Don Morrow, retired from a 33-year career in land conservation with the Trust for Public Land, will wrap up the Winter Speaker Series for the Friends of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge 7 p.m. ET tonight.

The talk will be held at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve Center, located at 3915 State 30-A in Port St. Joe.

The talk is open at no charge; donations will be welcomed.

Morrow’s topic will be “Migratory Birds of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge.” You won’t want to miss this talk—no matter your level of birdwatching ability or enthusiasm, Don will engage you.

Since retiring four years ago, Don has focused much of his birding on our sister Refuge, St. Marks NWR, where he birds once or twice every week throughout the year. But he spends the rest of his free time birding all along the panhandle coast, including St. Vincent Island, which he first visited in 1981.

The data he collects helps track the health of regional bird populations. This data also provided the information for Don’s publication, "Checklist: The Birds of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge," which can be purchased at St. Mark NWR’s gift shop.

Spending consistent time and making observations in the same place year after year has enabled Don to have a better understanding of the ebb and flow of bird life, the comings and goings of migratory birds and the changes in behavior of its resident birds. In his talk, Don will describe the birding year at St. Vincent, and explain why this Refuge, and all of the Big Bend Coast are so important to wild birds. He will also address his concerns about threats to the wild birds we all love.

“As a Big Bend birder, I have seen a lot of changes in birding opportunities since I first moved here in 1983,” said Morrow. “I have always seen bird protection as a simple matter of land protection. You save habitat; you save birds. Problem solved.

“However, other invisible changes have been happening during my 36 years here that are causing me to rethink my simple idea that saving land is enough. The average global temperature has increased by half a percent and the rate of that temperature increase is getting faster and is forecast to continue to do so. As the climate changes, the Big Bend will see changes that cannot be fixed by preserving more land.”

He added that coastal marshes will be impacted by sea level rise and an increase in the frequency and magnitude of spring droughts even heavier than normal rain and flooding arrives at other times of the year.

All will impact local birds.

“Climate change is coming, but we can take steps to blunt its effects by decreasing our carbon footprint,” Morrow said. “It doesn’t mean that our community needs to stop growing or that we tear buildings down. Some steps are easy and even economical. Others may require more effort. We still need to save land, but climate change means that we need to do more.”