In May 2012, Audubon Florida hired Forrest Penny as our Bird Conservation and Outreach Coordinator at Huguenot Memorial Park in Jacksonville. Please enjoy the following series of posts where Forrest describes some of the highlights from his time on Huguenot’s beautiful and important shores. Huguenot is a great example of how bird stewards make a difference for our wonderful coastal wildlife. Have you ever visited this special place? Did you get a chance to meet Forrest when you visited? What kind of wildlife did you see at Huguenot? Let us know on our Facebook Page! Now, please enjoy Forrest’s first report:
I embraced the opportunity to monitor the status and progress of large flocks of migrating red knots and other shorebirds as well as a large mixed breeding colony of seabirds, predominantly Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls at this City of Jacksonville managed site. Our goals included efforts to reduce conflicts between public access and the birds through proactive on-site education. Long term area residents will likely be familiar with the history of mixed uses for this popular site.
Throughout the month of May, the scene was dominated by up to 600 Red Knots using the shallows of Ft. George Inlet to forage for small mollusks in an effort to increase weight and fat reserves so vital for their continued migration north to the Arctic tundra for breeding. By late May, however, up to 8000 seabirds were also present and nesting in the beach dunes of the park. Also present were smaller groups of Wilson’s Plovers and Black Skimmers, both species of with did lay eggs at the site, which eventually succumbed to the high tides associated with Tropical Storms Beryl and Debbie.
By the end of May, we had confirmed Laughing Gull chicks hatched and prepared to leave the dunes to venture on the beach. We also confirmed the presence of at least one Sandwich Tern nest and egg at the edge of the dunes. The first Royal Tern chicks were not observed on the beach until June 11, at which time the park staff installed a rope barrier with seabird protection signage to prohibit vehicle traffic access further north where nesting activity is concentrated. One of our challenges is to educate park visitors of the presence of the chicks, show them photos, and provide guidance on the best path to use if walking north to minimize disturbance.
Huguenot is one of Florida’s Special Places – stay tuned for more from Forrest later this week!