Outback Key Bird Stewardship Program

Update: 4/24/19 - Holley Short

Last weekend was all bad weather, so there was no stewardship on Outback this past weekend. However, this Saturday is supposed to be beautiful, so let's get out on the beach!

There has been a report of one Wilson's Plover nest, and all other nesting species are getting closer to laying eggs by creating scrapes and mating! Lorraine Margeson and a few of her volunteers (along with boat captain Bob Kukla) are going out to post a potential site for nesting Least Terns. Things are picking up!

So far, there are two bird stewards signed up for this weekend. We will be on the ferry, and one seat is open (a steward will be kayaking over). Please let me know if you'd like to steward! Check the schedule to see who will be stewarding on Saturday: Bird Steward Schedule

Scraping Wilson's Plover - Beth Reynolds

Update: 4/17/19 - Holley Short

I'd like to thank Park Chapman for getting out to Outback Key this past Saturday! Thank you, Park! He observed one dog going inside the posting, but the owners were very receptive to the shorebird education.

There even more Least Tern that have shown up and are scraping (making nest bowls) inside the posted area on the north end! A couple Wilson's Plover and a pair of Snowy Plover are also in the area and staking out territories. This shoal is large, so the birds may even be trying to find nesting areas outside of the posting. If you steward this weekend or take a walk out there during the week, please keep an eye out for potential nesting.

Good news! We are in touch with Hubbard's, the owners of the Tampa Bay Ferry, and they will comp St. Pete Audubon two spots on their ferry this Saturday, April 20th! More stewards are able to join, but those additional will have to pay their way. You are also more than welcome to walk over from Ft. De Soto north beach or kayak. You must be at the Ft. De Soto boat ramp and ready to leave on the Ferry at 10am. Speak with the captain about when they will pick you up (no later than 2pm). Make sure you are packed up and ready to go prior to the Ferry stopping to get you! You will also receive a free parking pass for the Ft. De Soto boat ramp parking

Update: 4/9/19 - Holley Short

Thank you so much to Bob Kukla, his granddaughter, and Beth Reynolds for assisting with the first stewardship day of the new program! We had a successful trip out there on Saturday; it was a great trial run for the future trips.

There is activity all along Outback Key, but the group of stewards stuck around the pre-posted area on the north end. There, we observed 5 Wilson's Plover (2 pair, 1 single male), 1 pair of Snowy Plover, 14 Least Tern, and a pair of American Oystercatchers. We also observed one pair of the Wilson's Plover scraping inside the posting! Because of this activity and other activity observed outside the posting to the south on Sunday, this means there is definitely a need for stewards out there!

There were 20+ dogs, 100+ boats, and hundreds of people. We were able to educate 70+ people about the nesting shorebirds and our stewardship program. There were only 2 intrusions by dogs, and their owners acted quickly to call them out of the posted area. They were very apologetic and did a much better job keeping their dogs away from the posting the rest our time there. There we also concerns about whether or not we were planning to close Outback Key to the public and ban. Right now, the best answer to that is "no" and that we are just there to educate and make sure dogs stay out of that very small closed area.

Check the schedule! We have a boat captain available to take people out the last Saturday of April. For those weeks with no boat, please feel free to sign-up anyway! If you have a kayak or want to walk over, please sign up and let me know. I have bag with all the supplies you'll need - a stewardship kit! I can meet with you to pass it off. Please let me know if you need access to the schedule.

Update: 3/31/19 - Dan Savercool

I went out to Outback Key on Sunday. The stakes looked to be maintained well. I did add a few bamboo next to the wood lathe on the west side to see if those stakes will stay better. I placed the bamboo right next to the lathe so it didn't create an impediment to nesting turtles.

There was a kingfish tournament this weekend and the tournament headquarters was on Outback. Although there were a gazillion people on Outback on Sunday, I was impressed by the few number of dog and human tracks within the posted area. Also that day, people seemed to really respect the boundaries and the football and baseball throwers and sunbathers were staying away from the string.

On a negative note, I saw not one bird within the posted area - none loafing, none walking around, and certainly none exhibiting anything closely related to nesting or courtship behavior. I did see about 6 snowy and 4 Wilson's plovers, 2 ruddy turnstones, and a few royal terns. I saw no least terns, including over on the south side where the second rookery was established later in the season last year. Most of the humans were on the north shore beached on the southern side of Bunce's pass, and less than a dozen boats anchored along the southern shore of Outback. There were about 40 boats anchored on the south side of the Outback lagoon, but most people in that crowd stayed at the water's edge and not in the island proper.

Outback Key, 3/31/19

Outback Key, 3/31/19

Outback Key, 3/31/19

Outback Key, 3/31/19

Can you help protect nesting shorebirds?

Ready to volunteer? Contact Holley Short conservationchair@stpeteaudubon.org.

Do you have a boat? SPAS needs captains and boats to ferry volunteers on and off the key. If you can help, contact Holley Short, conservationchair@stpeteaudubon.org or Dan Savercool, president@stpeteaudubon.org .