In recent years, Julia’s Island in St. Augustine has become an active nesting site for Least Terns, Wilson’s Plovers, and American Oystercatchers. It’s a skinny island measuring less than eight acres. Disturbance is a frequent issue for the birds because the island sits between a marina and a boat ramp, adjacent to shallow flats frequented by recreational boaters. Unfortunately, most people in the area do not realize the fragile nature of nesting colonies or how imperiled our shorebirds really are. Bird stewards from the St. Johns Flagler Shorebird Partnership regularly work to inform the public about shorebirds at other nesting locations, but lack of boat transportation for stewards has always made protecting Julia’s Island difficult.
This year, the City of St. Augustine committed to make regular stewarding of the island a reality. The City worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on an agreement to provide regular boat transportation for stewards. Audubon Florida and St. Johns County Audubon helped recruit, train, and schedule stewards to work on the island. With all the elements in place and a great response from volunteers, Julia’s Island saw routine stewarding for the first time ever. On holiday weekends, when the city was not available, local business St. Augustine Eco Tours stepped in to get stewards to the island. Though nesting success was affected by the weather, the island did fledge some Least Terns and a couple of American Oystercatchers. It might take a village to raise a child, but apparently it takes a city to help raise shorebirds.
A big “Thank You” to all of our dedicated beach and rooftop volunteers for supporting our 2016 baby birds while they grew up and eventually took flight.