Jekyll Birdchat: Going for the Grant

If you have ever read this column, you know that I am a crazy person for birds especially shorebirds. My poster children for shorebirds are Wilson’s Plovers. Every year I write one or more column mentioning Wilson’s Plovers. The first column was titled Wilson’s Plovers. You also know, I like to remind folks. "Please don’t disturb the shorebirds, gulls and terns on the beach." It is their bedrooms. We are only visitors.
Well for all my writing and talking and showing the birds are still in decline.  We have gone from seven pairs to three in ten years.  Last Year only one pair was successful in nesting and raising young on Jekyll.
























According to Department of Natural Resources, Wilson’s Plovers are listed among high-priority animals in the Georgia Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy that guides efforts statewide to conserve biological diversity. Wilson’s Plovers are family oriented. The birds pair up. They chose their territory. They take turn sitting on the eggs and keeping watch. Once the chicks are hatched, the parents have their job cut out for them. The chicks can feed themselves immediately after hatching. These chicks race around the dunes plucking bugs, flies and spiders. As they grow, the parents will lead them out to the beach for more food such as fiddler crabs. Now for the first month or a little more these chicks cannot fly. The parents do their best to protect the chicks.

Coastal Georgia Audubon has been working to protect the plovers. We have put up signs that say. “Wilson’s Plover Nesting, Please stay back”. They have funded bird surveys to monitor the success of the plovers. The plovers and other beach nesting birds need help. I proposed a solution. It is a volunteer based interpretive program I call "Operation Plover Patrol." It is a twofold strategy to help these nesting & resting birds. Both strategies are educationally based:

1. Create an entertaining PowerPoint program for civic organizations and schools in Glynn and McIntosh Counties. This program will highlight the birds and the problems they face. It will present easy solutions we can do to help these birds.

2. Initiate an on-site program at the South end of Jekyll. This would be a volunteer group. These volunteers would be interpreters. They would be on the beach during critical times for the birds and explain to visitor what the birds are doing on the beach.

The program will take time to develop. I found a fellowship program that would help me to develop it. The proper name of this program is The 2011-2012 Conservation Leadership Program. It is part of an initiative set up by National Audubon and Toyota. They are funding conservation projects, training environmental leaders and offering other volunteer opportunities that benefit the environment.

This fellowship program would help me to be an effective leader and help fund more ways to help the plovers in 2012. I went to Jekyll Island Foundation and asked for their support. The executive director, Mac DeVaughn, was extremely helpful. He received approval from the Foundation board for a special fund to be set up. Now there is a special fund set up title Operation Plover Patrol. He brought in the Georgia Sea Turtle Center's staff to assist. Kimberly Andrews, Dr. Terry Norton and Betsy Coy are helping with the project. Therefore for the last few months, I have been writing a grant proposal. I have written small local grants, but this TogetherGreen Fellowship Application was national. Only forty people will be chosen. The competition will be tough. I wrote and rewrote shaped and fretted. Then Dr Kimberly Andrews stepped in to help. Kimberly Andrews is the new Georgia Sea Turtle Center's Research Coordinator. She showed me ways to rethink and improve my proposal and grant. Well on May 2, 2011 I completed the grant application. It has been submitted. We will not know anything until July. The birds will be finished nesting by July. What can we do now?

On May 9th, I will be part of a birding team. We call ourselves the Laughing Gulls. We are going to do a "Big Day" in Glynn & McIntosh Counties in Georgia. Our goal is to break last year’s total of seeing 138 different bird species in one 24-hour period – a “Big Day” of birding. The team would like to use the day to raise money to start “Operation Plover Patrol” this year. For information on this fundraising effort email me at artworksbylydia @ bellsouth.net or you may come by Wild Birds Unlimited. I will have a one-page explanation of this year’s project.

We can make a difference for the plovers and for Jekyll by going for the grants.

Lydia C. Thompson

Whether Lydia is talking about birds, banding, or drawing birds her major focus is to intertwine her bird studies and her art.  Preservation and conservation of bird habitats are her major concerns.  Visit with Lydia & see her etchings on Wednesdays at the Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in the Jekyll’s Historic District. She is blogging at www.coastalgeorgiabirding-lydia.blogspot.com. 

There are several birding tours Lydia offers during the week. Thursday Morning Bird Ramble from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Seating is limited.  $30 a person.  Also, ask about the Short Rambles  One and half hour bird walks on Jekyll held Wednesdays & Friday Mornings. .  Please call for reservations 912- 634-1322.