Birder's Eye View

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nesting Seabirds!

Yesterday my class went on a field trip with two professors who are working on a project to protect the local nesting seabirds on the beach. Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

After a short hike across the sugar sand, we came across flocks of hundreds of birds. Black Skimmers, Wilson's Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Marbled Godwits and Least Terns swarmed the beach. I had never seen so many birds of different species grouped together such as they were.

The professors led us out to a tidal pool of knee-deep water so we could get closer to the colonies. The whole time, I was simply amazed at what I was seeing. Four of the species I saw in the first few minutes were life birds!
How many different species can you see in the above picture?

Above is a black-bellied plover sitting near a tidal pool with several different species of birds in the background.
I had never seen a godwit before yesterday (even though they're supposed to be fairly common around here) so I was really excited to see groups of them clustered around on the beach.

Tons of birds! According to the professors, there are only 5 species that nest on the beaches in our county, a couple of which are endangered or threatened.

I have seen pictures of Black Skimmers lying on the ground before, but it was still startling to come upon a colony of them laying there looking dead! I learned that there are approximately 2,000 breeding pairs of Black Skimmers in FL.

I just thought this was a cool picture, with the lighthouse in the background... :-)

Other things I learned:
  • There are 216 pairs of Snowy Plover in FL
  • 400 pairs of oystercatchers
  • 12,000 pairs of Least Terns in the country
  • And 500 pairs of Wilson's Plover in Florida

(I believe I have got all this data right; if you see any inaccuracies, please let me know. My notes are not always very legible...)

My bird list for the day:

  1. Black Skimmer
  2. American Oystercatcher
  3. Wilson's Plover
  4. Red Knot
  5. Ruddy Turnstone
  6. Willet
  7. Marbled Godwit
  8. Laughing Gull
  9. Least Tern
  10. Royal Tern
  11. Osprey
  12. Black-bellied Plover
  13. Monk Parakeet
  14. Mockingbird
  15. Mourning Dove

It was an amazing trip. I am definitely going to try and get involved in some sort of bird project while I'm here in college and I want to check out that beach again sometime to see what other species are out there.

Happy birding!

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