START is pleased to acknowledge another important pond enhancement project in Sarasota County that was launched on Saturday, May 22nd, by the Venice Area Audubon Society (VAAS). The organization celebrated its 50th anniversary back in 2015 and is now 56 years old with over 250 active members.
The (VAAS) is located on Annex Road behind the County Courthouse where the property is well known for its large bird rookery on a small island in the middle of a stormwater pond. The rookery is the annual nesting site of at least eight species of birds including Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Anhingas, Double Breasted Cormorants and Black Crowned Night Herons. The most common birds seen roosting at the rookery during much of the year are White Ibis, Snowy Egrets and Tricolored Herons. A truly unique feature of the rookery is the presence of some resident alligators who tend to attack visiting racoons that might be tempted to swim out to feast on incubating eggs and newborn chicks. This symbiotic relationship is one of the reasons this rookery a safe haven to so many birds.
To protect this unique natural site that brings bird watchers and photographers from all over the County, the VAAS has embarked on an ambitious pond enhancement program to help bolster the steep banks of the pond to reduce erosion and limit the amount of excess nutrients entering the pond from stormwater runoff.
The project was conceived by VAAS President Jack Foard and implemented by Bob Clark and 40 willing volunteers including some members from the Florida Veterans For Common Sense. Based on technical advice from Mollie Holland, coordinator for the County’s Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST), the pond will be enhanced with the creation of a “No Mow Zone” around the perimeter to filter runoff and keep heavy lawnmowers off the pond’s bank. In addition, the volunteers will plant some native aquatic plants in the Littoral Shelf or shallow areas of the pond to help reduce erosion from wind and wave action and screen out troublesome algal growth.
START is assisting the VAAS with funding to help cover the cost of the aquatic plants with a grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Other communities and organizations interested in START funding support for pond enhancement programs should contact Sandy Gilbert at email@example.com.
Photo of the Venice Rookery Pond