ANNA MARIA -- About 500 black skimmers are nesting near the north end of Anna Maria Island, and conservationists have taped off a section of Cypress Avenue to keep them as safe as possible.
To help educate beachgoers about their new surfside neighbors, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Manatee Audubon Society volunteers will be on sand from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to answer questions and keep an eye on the birds.
“People don’t come to visit our island and buy homes here to see a big casino or condo. They come to see nature,” said Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch. “We need to help people who live here understand these animals.”
Joyce Brown of the Manatee Audubon Society watched the birds Saturday and spoke to visitors about them.
“I’ve been watching birds for years, I’m a bird lover,” said Brown. “These are unique birds.”
One of the outstanding features of skimmers is how they fish.
“They fly just on the surface of the water,” said Brown, adding the birds remind her of little nuns, with their black and white coloring.
The black skimmers make their nests right on the sand. Each nest holds two or three eggs. The young birds generally take flight about a month after they hatch.
Although volunteers and visitors are not allowed to walk onto the area where the birds are nesting, Brown kept a close eye out for crows and other birds that pose a threat to the black skimmers’ chicks and watched as the birds shooed those threats away themselves.
One of the best ways to prevent predators from threatening black skimmers’ nests is to make sure there is no trash left on the beach, Fox said.
Laura Frost, who is visiting the area from Tampa, noticed the nesting area while she was taking a walk and watched them for a few minutes.
Frost was fixated on spotting some of the chicks, who tend to blend into the sand due to their coloring.
“It’s wonderful that we are staying mindful of these birds,” Frost said.