Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Rookery Bay & Partners Prepare for Nesting Season


Least terns and black skimmers using the sand bar as a nesting area. Submitted Photos

Least terns and black skimmers using the sand bar as a nesting area. Submitted Photos

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, in cooperation with Audubon Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), is working to protect nesting habitat for least terns, black skimmers and Wilson’s plovers at the Second- Chance Sandbar. Beginning March 1 the sandbar, which is designated as a Critical Wildlife Area by the FWC, will be closed to allow for more successful nesting of these rare species.

“Protecting this habitat during the nesting season increases the likelihood of successful breeding,” said Rookery Bay Reserve Director Keith Laakkonen. “In 2017, least terns in Collier County had the best productivity in the state, and we’re hoping for even better results this year.”

Reserve staff members Jill Schmid and Kim Savides with the sign posted on Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area.

Reserve staff members Jill Schmid and Kim Savides with the sign posted on Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area.

“Audubon Florida and hundreds of rare coastal birds are looking forward to Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area being open exclusively for nesting birds,” said Dr. Marianne Korosy, director of bird conservation for Audubon Florida. “While Floridians and visitors flock to our beautiful beaches, shorebirds flock to protected places like Second Chance for the peace and privacy they need to raise their vulnerable fuzzy chicks to adulthood. We’re excited to partner with Rookery Bay Reserve’s Team Ocean volunteers to keep Second Chance safe for nesting birds.”

Close up depicting the current sandbar configuration in yellow, overlaid on a base image aerial of the same sandbar from 2016.

Close up depicting the current sandbar configuration in yellow, overlaid on a base image aerial of the same sandbar from 2016.

“For nesting birds, CWAs are lifesaving. When birds are disturbed during the critical nesting period, they often temporarily abandon their nests, leaving their eggs or hatchlings vulnerable to the sun and predators,” said Dr. Brad Gruver, leader of FWC’s Species and Conservation Planning section.

Map showing location of the Critical Wildlife Area in relation to Cape Romano.

Map showing location of the Critical Wildlife Area in relation to Cape Romano.

The area is located one mile southeast of Cape Romano and has been closed annually since 2001. Rookery Bay and Audubon Florida have installed perimeter signs on the island to clearly mark the sandbar as closed.

Nesting areas will be monitored throughout the nesting season. When the signs are removed on Aug. 31, after the birds have left, boating visitors may return.

When visiting any beach with nesting activity, visitors should consider the following guidelines to share the shore with wildlife: Watch where you walk – be careful not to step on eggs or chicks; Respect posted areas and keep your distance from resting or nesting birds; Observe regulations pertaining to dogs – they’re prohibited from visiting city beaches, and leash laws apply elsewhere, including Rookery Bay; Be sure to dispose of your trash properly – place it in trash cans or take it home with you if none are available; and If birds appear agitated, take flight or swoop at you, you’re too close to their nest, so turn around or alter your route to avoid nesting areas.

Rookery Bay Research Reserve offers numerous recreational options throughout its 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters. To learn more about Rookery Bay, please visit www.rookerybay.org.

To learn more about Florida’s CWAs, visit MyFWC.com/CWA.

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