Important Bird Areas

Huguenot Park-Nassau Sound

Florida

{link:Nest In Peace at Nassau Sound Bird Island|http://audubonoffloridanews.org/?p=8225}

Huguenot Memorial Park, 68 ha
Nassau Sound Bird Islands, 40 ha

Coastal areas along the Atlantic Ocean in extreme northeastern Duval County, from just north of the Nassau River south to the St. Johns River, mostly on the east side of State Road A1A. Contiguous with the Duval and Nassau Tidal Marshes IBA to the west, and with the Fort George and Talbot Islands IBA to the north and south.

Two separate conservation areas divided by Fort George Island, north of the St. Johns River and east of Sisters Creek. The Nassau Sound Bird Islands consist of three small sand islands (Big Bird, Little Bird, and Third Bird islands) within the Nassau River?St. Johns River Marshes Aquatic Preserve. Except for Third Bird Island, both sites have been designated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as Critical Wildlife Areas. Huguenot Memorial Park, known locally as Ward's Bank, receives 100,000 visitors annually; visitation to Nassau Sound is estimated at 10,000 boaters.

Surveys in 1994 documented 629 vascular plant species, including several significant sandhill and ?high pine? species. The Park also supports 134 vertebrate species. Plants and animals of interest include ??Ichetucknee ladies'-tresses? (Spiranthes odorata  S. ovalis), ?wakerobin (Trillium spp.), ?King Solomon's seal (Polygonatum biflorum), ?Florida willow (Salix floridana), ?Ichetucknee siltsnail (Cincinnatia mica), ?mountain mullet (Agonostomus monticola), pine snake, ?short-tailed snake (Stilosoma extenuatum), gopher frog, gopher tortoise, Florida mouse, and ?Sherman's? fox squirrel. ? Many cultural sites occur within the Park, of which the most studied is the Mission de San Martin de Timucua. Ichetucknee Springs was declared a National Natural Landmark in 1972

Both sites contain remnant natural inlet, dunes, and coastal hammocks.

Ornithological Summary

Huguenot Memorial Park: significant populations of Threatened, Special Concern, and FCREPA species; significant numbers of raptors and larids; and significant natural habitats. Nassau Sound Bird Islands: significant populations of Endangered, Threatened, Special Concern, FCREPA, Watch List, and IBA species; significant numbers of raptors, shorebirds, and larids; and significant natural habitats.

This IBA is extremely important for breeding and roosting shorebirds and larids, and significant numbers of migrant falcons in fall. In the 1970s, the Bird Islands supported a large breeding population of Gull-billed Terns, but erosion reduced the size of the islands, and the number of Gull-billed Terns have declined substantially. Overall diversity is 203 native species

Conservation Issues

Huguenot Memorial Park: *human disturbance, *erosion, *development (channel-dredging proposal), feral cats. Nassau Sound Bird Islands: *human disturbance, *erosion

Driving on dunes at Huguenot Memorial Park is prohibited, but it does occur. Dogs are supposed to be leashed at all times, but often are allowed to run free, causing severe disturbance to shorebirds and larids. Regular enforcement to protect beach-nesting and -roosting birds is needed urgently, and feral cats should be removed from the Park. ? Parts of the beach are eroding, and ?riprap? has been placed along the shoreline. Beach renourishment is recommended. ? Jet-skis should be prohibited, especially in the bay portion. ? Water quality should be monitored. ? A large amount of sand has accreted at the north end of the spit, which threatens to close the Fort George Inlet. ? A proposal to dredge a new channel through the Critical Wildlife Area could have devastating effects on the birds that nest and roost there. ? Erosion has greatly reduced the size of Nassau Sound Bird Islands since the 1970s ? Increasing use of the Bird Islands for human recreation threatens the nesting and roosting populations of its shorebirds and larids. Although partly designated as a Critical Wildlife Area, enforcement is lacking and disturbance of birds from humans and unleashed dogs is rampant. ? The islands are just offshore of Big Talbot Island State Park, and may become part of the park. The Jacksonville Preservation Project is negotiating to publicly purchase the privately owned portion of Big Bird Island.

It is essential that the State enforce protection of the Critical Wildlife Areas during spring and summer to protect their breeding colonies

Ownership

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Florida (Huguenot Memorial Park), the State of Florida (Nassau Sound Bird Islands), and private owners (a portion of Big Bird Island)

Habitat

Huguenot Memorial Park: *estuarine, *coastal strand, tidal marsh, maritime hammock. Nassau Sound Bird Islands: *coastal strand, *estuarine, tidal marsh.

Land Use

Huguenot Memorial Park: *recreation, conservation. Nassau Sound Bird Islands: *conservation, *recreation