Local Scouts Help Protect Nesting Birds Ahead Of Memorial Day Weekend

May 21, 2015

The Daisies in the front with (L-R) Raya Pruner, Marvin Friel, and Park Manager Joshua Hodson.
Credit Nick Evans

This weekend, Florida’s beaches will be teeming with families enjoying an extra day off, but that can be bad news for some of the wild families who call the dunes home. But a Tallahassee troop of Daisy Girl Scouts is using some of its cookie money to help protect shore nesting birds.

In a parking lot Sunday morning, girls dressed in tie dyed t-shirts are running around playing tag, while their parents are still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes.  The girls are a troop of Daisies—that’s the Girl Scout group just before Brownies, made up of kindergartners and first graders.  Everyone’s meeting here to carpool out to St. George Island.  But for these girls it’s more than just a trip to the beach.

Troop leader Julie Wraithmell is showing off signs.  Each one features a coastal bird, hand drawn by the daisies.  This is what those boxes of Samoas or Thin Mints you picked up on the way out of the grocery store bought.  The Daisies have made the signs to protect four bird species who nest or feed along the shore: black skimmers, least terns, snowy plovers and American oystercatchers.  They’re heading to St. George Island state park to help officials post some of the signs.

At the park they meet Marvin Friel.  He focuses on coastal birds for Audubon Florida, and he’s the one handling the power tools.  Once the signs are attached to the stakes, though, it’s the Daisies turn.

They’re grinning as they hammer the signs into the sand with a big red mallet.  Once the first two signs are posted, Friel joins Florida Parks Services biologist Raya Pruner to show the Daisies how they track birds using colored bands on their legs.  Pruner explains the stakes for these four species.

“All of them are in some way imperiled in the state of Florida, three of the species are state listed as threatened, and two of them have declining populations,” Pruner says.  “So for all of these species their numbers are extremely low, in part due to habitat loss, and just low productivity.  And so we’re concerned about these species and trying to improve management, and part of that is trying to get the message out that these birds are here, too.”

She says the getting kids involved so young makes a huge difference. 

“Getting kids involved means that these lessons will stay with them for a lifetime,” Pruner says,  “and they’re going to talk to their friends, they’re going to talk to their parents when they go home, and it’s going to resonate more.”

After the banding lesson, the Daisies take turns looking through two high powered scopes—there’s a snowy plover off in the dunes.  Once all the girls have had a chance to take a look, everyone heads back to the boat launch where the first two signs went up.   It’s time for the Daisies to have lunch, and Friel loads up the rest of the signs in his truck—the girls made fifteen in all.  This weekend they’ll be posted all over the park reminding visitors the beach is still a habitat.