I am saddened to report that there are big problems at the snowy plover nesting sites on Siesta Key. These little birds need our support by allowing them their space to nest, and also respect by abiding by the postings to keep out of the nest areas. They also need our prayers so the forces of nature will be kinder to them. Below is a report sent to me by a friend, Michelle Vandeventer (a volunteer with Audubon and FFW), about the snowys and their nesting situations.
Tivoli Beach/SCF (just north of the public beach near near the private volleyball net):
Nest lost on Tuesday night, most likely due to heavy rains (they lost the previous nest to wind storm), but raccoon prints and cat prints were also seen very close to the nest. For several days after the loss, the male & female rested south of the nest site near Access 10. I haven’t seen them now since Saturday morning, but did see some snowy plover prints in the back of the buffered site this morning. I’m trying to be optimistic, but this pair has already had 3 failed nesting attempts.
This pair has been courting/pre-nesting since mid-February, but has endured a lot of disturbances. Finally, the female looked ready to lay eggs this morning. The male is sitting in one of (several) of their established scrapes at the north side of the buffered area, while the female foraged nearby. She is very distended and I’m hoping for an egg tomorrow.
Gulf View condo area at Access 7:
Also courting since mid-February, with no eggs that I know of. I believe it is this pair that has been scraping and copulating along the back path at Access 7 and at Gulf View, but is subject to both human disturbances and run-off by the alpha-males at the front Access 7 and catamaran sites (in fact, this morning I again saw the Access 8 male chase off the Gulf View male). The female of this pair is also looking heavy, though not as distended as the Access 8 female. There are scrapes at the Access 7 back path, the old Access 7 nest location and Gulf View. Edited April 23: as of this morning both this site and the access 8 site have eggs. Estimated hatch date Memorial Day weekend. If you are visiting the area that weekend please respect the nesting areas. Thank you.
Access 7 (front or directly to the north):
Tragically, this nest was lost sometime during the day on Monday, April 13th between 9:30am and 6:30pm. Only 2-3 days before due to hatch. I was swarmed by gulls and crows when I went to search for chicks on Wednesday morning, so I suspect gull or crow predation as a likely cause. Beachgoers feeding the gulls near the nest site has been an ongoing issue, and last Monday was a busy beach day. The pair were all the way down near Access 4 on Wednesday morning. I saw the female near the nest site this morning, but did not see her mate. She made several loud calls then flew north along the water. This pair endured so much over the past 4 weeks, it was so sad to see them subjected to dogs, careless beachgoers, etc when so close to producing chicks.
There was also an Easter egg hunt held at Access 5 this year. This puts the birds/nests/eggs at risk this time of year and hopefully this can be moved to another location next year. There was also a wedding held at Access 7 in the nesting area.
So you see, there are a lot of things (human and nature) that challenge these birds. Please be respectful of birding areas. You can have fun at the beach but remember its not there just for us.