The Big Picture
Keeping Our Conservation Focus on Marion County Special Places
Tuscawilla Park/Discovery Center – Habitats for Urban Birds – Marion Audubon members led by
Carolyn Retey make ongoing observations about the bird populations at the park. The addition of
the floating aquatic plant mats in the Tuscawilla Lake in March have provided additional habitat
for birds and other wildlife. Initially it appeared that one young great blue heron was dominating
the floating mats and not allowing other species access. During the later summer months this
pattern changed and finally other species were observed using the mats including a snowy egret.
Summer Campers at the Discovery Center made observations while learning about the natural landscape
of the park. Based on these collective observations, nesting boxes will be added to the park in
January/February 2015. Cub Scout Pack #112 will build the nesting boxes to meet the requirements
for their badges. Ocala Park & Recreation Staff will install the 19 nesting boxes in locations
specified by Marion Audubon.
Prices Scrub – Located near the Alachua County line, this preserve is a critical area for
ecosystem connectivity with the Paynes Prairie State Preserve that is part of the Orange Creek
Basin. The Orange Creek Basin encompasses other water bodies of critical concern including
Orange Lake. The first bird sanctuary established by National Audubon in 1910 , Bird Island,
is located on Orange Lake. This sanctuary was later transferred to Florida Audubon and is
managed by Alachua Audubon, our birding comrades to the north. Connectivity and partnering
among local Audubon groups facilitates ecosystem connectivity. I hope you will attend the
November 8th program at the Grand Lake RV & Golf Resort to learn more about wading birds
and conservation actions to protect the special places of north Marion County.
Halapata Tastanaka Preserve –This preserve represents a major percentage of the geographic
area for the SW Marion Christmas Bird Count. Ongoing Bird Surveys spearheaded by Sandra Marraffino
and Citrus Audubon will continue under the direction of Steve and Darcy Shaddix. Breeding Bird
Atlas data for this area will be added under the direction of Helen Ogren. The impacts of our
changing climate to bird migration and habitats were released by National Audubon and initial
review of the conclusion for our area clearly indicates that Marion County bird populations will change.