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Audubon Shorebird Stewardship Program comes to Northwest Florida

 Bill Mahan
County Extension Director

Are you looking for a great opportunity to volunteer some of your time to help the environment? If so the Audubon Shorebird Stewardship Program might be just for you. This program has already been adopted in a number of places around the United States and in other sites around FL and it has now arrived in Northwest Florida.
Sandwich Tern nesting. Photo Credits: Alan Knothe, Audubon of Florida

In the FL Panhandle region we have many wonderful and interesting birds that call our area beaches home. However, nearly all of these magnificent birds are in a state of decline and many are in serious trouble. Loss of habitat, disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and other factors have combined to threaten many of our shoreline bird species.
Least Tern chick. Photo Credits: Alan Knothe, Audubon of Florida

Many of the birds we love to see and hear at the beach nest right on the sand in shallow scraps. They lay perfectly camouflaged eggs right on the sand. These eggs and chicks rely on mom and dad to protect them from predators, storms and the hot Florida sunshine. Often people or their pets unknowingly flush the parents off the nests. It then only takes moments for the hot sun or an opportunistic predator to take the chicks or eggs.
Black Skimmer chicks. Photo Credits: Alan Knothe, Audubon of Florida

But there is hope. Shorebird Stewards have been making great strides across the state to help protect these birds when they are most vulnerable, during the nesting season. And now the Shorebird Stewardship Program is coming to the Florida Panhandle. Now is your chance to make a real difference by volunteering some of your time to help these birds. The main function of the Steward is to Educate and Protect. Imagine this, you get to hangout on one of our beautiful beaches and at the same time you get to help out these magnificent birds. What a Deal! Stewards work a 2 to 4 hour shift near one the posted nesting sites. They explain to beachgoers why that area of the beach is closed, and they teach them a little bit about the birds (All training will be provided). They can even allow the public a chance to view the birds on the nests from a safe distance with a spotting scope. Other jobs stewards can get involved in are helping to post nesting areas, monitoring nests, assisting with shorebird surveys, and participating in beach cleanups.

If you are interested in helping, please contact Alan Knothe at 850-200-6279 or aknothe@audubon.org to request a volunteer application form or to find more out about the program.

Panhandle Outdoors

Permanent link to this article: http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/04/12/audubon-shorebird-stewardship-program-comes-to-northwest-florida/