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Southwest Florida group educating beachgoers of native bird species

Southwest Florida group educating beachgoers of native bird species
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LEE CO., Fla. — If you’ve been out at the beach lately, you may have noticed a few barriers have sprung up.

These are for Southwest Florida’s coastal birds as nesting season is officially underway.

We’re trying to get people those tools and education so that everybody out here can have a great day in the sun,” says Rochelle Streker, Southwest Shorebird Manager for Florida Audubon.

At San Carlos Beach it’s all about the birds.

“We are right in the middle of our nesting bird season,” says Streker. “It tends to start here in the southwest around April and then it goes thru about the end of August. Occasionally pushing into September as we have some large storms that push our birds to restart.”

Streker is with Audubon of Southwest Florida. The group have a make-shift station with volunteers studying as well as educating beachgoers about the birds. Species like least terns and the black skimmer.

“That’s a state protected species here in the state of Florida and they nest in these large colonies,” said Streker. “They prefer to nest in these large groups as safety in numbers and they like the sandy soil so they can see all of the predators coming at them. They actually just dig a little scrape in the sand and lay those eggs directly into the sand, which is a really cool and interesting thing. All of our seabirds and shorebirds here in Florida do that.”

“It’s a great gig. You get to be outside, we got a tent so you’re not in the sun and you get to look at birds. It’s fun!”

One of those volunteers is Michael Kratz. A student at Florida Gulf Coast University, Kratz is studying environmental science. He says it’s a passion for birds that made him head to the beach.

“Even though some people might only be here for season or something like that, these birds are wonderful and they bring joy to the beach,” says Kratz. “It’s not just sand, there’s so much more going on. That’s kind of our moral duty- to protect them. This was their place first.”

This particular nest is at least six years old. Being able to study the birds and their ground not only helps solve current wildlife habits but future ones as well.

“It’s a lot harder to see what’s happening underneath the water but these birds are out in the air with us so we can see what’s happening to them,” Streker says. “They let us know about what’s happening in the environment so that we can make those changes.”

And to help those beach-nesting birds you can respect those posted areas. Move away if birds start dive-bombing you, it might mean a nest is nearby. Always clean up and don’t leave trash around- it could attract predators. And keep dogs on a leash even if they’re allowed on the beach.

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