Making a Difference: Local family donates island for the birds

8:21 PM, Dec 5, 2012   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida - It's a small dot of bushy mangroves in Boca Ciega Bay. Boating by, you might not think much of the island. But for 12 species of birds, including some rare ones, it's become a cozy nesting spot.

"Even the island is a little smaller in size, you can see from the number of birds here it's a very important nesting habitat," says Audubon Florida's March Rachal.

Audubon staff and volunteers have been peering at pelicans and other birds at the island for years and Mother Nature often treats them to spectacular sights, like Great Blue Herons building their nests stick by stick.

And now, the generosity of a local family is helping preserve the precious place.

"This was just a part of our neighborhood," said Howard Miller, gazing at the island from a boat.

Miller grew up near the island, but recently he discovered his family actually owned it. The spit of sand came along with land his grandparents purchased back in 1940 for a nearby resort called Hotel Rellin.

Descendants of Harriet and Jacob Miller are now spread across the United States, but they all agreed to donate the island to Audubon Florida to use as a bird sanctuary.

"We feel great," said Miller of the decision. "We feel really special, actually, that we've done something good."

So why is Audubon control important? Well, it means the group can really manage the island. Staff will keep track of all the different kinds of birds nesting there, count the numbers, and also work to remove any dangerous fishing line.

"The birds get tangled, they're not able to fly and find food," said Rachal about the fishing line problem. "Unfortunately, they kind of waste away in the tree."

Miller said protecting the birds was an easy decision. The island is a gift to them and, essentially, to all of us. "This is what Florida's all about," said Miller, pointing to the island starting to fill with nesting birds.

For more information on how you can help Audubon Florida manage bird sanctuaries like this one, click here.


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