Article originally appeared in the Lumina News.
By Pam Creech
Fifth graders from Wrightsville Beach School walked barefoot on the south end of Wrightsville Beach during their last field trip of the school year Tuesday, May 26, where they received a two-hour lesson about coastal birds.
Marlene Eader, volunteer coordinator for Audubon North Carolina, led the lesson, along with three other Audubon’s beach stewards.
Eader began by telling the students about colonial birds, like black skimmers.
“They nest in a colony, which is like a community, to protect each other. One of the main predators they have, especially in Wrightsville Beach, is people,” she said.
Eader said the birds’ eggs are often damaged by people or their dogs who step on the nests in the sand.
“Let’s make a colony,” she said as she instructed the students to stand in a circle. Eader and the other bird stewards distributed toy eggs and chicks to one group of students.
“The birds, both the males and the females, work really hard to keep their eggs at the right temperature,” she said. “What causes birds to get off their nests is when they see a threat.”
The students who received the toy eggs and chicks made nests in the sand, and other students acted out the roles of predators such as crabs, crows and dogs as they swiped eggs from their peers’ nests.
Cissie Brooks, marine science coordinator at Wrightsville Beach School, said the lesson reinforces what the students learned in their science class.
“They all did a research project on shore birds,” she said. “They worked in pairs.”
Lila Relan and Victoria Vaughn did their project on semipalmated plovers.
“I think they’re really cute. …They shake the ground and they find stuff with their webbed feet,” Relan said.
Relan said she thought the field trip’s activity was interesting and informative.
“I think that was really cool, but it’s also really sad what happens to the eggs,” she said. “Now we’ll know to look but not to touch.”
Vaughn also enjoyed the nesting reenactment.
“I thought it was really neat. …You could understand more than you could just looking it up online,” she said.
During the last 30 minutes of the field trip, the students picked up trash they found on the beach and looked at birds in the sand dunes through spotting scopes.
The excursion was sponsored by the Harbor Island Garden Club as a part of their Rooty Rascals junior gardener program.
The two previous activities were a discussion with Audubon Society biologist Lindsay Addison and a project to make signs to warn people to stay off the sand dunes on Wrightsville Beach in order to protect bird nests.