Volunteers are a critical part of Audubon’s ability to protect nesting coastal birds each year. Every spring and summer, volunteers post signs to protect nesting sites, monitor nests and chicks, and prevent disturbances.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Audubon initially made the decision to halt the use of volunteers in order to be leaders in the effort to flatten the curve and wait to learn more about the virus. However, the lack of bird stewards reduced both the amount of work and protection level our team could provide birds just as they started nesting. Our dedicated Audubon stewards missed their beloved seabirds, and asked about any opportunities to come out and help.
As spring transitioned into summer, Audubon began evaluating tasks that could be undertaken without unduly exposing staff and volunteers to COVID-19.
In Navarre Beach, Florida, for example, chicks started hatching at the Black Skimmer colony along the side of the causeway and needed fencing to prevent chicks from running into the busy roadway. Most years a call for volunteers to help with this activity sees between 30 – 70 individuals responding. However, this year we decided to limit the group to ten volunteers and take additional safety measures.
Needless to say, we quickly formed a crew and installed the protective fencing for the Black Skimmer chicks. Our staff and volunteers had to make a few adjustments - including being mindful of spacing out along the quarter of a mile being fenced, wearing masks in the presence of others, and using gloves.
In the end, we were able to provide an opportunity for our dedicated volunteers to safely help their beloved nesting seabirds. Thanks to all those who came out to help with the causeway fencing and doing so safely.