The Head Spring Blue Spring State Park CSO Newsletter June 2022

Posted by Blue Spring State Park CSO on

Meet our Secretary Cora Berchem.

     Cora joined The Friends of Blue Spring State Park in 2014 and has served on the board as secretary. A native of Bonn, Germany, Cora moved to the United States in 2002. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication/Filmmaking from the College of New Jersey and a Masters in Film/Media and American Studies from the Goethe University of Frankfurt/Germany. After working in the film/television industry in New York City for several years, Cora made an independent documentary about manatees in 2013, and shortly after, got an offer from Save the Manatee Club (SMC) to join their staff to assist with outreach efforts, educational videos, public service announcements, and the live webcams. Cora moved to Florida in 2014 and is currently SMC’s Director of Multimedia and Manatee Research Associate. Cora is involved with manatee research at Blue Spring State Park and assists the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission with manatee rescues, releases, and recoveries. She also helps oversee the Blue Spring Manatee Observer Volunteer Program and recently completed the graduate certificate program in Aquatic Animal Health and Conservation at the University of Florida. Outside of work, Cora enjoys traveling, photography, running, scuba diving and the outdoors. She has visited all 175 Florida state parks.

Cora and Wayne Hartley identifying and counting manatees in the spring run


First Brick Campaign is coming to a close on June 30th!

            Are you looking for a way to recognize memories of your life achievements (e.g. wedding or anniversary, school graduation, child’s birth)? There are many occasions that people would like to shout out about at the top of their lungs, and here is a way to do that without straining the vocal cords. You could also give a shout-out to your company, Boy or Girl Scout Troop, or other organization. Our Brick Campaign offers a permanent way to mark those outstanding moments and groups permanently. Your brick and message will be placed along the walk leading to the Thursby House at Blue Spring State Park for all to see. For further information go to:



Ranger Retires  

            It is with sadness we say goodbye to Donna Fitzpatrick who is retiring after eleven years with the Florida Park Service. Donna held many positions over the years including Park Services Specialist. Her main focus in this position was natural resources management, the Manatee Observer Volunteer Program, Scrub Jay census and banding, the removals of invasive plant and fish species, fighting natural fires, and setting and coordinating controlled burns. Donna wore many hats, however the one we will miss most is the one of friendship. She always had a smile and something nice to say, making everyone feel they were a part of the team. The CSO and park volunteers hosted a retirement party with food, music, fellowship, and a hammock for use on those lazy retirement days. Best wishes Donna from all of us at the CSO!


Scrub Jay Walks

            Florida Scrub Jays are permanent residents of the park, and much like the manatees, are a protected species. Scrub Jays are also special because they are endemic, meaning they are only found in Florida! This year, Park Services Specialist Connor Wagner took groups on a walk to observe the birds in their habitat. As they walked, Connor explained the bird’s habitat, food sources, predators, and answered questions. The park is planning one Jay Walk a month, with the next walk scheduled for July 15th. If you have been on one of these walks before, keep in mind that each walk will be unique to the season and the year - scrub jays routines change with the habitat, food, and predators.

            Another scrub jay event this month was “Jay Watch”, an annual event that gives the participants a chance to see the birds up close. During Jay Watch, birds are captured and banded by permitted biologists, so they can collect valuable data on the park’s birds. For more information about Scrub Jay events contact Connor Wagner during park hours.


Wednesday Night Bingo

            Bingo is going strong. It seems as though each Wednesday the crowds get bigger. The participants are excited at the prospect of winning a stuffed manatee, park entrance passes, and gift certificates, as well as have a great meal. Due to the increase in participant numbers, we are always looking for volunteers willing to help. Those that help will become eligible to receive a CSO T-shirt as well as an opportunity to help grow the CSO.



Park Beautification

            Over the past two months Blue Spring State Park has been sprucing up. The front entrance has been beautified with native wildflowers and grasses, and an ongoing maintenance program to keep the weeds down has been established. The park has also beautified the front of the Thursby House with native flowers planted in raised beds. Native plants only need minimal watering once established, and one of the ideas behind the use of native plants is to help those who have flower beds at home see how to incorporate these low maintenance plants in their home gardens. Any of you who enjoy getting your hands dirty and would like to help maintain the gardens should contact Connor at the park office (386-775-3625).

New landscaping in front of the ranger station.

New planting boxes in front of the Thursby House


Fundraising for the Manatee Rescue & Release Area is moving along!

            Blue Spring is a vitally important warm-water winter sanctuary for the Florida Manatee and a number of manatees are rescued or released at Blue Spring each winter. The current manatee staging area needs major upgrades. Enough money has now been raised by the Friends and other donors that we can bring in an engineer to design the ramp and come up with the detailed drawings that the park and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission need to proceed. Designing, permitting and eventually building a new rescue and release area is a complicated process that involves many steps and is therefore taking quite some time to get it right. We are continuing to work with all partners on the process and hope to have the new area build after completion of last phase of the bank restoration in mid/late 2023! Learn more about the project at


Species of the Month – Purple Gallinule

             As you walk along the shoreline of the St. Johns River, look among the lily pads and you might see a Purple Gallinule. It is one of the most colorful birds with its bright blue-green feathers and colorful beak. Surprisingly, the coloring makes for good camouflage; blending well with the marsh plants, blue sky, and reflections of the water. The adults are brightly colored, while the juveniles are light brown with bronze-green on their wings and back. Both parents share the work of building the nest, feeding the offspring, and caring for them. In nine weeks, the juveniles are capable of flight and leave the nest. The Purple Gallinule enjoys a wide variety of foods, including seeds, fruit, leaves, insects, frogs, snails, spiders, worms, fish, and even eggs and young of other birds.

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