Venice Area Audubon Society



Rookery Day 2024

Fly-by February to Migration March

It’s a good thing February had 29 days this year, because it was packed with activities.  Field trips galore, education programs for children and adults and of course Rookery Day filled the calendar.  What a wonderful month to appreciate the many activities our chapter engages in during this busy time of year.

Without a doubt, Rookery Day was “the big event”.  Our goal was to introduce Venice Area Audubon Society and Venice Audubon Rookery Park to our local residents and visitors, and we definitely accomplished that.  Guided rookery tours, an introduction to the purple martin colony, opportunities to learn about the park’s resident bats and native plants, and meeting our Sarasota County Parks partners were just some of what our guests enjoyed.  Our outstanding volunteers provided children’s activities that involved the whole family and the used book sale brought joyful smiles as old books found new homes.  Many people wandered through the recently reopened Venice Audubon Center which we’ve begun using for our daytime education programs for children and adults.  Congratulations to our raffle winners Ann and Mike Johnson, winners of “Mangrove Magic” by watercolor artist and VAAS Board Member Linda Soderquist, and to Cheryl Camp who took home the cedar Screech Owl box.

There are still many upcoming activities for you to look forward to in March and April.  The March Program, Share the Shore with Shorebirds on Tuesday, March 19 will feature conservation photographer and author Mary Lundeberg speaking about protecting Least Terns. Her evocative photography will be featured in the presentation as we learn about the challenges to these and many other shorebirds and how we can protect them.  Details for all our events, including field trips, are available on our website.  Our events are open to Venice Area Audubon members and the public.  Please feel free to share the information about our programs with friends, neighbors and families.

And speaking of what’s yet to come, our 2nd grade Birdwatchers field trips continue through March and April.  The last field trip volunteer training session will be held on Tuesday March 12, which is mandatory for all volunteers this year, and we need trained volunteers especially in late March and April to help our young birdwatchers while on the field trips.  More information about the Birdwatchers Program, volunteering, and providing financial support is on our website.
Last but certainly not least, the Birdathon is back!  “Bird and Brag” is flying in to support our 2nd Grade Birdwatchers Program.  Form a team, join a team, support a team.  It’s all for the children and some good-natured bragging rights for the team that identifies the most species.  But the real winners will be our local 2nd graders.  We provide financial help for the schools that need financial assistance for bus transportation to the Rookery for their field trips.  We want every child to have the opportunity to come to the Rookery and enjoy putting their newly acquired birdwatching skills and science knowledge to work.  Visit our website for more information or contact if you have additional questions about participating or supporting the Birdathon.

To all our seasonal visitors and vacationers who are heading north this month, thank you for your support while in the Venice area and throughout the year.  Hopefully you’re taking lots of new and wonderful memories of birding in southwest Florida with you.  Safe travels and we look forward to seeing you again!

- Jean Pichler, Chapter President

Rooftop Shorebird Monitoring

Be a Rooftop Monitoring Volunteer
Some shorebirds have had to find alternatives to beach nesting, and one of the prime options is nesting on the buildings with gravel rooftops. Interested in monitoring buildings in the Nokomis/Venice/Englewood area to see if local shorebirds choose rooftop nesting? Sign up for a virtual rooftop training session on March 13 at 6:30 p.m. Just contact Audubon Florida's Kara Cook at for more information.

Rookery Watch

Great Blue Heron
8 nests: 1 chick

Great Egret
12 nests: 0 chicks

Double-crested Cormorant
7 nests: 4 chick


7 nests: 2 chicks

Black-crowned Night Heron
1 nest: 0 chicks

As of February 22, 2024

Birding in Ecuador's Choco Region Cloud Forests

Participants of the January trip to Ecuador gather with their guide, Freddie, at the Reserva Mashpi Amagusa.

Ecuador, one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, fascinated a dozen Venice Audubon birders last January for 9 days. We identified nearly 250 neo-tropical bird species, surrounded by hundreds of orchids, bromeliads and butterflies. We had two excellent photographers on the trip who have shared dozens of photos with each of us who explored some 20 cloud forest bird reserves. Snow-capped volcanoes were in the background as we watched four soaring Andean Condors, one of nature's rarest and largest birds.

The unique jungle vistas inspired feelings of awe. Our bird guide Freddy Perez was amazing in his ability to find and point out each bird. Another dozen VAAS birders will be visiting Ecuador's Choco region from March 13-22. The trip is hosted by Holbrook Travel and the logistics in January were flawless. For the March group Freddy will again be the bird guide and Eileen Gerle will be the group leader. Cloud forest birding can be one of the most exciting adventures of a lifetime. Ours was.

- Roy Musick

Volunteers needed for upcoming local events!

Do you enjoy meeting and greeting and sharing information about Venice Area Audubon Society’s mission and activities?  We’re looking for a few great folks to help spread the word at several upcoming local events including Plant Native Day 2024 on March 9 from 9:00-noon at Lemon Bay Park, Hazeltine Nursery Spring Fest on Saturday, March 16 from 9:00-noon, and Earth Day at Oscar Scherer State Park on April 20 from 10:00-3:00.

