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Not For Profit: Audubon Society

March 5, 2006 – While the St. John-based Audubon Society of the Virgin Islands is about birds, the organization does, in fact, spread other good works around St. John.
"Most of the money goes to kids," member Chuck Pishko said.
The organization's biggest fund-raiser comes March 18 when members gather in Cruz Bay Park for the annual plant sale, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Pishko said the sale provides an opportunity for residents to pick up some plants at cheap prices and learn about them from experts on hand to help. He said the event also gives members a chance to thin out their gardens.
Outlining the programs for school children, Pishko said the society funds school trips that include a boat trip aboard the Sadie Sea that follows a V.I. National Park hike down the Reef Bay trail.
He said the organization paid the way for an Atlantis submarine ride for 16 Guy Benjamin School students who won the park's 2003 Earth Day recycling awards.
Pishko said the society also donated money to the jump rope group, Love City Leapers, because it involves children.
The current focus is the construction of a floating dock for the birds to rest at Asta Pond, also called Small Pond at Frank Bay. The platform will keep the birds safe from predators that roam the area.
"The park can't do everything, but what's outside the park also needs to be protected," society president Laurel Brannick-Bigrigg said.
The restoration of the 2.4-acre pond has been a long-running project. The move to restore the pond was begun about 20 years ago by two annual winter visitors to St. John – Thelma Douglas and Bea Hunt. The two wintered in a home near the pond and were affectionately known as the "bird ladies." More than a dozen years ago, the Audubon Society picked up the ball.
The group began by planting flowers around the edges of the pond and installed two benches for wildlife viewing.
In March 2000, at the urging of the Audubon Society, the local government named the pond a wildlife sanctuary. Although the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department manages the pond, society members remain involved in its future.
The Audubon Society gets the most press for its annual Christmas bird count, a worldwide effort that helps track the overall health of the environment.
Members and other interested birders fan out across St. John once a year around Christmas to count the island's permanent and migratory birds.
According to Brannick-Bigrigg, the organization got its start several decades ago when snowbirds saw the need.
"We try to raise awareness for protection of birds and bird habitats," Brannick-Bigrigg said.
Members meet the third Tuesday of the month between November and April at 7 p.m in the Legislature building.
The Audubon Society meets during those months because that's when the snowbirds reside on St. John, but Brannick-Bigrigg said the group is trying hard to increase participation by year-round residents.
Memberships run $15 for individuals and $25 for families. Call Brannick-Bigrigg at 776-6201, extension 257 for more information.
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