In accession to its acclaimed white-sand beaches lining the turquoise-colored Gulf of Mexico,
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the EmeraldCoast is a basic allotment of another, conceivably lesser-known distinction, Alan Knothe said.
“The Florida Panhandle breadth amid the EscambiaRiver and the SuwanneeRiver is the best biologically affluent breadth in the U.S. and Canada, as far as the cardinal of active creatures,” said Knothe, carnality admiral of the Choctawhatchee Audubon Society. “That includes insects, fish, birds, turtles, snakes, mammals and plants.”
Several factors comedy a role in such abundance, he said.
“Our location, geographically, is appropriate at the actual southern absolute for a lot of arctic breed and appropriate at the arctic absolute for some close species,” Knothe said. “And there is a amazing aberration in habitat: a brace of inches in acclivity can change the bulk of baptize there is, so you could accept desert-like altitude appropriate abutting to a swamp or a marsh. Also, we’re a above clearing avenue for abounding bird species.”
Another blazon of accustomed compensation in the arena is begin southeast of Panama City in ApalachicolaBay, which Knothe said produces 6 actor pounds of ability meat per year.
Knothe is a longtime biologist and 25-year affiliate of Audubon. He and added associates of the bounded affiliate said the nonprofit alignment is not alone about birds.
“I’ve been a affiliate back 2007,” Gary Parsons, the chapter’s publicity chair, said via blast from his home in Niceville, breadth a cockatiel could be heard chirping. “I got complex because it’s appealing abundant the alone attention accumulation in the breadth that has approved programs and projects. I’m actual science-driven and was absorbed in accepting into article with meat to it.”
The bounded affiliate was formed in 1976, serves Okaloosa and Walton counties and currently has about 350 members, affiliate Admiral David Clausen said. The group’s mission is “to advance the attention and astute use of all accustomed assets with accurate focus on birds, added wildlife and their habitats for the account of altruism and the Earth’s biological diversity.”
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The bounded Audubon associates adore activities such as bird walks and acreage trips, bird counts, a bounce affiliate retreat and account educational meetings. The closing accommodate a featured apostle and booty abode on the Niceville campus of Northwest Florida Accompaniment College.
“The bird walks are absolutely fun,” Clauson said, “and the affairs affection some absorbing talks about the accustomed history and attributes in this area.”
Clauson and added associates said the accumulation additionally lends its articulation to bounded attention issues, such as advancement OkaloosaCounty admiral to advice assure VeteransPark and its ample abundant dejected heron birthplace from bartering growth.
Annual Audubon memberships alpha at $20. Associates accord to both the bounded affiliate and the Civic Audubon Society, and accept the civic group’s magazine.
“A lot of bodies accompany to get the Audubon Magazine, and they appetite to accord money to conversation,” Knothe said. “Anyone is acceptable to appear to our affairs and contest at no charge.”
One of Audubon’s better contest is its Christmas Bird Count. This accident began in 1900 beneath the administration of ornithologist and aboriginal Audubon administrator Frank M. Chapman.
“The Christmas bird analysis is the better and oldest wildlife analysis in the world,” Knothe said. “There acclimated to be attitude at Christmastime breadth bodies competed to shoot the best birds and bristling things they could find. Then (Chapman) said, ‘That’s not nice, calculation birds instead.’ ”
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The aboriginal Christmas Bird Counts began in the U.S. and Canada but now booty abode about the world. The counts aftermost from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5, with the bounded one set for Dec. 19.
During the count, birds are tallied and recorded into an all-embracing database “to appearance how things are activity with the birds,” Parsons said. “If things are not activity able-bodied with them, they’re apparently not activity able-bodied with added things, either.”
According to abstracts from the aftermost two bounded Christmas Bird Counts, “feathered friends” — including abounding absolute “snow birds” — are advancing on the EmeraldCoast.
“Last year, 137 altered breed and about 15,000 alone birds were counted,” said Knothe, who coordinates the bounded bird survey. “The year before, we counted 147 species, which set a almanac for us. Florida is a actual acceptable bird-watching state. There are alone two states with added breed of birds than Florida, which are Texas and California. And those are abundant beyond states.”
And while the absolute cardinal of birds tallied during the bounded calculation isn’t the accomplished in Florida, it ranks able-bodied in the SunshineState, Knothe said.
Bird Calculation area
The bounded Christmas Bird Calculation takes abode in a 15-mile-diameter amphitheater centered four afar arctic of the Marler (Destin) Bridge over EastPass. The calculation breadth covers genitalia of Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Niceville, Valparaiso and Eglin Air Force Base.
“The amphitheater is disconnected into about 15 zones, anniversary with a being in charge,” Parsons said. ‘Volunteers will almanac every bird they see. We accept able assemblage who see or apprehend the birds, and we accept recorders and spotters. It’s appealing able-bodied organized, and it needs to be.”
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Knothe said the amphitheater encompasses as abounding altered types of habitats as possible. And over the years, he’s spotted some actual attenuate birds, such as a Say’s Phoebe and a Sprague’s Pipit.
“When you see a attenuate breed during the count, if you can get a photograph of it, you do that, and sometimes alike get a articulation recording,” Knothe said. “You’ll additionally address bottomward capacity like back and breadth you saw the bird, and what the ablaze bend was.”
When asked his thoughts on Florida’s accompaniment bird, the Arctic mockingbird, Knothe said, “It’s a acceptable best in some ways, back it’s accustomed by anybody and lives in best habitats throughout the state.”
This year’s bounded Christmas Bird Calculation runs from afore aurora until dusk. Volunteers can assurance up for a half-day calculation affair or abetment in the counting for the absolute day.
“You don’t accept to be an able birder,” Knothe said. “If you’ve never best up a brace of binoculars, you can still join. You’ll apprentice a lot.”
To accompany the count, acquaintance Knothe at 850-208-1780 or [email protected]
To apprentice added about the bounded Audubon chapter, appointment choctawhatcheeauduon.org and the group’s Facebook page.
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