It’s a busy day in front of the Sirata Beach Resort in St. Pete. Visitors and locals hit the sand and surf, but the sky is also alive with a whirl of black and white feathers. In 2020, the coastline in front of the Sirata has become a mesmerizing Black Skimmer colony!
Back in April, the Black Skimmers began arriving from their wintering grounds. Nesting in scoop nests right on the sand, skimmers often compete for beach real estate with both development and visitors. As a result, Audubon marks off colonies and monitors as many nests as possible during the spring and summer breeding season.
Due to beach closures coinciding with the start of the skimmer breeding season in May, the colony had a few more options than usual when choosing a site. Because the Sirata Beach Resort had to close for a short period at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sand in front of the hotel looked particularly inviting. The skimmers couldn’t have chosen a better spot! The staff of the Sirata, since reopening, have been extremely bird-friendly and supportive of their summer-long guests. Even visitors to the beach have been ecstatic to learn more about this beautiful seabird.
“We could not protect the colony without support from partners like the Sirata,” says Holley Short, Audubon Florida biologist in charge of monitoring the St. Pete Beach colony, “Their friendly support shows that birds can safely co-exist with a thriving business.”
This popular hotel has donated signs in order to raise awareness, provided brochures to guests, and shared updates on their social media pages about the Black Skimmer colony. During the hectic July 4th evening, they prohibited fireworks on their property and provided assistance through their security team.
We are now seeing chicks hatching and growing quickly, a testament to both the Sirata’s support and Audubon’s coastal team. For this vulnerable seabird species, every fledgling counts!