The bird is her word

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Emily Briner

Emily Briner is Siesta Key’s new shorebird coordinator

Q: You are Audubon Florida’s new shorebird coordinator for the territory that includes Siesta Key. Congratulations! How did you get involved with the organization? 

Emily Briner

A: I’ve been conducting conservation research in Sarasota County for several years, often beginning my days on Siesta Beach. My fascination with our local bird species led me to spend hours observing them, whether it was watching a reddish egret at the shoreline or trying to identify birds of prey overhead.

When I saw the opportunity to join Audubon, I jumped at the chance. They quickly welcomed me to the flock, and it’s been an incredible experience so far this season.

Emily Briner

Q: As Siesta Key crowds continue to grow, difficulties continue to mount for its shorebirds. How would you describe the current state of the shorebird situation here? 

A: The shorebird nesting situation on Siesta Key is quite challenging. We’ve observed evidence of a least tern colony beginning to nest between Beach Access #10 and Siesta Key public beach. This marks the first time we’ve seen least terns nesting on Siesta Key in approximately eight years, which is incredibly exciting news.

Emily Briner

Occasionally, we witness snowy plovers attempting to nest north of the public beach as well.

However, with factors like dogs, litter, and overcrowding, these birds encounter significant obstacles. The constant presence of people disturbs nesting sites, making it difficult for shorebirds to thrive — let alone to successfully raise their chicks.

Additionally, we observe a sizable flock of black skimmers that come to Siesta Key during the winter months. Unfortunately, they too face similar challenges. As Siesta Key continues to attract larger crowds, the pressures on its shorebird populations intensify. It’s imperative that we raise awareness and implement measures to mitigate these threats, ensuring the continued presence and protection of these vulnerable species.

Q: Which birds are facing the biggest crisis? In contrast, are any bird populations thriving here? 

A: Among the shorebird species found on and near Siesta Key, the least tern, snowy plover, American oystercatcher, black skimmer, and Wilson’s plover face a myriad of challenges. These include habitat loss, disturbance to nesting sites from human activities, and predation.

However, conservation efforts tailored to these species have yielded promising results in certain areas. For instance, beach management practices like posting signs and roping off nesting areas have proven effective in safeguarding nests and chicks. Notably, the American oystercatcher has exhibited some recoveries, thanks to conservation efforts focused on protecting habitats and mitigating threats like pollution and habitat destruction.

Additionally, community engagement and education initiatives have heightened awareness about the importance of shorebird conservation, resulting in positive outcomes for these vulnerable species. While challenges persist, these efforts demonstrate that with ongoing support, shorebird populations can thrive in our coastal environments.

Q: What rules of thumb should Siesta Key residents and visitors be aware of in regard to co-existing with our shorebirds? 

A: Siesta Key residents and visitors play a crucial role in co-existing with shorebirds and protecting their habitats. Here are some important guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. Respect posted signs and roped-off areas: These indicate sensitive nesting sites, so it’s essential to avoid disturbing these areas to give shorebirds space to nest and raise their chicks.
  2. Dispose of trash properly: Litter can attract predators and pose a threat to shorebirds. Be sure to dispose of trash in designated bins to help keep beaches clean and safe for wildlife.
  3. Remember, pets are not allowed on Sarasota County beaches. This rule ensures the safety of shorebirds, humans, and pets. Keeping pets away from nesting sites is crucial, as they can disturb nesting shorebirds and pose a threat to their survival. By respecting this rule, we minimize disturbance and protect both wildlife and pets.
  4. Keep a safe distance: When observing shorebirds, maintain a respectful distance to avoid causing unnecessary stress or disturbance, even when they are not in roped-off areas. Use binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens to get a closer look without intruding on their space. It may seem fun to let kids run through flocks of birds at the waterline, but the birds need to cool off too and we need to give them their space!

By following these simple guidelines, residents and visitors can help ensure the well-being of shorebirds and contribute to their conservation on Siesta Key.

If you are interested in getting more involved with shorebird conservation, there’s no better way than becoming a shorebird steward! Relax on the beach while educating other beachgoers about our local feathered friends. Plus, you’ll get to see so many cute chicks!

(Contact Briner at emily.briner@audubon.org for more information).

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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