1. News

Early mornings and getting drenched, it's all for the birds

Lorraine Margeson erects a bird nesting marker on Outback Key, a shoal near Fort De Soto Park and the mouth of Tampa Bay. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Jul. 10, 2018

Lorraine Margeson tamped the sugar sand gently around a wooden stake as storm clouds mushroomed above her.

She then rolled out string between several stakes, marking an area to warn visitors about nesting shorebirds. Within minutes, the clouds swirled into a waterspout, touching down on the gulf's surface before disappearing back into the dark clouds. It soon started pouring.

"And this is what you are rewarded with out here," Margeson said.

Margeson, 61, of St. Petersburg refers to herself as an environmental activist whose focus is shorebirds. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native began her volunteer work after moving to this area in 1987.

She now monitors and counts birds on a 26-acre, boomerang-shaped shoal she calls "Outback Key." It lies between Fort De Soto Park and Shell Key Preserve, near the mouth of Tampa Bay.

According to Margeson, the shoal formed about five years ago and is now home to nesting American oystercatchers, least terns, black skimmers, Wilson's plovers and snowy plovers. Margeson said two loggerhead turtles also recently laid eggs there. The shorebirds nest in Florida between April and September, when boaters frequent the shoal on weekends.

Her hope is that they'll heed the warnings and stay away from the area that she's "posted"with stakes, twine and signs.

People and their dogs, she said, can be a bigger threat than storms with high tides or predators like great blue herons.

She heard from friends and volunteers that someone recently drove his ATV through a nesting area on Anna Maria Island.

"It wiped them out," she said. "Just like that, overnight, all of your work can be gone."

During a recent, early-morning trip to Outback Key, Margeson was pleasantly surprised by what she found. No markers had been knocked down, and footprints remained outside the nesting areas.

Better yet, she counted 99 least tern nests, up from 49 the week before. Six black skimmer nests were active, and she saw an American oystercatcher nest nestled among sea oats.

She posts her findings on a Facebook page she created called Friends of Outback Key.

"People are getting it," she said. "But you've got to keep educating them, so the chicks have a chance to survive."


  1. In this Thursday, Aug. 1, file photo, Amanda Kondrat'yev, the woman accused of throwing a sports drink at U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in June outside a town hall meeting, arrives at Winston Arnow Federal Court House in Pensacola, Fla. Kondrat'yev has been sentenced to 15 days in federal custody for throwing the sports drink at Gaetz. TONY GIBERSON  |  AP
    Amanda Kondrat’yev pleaded guilty to assault in August and had faced up to a year in jail.
  2. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Charges are pending, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
  3. Maxwell Guss, 34, of Bradenton was arrested on Monday afternoon on two counts of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct by a person over 18. Sarasota Police Department
    Maxwell Guss has been on administrative leave from Brookside Middle School, where he was a business teacher.
  4. Travelers make their way to baggage claim at Orlando International Airport in August. Officials expect 1.75 million passengers to pass through the airport during the Thanksgiving holiday season.
    Officials at Orlando International Airport on Monday said they expect traffic to increase 6% from 2018.
  5. Fresno Police Chief Andrew Hall addresses the media as community leaders and personnel stand behind him about a shooting at a house party which involved multiple fatalities and injuries in Fresno, Calif., Monday. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian) GARY KAZANJIAN  |  AP
    Police were investigating whether the shooting was connected to a recent “disturbance” involving some of the people at the party.
  6. In this Oct. 29, 2019, file photo, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council, center, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. Vindman is set to deliver public testimony about President Donald Trump’s alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Democrats and Republicans are expected to press contrasting narratives about the 20-year Army veteran’s decision to come forward to allege abuse of power by his commander-in-chief. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP
    Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams say they had concerns as Trump spoke on July 25 with the newly elected Ukraine president.
  7. This two photo combination image taken from video released June 21, 2017, by the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, shows kidnapped teachers Australian Timothy Weekes, top, and American Kevin King, who were both abducted by the insurgents in Afghanistan in August 2016. Three ranking Taliban prisoners released by the Kabul government have been flown to Qatar for an expected swap for the American and the Australian hostage held by the insurgents since their abduction in 2016, Taliban officials said Tuesday. (EL-EMARA Taliban via AP, File) AP
    The hostages were released in southern Zabul province, ending their more than three years in captivity.
  8. Teacher Kate Newell watches seventh graders Aaron Roxberry and Jacob Iovino practice the slope-intercept formula in one of her weekly visits to their Bayonet Point Middle algebra class, which Newell usually teaches remotely. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  9. The Secret Garden, overlooking a lively canal, provides scenic, airy dining at Silver Dolphin Restaurant & Country Store. Owner Yann Milcendeau, who designed and planted the space, says a restaurant needs "something different" to succeed. BETH N. GRAY  |  Special to the Times
    The Silver Dolphin & Country Store joins ZigZag Scallop, which opened four years ago.
  10. eSchool teacher Kate Newell holds a discussion-based assessment with eighth-grader Ariana Toro during a recent visit to Bayonet Point Middle School. Newell leads the math course remotely most days, but comes to campus at least once weekly to give her students some extra attention. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    Principals increasingly turn to virtual instruction to fill their vacancies.