Please email if you’d like to be a friendly face at any of these outreach events.

Bird of the Month: Yellow-throated Warbler

The Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica) is one of my favorite residents in our area. A distinctive medium-sized grayish warbler with black and white streaked flanks and white wing bars, and of course, most noticeable, the bright yellow throat that gives the bird its name. It also has a black mask with white eyebrow and a tiny spot of yellow in front of the eye. It is about 5.5 inches long with a wingspan about 9 inches, and all plumages (males, females and immatures) are very similar.

With it’s long pointed black bill, it often forages like a nuthatch, creeping along branches and hanging upside-down to find insects like beetles, moths, flies, grasshoppers, crickets and spiders.  Around west-central Florida, it is often found in palm trees, but also frequents pine, cypress, and oaks, as well as urban gardens where it may search under the eaves of buildings for insects and spiders.

The Yellow-throated Warbler breeds from Illinois, Ohio, and New Jersey south to Missouri, the Gulf Coast and Northern Florida. It spends winters along the Gulf Coast into Mexico and the Caribbean, so we are lucky enough to find it here year-round.

The female makes a nest of grass and bark strips, lined with hair and feathers, often in a clump of Spanish moss or pine needles. She lays 3-5 dark-spotted pale green eggs and incubation is 12-13 days.

- Margaret Viens

Bird Bits

Plant Native Day 2024
Saturday, March 9 from 9 AM-Noon at Lemon Bay Park, 570 Bay Park Blvd., Englewood. 
The Mangrove Chapter – Florida Native Plant Society hosts this annual event.  Native plant sales, lectures, and walks throughout the morning. 

Hazeltine Nursery Spring Fest
2401 N. River Road, Venice. March 13-15 from 8 AM – 5 PM; March 16 from 9 AM – 5 PM. 
All things plants and gardening with information and presentations throughout the event. 

Mark your calendar for Oscar Scherer State Park’s Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, April 30, 10:00-3:00. This year’s theme is “Planet vs. Plastics”. Free park entry, tours, demonstrations and activities for all ages. More details.

Upcoming Field Trips

The birds are beginning to sing!  The leaves are turning green on the oaks! Spring is just around the corner. It’s a good time to go on a field trip. The following field trips are coming up in March and April. Please note that Daylight Saving Time begins on the weekend of March 9 & 10. Our thanks go out to all those hosting field trips.

State College of Florida - Wednesday March 6
Wildflower Preserve - Friday March 8
Carlton Reserve Field Trip - Saturday March 16
Siesta Key Field Trip - Thursday March 21
Red Bug Slough - Saturday March 23
Stump Pass Beach State Park - Tuesday March 26
Bike & Bird at Celery Fields - Saturday April 6
Rookery Islands Boat Trip - Monday April 8
The popular boat cruise on the Carefree Learner to Rookery Islands in Sarasota Bay is upcoming on April 8. There will be a guide from Audubon Florida to tell us about the nesting birds. In the past many kinds of birds have been seen including baby Roseate Spoonbills. This trip is limited to 20 passengers and costs $35 per person. Register through the website on the calendar tab.

Please consult the Field Trip page on our website for trip timing and other details. There are sometimes changes to events and additional trips may be added.

Sign up now

Native Plant of the Month: Bahama Senna & Privet Senna

Bahama Senna (Senna mexicana var. Chapmanii) and Privet Senna (Senna ligustrina)

Meet the Bahama Senna (also known as Chapman’s Sensitive Plant or Bahama Cassia) – short and sweet at 2-4 feet tall, spreading the joy 3-6 feet wide. And say hello to the Privet Senna (also known as Privet Wild Sensitive Plant or Privet Cassia) – reaching for the sky at 4-8 feet, and thriving in dry, sandy spots. Whether in the wild or our Nature Center Garden, these beauties thrive in the sun! Blooms all day, all year long! These vibrant, yellow-flowered shrubs are the stars of Florida gardens, bringing constant sunshine vibes. Did you know they're the go-to snack for sulphur butterflies? Watch their caterpillars turn yellow or green, depending on their flower or leaf diet!

If you want these beautiful shrubs for your own garden, make sure you go to one of the local native plant nurseries! The non-native Christmas Senna (Senna pendula), while similar in looks, is a Category I invasive.

- Bailey Cleveland

Orange Barred Sulphur caterpillar on Chapman's Senna.

From the Archives

"In mid June, 1988 this scrub habitat was burned again, this time by an extremely hot fire. When we first saw the burned area there appeared to be no living vegetation left. However, a week later the ground was covered with clumps of green grass stems and in two weeks there were green palmetto leaves and even a few small flowers were visible – a good example of the resilience of the scrub habitat. While we were looking around, the scrub jays came over to greet us, as if nothing had changed!"

- Excerpt from article titled “Service Club Park” by Les Gysel, past President of Venice Area Audubon Society in Wings & Things

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