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Thursday, April 26, 2012
Adventures with Gabe: Share the Beach!
Our family recently came across an article about Bird Stewards in Florida and all of the amazing work they do and Gabe wanted to find out more information on how he could help. We contacted several Audubon groups who put us in touch with one of the Bird Steward coordinators at Huguenot Memorial Park outside of Jacksonville. This amazing park is on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail and is a critical nesting area for shorebirds and terns. They informed us that they needed Bird Stewards to come help with educating the public on the Red Knot, a very special shorebird that uses Huguenot as a resting spot on their migration route. So our family made the drive up to Huguenot a few weekends ago to camp and offer our help to these amazing shorebirds.
Gabe Cenker - Bird Steward
Upon our arrival , we were all shocked to see literally thousands of birds all over the dunes and on the shore. The sound was quite overwhelming and Gabe was in birder heaven. We noticed right off the bat several varieties of Terns, Black Skimmers, Laughing, Herring and Ring-Billed Gulls and Greater Black-Backed Gulls. Then in this little group, we spied the Red Knots. The Red Knot is the largest “Peep” in North America and also has one of the longest migrations of any bird—9,000+ miles! We were saddened to learn that the Red Knot population has dropped drastically in the past few years. One of their stopover locations on their migration is Delaware Bay where the Red Knots feast on Horseshoe Crab eggs to refuel for the remainder of their migration. Unfortunately, Horseshoe Crab eggs in that area are being commercially harvested which is greatly impacting the Red Knots. Our job as Bird Stewards was to help educate beachgoers about the Red Knots and to ask that people give them a wide berth while walking the beach. The Red Knots are there to eat up Donax (the small Coquina clam) and try to refuel themselves for their continued trip North. If they are spooked or scared by beachgoers, they could use up much needed energy. While we were there, we saw approx. 230 Red Knots. Gabe thoroughly enjoyed telling visitor’s about the Red Knots and helping set up perimeters around the feeding birds. We were happy to hear that the following weekend they had over 600 Red Knots arrive and the Bird Stewards were doing their best to help these super cool shorebirds.
Red Knots feeding on the beach
At many locations around Florida, it is becoming shorebird nesting season and the nesting birds enjoy the lovely Florida sandy beaches just as much as beachgoers! So next time you are out enjoying one of the beaches….see how you can help volunteer to become a Bird Steward and spread the word to share the beaches with our feathered friends.
text and photographs by Gabe and Jen Cenker