Rookery Bay Reserve staff and volunteers join other dedicated volunteers and professionals to count shorebirds at more than 1,000 locations across six continents as part of the inaugural World Shorebirds Day.
Beverly Anderson, Rookery Bay Reserve Research Associate, and Deborah Woods, Rookery Bay Reserve and Collier County Shorebird Steward volunteer, counted all birds seen along a three-mile route at Tigertail/Sand Dollar beach and lagoon at the north end of Marco Island. The location was chosen because the sandy beach, dunes and mudflats in the Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area serve as important year-round feeding and resting areas for breeding, migrating and wintering shorebirds and seabirds.
“For me, the most exciting part of any count survey is finding a banded shorebird,” said Anderson. “Of the 36 red knots, three were wearing green flags inscribed with a unique alpha numeric code and one, AX3, was an old friend. It was captured and banded in January 2007 on Sanibel Island and I first saw it at Tigertail in August 2008. Since then, it’s been resighted 43 times in New Jersey, Georgia and Florida providing valuable data on the timing and pattern of red knot migration.”
Anderson and Woods recorded 30 species of birds (1,043 individuals) in three hours and of these, 15 species (647 individuals) were shorebirds. They also spoke with everyone they passed on the beach, letting them know about World Shorebirds Day, and were delighted with the enthusiastic support they received. Highlights of the count were eight snowy plovers, 63 Wilson’s plovers, nine piping plovers and 36 red knots, all declining and at-risk species.
World Shorebirds Day was originally organized in England to raise awareness about the importance of regular bird monitoring as the core element of bird protection and habitat conservation. Almost half of the world’s shorebird populations are in decline, and projects like this provide scientific population figures to biologists, legislators and decision-makers to help them evaluate the protection status of many shorebird species and their habitats. Shorebirds are one of the fastest responders to negative environmental changes.
World Shorebirds Day count lists are being entered into eBird, an online database of real-time bird observations, and will then be accessible to the shorebird biologists associated with this project, as well as the broader science and conservation communities.
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters between Naples and Everglades National Park. The reserve is managed by Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Office in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For more information about Rookery Bay Reserve visit www.rookerybay.org.