Looking out for the birds

A black skimmer takes a snooze on the beach. Photos by Fran Palmeri

We come to this area for the sunshine and the beautiful beaches. Beach-nesting birds — Wilson’s plovers, black skimmers, least terns and snowy plovers — come here, too, from March through July, to lay their eggs in the sand. Black skimmers and least terns nest in large groups on the beach, while plovers seek more secluded areas in low vegetation along the dunes.

Snowy plovers blend in so well with their beach background that people often have difficulty spotting them.

Snowy plovers are about 6 inches long and weigh only a couple of ounces. Their chicks are even smaller. Dogs, vehicles and unwary beachgoers all pose threats to them, even though nesting areas are posted. Help these birds thrive by respecting nesting areas, keeping dogs off the beach, not feeding wildlife such as crows and raccoons –which prey on them — and taking trash with you when you leave the beach.

Keeping nest sites undisturbed and helping the flightless chicks survive is the mission of dedicated volunteers. Anyone is welcome to help out. Training is provided. To volunteer or for more information go to www.beachvolunteer@sarasotaaudubon.org.