Tucked away in Ocala National Forest, Hughes Island is a “donor site”- one with a stable population that can donate ScrubJays for relocation elsewhere in the state. Led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, state officials began a Scrub-Jay translocation program just last year in an attempt to save this imperiled species. Scrub-Jay translocation – moving Scrub-Jays from sites with stable, healthy populations to sites that include some unoccupied but optimal scrub habitat – so far has shown to be a promising tool.
Leading Jay Watch surveys across the state, Audubon was asked to partner with the federal and state officials to census jays at Hughes Island in July 2017. Most survey sites are easily accessed by Jay Watch volunteers. But this site required hearty volunteers with GPS expertise to brave scrub thickets, locate survey stations, and collect data in the searing July heat.
Given the habitat restoration, the vast landscape, and the presence of so many family groups in Ocala National Forest, the future of the Florida Scrub-Jay looks hopeful. Audubon citizen scientists report that the Scrub-Jay population at Hughes Island is healthy and growing, signaling a thumbs up for donating individuals for translocation.
Volunteers who braved the rigorous conditions and completed the three-day survey deserve a special shout-out: Brinda Curran, Zachery Holmes, Kim Rexroat, and Karen Tobi. We look forward to continued collaboration with our partners at Hughes Island and hope to see more hearty Jay Watchers in Ocala National Forest in 2018.