August Wrack Line Newsletter

August 2022 Cover Photo


August 12: Basic Shorebird ID. Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach. Call to reserve a place


August 5-11: The final count window for the Breeding Bird Protocol.  If you're surveying a route with active nesting, weekly surveys help capture information about peak counts. 

FSA News

snowy plover

FWC Approves New Guidelines for Imperiled Beach-nesting Birds

The FWC recently approved new Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines (Guidelines) for four species of imperiled beach-nesting birds (IBNB). The Guidelines will take effect September 2023.  Guidelines clarify protections for the species, provide options for avoiding impacts, and provide information on permitting, including minimization and mitigation options, when impacts are unavoidable. The FWC has launched an IBNB Guidelines webpage to help the public navigate the IBNB Guidelines. Please continue to check back as the page is updated.   

FWC also is creating resources for those interested in becoming IBNB Permitted Monitors. IBNB Permitted Monitors are qualified to assist FWC Incidental Take Permittees by minimizing and avoiding harm or harassment of imperiled beach-nesting birds during project activities. For more information on becoming an IBNB Permitted Monitor and to gain survey experience with skilled bird monitors in the Florida Shorebird Alliance partner network, please visit the IBNB Permitted Monitor page.

FWC’s Wildlife Health Team Works with FSA Partners to Investigate High Mortality of Black Skimmer Chicks in Southwest Florida

Black skimmer project photo

FWC Wildlife Health Veterinarian Dr. Becky Hardman (top left), Save Our Seabirds Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Maria Passarelli (top right), FWC Wildlife Health Vet Tech Terri DeRosia, Eckerd College Professor Dr. Beth Forys (lower right), and Audubon Florida Biologist Jeff Liechty (lower left) prepare their stations adjacent to the black skimmer colony on Lido Beach in Sarasota County. (Photo: M. van Deventer/FWC)

FWRI’s Wildlife Health team recently received a Conserve Wildlife Tag grant from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Becky Hardman will lead the 18-month study, which will investigate potential bacterial reservoirs and environmental conditions contributing to a large multi-year mortality event of state-threatened black skimmer juveniles in Southwest Florida.

During the 2020 nesting season, FWC biologists and FSA partners in Collier County began observing skimmer chicks at Big Marco Pass CWA were displaying grossly swollen legs and joints. Few if any of these young birds survived, even when brought to local wildlife rehabilitation facilities for treatment. Observations of similarly afflicted skimmer chicks were also reported from Carlos Beach Seasonal Refuge in Lee County but appeared less frequently occurring. Biologists noted, however, that other species nesting near the black skimmers, such as plovers and terns, were not observed with similar signs of skin or joint infections as the skimmer chicks. Also, adult black skimmers in the colony have not displayed the same evidence of bacterial infections as observed in the young black skimmers and these infections have not been reported at skimmer nesting colonies in other parts of the state.

FWC submitted fresh carcasses from both Big Marco Pass and Carlos Beach to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia where testing suggested that chicks were suffering from Staphylococcus aureus-associated joint infections. Gross necropsies found that many of the chicks had burs or spines of coastal sandbur (Cenchrus spp.) embedded in their skin, indicating that bacteria may have entered via sandspur-induced skin breaks. The severity of these infections was likely facilitated by the underdeveloped immune system of young skimmers. Both sites saw a repeat of these chick mortalities in 2021, despite FWC staff efforts to manage the sandbur in both colonies. The grant began on July 1st and FWC is in the early stages of data collection for the 2022 breeding season.

Coastal sandbur is a native colonizing dune vegetation that plays an important role in stabilizing coastal sands and beaches. It thrives in open, nutrient-poor areas where there is little competition with other plants. While chick mortality from sandbur entanglement has been anecdotally reported at Florida seabird colonies in the past, these type of joint infections in skimmer chicks have not been previously documented. With the CWT grant FWC received from the Foundation, Wildlife Health staff can continue to work with partners to better understand what, if any, environmental conditions may be influencing the susceptibility of skimmers to these infections.

FSA partners assisting the FWC in this effort include Dr. Maria Passarelli of Save Our Seabirds, Dr. Heather Barron at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Dr. Beth Forys of Eckerd College, Audubon Florida staff Jeff Liechty, Kara Cook, Kylie Wilson, and Rochelle Streker, Rookery Bay NERR biologists Col Lauzau and Jared Franklin, Audubon of Western Everglades biologist Brittany Piersma, and Audrey Albrecht at Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.

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FSD Updates

least tern chick_Jack Rogers

Late Season Chick Data

The breeding season is winding down but there is still valuable data to collect! All late-season surveys capture important information about this year’s juveniles, especially fledglings. Remember to report which nest the chicks came from, if you have that information. Every time you record a chick during your surveys, we learn more about where young birds are spending time, how old they are, and how many adults are with them. This data is used to refine population and productivity estimates, and inform adaptive management.

To help you prepare for your surveys, the FSA provides Aging Guides for identifying chick stages in many shorebird and seabird species. In addition, the Timing of Ground Nesting and Flightless Chicks guide includes a timeline that helps you know when you can expect to see chicks during your surveys. Keep up the great monitoring work, everyone!

Photo: Jack Rogers

How to Update a Colony Footprint

Colonies are dynamic and may significantly change size and shape or drift from the original location in response to disturbances, birds joining or leaving the colony, and/or nests hatching or failing. 

Did you know that you can document these changes in the Florida Shorebird Database? Each time you enter a site visit for a colony, you have the option to update the colony’s footprint. If the colony has shifted significantly since the last site visit, you can use this function to update the colony’s footprint to better reflect the colony’s current shape. If the colony has not changed, then there is no need to update!

To update a colony’s footprint, enter your route survey as you normally would. When you add the site visit for a colony whose footprint you would like to update, look for the “Update Colony Footprint” button underneath the map. Clicking on this button will open a popup box that will allow you to enter a new, updated colony footprint by entering new GPS coordinates or dropping points on the map. 

Update the colony footprint

The original colony footprint will display on the map as a green polygon. The updated footprint will appear as a separate yellow polygon. Once you have added the updated colony footprint, click the “Submit” button at the bottom of the pop-up. You have successfully updated the colony’s footprint! The original footprint will be archived in the Florida Shorebird Database (FSD) and the newly updated footprint will be displayed as the colony’s footprint.

Updating a colony footprint

As always, we are happy to answer questions about data entry, chick observations, and how to use FSD tools. Email any questions to!

Ebb Tidings


Need Survey Experience?

Are you interested in getting experience surveying IBNB Active Nests? Annual shorebird and seabird monitoring in the state is conducted through the Florida Shorebird Alliance partner network. If you are interested in becoming an IBNB Permitted Monitor and would like to gain survey experience with skilled bird monitors in the network, please fill out this interest form. Individuals who complete the form will be updated as training materials become available and will be connected with local survey opportunities during the breeding season.