The first step in addressing a problem is often to care about it. Sincerely care about it.
And fortunately, in the Lowcountry there are people who sincerely care about black skimmers and who are willing to spend their time “bird sitting” skimmers’ threatened nesting grounds.
Scientists and environmentalists have been concerned about the future of black skimmers in this area because the skittish birds are often driven from their nests by people or animals getting too close — often inadvertently.
Bo Petersen recently reported that in nests on Deveaux Bank between Seabrook and Edisto islands, no chicks survived in 2011 or 2012. Deveaux Bank is one of the most popular places for black skimmers to nest in the area.
People are prohibited from going above the tide line there, but as the island has eroded, people and birds have been pushed closer together.
Here’s where “bird sitters” come to the rescue. With a grant from the National Audubon Society, the local chapter has launched a program whereby two staff members visit islands and beaches to educate people about respecting nesting areas.
They can’t cover the waterfront by themselves, so they are recruiting residents to help. And they’re meeting with success.
A group is forming on Edisto Island. Katie Zimmerman of the Coastal Conservation League is recruiting a group for Deveaux Bank.
The Lowcountry has already risen to the task of protecting endangered loggerhead turtle nests. For years, committed volunteers have combed area beaches looking for new nests so they can protect them from natural predators.
The willingness of Lowcountry residents to act on behalf of the black skimmers and loggerheads is an encouraging indication that they value the environment.
Education and stewardship of the environment will be ever more necessary as the number of people living in the area continues to grow and communities continue to be developed.
Efforts like the black skimmer protection program provide a mechanism for people to help, and a model for good environmental stewardship.