Audubon Florida's shorebird stewardship program relies on volunteers to protect coastal nesting birds each spring and summer. This week, our spotlight is on Beth Reynolds of St. Petersburg.
Beth has been a shorebird steward for several years and is always looking for new ways to help. While she admits she had zero woodworking skills, she likes to challenge herself. Last year, after seeing that Audubon was using chick shelters on beaches and rooftops, she made some shelters out of what she had left over in her yard from fixing fences.
"I thought well, it looks like a crafty project," Beth said. "I’ll figure it out."
She did just that and then went a step further. She knew that Least Tern decoys are sometimes used to recruit birds to particular nesting sites. After Audubon rooftop coordinator Kara Cook dropped off some samples, she realized that she could use the jigsaw she happened to have that belonged to her late husband. She got some blades, watched a couple of videos, and went to work. Then, knowing the decoys would be out in the sun, she bought exterior house paint and some UV spray, and the project was done.
"It has been a fun project and I hope to make more if anybody needs them," Beth added.
Beth's decoys are now being deployed in several locations around the Tampa Bay area and beyond.
We wanted to find out more about Beth, including why she decided to join our flock.
Q: Are you a Beach Bird Steward or Rooftop Monitor?
A: I am both - mainly beach bird steward, but I have done rooftop monitoring as well and hope to have one or two rooftops to monitor this season!
Q: How did you become involved with shorebirds and how long have you been volunteering?
A: I volunteer at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve in St. Pete. One time, their newsletter had a notice about shorebird stewarding opportunities and I signed up. That was about five or six years ago. I never looked back.
Q: Why did you decide to become a shorebird volunteer?
A: I was born in St. Pete and grew up at the beach and have always been a bird lover. So blending the things I love together, I am a chronic volunteer! I believe in giving back and helping my community. Art and nature are my main areas of volunteering - I look forward to the day when I don't have to work and can be a professional volunteer! It feels really great to collect data and know that what we do really matters and can help with conservation.
Q: Which shorebird species is your favorite?
A: Well, I adore our Black Skimmers. I think they are beautiful and love how they nest all together and who can resist those little fuzzy chicks barking for a snack? Next would be the American Oystercatcher - what a cool bird!
Q: What is your favorite non-shorebird bird species?
A: That is a hard question - I started with the Audubon EagleWatch program this year, as I have three nests very close to my home - so Bald Eagles are stunning. But, owls are fascinating and mysterious. I do love the Crested Caracara too. Birds are the best!
Q: Is there any individual in particular who trained or mentored you the most?
A: Most of my training has come from Holley Short and Dr. Beth Forys, and each season I learn a little more from the seasonal Anchor Stewards. Kara Cook really opened my eyes to the rooftop nesting situation we have, which I did not even know was a thing before she really engaged us to learn more. I have taken the Audubon courses online too - those are great.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself, i.e. occupation (or former occupation), hobbies, hometown, and ways you spend your time when you’re not stewarding.
A: For more than 30 years I have been a professional photographer - mainly with newspapers. I have also worked in the non-profit arts sector and that is why I understand the power and need of volunteering. Just this year, I made a huge leap to become a park ranger at Honeymoon Island State Park to lead their education and volunteer programs. So I get to work with Dan Larremore, an amazing environmental specialist that I learn from every day! On my off days, you can find me with my camera out and about or kayaking, playing with my dogs. I rescue and foster pit bulls and volunteer for Pet Pal Animal Shelter.
We really appreciate the time, and talents, of our volunteers! Do you have any free time this summer? The birds will thank you, too. Sign up today!