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Date of Issue: April 27, 2006

Island bird nesting area to be isolated

Volunteers will rope off about two acres of the northern beach of Anna Maria Thursday, April 27, to protect the nests of black skimmers and least terns.

It is one of the most important nesting areas in Florida for the two species, said Nancy Ambrose, Manatee County Audubon Society and Island activist. It will cover about the same area that was posted last year, plus a nearby sandbar.

Hurricanes disturbed the birds and their nests last year, she said, with many eggs washed out by waves and water. Storms even far offshore can affect shore birds' habitat and routines.

The nesting season for birds is May and June, but "we are seeing birds in the area now," Ambrose said.

Meanwhile, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission warned people to tread lightly along any shore, for "danger lurks everywhere for nesting shorebirds and other wildlife adapted to secluded beaches."

Species find themselves competing with humans for strips of sand along the barrier islands and mainland beaches "with mixed results." Beach-nesting birds get nervous around human activities and sometimes flee their nests, leaving eggs and chicks at the mercy of an unfriendly nature.

Thus the posting of nesting areas, said Nancy Douglass, regional nongame-wildlife biologist for the FWC. "It's not so much that people don't care, it's that beach-nesting birds are difficult to detect" because they're naturally camouflaged to hide on beaches.

"We're asking those who use our beaches to avoid nesting areas where colonies of shorebirds are tending their eggs or young chicks. We're not asking people to stop enjoying the beach, just that they avoid areas close to where birds are nesting," she said.