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Ellen you are certainly not alone in your concerns for recreational impacts on coastal birds. Most regrettably, your observations have been shared by many of us throughout the state. More troubling then the obvious and immediate impacts to roosting or foraging birds, is the revelation that this behavior is symptomatic of the public's general disregard for natural resources that often must compete for the same space and habitat. Tragically, the same type of behavior you observed occurs at highly vulnerable colonial nesting sites where I and others have witnessed adults and children intruding into active nesting areas, harassing the birds and even picking up eggs! 

Some of this behavior is attributable to Florida's reputation (and marketing) as a "sun and fun" vacation paradise, but rest assured, such recreational impacts are universal and even occur in designated protected areas. Today's affluent culture makes it possible for growing numbers of recreationists to access formerly remote natural refuges (via boat or four-wheel drive vehicle) and thus, adversely disturb and compete with wildlife in these (once safe) havens. One recent phenomena is the frequency of Florida boaters to transport their pets to remote areas for unrestrained exercise. Too often these sites function as natural refuges and/or critical nesting sites for ground nesting birds. The adverse impacts of this practice should be readily apparent to all, including land managers and government officials. 

The problem is real and significant and can only be addressed through a comprehensive education - intervention effort from grade school level through adult outreach. The alternative is a human dominated landscape with ever shrinking pockets of remnant wildlife. Please advocate for bio-diversity programs in the Florida Wildlife Commission and convey your observations and concerns to government officials at all levels. Florida's avifauna desperately needs more "birders" and bird "appreciators" to become more active in bird conservation. Passivity just might be interpreted by govt. officials and land managers as implied consent.  

It is especially important (perhaps critical) to report and express concern for such adverse recreational behavior when it occurs in state/national parks, wildlife protected areas, refuges, etc. otherwise the birds have no secure refuge anywhere! Florida has no coastal frontiers anymore; consequently, almost the entire coast is now accessible to the general public. We should all contemplate the ramifications of this reality for our coastal wildlife. 

Patrick Leary, Fernandina Beach

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