While stewarding Florida’s beaches this summer, I had a compelling reminder of why I volunteer with Audubon. As a little girl was running through the middle of a colony one hot summer day, I had a flashback. When my family first moved to Florida four years ago, my daughter used to do the same thing. She was fascinated with birds and would race towards colonies while pretending to fly with them. She had so much fun running across the sand and waving her arms as if she was flying with the birds. Seeing so many birds in one place was a new and exciting experience for her, and I didn’t know any better to stop her. I can’t help but feel guilty about our past behavior.
During the last few years, we’ve learned a lot about the birds so when we heard about stewarding, we knew it was our chance to pay it forward. Stewarding gives us the opportunity to educate beachgoers about beach nesting birds. People come from all over to vacation on our beautiful beaches, and most have no idea that these large groups of birds are often nesting. The skimmer colony blends together so well that most people do not realize there are eggs, babies, and juveniles within the colony. Beachgoers are very respectful of the birds once they learn that the survival of the birds and their chicks depends on sharing the shores. And some people even say thanks after they know we're helping give these Threatened species a better chance.
"When I started as a coastal bird steward with Audubon Florida, I knew very little about the animals I was working to protect. Originally, I started volunteering as a way to expand my knowledge of coastal ecosystems and how birds play an impactful role. While my work as a coastal bird steward has increased what I know about coastal birds, I have also developed a stronger admiration for the imperiled species we work to protect.” - Emily Little, Honeymoon Island State Park Intern and Coastal Bird Steward
As I watched the little girl and her family this summer, it was like looking into the past. And while I didn’t want to ruin the fun, it’s also important to protect the chicks and eggs. When you make people aware of what they may not notice, it can make a real difference. For the skimmers, that help can mean the difference between them barely surviving versus a thriving colony. It’s our responsibility to help these birds who have been coming to Florida to nest long before hotels lined our beaches and tourists flooded the shores.