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.
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.
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.