Why You Should Volunteer for Seabrook Island Shorebird Stewards

Since the program began two years ago, the Seabrook Island Shorebird Steward Program has shared its shorebird conservation message with over 1,500 beachgoers. Now, with the third season set to start in March, the program needs volunteers. Shorebird stewards focus on educating residents and visitors about birds like Red Knots and the remarkable habitat of Seabrook Island as a resting and nesting location for several shorebird species. 

Seabrook and Kiawah Islands provide a critical stopover on a shorebird’s journey of survival. Recent studies show shocking declines in all shorebird species, especially Red Knots. With a few exceptions, shorebirds travel some of the longest migrations of any birds to get to their nesting grounds in the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic. Long migrations mean increased vulnerability at each stopover site. The weight that birds gain here is essential to provide energy for the long trip north and to cover any lag in the food supply in the harsh conditions they might face once they arrive at their nesting grounds. 

“Why do we need stewards?” Every year new people come to the beach to see dolphins or turtles but don’t know the shorebird story. In 2022, 66% of the people who stopped by the Shorebird Steward Station were visitors to Seabrook Island. Stewards ask beachgoers to respect the shorebirds as they are feeding in the surf or resting at the inlet by not approaching the birds too closely and by walking around them.

Shorebird stewards are your neighbors, people like you, who love nature. All a volunteer needs is a willingness to share some time on the beach chatting with people who stop by the station. Please don’t let any concern about learning a bit about shorebird identification stop you from applying – Stewards educate people about ways to reduce human impact on birds, not bird identification! 

We schedule stewards in two-hour time slots usually from 10 am -12 pm and 12 pm-2 pm each day from March 1 thru the end of May or until the nesting season finishes. Our website allows you to self-schedule your shifts and makes it very easy to complete a report of your experience after each shift. Being a steward also offers opportunities to participate in shorebird conservation and research activities when we support SCDNR & USFWS in their work.

If you are interested in becoming a Shorebird Steward, please register for a training program to be held on February 24, 2023, from 10 am to 12 pm at the Oyster Catcher Community Center. The training, provided by Allyssa Zebrowski, SC Audubon and local Seabrook Island resident Bob Mercer, focuses on the essentials for becoming a Shorebird Steward from learning about shorebird identification, behavior and conservation, to the special habitat our beach provides, and to understanding how to best teach others. We will have other times available if you cannot make the February 24 program. After the classroom training, we provide field training opportunities to familiarize stewards with our equipment and educational materials. To help get you started, your first steward sessions on the beach will be with an experienced mentor. 

If you have questions about our program, please email: sibstewards@gmail.com

If you would like to register for the February 24 training session, please click here.

-Submitted by Bob Mercer and Mark Andrews, Co-chairs, Seabrook Island Shorebird Stewards

(Image credit: SIB)