Thursday, January 20, 2022

My Journey as a Volunteer: ‘It’s all about the birds’

Submitted Photo
Jean Hall, Audubon Florida’s 2015 Volunteer of the Year and recipient of the Ted Below Environmental Stewardship Award (2017).

Jean Hall, wildlife volunteer and conservationist, presented the first segment of the Marco Island Speaker Series for the Audubon of the Western Everglades at Mackle Park.

Jean truly feels that she has found her calling as a volunteer with birds. “The joy I’ve gotten back is 100 times more than what I give. To be able to help the cause of bird conservation through my work is priceless.”

Her first love was taking photos of “charismatic mega fauna” – those big lovable animals like tigers, lions and bears. That still remains a passion of hers. Her burrowing owl obsession began in 2012. Nancy Richie invited her to check out the burrowing owls and magic happened. Jean is the Project Manager for the Owl Watch Program in Marco.

One morning on Sand Dollar Island, Jean noticed that the least terns were chasing something black in the air. Her camera had captured a crow with a least tern chick in its beak. She sent her report and photos to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). In response, FWC brought in wooden pallets to the nesting colony, providing both shade and predation protection for the least tern chicks.

In 2015, crows ate every egg in the colony. With Jean’s report, FWC started a Crow Management Program. As a result, in 2016-2017, the Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) had the largest nesting colony in Florida.

In 2016, Jean traveled the entire state to photograph 19 unique wildlife habitat sites that were being proposed as CWAs. According to the FWC, Jean’s photographs were a big factor in their approval of fifteen sites.

Jean also traveled to the Delaware Bay as a volunteer for the Delaware Shorebird Project and photographed tens and thousands of red knots and ruddy turnstones as they gorged on the energy-rich eggs of the horseshoe crabs.

For the last two summers, Jean was a Project Puffin volunteer at Eastern Egg Rock Island (EER), located off the coast of Maine. EER is a windswept, isolated rock island. Jean took photos of the puffins behind a bird blind and also helped re-sight banded puffins. Jean has been invited back each summer to photograph the Atlantic puffins.

Audubon Florida named Jean its 2015 Volunteer of the Year. In 2017, Jean received the highest environmental award from the Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE)- the Ted Below Environmental Stewardship Award.

Jean Hall’s journey is an inspiration to the countless shorebird and owl volunteers. Her advice to volunteers: Find your passion; Share your gift; Educate others about what you love; Volunteer and make your special patch of the globe a better place!


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