Volunteering for the Birds…and the Sea Turtles

The Sarasota Audubon needs your help to protect the nesting birds on Siesta Key and Lido Key.    Come learn about this critical beach nesting program at “Beach University”.   Meet in the concession area on Siesta Key (public beach) on March 10 at 9 am.   All are welcome.

In addition, Sarasota Audubon is leading three Chick Check walks on Lido Key: March 20, April 17 and May 21. These walks are designed to look for courtship and nesting activities and to monitor the progress of Snowy Plovers, Least Terns, and Black Skimmers as they go through their breeding cycles. Meeting place is the parking area at the corner of Ben Franklin and Ringling on Lido Key at 8 am.

Become a Chick Checker.  Each year, dedicated volunteers jump through hoops trying to help our beach nesting birds survive. The picture is grim. Last year on Siesta Key beach, 36 eggs hatched from 8 Snowy Plover nests; two chicks survived one night, and the rest did not due to predation from crows, dogs, cats, raccoons, and human disturbance of nest sites. The more volunteers out there, the greater the chances of chick survival. You may have noticed the buffered zones on Siesta and North and South Lido . This year, we have a new strategy: we are going to have pre-posting parties—everyone invited. This means we will buffer historical nesting sites in order to create a “safe zone” for birds to set up their nests. Come help us or just watch and learn.

There are two places to meet:  Siesta Key on Friday, March 12 at 10 am at Access 7;  Lido on Friday March, 26, meet at the corner of Ben Franklin and Ringling at 10 am.

We’ll install stakes every 20 feet or so around a designated site, attach string, colored tape and information signs.   For more information, call 941-355-1709.

Alabama’s Share the Beach Sea Turtle Volunteer Program is kicking off the season on April 8 at 6pm at the First Baptist Church of Gulf Shores. If you are interested in helping out with sea turtle protection, or just learning about Share the Beach, then please come.   For more information go to http://www.alabamaseaturtles.com/

Bird Banding at Fort Morgan: we’ll I don’t know that they’re looking for volunteers but the Hummer Bird Study group will be there from March 27 to April 8.  Come out and watch the banding and learn some great stuff about the bird migration south this spring.  For more information http://www.hummingbirdsplus.org/CalendarOfEvents.html

Laying eggs

A note from my friend, Michelle, who watches out for the snowy plovers on Siesta Key:

“On Saturday morning, most of the Access 7 nest site buffer was destroyed and local resident Eileen Naaman and her husband Jim bought supplies at Siesta Hardware and reposted the area (I filled in with FWC signage afterwards).  The nest that was due to hatch April 15th was destroyed two weeks ago, but the pair have been showing signs of renesting and were observed inside the buffer, including numerous prints along the back path.

This morning I saw the pair in the foredune to the immediate north of their prior nest location.  The female was obviously gravid, and the male was close by as several laughing and ring-billed gulls were “stalking” them.  I chased off the gulls, and the SNPL pair took advantage to run to the back area where I discovered they had one egg along the back path.  Then, as I watched, the female laid a second egg – what a treat to watch as her mate looked after her (see photos) and I’m so grateful to have shooed off the gulls which surely were keeping them from their “task at hand”.”

That had to have been the coolest thing, a once in a life-time thing for one in a million to see: a wild bird laying an egg. 

Soapbox: please be careful and respectful around the nesting sites on the beach.   These birds are on the threatened list; let’s all try to keep them from the endangered list.