by Lisa Ferguson
Who doesn’t love the sight of Black Skimmers streaming low over calm waters in our backbays? Or their barks at dusk as they cut the water with their bill in a hunt for fish? We are treated to these sights and sounds during the summer when Black Skimmers settle in our area to nest with other colonial birds. Their options for nesting sites are limited though because they like undisturbed beach or marsh areas with expansive views, good fishing nearby, and low risk of predation and flooding. Competition for such sites on the New Jersey coast and elsewhere is fierce, and skimmers and other species are losing sites to successfully nest and raise young. Skimmers are thus a focal species for understanding changes to our coastal areas. To better understand how skimmers move among sites locally and during their forays south for the winter, we have started placing bands on their legs in a coordinated effort with biologists in other states. Skimmers captured in New Jersey wear a bright blue band with a white code that is readable from a distance – like the bands on juvenile C90 or adult C03 below. Different colors are used in other states. Reports of our banded skimmers come from near and far and every report helps us learn more! If you see a banded black skimmer, take a record of the color and code on the band, the date/time, and location. Pictures are a great way to confirm a code and capture the details.
What else are we doing to help Black Skimmers and other coastal birds? The past few years we have run stewardship programs at two important beaches for birds in Cape May County – Two Mile Beach Unit in Wildwood Crest (US FWS) and Stone Harbor Point in Stone Harbor (Borough of Stone Harbor). Stewards are there to keep an eye out for the birds, and also provide information about nesting and migratory birds, beaches, and regulations to beach-goers. Their jobs are so important for safeguarding these areas that are protected for conservation, and providing people with more information to enjoy the sights. They even get to help out with banding activities from time to time!
Photo credit: Shayna Marchese