An overcast day did not discourage an SFAS group from exploring Little Orange Creek Nature Preserve’s butterfly-friendly habitats with experts Kay and Sarah Eoff and Barbara Woodmansee. A variety of butterfly species were spotted, but the stars of the show were the Gulf Fritillaries, which were abundant in all four life stages. Additional attractions included a bright green lynx spider, a young water snake and a large praying mantis. [pictures]
Christmas Bird Count
December 2013
The 2013 version of the annual Melrose Christmas Bird Count was conducted on December 19th, covered 176 square miles, by seven groups including 35 participants. With the increase in counters (and the expertise) a significant increase in numbers of species was recorded (from 98 in 2012 to 117 in 2013). At the end of the day long survey, participants congregated at Betty's Pizza in Melrose to tally the results, to share stories of the day's birding highlights, and of course feast on the local cuisine. Bird highlights include a Peregrine Falcon, Henslow's Sparrows, a least Bittern, a Laughing Gull as well as Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrows. [pictures]
Training from Audubon Eagle Watch
November 2013
Matt Smith from the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey gave an entertaining and informative presentation on the Bald Eagle history, life cycle, habitat, conservation efforts, progress and needs. And made a pitch, telling how we all can help. The event was SRO with over 80 attendees from as much as 100 miles away. Francis, a somewhat stoic 22 year old male Bald Eagle accompanied Matt and was a great help demonstrating numerous points during the very educational presentation. [pictures]
Etoniah Rosemary Census
October 2013
Every fall, the Florida Forest Service takes a census of all known Etoniah Rosemary. All known plants from the year before are checked and likely habitat scoured for new plants. The Santa Fe Audubon Society has a tradition of providing substantial volunteer labor. The process involves one person putting a pin flag on each plant they find and a second person coming behind and counting as they collect the flag. [pictures]
Kayaking on the Ocklawaha River
Feb 2013
A group of SFAS members floated and paddled the Ocklawaha River between Gore’s Landing and Eureka Landing on Saturday, February 23, 2013. Our leader, Lars Anderson, river-guide and author, told us stories of steamboats, Native Americans, and logging on this pristine river. The alligators, large and small, watched from logs along the banks as we rode the current down the river. Some highlights include spotting a couple of family groups of adult White Ibis with juveniles, flushing a couple of wood ducks, and watching a Belted Kingfisher work the river ahead of us. All the while, the Yellow Rump Warblers sang their song, and hopped along branches. Butterflies winged across our path with the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and the Palamendes Swallowtail especially abundant. It was a truly tranquil day on this exceptionally beautiful river. Historically, the property along the river was purchased for the Cross Florida Barge Canal; it is now part of the Marjorie Carr Greenway. Thank goodness this treasure has been saved that we might enjoy as day such as we had. [pictures]
Christmas Bird Count
Dec 2012
The 24th annual Melrose Christmas Bird Count, covering 176 square miles, was conducted with six teams, totalling 24 people. Although not quite as many species were recorded as last year, there was a couple exciting atypical species (Greater White-fronted Goose and Red-breasted Nuthatch). Not quite as uncommon, but still a treat to see were the coastal birds at Lake Santa Fe. Afterwards at Betty’s Pizza, numbers were compiled, stories of the day shared and the group wound down together over a great meal. [pictures]
Little Orange Creek Nature Preserve
Nov 2012
Thirteen SFAS members, led by Mike and Janet Stallings enjoyed visiting this developing nature park near Hawthorne. The land was purchased in 2010 by Putnam and Alachua Land Conservancy with a grant from Florida Forever/Florida Communities Trust. Several of the millwork remnants from Hawthorne’s original (circa 1850) mill remain on Little Orange Creek. The site is an important part of the Ocala to Osceola wildlife corridor and features a variety of wetlands and uplands. [pictures]
Etoniah Rosemary Census
October 2012
Every fall, the Florida Forest Service takes a census of all known Etoniah Rosemary. All known plants from the year before are checked and likely habitat scoured for new plants. The Santa Fe Audubon Society has a tradition of providing substantial volunteer labor. The process involves one person putting a pin flag on each plant they find and a second person coming behind and counting as they collect the flag. [pictures]
Walking workshop Ocala National Forest
Oct 2012
The plan was to walk the Lake George Trail, but it was flooded out so we walked part of the Florida Scenic Trail and the Yearling Trail with Johnnie Pohlers (retired U.S. Forest Service and area expert) leading the group. Highlights of the day were the Florida scrub jays putting on a show and lots of evidence (scat) of Florida black bears. After tasting the swamp cabbage and winged sumac, we picnicked at Silver Glen springs and watched two banded water snakes catch and eat minnows in the small spring boils. It was a perfect fall day for a wonderful walk in the woods. [pictures]
Guana River Hawkwatch
Sept 2012
Guana River State Park, north of St. Augustine, is a national HawkWatch site, famous for the large numbers of Peregrine Falcons that migrate down the Florida east coast. We joined HawkWatch experts as they identified migrating raptors. Probably because of the significant onshore winds, not many raptors were seen; but we all enjoyed the beautiful day and getting to know the park. [pictures]
Gold Head State Park
Feb 2012
Justin Teall, specialist at Gold Head Branch State Park, loaded us up in the park buggy to visit several sites in the park. Justin emphasized the need for a consistent burn regime to maintain the various ecosystems in the park. We enjoyed visiting the old mill and sawmill sites as well as the amazing ravine and creek that defines the park. [pictures]
Paynes Prairie Field Trip Report
Jan 2012
Bill and Jan Bolte led a group of 13 people on a trip on the LaChua Trail at Paynes Prairie Jan. 28. Though water levels are extremely low, and most of the prairie is completely dry, other species take advantage of the habitat changes. Eight species of sparrows – Chipping, Field, Savannah, Grasshopper, Song, Swamp, White-throated, White-crowned – were seen in the grassy areas near the horse barn and along the creek. A total of 46 species of birds were seen. [pictures]
Kayaking on the Ocklawaha River
November 2011
November 2011, Lars Anderson met the Santa Fe Audubon canoe and kayakers at boat ramp on SR19 at the Oklawaha River, shuttled us to the boat ramp at the Rodman pool damn, then led a delightful float trip down the Oklawaha River. Between pointing out the wildlife and identifying the birds, Lars gave an ongoing history of the river from the earliest man to present day. The 4 hour trip was over too soon. [pictures]
Etoniah Rosemary Census
October 2011
Every fall, the Florida Forest Service takes a census of all known Etoniah Rosemary. All known plants from the year before are checked and likely habitat scoured for new plants. The Santa Fe Audubon Society has a tradition of providing substantial volunteer labor. The process involves one person putting a pin flag on each plant they find and a second person coming behind and counting as they collect the flag. [pictures]
Keeping Track - Scrub Jays
July 2011
Five members of Santa Fe Audubon Society met early on a July morning at the Etoniah Creek State Forest to check on the resident Florida scrub jays living there. Three individual Florida scrub jay were found. They were hoping to spot one with the gray head of a first year juvenile, but did not. While there, the group also verified presence of Bachman's sparrows and Brown headed nuthatches, as well as spotting numerous other more common species. [pictures]
Spotting the Red-cockaded woodpecker
March 2011
March 2011, Jennifer Perkins, Endangered species biologist for Camp Blanding led a group to a cluster of red cocaded woodpeckers in an area of Camp Blanding few civilians ever get to visit. In addition to teaching us about the unique behaviors and special needs of the Red-cockaded woodpecker, Jenifer led us on a tour of the facinating Camp Blanding wildlife museum (also mostly closed to the public). [pictures]