SCCF: All bald eagles, many other birds survive storm – Sanibel-Captiva Islander


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The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation coordinates the monitoring of nine bald eagle nest structures across Sanibel, Captiva and North Captiva. A team of volunteers help staff watch the nests October through May each nesting season and report all observations to Audubon Florida’s Eagle Watch database.
After Hurricane Ian, when it was safe and appropriate to do so, staff and volunteers visited each eagle nest site to determine the impacts of the storm on the eagles. The SCCF reported that all of the birds are accounted for and remain in their territories. Most nest trees are still standing, though the landscape has changed drastically around them. The Australian pines where they nest were completely defoliated, and many surrounding trees were destroyed. Some of the eagles are busy rebuilding, while others appear to be reconsidering their nest location and may rebuild elsewhere.
“Unfortunately, our man-made eagle nesting platform was destroyed in the storm, and SCCF is working with partners to determine whether repairs or a replacement are feasible at this time,” shorebird biologist Audrey Albrecht said. “Fortunately, the pair that used this nest has previously been observed maintaining a different nest structure nearby, and we are hopeful they will use that one. Bald eagles often maintain multiple nest structures and alternate between them.”
SHOREBIRD UPDATE
The SCCF reported that staff were able to conduct routine monthly shorebird surveys in October once immediate search-and-rescue operations began winding down. Although the beach looked quite different following the storm, there were still many birds to be seen. All typical shorebird species were observed, including sanderlings, ruddy turnstones, willets and black-bellied plovers. Additionally, many of the usual seabirds were seen, such as laughing gulls, royal terns and sandwich terns. Staff even sighted several banded royal terns, including some regulars. The terns were banded by Virginia Tech researchers in 2019 as chicks at their nesting sites in Georgia.
SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION
“Since royal terns don’t reach reproductive maturity until 3 to 4 years of age, these individuals have been on Sanibel year-round since their first migration away from their natal nesting sites,” Albrecht said. “Knowing that these individuals have survived provides important data.”
Compared to the past five October shorebird surveys, 2022 saw a decrease in the number of species and total number of individuals compared to previous years, shorebird technician Aaron White said.
“We observed 24 species this year versus 30-plus in previous years, and about half as many individuals. Decreases mostly occurred with seabirds, most notably brown pelicans, laughing gulls and sandwich terns,” he said. “There are many factors that could play into the decrease, and just because they aren’t here now doesn’t mean they are gone forever.”
The shorebird team also continues to do twice-monthly surveys of Captiva as part of a permit requirement for a 2021 beach renourishment project. All of the species encountered on the surveys have been recorded, with the target species being federally threatened piping plovers and red knots.
“On the initial October survey, four red knots were observed,” Albrecht said. “The island’s wintering red knots do not typically arrive until November or December, so staff will be on the lookout for them on future surveys.”
SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION
SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION
SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION
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