By Maria Lamb
There are over 1,000 nesting pairs of threatened least terns and black skimmers at Marco’s colonies on Sand Dollar Island. The beach is covered in least tern and black skimmer chicks. It is also peak hatch for the black skimmer chicks.
According to Brad Cornell of Audubon of Western Everglades, “The July 4th weekend is the last big hurdle between these birds and a successful nesting season.”
It is all hands on deck for Collier County’s bird stewards. Early in the weekend, it was reported that over 50 people visited the Shorebird Station. They got great views of the tiny least tern chicks through the scope provided by the volunteers. Some of the chicks are starting to fledge (testing their wings), looking awkward in their attempts. The stewards are reporting that beachgoers have been very respectful, and very curious, about the birds. A very popular educational activity has been the “Tern egg hunt” game for the kids and also for the parents. Alli Smith, anchor steward of Audubon, Florida asked the kids to count the eggs/nests they see inside a mock posting area complete with a clay tern and eggs. It was meant to demonstrate how camouflaged the eggs are and how easy it was to step on them.
Brad Cornell reported that Tropical Storm Cindy devastated most of the bird colonies in Florida’s panhandle. This loss makes the mission at Sand Dollar Island even more important. The critical presence of the shorebird stewards is to ensure the success of the least terns and black skimmers’ nesting colony.
Even if you’ve never been stewarding, we need your help to ensure a successful season. We can always use an extra hand during the busy summer season. If interested, please e-mail Brad Cornell at: email@example.com or call 239-280-6278.