Black Skimmer Decoys, Egmont Key, Florida – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 160, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light
On an extremely hot April day I was out on Egmont Key for a Florida Master Naturalist class and from a distance I thought I saw some Black Skimmers and Least Terns resting on a beach but they turned out to be decoys. They almost had me fooled until I focused my lens on them.
Least Tern Decoys, Egmont Key, Florida – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 160, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light
I don’t have any studies on the use of decoys to attract nesting seabirds to link to but the Florida Shorebird Alliance states this in one of their flyers:
Especially with colonial-nesting seabirds, decoys can be a very effective tool for attracting nesting birds to an area. The use of decoys increases the likelihood of pre-posted areas being used as opposed to unposted areas, so placing a few decoys in the middle of a pre-posted area is recommended.
Young and adult Black Skimmer – Nikon D200, handheld, f8, 1/500, ISO 160, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 230mm, natural light
Nesting areas for Black Skimmers and Least Terns can also be popular for beach goers, shell collectors and photographers and in some locations nesting areas are roped off and signs placed to keep people out either temporarily or permanently.
Temporary nesting sign – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/400, ISO 400, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 75mm, natural light
The signs alert beach goers and others to stay back which helps to provide the birds with an area of comfort and/or security.
Black Skimmer adults in flight – Nikon D200, handheld, f8, 1/750, ISO 160, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 250mm, natural light
With habitat destruction and rising water levels nesting seabirds will need our help even more in the future.
Least Tern juvenile – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/500, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light
This image of a juvenile Least Tern was taken on Gandy Beach in Pinellas County, Florida, some people call it the “poor man’s Riviera” and when the image was taken there weren’t any protected areas for the terns or skimmers to nest in and people drove their vehicles right onto the beach, behind this young bird is a tire track in the sand. People also let their dogs loose on the beach which disturbed the nesting birds and caused deaths in the chicks. It is my understanding that there are now protected areas on that beach.
Least Tern looking for breakfast – Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light
Humans have caused big issues for colonial-nesting seabirds but the use of protected nesting and resting areas can be beneficial and do make a difference.
There has been controversy about the protected areas because beach goers often feel the beaches are for people and that they shouldn’t be restricted on where they go but it is my opinion that we can share the beach with the birds and wildlife for the benefit of all.
Life is good.