Shelter from the storm
Tropical Storm Debby claimed most of the seabird nests, eggs and chicks on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key in June, but one chick has survived with help from a lot of bird lovers.
Debby, a black skimmer, was one of a couple of dozen chicks that were found washed up against a building on Longboat Key, cold, wet and covered with sand after the storm.
Gail and Ed Straight, of Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center Inc., rescued the chicks and brought them back to the Bradenton Beach center, where they cleaned them up and put them in incubators.
It was heartbreaking to watch so many chicks die over the next several days, Gail Straight said, but some, including Debby, were eating, socializing and getting stronger.
Then the surviving chicks took a turn for the worse. A veterinarian told Straight that the birds might have eaten contaminated fish and prescribed treatment. For all but one, it didn’t work. Debby must have been the fittest because she is the lone survivor.
When her wings grew long enough, the Straights, along with Suzi Fox and Glenn and Claudia Wiseman of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, decided to try to release her into a flock of wild skimmers on the north end of Anna Maria Island.
Skimmer colonies generally won’t accept other chicks, but since Debby was older, there was a chance she would be accepted, according to Glenn Wiseman.
But Debby had a wing injury that prevented her from flying, and three days later, she was picked up less than a half mile from where she was released and went back to Wildlife Inc.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park had just completed its long-term facility for shorebirds to live in captivity, Fox said, and they accepted Debby as a permanent resident, where she now is known affectionately as the “skimmerette.”
Park officials report that Debby is socializing with the other shorebirds and has a healthy appetite, and they expect her to be just fine.
If you find a bird in distress, call Wildlife Inc. at 941-778-6324.