Rookery Bay is closing a small portion of Keewaydin Island during the nesting season for migratory bird species. Watch »
As if on cue, one tiny Wilson’s plover materialized on the beach at the south end of Keewaydin Island, and a group of research botanists became palpably excited.
The bird was the immediate object of affection, because it is one of three species the botanists hope to nurture this coming summer breeding season by closing off a small section of the island.
The other species are the snowy plover and the least tern, which like to scoop out shallow “scrapes” in the sand for egg laying and subsequent incubation.
Wednesday this week, botanists were out on the island pinpointing GPS coordinates for sign placement the following day.
Encroachment by human beings on the popular boaters’ island is one of the reasons a protective area has been designated for the past six years.
The need for protection, said Craig Faanes, is because the birds have “adaptive coloration” and blend in with the sand, making them hard to spot, and consequently easy to disturb.
Faanes, who is research management coordinator with Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve near Marco, said the two plover varieties head for this area after wintering in the Caribbean, while the endangered least terns make the trip from South America.
The designated area, which does not affect the beaching of boats because it is inland and beyond the high tide mark, will be out of bounds from the end of this week through about mid-August.
It is then that hatchlings are strong enough to join flocks for the return trip, said Rookery Bay’s Renee Wilson, a research translator.