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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Jul. 29, 2013 6 years ago

Retired naturalist shares ecological observations online, with local kids

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When he's not counting butterflies at state parks, naturalist Chuck Tague is posting observations about Ormond Beach's wildlife and ecology on Facebook. He visited The Casements Monday to speak to kids.

BY WAYNE GRANT | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

One of the main reasons Chuck Tague moved to Ormond Beach from Pennsylvania in 2001 was for the year-round opportunity to pursue his passion: observing nature.

“Up north in the winter, you have just a few winter birds,” said the naturalist, educator and photographer. “In Florida, you have insects, butterflies and birds all year. Now we’re in the rainy season and that’s good for wildflowers.”

All he needs to do to enjoy wildlife in Ormond Beach, he says, is take a simple stroll through Central Park.

“Swallowtail kites are unusual in other places but are easy to see here,” he said. “There’s quite a roost in Central Park. They are birds of prey and you can see them swoop for dragon flies.”

Tague, an interpretive naturalist for 30 years, has published the natural history journal "Nature Observer News" since 1992. The journal can be found online, at www.ctague.pairserver.com/natureobserver.

But for more casual observations on local wildlife, just check Facebook.

“I post on it daily,” he said

He also visited The Casements Monday, to present on the local environment to children.

This area is unique, Tague added, because it contains an ecological division line. In Tomoka State Park, he says, there are salt marshes along the waterways, and south of Port Orange, there are mangroves, which are susceptible to cold. This presents an opportunity to study a variety of plant and animal life, he said.

Tague, 68, studied English in colleges in Pittsburgh, and he taught himself about nature, by volunteering at organizations such as Pittsburg Aviary, where he later became an education curator.

Now a certified Florida Master Naturalist, he trains volunteers and rangers at state parks and makes presentations on birds and ecology at schools, clubs and organizations.

One of his current assignments is to assist in the butterfly count at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in conjunction with Florida State University. Once a month, he and other volunteers make a count of butterflies to monitor changes in the environment.

Counting butterflies is not as difficult as it sounds, he said. He and others walk the same trail each month and count the butterflies to watch for trends in population growth or decline.

Tague is also active with the Halifax River Audubon, serving as field trip co-chair.

Bird watching can be a little more difficult for beginners, though, since birds are sometimes harder to spot in leafy trees, he says. But it's all a matter of patience, as well as learning to notice slight movements. Fortunately in Florida, however, many species of birds can also be spotted on beaches, salt marshes and islands in the Intracoastal Waterway, he added.

Although Tague says that Florida has been one of the best states in the country for protecting its natural areas, public lands and water management are now under attack by businessmen seeking economic development. Hunting, fishing, ecotourism and bird-watching industries can also create jobs and stimulate the economy, Tague said. That's why he believes the responsibility for protecting the future health of natural habitats ultimately falls on him, as well as other environmentalists.

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