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June's Shoreline Spotlight

A monthly submission from the Marine Resources Task Force.

June 6, 2018
Bill Veach, Marine Resources Task Force chair , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

I was on a recent longish flight. By the time we landed, I was starved. The 2 1/2 peanuts and the cup of tomato juice just weren't enough to hold me. Imagine if it was a longer flight. And I had to fly under my own power. And no one gave me 2 1/2 peanuts and a cup of tomato juice. That is closer to the life of migratory birds. Some shorebirds fly 7,000 miles without a break, no peanuts, no tomato juice, flapping all the time. Birds migrate through our island to nesting grounds in the arctic, and some migrate to our island and nest here. But they all travel a long way under their own power and arrive not just hungry, but emaciated and close to starvation. They developed this life cycle because they can (they can fly) and they there were stopovers where the food was plentiful so they could rest and refuel.

It is bird nesting season here on Fort Myers Beach. Snowy plovers, Wilson's plovers, least terns and black skimmers are all nesting on Fort Myers Beach. Some nest on open stretches of sand and rely on camouflage to protect their chicks and eggs. We also have numerous species of birds that are passing through or are adolescents that hang out until they mature enough for the full migration. Unlike most of us and our dogs, most of the birds need to put on weight, either to support nesting or to prepare for the long, peanutless flight to the next stop over.

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It aims to help protect these international travelers during their stopovers. It is helping slow the decline of our migratory shorebirds, rather than help with their recovery. There are half as many shorebirds in the world now compared to the 1970s, even with the migratory bird treaty. Some species of shorebirds are one big storm away from extinction.

Article Photos

A black skimmer carefully guards her eggs. Skimmers, like many shorebirds, place their eggs in the open sand

Although shorebirds may not seem like Olympians on an epic annual journey to the far corners of the planet, many of them are. What can we do? It is a prime example of thinking globally and acting locally. We have limited control of how other areas and countries conform to the International Migratory Bird Treaty and how they treat the most vulnerable of the worlds creatures, but we have absolute control over how we act. The birds know what they have to do, and the most important thing we can do is let them go about their business unmolested. Keep dogs on a 6-foot, non-retractable leash, per Town codes. Never chase or harass our beach birds, and that includes not letting children or dogs chase the birds. Harassing wildlife violates a Federal law and the potential penalties are large. Our children and dogs may need the exercise, but it is a waste of valuable energy for these global wanderers. If you love them, keep a respectable distance. Although it may seem appropriate, they can't use peanuts and tomato juice. Given space, they can get their own snacks.

The Marine Resource Task Force, or MRTF, is an all-volunteer advisory committee for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. MRTF meets the second Wednesday of the month, the next meeting is on June 13th, at 4:30, in council chambers at Town Hall. The public is encouraged to attend and invited to comment.

Fact Box

June's Murphy Award

MRTF, pronounced "murph", honors people caught demonstrating good environmental stewardship on the island with a monthly "Murphy" award. This month's Murphy goes to Deb Zvanovec of Lakeland MN. Deb was seen digging monofilament fishing line out of the sand and collecting it with other trash. She said she always picks up trash because it can entangle birds and choke sea turtles. Thank you Deb for being a force for good, and for a good clean beach!



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