Black Skimmers nest on North Main Beach

Black Skimmers ward off possible threats to their colony.

We are nearing the end of the summer and the end of nesting season for our shorebirds. However, the Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger) have set up a pretty sizable colony on the northern tip of our beach, near Sancho Panza Creek. We estimate over 75 nests in the colony so far!

There are several beach-nesting birds that congregate in colonies including some gulls, terns, and the Black Skimmers. By laying nests at the same time in the same area, each nesting pair is reducing its chances of having their nest lost in the event that a predator comes in. Also, the Black Skimmers can become aggressive when defending their colony against outside threats.

However, if a predator like a raccoon (which frequent our beaches) were to discover the colony, they could wipe out the entire colony in just a few nights. This year, we are employing a new management strategy–electric fencing.

On June 21, we set up the first stretches of electric fencing around ten nests. With two separate areas fenced in, one was electrified and one was not. A few weeks later, the colony had expanded with nest “scrapes” spread over a much larger area.

Skimmer chick runs to its parent.

In mid July, we encompassed all of the scrapes and nests we had found with the electrified fence and haven’t seen any signs of predation by raccoons or other mammalian predators since.

 

The chicks and eggs are very well camouflaged!

 

 

Some of the earliest laid nests have begun to hatch, and there are several chicks running around within the colony. The chicks are still susceptible to predators, and as they start to move around we are worried they might venture outside the protection of the fence. After talking with members of our Ecological Advisory Board who suggested the chicks might move around in search of shade, we erected some temporary shade shelters within the colony.

Shade structures within the colony should prevent discourage chicks from leaving the fence.

We will continue to monitor the colony, and hopefully the Black Skimmers will continue their success!

 

 

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Butterflies growing in the garden

Here at Little St. Simons Island, we take pride in all the organics that our on-site garden produces. Sometimes, we even get excited about the pests!

This Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) hatched out of a chrysalis found in our garden. The pale green chrysalis hung by a thread on a stem. We relocated it to a mesh enclosure in the lodge to wait for the adult to emerge. Sure enough, a few days later, the black butterfly clung to the mesh with wet folded wings. Within a few hours, the wings had dried out and were fully extended to about 3 inches across, and he flew freely back out into the wild.

The Black Swallowtail has black wings parallel bands of yellow spots along the margins on its wings. In between the bands of yellow are shorter bands of blue that end at a red eyespot on each wing.

The females will lay their eggs on members of the parsley family (carrots, fennel, dill) and the caterpillars will hatch out, munch on their host plant while they grow and molt. When they are ready to form their chrysalis, they usually wander a bit from their feeding grounds.

We have an abundance of Black Swallowtail larvae, sometimes called parsley worms, on the parsley in our garden right now. As you might imagine, Black Swallowtails are fairly easy to attract by planting some parsley in your garden. And of course, it is always a beautiful surprise to see the adult butterfly emerge from the lifeless-looking chrysalis!

Some other butterflies that have been spotted this spring include the Cabbage Whites, Red Admirals, Monarchs, and many more that are soon to follow!

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