HIGHLIGHTS OF CITIZEN SCIENCE SURVEY AT EASTMAN
By Bruce Furlow, Larry Goodman and Les Kelly
The 1500-acre tract of land owned by Air Products, with portions leased by Taminco amines manufacturing facility, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eastman Chemical, presents a unique wildlife sanctuary.
The facility contains different habitats (mixed woodlands, open areas of grasses and weeds, bodies of water with marsh conditions, and a bayfront on Escambia Bay) that provide birds cover, food, and nesting sites.
Due to COVID-19, only essential personnel are allowed on the site. We were three months short from finishing ten years of gathering data on birds when restrictions were imposed.
We gathered avian data on an approximately weekly basis. Surveys usually took around 6 hours, traveling between 11-12 miles.
We sparingly used recordings to verify a species as well as to draw in songbirds.
During each trip, birds were identified to species, enumerated, and the data entered into the eBird database.
The entire facility including the production area has been designated as a wildlife sanctuary, not open to the public.
We have alerted personnel when birds are found nesting in
the production area creating a safety concern. For examples, we saw Northern Rough-winged Swallows attempting to build a nest in the exhaust pipe of the diesel engine for the fire deluge system.
A Great Crested Flycatcher was building a nest in the exhaust pipe of a pressure relief system on a process tank.
Beyond these concerns, the personnel at Eastman have interacted with us asking questions about a bird nesting in the production area. They have given us information about seeing birds that they wanted to identify.
We have helped a couple of individuals to learn about some of the birds using the facility.
The results of our survey efforts are as follows:
- There have been over 480 surveys conducted with the data entered into the eBird database. Additionally, these data were shared with Bob and Lucy Duncan who were revising their book on birds of this area (The Birds of Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties Florida, 2018).
To date, 230 species have been documented with 53 species nesting on the site.
Some notable data are: first record of nesting Black-bellied Whistling Ducks for Northwest Florida, fourth record of Say’s Phoebe for Northwest Florida, first record of nesting Black-necked Stilts for Santa Rosa County (based on Florida Breeding Bird Atlas (2011-2016).
- In the Spring of 2019, a rookery was found on the site in which 7 species were found using the pond: Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Cattle Egret and one pair of Anhingas.
- There is a pronounced seasonal effect with high species counts (frequently above 60) in late fall and winter months and low species counts in June and July (fewer than 50).
Habitat changes, whether due to human or natural causes, have an effect on the species’ presence and numbers.
For example, a storm in the winter of 2013 knocked down dead pine snags and wiped out four nesting sites of Red-headed Woodpeckers and one of Pileated Woodpeckers. Currently, both species are only seen rarely.
- Severity of cold weather – in late 2011 and early 2012, there was a period of extreme cold.Robins, which are in abundance at the Sanctuary, left for a warmer climate.However, there was a huge influx of ducks.There have been 23 species of waterfowl recorded in the Sanctuary.
Notable are Cinnamon Teal – fourth record for the area and Long-tailed Duck which is suspected to be the seventh record.
- An abundance of food from the woodlands, various ponds, and grasslands provide food for migrating and wintering birds, as well as the local resident birds.For example, nine (9) species of sparrows have been recorded wintering at the sanctuary.In the fall of 2012, five species of swallows were recorded, with two species numbering approximately 700 individuals.
- We have documented some relatively unusual species for
this area – American Golden Plover, Cave Swallow, Brown Creeper, Shiny Cowbird, Groove-billed Ani, Eared Grebe, Winter Wren, and Swainson’s Thrush.
- Due to the uniqueness of the facility, the University of West Florida Biology Department incorporates a field trip to Eastman when teaching avian biology.
Our data have been used by Ornithologists at Cornell and other universities.
Ornithologists have been using data recorded in eBird to develop some amazing graphics on movement of select species during migration.
Our Eastman data was one of the larger pools of information utilized for the Gulf Coast of Florida area.