The Flagler Beach pair have been serious birders together for over 30 years. For the last 21, they've shared their knowledge with others.
Judie and Joe Dziak are a birding couple like none other. Judie said she’s the spotter — often able to catch quick movements at the blink of an eye — and Joe is the identifier — knowing countless subtle distinctions that make each type of bird unique.
Together, they’ve made the perfect pair for the last 51 years of marriage, over 30 of which have been filled with binoculars, telescopes and teaching others about the wonders of local bird species. They’ve been members of National Audubon for over 40 years.
“It keeps us young — being out here chasing eagles,” Judie said.
As members of the Center for Birds of Prey’s EagleWatch, the 72-year-old Flagler Beach residents have ventured to Princess Place Preserve two or three times a week for the last 21 nesting seasons to study and appreciate the bald eagle pairs and eaglets that they’ve come to know.
After the male eagle, which has been here for about eight years, found a new female mate last year, Judie said they finally named the couple Prince and Princess.
“The high school kids wanted them to call them Joe and Judie, but we said, ‘No, no, no, they’re too regal for Judie and Joe,’” she added.
The current eagle couple had two eaglets this season, but one recently died due to sibling rivalry.
“Like natural selection, only the strongest survives,” Joe said. “The good news is that the remaining chick is strong and looks quite healthy.”
As Joe set up the scope next to the PVC pipe that marks a straight view to the nest about a quarter mile away, Judie lifted her Pentax 12x50 binoculars to her face while sitting in a green folding chair.
“It keeps us young — being out here chasing eagles.”
- JUDIE DZIAK, Audubon Society member
Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. became a regular viewing time for the couple.
“When we started to come watch for ourselves, people started stopping by and would say, ‘What are you doing?’” Joe said. “So, one thing kind of led to another.”
Judie said over the 21 years of Sunday eagle viewings, about 23,000 people have joined them.
“We’re always amazed at the really good questions some people ask,” Judie said.
Joe said many visitors have asked if bald eagle populations are still in trouble since they’ve been taken off the endangered species list. The answer is a positive one, said Joe, as eagle populations are growing, even after being taken off the list in 2007.
“Although I love my eagles dearly and treasure them, my favorite part is being able to impart some of this information about the history of this preserve, the sanctity of it (and) our stewardship responsibility to the general public,” Joe said. “We’re a good teaching school.”
Judie added that watching visitors’ reactions when they see a bald eagle for the first time in the wild keeps their passion thriving.
“They always tell us that our enthusiasm encourages them,” she said. “People say, ‘I can’t imagine doing this for this long and still get excited,’ and I say, ‘It’s exciting. Every week somebody comes in who’s never seen a bald eagle nest in the wild. And the first time people look in the scope, if I don’t hear ‘gasp,’ I know they’re not seeing it.’”
Joe said his first time seeing a bald eagle in the wild was “BJ”: “Before Judie.”
“I used to hunt and fish. I used to be an outdoors person all the time,” Joe said. “But I never got quite into the birding part of it until after I met Judie. Then, we became quite in tune to it.”