In the long ago times, LBI was once home to thousands of Black Skimmers; those loud, comical, insane, and flashy looking Beach Nesters affectionately known as “Beach Toucans”. Sadly for us, Black Skimmers had all but disappeared from the Island as their populations dwindled and human disturbance and predation increased. They share a State Endangered Status in New Jersey along with their Beach Nesting allies, the PIPL, and also like the PIPL, are one of the primo natural treasures of the Island. The loss of the Skimmers was a true bummer for Island life. But in this Summer-Gone-Wild 2014 Season we got the surprise of a lifetime when a few errant Skimmers landed real late at Holgate and decided to form the saddest little colony you ever saw.
Back Skimmers like to nest in colonies of as many birds as they can scrape together. There is some safety in numbers, and these boisterous, barking birds love to chat so they need others to talk to as well. While a colony never formed, a pair of Skimmers somehow managed to go-it-alone and nest successfully on the prime Beach Nesting real estate of Holgate’s Southern tip.
Because they were super late to the raucous party that was this nesting season at Holgate, the three little baby Skimmers had still not fledged (learned to fly) by September 1st when the Holgate front beaches opened to the public. To maintain the balance of the Refuge’s mission of helping out our wild friends and also welcoming visitors, the Refuge kept only the tip closed until yesterday when the barriers were torn down and anglers flooded into LBI’s finest fishing area, and a place many, myself included, consider Heaven-On-Earth; The South Tip.
Welcome to Skimmer Estates. The Saddest Little Colony you’ll ever see. A Colony Of One. While the Skimmer family was certainly murderballed by the onslaught of Humanz, they generally handled it like champs and showed a little willingness to share the beach. Except of course when they screamed, barked, dive-bombed, and pooped on everyone and everything that came close to their youngest child, Sprinty McNugget.
There is a good chance Sprinty McNugget has taken to the air already this morning, given that final push to flap a little harder by yesterday’s onslaught.
But in the meantime, keep a watchful eye out for Sprinty, especially around the blind corners of the Tip. Because Sprinty McNugget is not just a random bird. He represents a fine line of compromise between our desire to have a wild Island paradise, and our desire to enjoy it the way we want to. This Skimmer family on the tip showed the true commitment of the Refuge, demonstrated by their decision to close only the tip, and to open it as quickly as possible; even given the dicey situation with an unfledged Sprinty McNugget. We can now do our part and show that we can take some responsibility for our own wildlife and give our endangered species a small hand. In the end, the world of laws, closures, fences, rules, fines, and what not only exist because the majority of individuals on the beach have not historically made good decisions for the rest of us.
Sprinty is a very real seed of a potentially bright future. He’s one with stars beneath his wings. Because Sprinty & family represent a turning tide, and the hope for the recolonization of our Island by the wild creatures that make it so awesome. They represent a chance to restore a little balance to the beach, making an already cool place that much cooler. Now that our front beach is left with little more than a wall of grotesque homes, a pile of artificial dunes, and the phoniest, perfectly raked-daily, dead beach you’d ever want to see, we could use a few Skimmers out front to liven things up a bit. They might possibly be the first family of a new Skimmer Nation.
I’m confident we’ll see Sprinty through. Because that’s how we roll on LBI.