Nesting shorebirds protected at Estero Critical Wildlife Area
Monday, April 23, 2012
Media contact: Gary Morse, 863-648-3852
Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area (CWA), at the very southern tip of Fort Myers Beach, is one of the few state-owned wildlife areas in Lee County that provide nesting habitat for endangered shorebirds and sea turtles.
Biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), staff from Lee County and the town of Fort Myers Beach, and volunteers have identified, flagged and posted vulnerable shorebird nesting areas, typically located in the dry dune areas above the high-tide mark.
Posted areas are off-limits to beachgoers and their pets between the time of posting and Aug. 31. The water’s edge is accessible to beachgoers by walking around posted areas or using marked thoroughfares between posted areas. Dogs are prohibited within the CWA, even in areas open to pedestrians.
“We’re not asking people to stop enjoying the beach; we’re just asking beachgoers to avoid a handful of closed areas where birds are nesting,” said Nancy Douglass, wildlife biologist for the FWC.
Nesting areas are closed off by “symbolic fencing,” which consists of signs connected by twine and marked with flagging tape. Closed beach areas may shift during the nesting season, depending on where the birds have chosen to lay eggs at any given time. Shorebirds, marine turtles and their nests and eggs enjoy protection under state and federal law.
Human activity causes the greatest number of problems for beach-nesting birds that often get nervous around recreational activities like beach volleyball, kite-surfing or the family pet romping after a windblown Frisbee.
Posting is a necessity to prevent adult birds from being frightened off the nest. Without parent birds providing shade, it takes only a few minutes for temperatures in the nest to rise above 100 degrees, resulting in death of the chicks. Young chicks and eggs also are a favorite target of crows, raccoons and gulls when parents are not immediately available to challenge hungry predators.
“Without any doubt, it is the public’s sense of stewardship for the birds that’s the real key to protecting future generations of beach-nesting wildlife,” said Douglass.
To learn more, download the “Share the Beach with Beach-Nesting Birds” brochure from the “Living with Wildlife” then “Shorebirds” options at MyFWC.com/Wildlife. Or check out the Florida Shorebird Alliance at www.flshorebirdalliance.org.