October survey finds over 6,600 shorebirds on beaches
Starting on Oct. 7 at the Sanibel Lighthouse, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht counted 6,622 individuals of 38 species. For her October monitoring survey, she walked the entire length of Sanibel and Captiva’s Gulf beaches, ending on Oct. 9 on Captiva.
The most commonly observed species were laughing gulls, sandwich terns, sanderlings, royal terns and brown pelicans. She re-sighted 24 banded individuals including 14 royal terns, three sandwich terns, three sanderlings, two black skimmers, a snowy plover and a red knot. Albrecht found the most exciting to be one sandwich tern, now 20 years old, that was banded in July 2000 in North Carolina.
“With all the threats facing our shorebirds and seabirds across their range, and populations declining worldwide, I find it encouraging to see that some individuals are able to survive through it all,” she said.
Red knot AX3 was banded on Sanibel at Bowman’s Beach in January 2007 in the same spot.
“It winters here in Florida, and is often seen on Marco Island, where it was last recorded in August 2019. I was relieved to see it is still alive and well and survived another migration,” she said.
Albrecht offered a reminder on why it is important not to disturb migrating shorebirds.
“I was grateful that I was able to carefully photograph the band from all sides and read the full number before people flushed the flock of birds,” she said.
During the fall migration, Albrecht has seen a lot of people flushing flocks of birds by riding bicycles through, letting dogs or children run through, or flushing the flocks themselves to take a selfie.
“I try to educate as best I can but not everyone is willing to listen,” she said. “These birds have just flown thousands of miles they are exhausted and starving. Forcing them to fly unnecessarily causes them to expend energy that they can’t afford.”
For questions about shorebirds or to report sightings of a banded ones, contact Albrecht at firstname.lastname@example.org.