Boaters sharing the beach with nesting Black Skimmers Photo: Brad Cornell

Coastal Conservation

A Memorial Day for the Birds at Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area in Naples, Florida

by Brad Cornell

Audubon’s Shorebird Stewardship Program in Collier County, managed by biologist Adam DiNuovo, enjoyed tremendous success on Memorial Day weekend. A large mixed colony of Least Terns and Black Skimmers, with a healthy presence of Wilson’s Plovers in the bushes nearby, survived the first big summer holiday in the Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area (CWA). Memorial Day weekend brings dogs, boats, trash, people and parties to the beaches, where many rare coastal birds nest and live. Audubon Florida works statewide to protect birds and their habitats, and here’s how we saved baby birds in Collier County! 

  • Why didn’t 35 boats pulled up on the beach right next to this vulnerable colony result in disturbance and disaster for these birds? Audubon stood guard. Together with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists and law enforcement, the City of Marco and Collier County law enforcement officers, and Rookery Bay’s Team Ocean, Audubon was able to educate the boaters and beachgoers about how and why to share that beach with these imperiled birds.
  • Audubon Anchor Steward, Alli Smith, also created a “Find the Tern Eggs” game for kids in addition to ferrying trained Audubon stewards to the Audubon Shorebird Station all three days.
  • Working with Audubon, Marco Island Police Department put up a “No Dogs on the Beach” sign and had boat and cruiser officers in the vicinity all weekend.
  • FWC biologist Ricardo Zambrano and his technician, Megan Hatten, spent their holiday weekend with the birds, and FWC law enforcement officers were educating boaters throughout the weekend.
  • Audubon Stewards monitored the flocks, nests, and especially the people – making spotting scopes available to the curious to see nests and chicks up close.

While millions of people flocked to Florida’s beaches over the holiday weekend, beachgoers and boaters visiting the Big Marco CWA learned that the “bird people” and the birds could share the beach with them. Fun all around – and safety for the nesting birds.

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