Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Audubon Society gets gift of island near Don CeSar

A donation can be as small as some spare change in a bellringer's bucket in front of Publix. But for the Florida Audubon Society, this season's donation came in the form of an island.

The small bird sanctuary formerly owned by Howard Miller and his family is a few hundred yards from the inlet that dead-ends behind the Loews Don CeSar Hotel. Buffered by buildings and trees from the Pinellas Bayway, the 2-acre island goes unnoticed by many who don't live immediately nearby.

"There wasn't any real thought that this was a bird rookery or that this was a special place for nesting birds," Miller said, recalling when he lived near the island in his youth. "It was just part of the neighborhood."

According to Audubon Sanctuary manager Mark Rachal, the island is home to several rare species of birds, including the roseate spoonbill and the reddish egret, the nation's rarest egret. Only 350 pairs of reddish egrets nest in Florida, and this island is one of the few spots they choose to nest. Removed from terrestrial predators like raccoons, the island provides a safe nesting spot for all the species of birds, reaching a population of nearly 1,000 birds by the end of the year.

Miller and his family didn't realize they owned the island until his father died in 2010. The island was included in the property purchased by his grandfather for the Rellim Hotel, which closed in 1981. While the land was sold to make room for the Marina Bay condos, Miller found a tax bill for the island in a box of his father's papers.

"We just started thinking about the fact that there's this bird colony there," Miller said, "and it might be nice to do something that would keep it there perpetually and have it be taken care of."

Within a year, the Audubon Society reached out to Miller about the island, and the transfer was made. It is now tended by the Audubon's Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries, a volunteer-based group that first began watching over the sanctuary unofficially around 2005.

"We make it our business to find all the nesting sites in the Tampa Bay area," Rachal said.

Director David Howard and his wife, Barb, work with Audubon's regional coordinator, Ann Paul, to conduct visual surveys, counting nests and species.

One challenge the group faces in maintaining the island is fishing line. Discarded line catches in the mangroves, entangling any birds that might wander through it. The group goes on fishing-line expeditions, collecting as much as 350 yards at a time.

"It's important every time that we get a place that the birds like to nest to protect it," Barb Howard said, "because we're losing so much habitat to development."

Florida Audubon Society gets gift of island near Don CeSar 01/01/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: How Moffitt Cancer's M2Gen startup won $75 million from Hearst

    Business

    TAMPA — A Moffitt Cancer Center spin-off that's building a massive genetic data base of individual patient cancer information just caught the attention of a deep-pocketed health care investor.

    Richard P. Malloch is the president of Hearst Business Media, which is announcing a $75 million investment in M2Gen, the for-profit cancer informatics unit spun off by Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. Malloch's job is to find innovative investments for the Hearst family fortune. A substantial amount has been invested in health care, financial and the transportation and logistics industries.
  2. A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte | Associated Press]
  3. 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 149, collapses buildings in Mexico

    World

    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 149 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

    A woman is lifted on a stretcher from of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. [Rebecca Blackwell | Associated Press]
  4. FHP seeks semitrailer truck driver that left fiery wreck on I-75

    Accidents

    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an Interstate 75 crash that left another car burning on Tuesday afternoon.

    Troopers were looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an accident scene on Interstate 75 in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon that caused a car to catch fire. [Courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.