Staff Report for The Island Eye News
Are children’s drawings effective at keeping people away from migrating and nesting coastal birds? Audubon South Carolina (ASC) knows this to be true. Each winter, ASC staff gives coastal bird presentations to students across South Carolina’s coasts. The students are presented with a blank sign template and asked to draw their favorite shorebird or seabird and an original slogan. Selected drawings are then made into durable, plastic signs that are posted at beach access paths, next to important and threatened bird nesting areas. The kids’ signs are part of a larger ASC initiative called Let ‘em Rest, Let ‘em Nest, a campaign designed to educate people about importance of reducing human disturbance to birds while they use the coasts as a temporary home and nesting place. Over the past two years, ASC has been awarded a total of $2000 from Lowcountry RC&D Youth Environmental Education Fund to pay for the creation of beach signs designed by the elementary school students. Audubon South Carolina’s executive Director, Sharon Richardson, believes that these signs have been effective educating people to give space to coastal birds. “The kids’ signs have proven eye catching, fun, and exciting – a young student’s creativity can go far beyond what the traditional regulatory sign can do. Our hope is that by educating 4th6th graders, we can engage the student’s family, and the signs they make will go on to encourage beachgoers to stay away from posted coastal bird nesting areas,” said Richardson. Recently, ASC had a major “win” thanks to the kids’ signs that were posted in access paths at the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve. “Because of the students’ signs and with help from Audubon’s volunteer Shorebird Stewards, we saw the first American Oystercatcher nest to successfully hatch and fledge in – we don’t know how long! Oystercatchers usually try to nest on this beach, (on the Lighthouse Inlet side of Folly Beach), but are inevitably scared off the nest by too many roving beach goers walking too close. Watching those chicks grow old enough to fly and fend for themselves was a wonderful sight to witness,” said, Nolan Schillerstrom, ASCs Coastal Program Coordinator. “We are hopeful that many more coastal birds will now have the opportunity to nest undisturbed in the future.” Kid’s signs have been placed at the north and south ends of Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island beach access paths, and Cape Romain boat landings. ASC continues to work to educate students and print more signs to have installed on Charleston beaches. “It’s one of my favorite times of the year when I go in to classrooms to get kids excited about shorebirds and seabirds. These students are helping the Lowcountry continue our tradition of coexisting with wildlife by encouraging beachgoers to keep their distance from coastal birds. We are very thankful the Lowcountry RC&D Council agreed to aid in funding this program,” said Schillerstrom. Schillerstrom says following these suggestions can make a difference while spending time along the coast:
1. Keep away from birds.
2. Respect posted nesting and feeding areas.
3. Don’t force birds to fly.
4. Keep pets on a leash.
5. Keep the beach trash-free.
6. Be mindful of where you land your boat.
7. Teach others to protect birds on our beaches.
How close to a bird is too close? If birds react – calling loudly or taking flight – step back immediately. A good rule is to stay at least 50 yards away, or half the length of a football field. Let ‘em Rest, Let ‘em Nest The Let ‘em Rest, Let ‘em Nest program was created by Audubon South Carolina in partnership with the Charleston Animal Society in efforts to decrease human caused disturbance to migrating and nesting birds. The campaign aims to educate South Carolinians, and coastal visitors, how to create safe spaces for coastal birds. Audubon South Carolina ultimately hopes to increase coastal bird populations, which have been declining for a few decades. The Let ‘em Nest campaign began in March 2017 and is scheduled to run until March 2018. Visit http://sc.audubon.org/ coasts to learn more.
Audubon South Carolina Serving as the state program of The National Audubon Society, Audubon South Carolina’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. Learn more at http://sc.audubon.org and follow on Facebook, Twitter (@AudubonSC), Instagram (@Audubon_SC), and MeetUp.