Beach serves as classroom in nesting season

Marianne Korosy and Suzi Fox watched the crow swoop down to the sand, grab something small and fly off.

The something, they first feared and then quickly confirmed, was a black skimmer egg off the beach north of the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria.

They were heartsick about the swiped egg, but Korosy, with Audubon of Florida, and Fox, with Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, at least left the beach with some new information the morning of May 26. They confirmation the skimmers are laying their eggs.

The beach can be an outdoor classroom, for professionals such as Korosy and Fox, who, along with their organizations’ teams of volunteers, teach others.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Audubon and AMITW partnered to place stewards on the beach in Anna Maria to talk with visitors about nesting shorebirds, as well as show people the birds through scopes and binoculars.

“We need each other,” Fox said of the partnership.

AMITW volunteers assisted with logistics such as parking and tents and schedules, while Manatee County Audubon Chapter volunteers, stationed outside a staked off nesting area of the beach that held more than 300 skimmers, provided the bird basics to beachgoers.

“This is the largest black skimmer colony in the region,” Korosy said. “So it is important to keep an eye on this.… Manatee County is a friendly community to the birds.”

Stewards also reminded people to remove any food or trash that could draw predatory crows, gulls, raccoons or other wildlife; and to not disturb groups of birds, which could prompt nesters to leave their eggs. A single disturbance can cause an entire colony of birds to abandon a nesting site.

Another educational program on the Island, one focused on nesting sea turtles, is set to begin June 8 and continue through the summer.

On Wednesdays at 7 a.m., AMITW coordinators Claudia and Glenn Wiseman will lead visits to turtle nests. Last year, some tour groups contained more than 50 people, many of them vacationers learning for the first time about loggerheads.

The tours will depart from the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive W., Holmes Beach, to wherever a turtle has nested overnight.

The loggerhead nesting is ahead of last year’s pace, Fox said. By May 26, AMITW had documented 28 nests on the Island. For the same period in 2010, AMITW had documented two nests.

Mote Marine Laboratory, which monitors nesting activity in Sarasota County, also will host turtle tours at 6:45 a.m. Saturdays beginning June 4 and continuing through July.

The Mote tours begin at the Hilton Longboat Key Beachfront Resort and involve a 1.5-mile walk.

Nesting by the numbers

As of May 27, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring was reporting:

Number of turtle nests: 25

Number of false crawls: 26

Number of turtle hatchlings: 0

Read The Islander each week to follow developments during nesting season.

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