Turtles, Birds, Bats, and Raptors!

By Carolyn McInerney
Skidaway Audubon

It has been an incredibly successful year for Skidaway Audubon projects! It is hard to believe that this is the ninth recap I have done on our Diamondback Terrapin Rescue Project, and what a year it has been! The good news is we set a record for the number of eggs retrieved and the number of hatchlings released. The even better news is that we had no varmint intrusions to the nesting boxes. But the very best report is that we had an extraordinary response to our “Hatchling Happenings” at Sunset Park. Attendance at the six scheduled hatchling releases had more than 500 folks participate.

Everyone was delighted with the new venue at the Park, especially our good friend, The Landings Club's Chris Steigelman, because we no longer were disrupting play on the third hole of Plantation! As our releases began, The Landings Association had just completed the landscaping project funded by Landlovers and the walking path funded by Skidaway Audubon. TLA Environmental Manager Sean Burgess and his crew opened some pathways into the high marsh, so we could walk out to release the hatchlings into a more natural habitat. For the first time, we offered two separate presentations -- one for young families and one for more inquisitive adults. Along with the seven turtle volunteers, we also had assistance from a few students who worked with us to guide the releases. When you scanned the marsh, it looked like a scavenger hunt, with more than 50 kids and adults wandering around, peering down into the marsh grasses to set their hatchlings free! To the terrapin volunteers, thank you for your support of this program. The final tally was 2,822 eggs collected, 2,582 hatchlings released, and a hatch rate of 91.5 %.

The Bluebird Project also set a record for the number of fledglings this year -- 1,378! Congratulations to the volunteers who helped make this possible.

Our Bat Abode Project will be getting off the ground(!) in late December with the installation of nine bat houses on our south golf courses and one at Sunset Park. Thanks to the Landings Wood Workers Guild for the construction of 12 bat abodes!

In other news from Skidaway Audubon, recently a new committee was created with the goal of engaging our residents, especially our young families, in experiences that will inspire participation in enhancing our island's natural resources. Our Board Members constantly are being asked, “How do we become a member of Skidaway Audubon?” We responded by establishing Friends of Skidaway Audubon. The funds generated from this new endeavor will provide educational programs, family and youth excursions, newsletters, and partnering with other organizations to attract nationally recognized speakers on conservation issues and our natural world.

The introduction to our Friends project will be an exciting venture into the world of raptors. Employees from Georgia Southern University’s Center for Wildlife Education will join us on January 12 at The Landings Association’s Athletic Field (600 Landings Way South) at 1 p.m. for a raptor flight demonstration and to teach us more about these magnificent birds of prey. The special guest will be Freedom, the very well-known GSU bald eagle mascot. PLEASE NOTE: NO DOGS WILL BE PERMITTED AT THIS EVENT. If a dog (large, small, or in between) is present, the demonstration will not include the birds in flight. Please be mindful of others; keep your pets safe, and leave your four-legged friends at home. During the event, we hope you will take the opportunity to come meet our Friends committee members, give us your suggestions of program topics that would be of interest to you, and sign up to become a member of Friends of Skidaway Audubon. You also can visit our website (skidawayaudubon.org) to learn more about our organization and to become a founding Friend! We all are looking forward to a sensational 2019!