The February 7 – 16, 2014 time window for Florida’s annual mid-winter shorebird survey is at the half-way point. So far, team leaders reporting online have logged shorebird and seabird counts for 85 beach sections around the state – a total of 39,452 birds! This is Florida’s only synchronized, statewide winter survey and volunteer citizen scientists contribute mightily to the results.
Foot and boat surveys along the majority of the state’s coastal beaches within a narrow window of time provides a snapshot of the numbers and locations of imperiled bird species, “watch” species, and the opportunity to record band codes and combinations for researchers wanting to know where northern breeding birds spend their winters. Winter surveys help us locate foraging and roosting hotspots and develop strategies to protected those special places.
Tallies of the five focal species in this year’s survey to date are: 588 Red Knots, 375 Snowy Plovers, 216 Piping Plovers, 144 Wilson’s Plovers, and 65 American Oystercatchers. Many of us think that Bonaparte’s Gulls are an unusual winter find on Florida’s coasts but volunteers have reported a whopping 1,926 birds so far. The count for Great Black-backed Gulls stands at 48 and the count of Lesser Black-backed Gulls is 52 at the survey half-way point.
Volunteers are also using their seawatching skills to tally near-shore pelagic seabirds and diving ducks, with 424 Northern Gannets, 326 Horned Grebes, and 11 Red-throated Loons!
And these are just a snapshot of the counts recorded online with many beach sections remaining to be surveyed on dates through the final weekend of February 15th and 16th. The count’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional coordinators are collecting data sheets that team leaders elected to send by snail mail or email. Help us help the birds by completing your surveys and reporting the data online, via email or snail mail. For more information consult the Florida Shorebird Alliance’s Winter Shorebird Survey protocol online.