On July 9 and 10, students, teachers and counselors with Fairmount Park Elementary and Mark Rachal from Audubon Florida visited Coffeepot Bayou Island to learn about the many wading birds that call St. Petersburg home. The tour of the bird nesting island was part of the first collaborative summer program “Bridge to Success” science camp between the USF St. Petersburg College of Education and Fairmount Park Elementary. Audubon Florida was able to participate with the help from funding provided by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.
After calibrating their new binoculars and honing their observation skills while looking at the St. Pete Pier and a very accommodating pair of dolphins, the 30 students (15 each day) boarded the tour boat, eager to start spotting the many birds that nest at Coffeepot Bayou Island. The island was full of young birds including Great Blue, Little Blue and Tricolored herons, Great, Snowy and Cattle egrets that waited patiently for their parents to return and then begged to be fed.
Many students quickly learned that the many “fights” they were seeing around the island were instead chicks enthusiastically feeding on the meal their parents had just flown in. Even though most of the students were not familiar with Double-crested Cormorants and Anhingas, great side-by-side views of both birds allowed for comparisons and distinction. The students could observe on Coffeepot Bayou all the signs of a healthy colony including the courtship displays of Great Egrets, white downy Brown Pelican chicks in the nest, the noisy begging calls of hundreds of hungry young birds and of course the smell!
While we were disappointed to miss seeing Roseate Spoonbills, we were treated to two Reddish Egret young on the branches. And as we headed back for the dock, we spotted two dark morph Reddish Egret adults flying in to the island.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this great event happen!