Rookery Bay: Everything You Need to Know About This Nesting Season
Apr 12, 2018 01:39AM ● Published by Kevin
Photo courtesy of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Gallery: Nesting Season 2018 - Rookery Bay [7 Images] Click any image to expand.
"The Least Tern and Black Skimmer are listed as Threatened species in Florida by the FWC," their website states. "Nesting areas will be monitored throughout the nesting season and harassment or removal of endangered or threatened birds, their eggs or young is a violation of state law and may subject violators to criminal penalties. Additionally, the attempt to remove or possess any migratory bird, their nest or eggs is a violation of federal law."
We had a chance to catch up with Keith Laakkonen, Program Administrator for Florida Department of Environmental Protection at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Adam DiNuovo, Audubon Shorebird Monitoring and Stewardship Program Manager. They discussed the sandbar, local birds, annual improvements to the process, and more in an exclusive Q&A.
Keith Laakkonen: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) designated a sandbar in Collier County, known as “Second Chance,” as a Critical Wildlife Area on Nov. 19, 2015. The island, which is part of a larger shoal complex, is an important nesting site for Wilson’s plovers, least terns and black skimmers. Second Chance, approximately 1.5 miles off of Morgan Point, Cape Romano Island, is owned by the state of Florida and is managed by the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Adam DiNuovo: The success we are having can to attributed to a very strong partnership between Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Audubon Florida. Staff from each organization post nesting sites each spring to ensure the birds have a safe place to raise their young. This partnership gives us the ability to monitor the nesting sites several times a week during the breeding season, which is essential for helping us identify any problems that might arise (predators, human disturbance, illness etc).
DiNuovo: Black Skimmers and Least Terns are colonial nesting waterbirds, preferring to nest on large expanses of undisturbed beach. They nest together in large colonies, the Least Terns starting in late April and the Black Skimmers in mid-May. Both birds lay their eggs in a small scrape in the sand which is why it is critical to rope off nesting sites to prevent eggs from being stepped on by unsuspecting beachgoers. The chicks are semi-precocial, having the ability to move around the beach immediately upon drying but rely on the parents for food. Both sexes share chick rearing duties, dividing time between brooding chicks and foraging for fish to feed the rapidly growing chicks. Least Tern and Black Skimmer chicks are fight capable at around 21 and 25 days respectively.
Laakkonen: Second Chance is one of the very few areas that are closed to the public during the nesting season. There are dozens of miles of beaches that are open to explore near Cape Romano, Kice Island and in the Ten Thousand Islands. Visitors can also use the Beach Access Guide, located here, to find coastal, recreational areas throughout Florida.
Laakkonen: Rookery Bay Research Reserve works with Audubon Florida to host a summer lecture series called, Breakfast with the Birds. The series includes four monthly lectures given by Audubon Shorebird Stewardship Program manager Adam DiNuovo, and invites guests to learn about birds while enjoying pastries, juice and coffee. The first breakfast lecture is May 15 and is titled “Connecting the globe through bird migration.” The lecture costs $15, and Friends of Rookery Bay members enjoy a 10 percent discount. The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is also gearing up for its very popular Kids FREE Fridays program, which invites families to enjoy free admission every Friday, from June 15 through Aug. 4.
Laakkonen: Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve protects 110,000 acres of pristine mangrove forest, uplands and protected waters. A myriad of wildlife, including 150 species of birds and many threatened and endangered animals, thrive in the estuarine environment and surrounding upland hammocks and scrub found within the Reserve. The Reserve is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees a network of 29 Research Reserves nationwide.