Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

QUIET TIME NEEDED FOR NESTS for Shorebirds Only No Entry into Nassau Island through August

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

QUIET TIME NEEDED FOR NESTS for Shorebirds Only No Entry into Nassau Island through August

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Julavits, Times-Union outdoors editor

No trespassing signs have gone up on Little Bird Island in Nassau Sound, an area popular with two species that don't co-exist very well this time of year -- nesting shorebirds and visiting boaters.

The signs were put in place Friday, and the prohibition on human entry will remain through August, the end of shorebird nesting season.

The area in question has been a state-designated Critical Wildlife Area since 1977, and the posted signs are placed each year during nesting season. This year, though, wildlife officials are making a special effort to spread the word because of ballooning boat activity in Nassau Sound at the mouth of the Nassau River.

"It's a major problem area," said Lt. Mike Edwards of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Nassau Sound has continually increased in boating traffic, and [Little Bird Island] has become a popular recreational destination.

"People like to pull their boat up to the island, put the kids out and go fishing and sun, and in a lot of cases they bring their dogs with them. Most people are totally unaware of what's there."

What's there are the nests of a variety of shorebirds, including black skimmers, American oyster catchers, Wilson's plovers and several species of terns. As development has eaten away at available nesting habitat along Florida's East Coast, refuges such as Little Bird Island are in short supply, said Tim Breen, wildlife diversity conservation biologist for the FWC's Northeast Region.

"These are open areas that are relatively protected," Breen said. "Raccoons and other mammals can't get to them, and there is plenty of food around for the birds in the surrounding waters. It's a great place to nest."

When humans enter the picture, the nesting ritual goes awry. Adult birds incubate their eggs and later protect the newborn chicks. …

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