Hard-working volunteers and partners helped Audubon restore vital Scrub-Jay habitat in Manatee County by removing sand pines. While it might seem unusual to remove trees to help birds, tall sand pines and thickets provide the perfect perches for predators of the Florida Scrub-Jay like hawks. Also, sand pines shed needles that cover bare sand patches, making it difficult for Scrub-Jays to recover buried acorns and bury new ones needed for their winter food supply. And tall pines shade out sun-loving scrub oaks and other rare scrubland plants. Restoring overgrown scrub habitat on public lands, such as the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Little Manatee-Southfork tract in Manatee County, is an essential step to recovering local Scrub-Jay populations.
At this site, Audubon Jay Watch partnered with land manager South West Florida Water Management District, Florida Trail Association, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Ridge Rangers, and Quest Ecology to cut sand pines in February 2017. Audubon’s work at this site creates a brighter future for more Scrub-Jay families. In two days of chain-sawing and hand-sawing, volunteers cut down many tall pines and hundreds of smaller pines invading the open scrub habitat. An added bonus: once the sappy pine wood dries it provides vital fuel that helps carry prescribed fire across the hard-to-burn sandy scrub habitat.