Found nesting on Sullivan’s Island Beach, a threatened shorebird species called Wilson’s Plovers have deemed the landscape suitable to hatch and raise young during the summer. Living out its mission to protect birds and the habitats they need, Audubon South Carolina visited Sullivan’s Island Elementary School (SIES) where fourth and fifth-grade students took part in an educational program learning about shorebirds that rest and nest on S.C. beaches, and more specifically on Sullivan’s Island. After the in-class session, over 80 students submitted artwork to be considered for placement on beach signs to encourage fellow beachgoers to keep their distance from migrating flocks and areas where shorebirds could be nesting.
Only a handful of sign designs can be chosen, so Audubon S.C. is inviting Sullivan’s Island residents to visit the Edgar Allan Poe Library and vote for your favorites. Twenty-four of the sign designs will be displayed at the library for two weeks starting in the first week of February. At the end of the two weeks, Audubon South Carolina will collect the votes and turn the winning designs into durable beach signs to be placed at beach access paths and along the high tide line at the south end of the island.
After learning that these Wilson’s Plovers had selected this stretch of land to nest the summers of 2017 and 2018, Audubon S.C., in partnership with the Town of Sullivan’s Island, promptly began taking steps to protect the island’s feathered friends, including asking students at SIES to help.
Shorebirds, in general, have declined heavily over the last 40 years – by 70 percent in North America. “There is a strong possibility that these birds will come back this summer, in 2019, to attempt to nest again,” said Nolan Schillerstrom, Audubon S.C. coastal program coordinator. “We’re all really hoping that we get to witness shorebird chicks on Sullivan’s Island by the end of the summer this year.”
Birds seen in coastal areas are usually in the middle of nesting or migration, many flying thousands of miles to reach their destinations. Starting in late February, migrating shorebirds begin to arrive from the south to rest on S.C. shorelines, and beach-nesting birds begin their nesting process mid-March. Any disturbance to migrating birds during their time spent on the South Carolina coast can be life-threatening, and any extra energy used to escape or fend off intruders, being chased by dogs or children, or even scarcity of food and habitat can derail a bird’s migration and nesting. These are all messages that the students’ sign designs portray.
This program was made possible by several grant programs and individual charitable donations made to Audubon S.C.