Shorebird Stewardship at Hunting Island

 

Photo credit: Joan Eckhardt

For shorebirds and seabirds, South Carolina beaches mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, North American shorebird populations have declined an average of 70% over the last 40 years. Audubon South Carolina's (ASC) Shorebird Steward Program aims to reverse this statistic by engaging the Lowcountry community around protecting at-risk and declining focal bird species like Wilson’s Plovers, American Oystercatchers, Brown Pelicans, Black Skimmers and Red Knots, all of which rely on South Carolina beaches to nest during the summer and rest during spring and fall migration. 

 

The Shorebird Steward Program involves training and deploying hundreds of volunteer Shorebird Stewards through virtual and in-person stewardship trainings. At Shorebird Steward trainings, volunteers learn about how shorebirds and seabirds nest and migrate and what they can do to ensure their protection. After trainings, volunteers actively patrol beaches along South Carolina’s coast to help beachgoers appreciate shorebirds and 

understand their vulnerability during their nesting and migratory seasons. Volunteer participation is a key component of the program, and you could be part of this community at Hunting Island State Park! The island became an official Shorebird Stewardship Site in 2019 and has helped to protect many species of nesting and resting coastal birds, thanks to its dedicated volunteers.

How to get involved on Hunting Island

 

The Friends of Hunting Island has been working with Audubon South Carolina since 2019 to protect the sanctuary on North Beach. Since then, we have been witness to the preservation of a wonderful nesting area that has become a natural and undisturbed habitat, removed from most beach goers, allowing shorebird and seabird parents to safely forage for food and raise their young with minimal human disturbance.  This nesting area has grown over the years and was especially protected, for development, during covid restrictions in 2020 and 2021. North beach has also become home to migratory birds which stop to rest and refuel.  Federally threatened Piping Plovers and Red Knots have all been seen here at Hunting Island due to the 

protection of this sanctuary, as well as Wilson’s Plover,  American Oystercatchers, Least Tern, Black Skimmers,  Snowy Egret and Willets.  

“By protecting the few; we are protecting the many”

                             

We are thrilled to continue this opportunity under the new guidance of our skilled Site Leader, Becky McCollam, who will give you all the tools you need to become an official Shorebird Steward at Hunting Island!

 

Becky is a trained Shorebird Steward in the State of South Carolina.  She has 5 years’ experience monitoring and reporting weekly findings to the South Carolina Bluebird Society (SCBS) on all cavity nesters in her Beaufort neighborhood trail of 42 boxes.  She has decided to expand her knowledge of birds and volunteer with FOHI to grow the Shorebird Stewardship 

Program and we are delighted to welcome her. With the great success of our FOHI Sea Turtle Conservation Project, we are eager to see how this new conservation endeavor will develop, in this pristine location of the north end of the island. 

 

To sign up for our Shorebird Stewardship program, please visit Audubon SC's website and check off Shorebird Stewardship when you sign up for FOHI Membership.

You will then receive an email from our Director that will guide you to the appropriate training, orient you to the shorebird nesting/roosting site and educational materials at the park and instruct you how to sign up for shifts. Along with helping to protect our vulnerable shorebirds and seabirds from human disturbance, being a Shorebird Steward allows people to sharpen their birding skills, earn community service hours and enjoy the beautiful beach on Hunting Island. Volunteers are also the first to learn of other opportunities for shorebird conservation, such as assisting SCDNR with coastal bird related projects, conducting International Shorebird Surveys and any other advanced learning opportunities that come up!

 

We hope you will join this exciting new endeavor for Friends of Hunting Island and the Audubon of South Carolina!

 

Photo credit: Kate Hudson

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Photo credit: Joan Eckhardt

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North Beach Sanctuary, 2019–Kate Hudson

 

Photo credit: Kate Hudson

Audubon SC Stewardship Training Video