2011 Stewarding Season Kicked off Last Weekend

The 2011 stewarding season is officially underway! Saturday, May 7 was the first day of stewarding at Tigertail Lagoon and Sand Dollar Island on Marco Island. One of our original volunteers, Ellen LeBow, met visitors along with City of Marco Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie.

Pre-season training was well attended by stewards for both Lee and Collier counties. Brad Cornell of the Collier County Audubon Society instroduced the group to the concept stewarding–and to the nesting birds–and later stewards practiced their scope skills and rehearsed their talks with beach-goers.

Brad Cornell leads steward training for Lee and Collier stewards. By Nancy Richie.

At Tigertail Lagoon, the “lagoon side” of the Marco Island stewarding site, stewards report that many beach-goers were newcomers and enjoyed hearing about the nesting birds they might see. Typically, a brief chat with a steward not only helps the birds “nest in peace,” but also helps to enhance a visit to a beach by allowing people to appreciate the rich birdlife found on our coast. In just a few hours, Ellen was able to spot a variety of species: Reddish Egret, Great Egret, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover, and Wilson’s Plover.

Ellen LeBow engages beach-goers at Tigertail Lagoon. By Nancy Richie.

A Black-bellied Plover at Tigertail Lagoon. By Ellen LeBow.

Last, but most importantly, the Least Terns and Black Skimmers in the colony at the north end of Sand Dollar are busily courting, making scrapes, and laying eggs. Typically the terns will have eggs sooner than skimmers, but both species are in the area. Awareness of beach-nesting birds is critical all season long, but in the early stages of nesting, the birds are selecting nest sites and just beginning to become attached to their terrirories and eggs. Birds that start nesting earlier usually have better success fledging chicks than those that delay nesting or are forced to re-nest after loosing their eggs.

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2011 Steward Training Sessions

As the 2011 shorebird nesting season begins, the Collier County Shorebird Partnership is entering its second year of stewarding in Collier County. This year, training for Lee and Collier Counties is being combined, and rooftop monitoring–yes, some Least Terns nest on area roofs!–is being introduced to southwest Florida. Data collection is also being added to the program, which will require some additional training for site leaders/coordinators.

Upcoming locations and dates are:

Collier Shorebird Statewide Database Training: Tues, March 29 at 1 p.m. – 3pm; at Rookery Bay Visitor Center.

Lee Shorebird Statewide Database Training: Wed, March 16 (details to be determined).

Beach Steward Training: Sat, April 30 at 9 a.m.; at Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park in the Pavilion at Parking Lot 5.

Rooftop Steward Training: Sat, May 14 at 10 a.m.; at Veterans’ Park Community Center (about 3 miles east of Delnor Wiggins SP on CR846; address: 1895 Veterans’ Park Drive, Naples, 34109).

To get more information or sign up, please contact Brad Cornell at bcornell@collieraudubon.org.

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2010 End of Season Steward Luncheon at Rookery Bay

With the end of the 2010 nesting season, Collier County Shorebird Stewards is holding a season-wrap up steward recognition event at Rookery Bay headquarters on Sunday, September 19 at 12:30. All stewards, and friends and family of stewards, are invited, and we’ll provide an end-of-season report and lunch in thanks for all your hard work this summer!

To help us plan, please RSVP to Collier County Audubon Society at 239-643-7822. Just leave a message letting us know if you’ll be attending and how many people will be in your party. This will help us make sure we order enough food for everyone. If you have any questions, call Brad at 239-280-6278.

Rookery Bay headquarters is located at 300 Tower Road near the corner of 951/Collier Blvd. and U.S. 41. If you want to look up directions online, check out Rookery Bay’s website. If you’re using Mapquest to look up the address, the zip code is 34113.

Nancy has been putting together a slideshow, including photos of birds and people, and we’ll have some preliminary numbers from the nesting season courtesy of the FWC and Rookery Bay counts. We hope to see you there for some good food, good people, and shorebirds!

