Celebrating America and Protecting our Feathered Friends

07.18.2016 | In Wildlife & Birds
By Emily Falgoust, Communications Associate, Restore the Mississippi River Delta, National Audubon Society

Young Wilson's Plovers being cared for by Audubon Louisiana staff.

Prior to the start of a busy Fourth of July weekend, Audubon Louisiana staff and volunteers ventured to Holly Beach to protect nesting birds. These birds, including Wilson’s Plovers, Least Terns and Black Skimmers, are all Audubon priority bird species and are in danger of losing their crucial habitat. Additionally, many of these birds depend on beach habitat for nesting, making their nests vulnerable to vehicular and human traffic. These nests are often camouflaged, making it hard for people to know birds are nesting on the same beaches they’re enjoying for recreation.

Audubon Louisiana staff discovered nesting sites along the beaches where many would gather to celebrate Independence Day. Sadly, a few nests were found to have been run over by vehicles. In order to protect these birds from further beachgoer incidents, Audubon Louisiana reached out to supporters to gather volunteers to install protective fencing and signs around these critical nesting areas.

Audubon Louisiana Director of Bird Conservation, Erik Johnson, and a volunteer install protective fencing.
Audubon Louisiana Director of Bird Conservation, Erik Johnson, and a volunteer install protective fencing.

Upon arriving at the beach, Katie Barnes, Audubon Louisiana Coastal Bird Technician, spotted a young Wilson’s Plover running across the beach. She placed a small band around the bird’s leg in order to track its movement, weighed and recorded the bird, and a volunteer safely released it back onto the beach along with another fledgling collected by Audubon Louisiana Director of Bird Conservation, Erik Johnson.

Katie Barnes banding a young Wilson's Plover.
Audubon Louisiana Coastal Bird Technician, Katie Barnes, banding a young Least Tern. Volunteers watch as the banded birds are weighed and recorded.
Volunteers watch as the banded birds are weighed and recorded. Volunteer releasing the banded birds safely onto the beach.
Volunteer releasing the banded birds safely onto the beach.

In all, eight volunteers showed up to help protect these priority birds and their nests. Some people were directed to install fence posts, some strung reflective cord, and some secured “Sensitive Nesting Area” signs to each post. After a few hours, enough fencing was installed to protect all of the cataloged nests along the beach during the Independence Day festivities. Volunteers were able to learn about priority birds, see many of them along the beach and enjoy a beautiful start to the Fourth of July weekend!

Audubon Louisiana staff and volunteers in Holly Beach
Audubon Louisiana staff and volunteers in Holly Beach Katie Barnes displaying the flight feathers beginning to grow on a young Wilson's Plover.
Katie Barnes displaying the flight feathers beginning to grow on young Least Terns. Black Skimmers seen along the beach.
Black Skimmers seen along the beach. Audubon Louisiana staff teaching volunteers about Wilson's Plovers.
Audubon Louisiana staff teaching volunteers about Least Terns. Protective fencing and signage installed around critical nesting sites.
Protective fencing and signage installed around critical nesting sites.

If you are interested in getting involved with Audubon Louisiana events in the future, please visit Audubon Louisiana’s Get Involved page to learn more!

For a complete list of volunteer opportunities available with Restore the Mississippi River Delta, visit our Coalition volunteer page.

Emily McCalla is National Audubon Society’s Communications Coordinator for the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition. As a Lake Charles native, she is directly familiar with the issues facing our coast and is passionate about working to save it. Prior to joining Audubon, Emily worked with STUN Design & Interactive in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as the Marketing and Office Coordinator. Prior to that, she was the State Coordinator for the Louisiana Solar Energy Society—a nonprofit dedicated to promoting clean, solar energy throughout the state. Emily is a graduate of Louisiana State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing in 2013.