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Date of Issue: June 09, 2005

Bird nesting territory squeezed for turtles
Skimmer Sign
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Beach reserved for nesting seabirds at the north end of the Island has been shuffled northward to provide more room for turtle nests displaced by beach renourishment.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sent staff here last week to look into a request for more beach in the nesting area that had been staked out for birds several weeks ago and they ended up moving the bird-nesting reserve. The stakes delineating the nesting area were moved north, leaving similar space but away from the area where Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox indicated her desire to relocate turtle nests.

Fox had indicated to Manatee County Audubon Society representative Nancy Ambrose, who assisted in marking the endangered bird nesting area, that she wanted to move turtle nests there from beaches that will be renourished.

There was a brief flap over who did what when, and how nesting birds would react to people digging nests in their "area." Bird protectors believed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee was contacted by Fox to get into the act and approve moving turtle nests to the bird area, which Fox now denies.

At any rate, the turtle nests are getting room next to the bird nests and FWC biologists and Audubon representatives are elated at discovering many more rare birds in the area than they had expected.

The bird reserve was posted a month ago when Anna Maria resident (Islander editoral cartoonist) Jack Egan noted huge numbers of nesting birds on his beach and some people bothering them. He talked with Ambrose, who with Nancy Douglass of FWC staked off the area.

But Turtle Watch got more room without the bird reserve losing anything, for the bird area was expanded northward, said Ambrose.

She and FWC biologist Alex Kropp said they were elated at the unexpected numbers of least terns and black skimmers nesting there - 140 tern nests, at least 80 skimmers. They are endangered, and this may be the biggest colony in the state, said Ambrose.

Turtles, meanwhile, got serious about nesting season with nine new nests over the weekend, bringing the total to 14, all on beach destined for renourishment, so all were relocated to the Anna Maria safe site except for one in Bradenton Beach, said Fox.