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Winter Workshops for Adults offered at Sanibel Sea School

By Staff | Jan 3, 2018

Join the Sanibel Sea School this month for the Winter Workshops for Adults courses focused on the birds of the beach. PHOTO PROVIDED

Winter Workshops for Adults, continued education for the ocean curious, will kick off this month at the Sanibel Sea School, a four part series teaching the community about birds of the beach.

“We are framing these more as collegiate level courses that you would take as a college level student, but we are going to be offering it here to the local community for adults,” Sanibel Sea School Director of Education Nicole Finnicum said. “Essentially we are going to be discussing birds that can be found on Sanibel. We will be talking about different categories of birds for each class, so each class will have a different theme.”

Although participants can register for individual courses if they would like, she encourages them to take them as a series because the knowledge will be built upon with each class. Each class will discuss basic bird ethology, plumage – feather coloration and patterns, behaviors, migration and nesting.

Each class will spend about an hour in the classroom with a lecture and discussion, followed by going out into the field.

The first workshop “Common Woodland Birds,” will be held Jan. 24, from 9 a.m. to noon.

“We actually have a great population of perching birds that are here more inland on Sanibel. These are things like woodpeckers, warblers and cardinals, things you would see perching in trees essentially,” Finnicum said.

The class will discuss how these common woodland birds use the island’s ecosystem. She said many of these birds use Sanibel as a winter ground, so migration patterns will also be among the topics discussed, as well as where and what they forage on around Sanibel.

The next topic “Waders and Divers” will be held on Jan. 31, again from 9 a.m. to noon. This class will focus on the wading characteristics of great egrets, snowy egrets, little blue herons and green herons and such divers as pelicans and osprey.

“We are going to talk a lot about feeding styles because all of our wading birds have sort of different feeding styles. Some are really visual hunters like the egrets, whereas some of our wading birds like ibis and roseate spoonbills, they use their tactile senses for feeding,” Finnicum said. “We will really focus on hunting styles.”

On Feb. 7, “Shorebirds” will be offered, including such species as ruddy turnstone, willets, snowy plovers, semipalmated plovers and sanderlings from 9 a.m. to noon.

“What’s really important with shorebirds is they can be difficult to identify, so we will really focus on identification. They can have different plumage changes depending on what time of the year it is. Their winter non-breeding plumage they are usually really drab. They are the color of the sand and really hard to identify. But once you get to the spring months while they are breeding they will have those bright plumage feathers,” she explained.

The last course will be offered on Feb. 14, and focus on “Gulls and Terns,” again from 9 a.m. to noon.

“We often confuse gulls and terns because they look very similar. We will be focusing on the differences. A lot of these birds are colonial nesters and we will talk about the advantages and the disadvantages of that,” Finnicum said, as well as foraging strategies.

The goal of the courses are to discuss the behaviors, as well as their identifications, so people will feel confident in identifying the most common species on Sanibel.

Each class is $75, or $300 for the whole series. Finnicum and Lead Marine Science Educator Johnny Rader will be leading the courses.

“We are bird enthusiast, so we are both excited to share our passion with everybody,” she said.

Individuals can register for the classes online at sanibelseachool.org under programs and adults.

The Sanibel Sea School is going to offer another winter workshop immediately following this one regarding the Caloosahatchee River.

“We will be putting out more information mid January on that one,” Finnicum said.