Celebration, Science, and Cake! The 2023 Jay Watch Appreciation Event

Jay Watch volunteers gathered at Lyonia Environmental Center in November to celebrate another season of monitoring these special birds.

At the Lyonia Environmental Center in Volusia County, visitors stepping out of their cars into the parking lot just might hear a Florida Scrub-Jay calling in the distance. The beautiful Florida scrub is accessible via a short nearby trail, making the Center the perfect spot for our 2023 Jay Watch Appreciation Event.

More than 60 volunteers gathered on November 4 for this traditional celebration. The day began with a guided walk in the scrub followed by a “pot luck” coffee break. Center Manager Christie Miller gave Jay Watchers a warm welcome and field trip leader and docent Stephen Kintner shared a short history of the Lyonia Environmental Center. We were thrilled to announce and present Stephen with the prestigious National Audubon Society Charles H. Callison Award for Volunteer of the Year! As the conservation chair/vice president of West Volusia Audubon and a full-time volunteer himself, Stephen has been singing the praises of Audubon Jay Watch volunteers for years.

Next, Audrey DeRose-Wilson, director of bird conservation for Audubon Florida, gave the highly-anticipated Jay Watch survey results recap for 2023. Our results continue to show the importance of scrub management. Well-managed populations like the CFG triangle, Lyonia Preserve, and many state parks are stable or growing, with nesting success. We also saw very high productivity at Rock Springs Run, a site with seven family groups that produced at least seven juveniles. It appears to have been a good year across the state with higher-than-average numbers of juveniles recorded at many sites.

Karl E. Miller, PhD, avian research scientist at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, followed with a review of statewide trends in Florida Scrub-Jay populations with a focus on Ocala National Forest, prompting many questions and lively discussion. In an afternoon presentation, Chase Kimmell from the Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida enlightened the audience about a unique umbrella species: the endangered blue calamintha bees that share and depend on scrub plants and habitat. We wrapped up the day when Paula Tedrow—outreach coordinator for the Lyonia Environmental Center—took on her alter ego as Smilax Fleaback for a dynamic and surprisingly competitive round of “Scrub Jeopardy.”

We are grateful to the West Volusia Audubon Society and Lyonia Environmental Center teams for hosting another fun and successful celebration. Most importantly, we cannot thank our volunteers enough for their dedication to the scrub-jays. Your work creates a brighter future for this iconic species! 

An infographic displaying the facts and figures listed at the end of the article. Next to it, a photo of a scrub-jay.

Jay Watch 2023 by the Numbers

112 dedicated volunteers contributed 1050 survey hours at 46 sites. They counted 235 family groups, consisting of 183 juvenile jays and 488 adults, for a total of 671 individual Florida Scrub-Jays.

This article first appeared in the 2023 Jay Watch Report.

How you can help, right now