grasshopper sparrow

Published on May 10th, 2013 | by Donna Martin


No Man is an Island

It’s my heartfelt belief that none of us should get a free ride on this fabulous planet without giving back in some way. In my accounting knowledge, we will be bankrupt.  I was involved in several community projects in Caseville, Michigan where I moved from.

However, there was little interest in protecting the environment in that area and I had neither the time nor energy to organize anything.  The closest I came was to help clean up a large tract of land on Saginaw Bay donated by a local family as a wildlife preserve.  Lucky for my brother Steve, he simply walks across the road and he’s there and enjoys his daily treks through these woods with his grandchildren. I also initialized a community garden and then the entire community became just me.

It seems the task of helping to preserve our precious little chunk of paradise falls naturally and mostly on those of us who have the luxury of retirement.

I’m far from retiring but fortunate to have my stained glass business that allows me to work from my home studio leaving more energy that would otherwise be wasted on travel time to work and back.

I chose to return to this area after nine years entirely because of the abundant wildlife.  I love the Indian River Lagoon.  And Merritt Island is a holy place to me. The genius of the creator is as clear as can be there.

Birds are my thing. Wading birds and song birds are the ones I love the best.  They bring me such joy.  For me, the Carolina Wren has by far the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard.  When they welcomed me with that very song, one day soon after I settled in my house, I cried tears of joy. I really did.

The Great Blue Heron has such elegant movements. I’ve designed countless stained glass pieces of this bird.  Have you ever seen a more beautiful color pink as the Roseate Spoonbill?  I could never figure out what all the fuss was over the Scrub Jay.  That is until I was up close with one that landed in the park guide’s hand.  The blue color of this bird cannot be duplicated, you must see it yourself.

And because of my appreciation of these sweet creatures, I naturally gravitated toward the Audubon Society.  I believe, from articles I’ve read, the Southeast Volusia Audubon Society (SEVAS) is a strong, active and effective group keeping track of the local ecological environment and those bigger issues that eventually affect us all.

One of my favorite poems is by John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

He speaks of man but I relate it to all of nature.

dons presentationI learned from Don Picard, President of SEVAS, about the Grass hopper Sparrow that is on the endangered list. Biologists believe only 200 exist today.

“It may be the most endangered bird in the continental United States,” agrees Paul Gray, Audubon Florida.    Quoting from an article by the Kissimmee Prairie Friends, “The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is a federally endangered bird found nowhere else in the world. It is dependent on the Florida dry prairie habitat such as that found in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve”one of the few places where it is making its last stand. Without immediate intervention, the outlook is dire for this diminutive Florida prairie specialist.”

Visit their site to learn more.

Very close to home and already extinct is a subspecies known as the Dusky Seaside donna martin Sparrow.   From information by Wikipedia, they were severely diminished first by DDT spraying in the ‘40’s. Following that most were destroyed when Merritt Island flooded their nesting areas to control the mosquito problem at the Kennedy Space Center.  Then the salt marshes were drained for a highway.  No measures were taken to preserve the sparrows. By 1979, only six of these sparrows remained, five of which were captured, all were males. The sparrows were brought to Disney World’s Discovery Island where the last died in 1987.

This is an extinction that happened right in our back yard.  Will we miss their song?  You be the judge.  For a sample of that sweet delicate melody, click here.

Does this bird’s death diminish me? Yes.

Get involved, click here.



Pictured above is Allan Milledge and Cathleen C. Vogel of the Florida State Audubon presenting Don Picard with Audubon prints as a token of appreciation for the work and devotion as President of SEVAS since 1997. The backdrop for this was on Captain Bills eco cruise on the Indian River last week as the group celebrated the last meeting for SEVAS until fall.

About the Author

Stained Glass Artist, Owner of Alchemy Stained Glass Studio, Oil painter and journalist. I love the laid back attitude of Edgewater. Oak Hill is one of my favorite towns because of the simple life, with the old Florida atmosphere and the abundant wildlife. But initially, it was New Smyrna Beach that attracted me. I was on my way to Ponce Lighthouse and took a wrong turn into New Smyrna Beach. I picked up a newspaper (The Observer, in fact). On the front page was an article about the Atlantic Center for the Arts. I folded up my paper, went back to St. Cloud where I was working for Chrysler in Orlando and put my house up for sale. I’ve never looked back.

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