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The Scene on Sand Dollar, August 27

Volunteer Ellen LeBow made a visit to the Gulf side of Sand Dollar last Friday to see how the colony area was looking and see what nesting birds might still be hanging around. She also took some photos to share with us.

As you can see, the main tern and skimmer colony is now completely empty of nesting birds, and there are just some Black Skimmers with fledglings still hanging around, helping the kids learn to fish and fattening them up for the trip to their wintering grounds. A few Least Tern adults and juveniles were also spotted last weekend.

If you visit Sand Dollar at this time of year, you should be able to observe not only the season’s last summer birds, but also some of our migrants and winter birds, such as Least Sandpipers, Sandwich Terns, Dunlin, and Dowitchers. Also stay tuned for news about the end-of-season party later this month and some rough nesting birds numbers from around Collier County.

The main colony area, after nesting concluded.

An adult Black Skimmer hanging out with a fledgling and some wintering Sandwich Terns.

Black Skimmers hanging out on Sand Dollar, post-nesting.

All photos were taken by Ellen LeBow. Thanks!

–Lindsay

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2010 Nesting Season Concludes

As many of you may already know, with this weekend the 2010 nesting shorebird season in Collier County is over. Thanks to everyone for helping to make the first year of the stewarding program a success!

Overall, it appears that our nesting shorebirds–Wilson’s Plovers, Least Terns, and Black Skimmers–enjoyed a successful summer, despite the storm in August. Since most healthy, experienced individuals nest early in the season, most shorebirds had fledged their chicks by then, and so were relatively unaffected. Not only did Sand Dollar enjoy good success, other area colonies (Key Island, the sandbar south of Cape Romano) also fared well. We’ll have a more detailed post with some rough numbers for you later.

Finally, with the season ending, we’d like to have a party for the stewards. In order to avoid Labor Day weekend and some member’s prior engagements, we’re looking at Sunday, September 19. Let Jane know via e-mail if this would work for you. We hope as many people as possible can make it, and we hope to see you all next year for year two of shorebird stewarding!

–Lindsay

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Colony Status This Weekend

As of Friday evening, I haven’t heard any news of what’s happening at the colony on Sand Dollar. There may be very little activity left, or there may be birds that are still raising young.

Practically speaking, it would probably be helpful for Gulf and Lagoon stewards to coordinate on Saturday and Sunday. If people can bring cell phones, the Gulf people can let the Lagoon people know what it’s like out there before they start their stewarding day around 10:00.

If there isn’t much activity left, just hit the points of not flushing large flocks (they may be migrants who need to rest) and giving any postings as wide a berth as possible. If you can’t find out what the colony status is, don’t say there are nesting birds there, just that there may be.

I’m sorry I can’t be more specific, but just use common sense and have a good time at the beach!

–Lindsay

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Break-through on Sand Dollar

This weekend Gulf-side stewards will find that Sand Dollar looks a little different than it did in the past. There was a big storm on August 11 that created a break-through on Sand Dollar at the location of the largest Black Skimmer colony. Fortunately, most of the skimmers and Least Terns were finished nesting for the season, so the weather and erosion will have less of an impact on overall reproductive success this season.

However, as you can see, these birds nest in precarious habitat. It’s the way they function, and they are adapted for it, but considering the challenges they face from the elements, any aid humans can give them helps increase each pair’s chances of successfully fledging a chick.

This photo was taken on August 17 by Mary Nelson, the Turtle Lady, who is on the beach every day during turtle season. She also keeps an eye on birds and other goings-on, including erosion, as you can see!

Sand Dollar Island at the site of the largest Black Skimmer colony on August 17. Photo by  Mary Nelson.

The best advice I can give to Gulf stewards this weekend is to walk out and look for any birds showing signs of nesting activity, whether sitting birds or birds with chicks. If you have been out and haven’t seen any–or if you don’t see any this coming weekend–be sure to include that in your report to Jane. It will help us to know when we can safely declare the 2010 nesting season concluded. Thanks and enjoy the changing beach!

–Lindsay

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