Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE) staff and volunteers gathered at Mackle Park on November 16th for their annual luncheon and to hear the latest update on the 2019 nesting season.
This has been an amazing year for burrowing owls according to Allison Smith, staff biologist for AWE and manager of the burrowing owl research program in Marco Island. This is year four of the Owl Watch Program, which started with 23 volunteers in 2016, and for 2019 has 65 active volunteers with a waiting list. For 2019 these super volunteers logged 6,600 hours of observation and reported 242 pairs of burrowing owls with 563 fledged chicks with an average of 2.5 chicks per pair!
Where will the Burrowing Owls nest once all vacant lots are developed? Can we encourage owls to nest on developed properties?
Sustaining the owl habitat is critical for burrowing owls in Marco, and AWE’s Owl Watch Program has introduced the concept of the Starter Burrow Program. The Owl Watch Program is recruiting property owners to have starter burrows installed in their already developed yards to entice burrowing owls to move in.
Some burrowing owls are already nesting in high traffic areas. In Marco Island, a new concept is being considered regarding the Starter Burrow Program, which is an incentive grant program to encourage more residents to participate in the Starter Burrow Program. If approved, this pilot program will be the first in the State.
Plans for the Future
- Continue monitoring.
- Finalize the data collection app for next season – the new app for the monitors will be able to access previous reports on the owl burrows.
- Add winter monitors once a month as monitors as an opportunity to sight banded bird. Also, Owl Watch does not want any surprises such as missing burrows.
- Continue to band.
- Expand outside Collier County and compare Marco’s population with other burrowing owls in the State.
- Additional owl classes for next year?
The AWE Award goes to two awesome Owl Watch Volunteers of 2019.
Fred Adams has been with Owl Watch since 2015 and has gone above and beyond to protect the burrowing owls. This summer he volunteered to weed whack 40 burrows all by himself; got permission to band owls in his neighborhood and collected dead owls for Owl Watch research. He spent more time observing owls beyond what is required and his notes were very detailed. His data was recently used by FWC Law Enforcement to help make a case stronger against a builder who filled in a burrow along Fred’s neighborhood Owl Watch.
As a first year volunteer, Lin Taylor’s contribution has already made a lot of difference. She has been posting new burrows year-round and has been very quick to report violations to both FWC and to MIPD. She has gotten to know FWC and MIPD officers and has never failed to attend magistrate hearings as well as workshops offered by FWC.