Seabird Sanctuary Cultivates Stewardship for Nature

SAMSUNGSanc·tu·ar·y (sângk’chōō-ĕr’ĕ) n. pl. sanc·tu·ar·ies:

[Middle English, from Old French sainctuarie, from Late Latin sānctuārium, from Latin sānctus, sacred; see sanctify.]

1.  Refuge.  A safe place.  A safe haven, by extension the term has come to be used for any place of safety.
 2.  A place or area of land where wildlife is protected from predators and from being destroyed or hunted.

In the early evening, when the shadows begin to grow long and the sun starts its fall into the watery west, they come.  Sometimes alone or in pairs but often in groups, they come “home” for the night to a place they know they will be safe.  The Heron, the Egret, the Pelican and the Ibis come to rest on the hammock of tree canopy and netting here at the Sanctuary in Indian Shores.  They resemble planes circling the tower, preparing for landing, carefully scoping out a place they know will provide refuge through the night.  At times, it is so crowded that some species must make way for others and they do.  There is always room at this inn.

Above the canopy, the birds find refuge.  Many bear a silver bracelet on their legs, evidence that commemorates their time beneath the canopy when they received care within the Sanctuary hospital and convalesced in the protected habitats, tended by volunteers and staff.  In their period of recuperation, the birds affect stewardship of the natural world from the many visitors who come to the Sanctuary year after year.  It is a perpetual cycle, the birds, the people, the recognition that there is purpose and a duty to the natural world realized in the existence of the Sanctuary.

Just last month, Ralph Heath, founder of the Sanctuary received a group of thirty writers and photographers from every corner of Germany.  “Everyone in Germany is going to know about you and the Sanctuary” one of the visitors explained. On any given day the Sanctuary plays host to dozens of photographers from all over the world.  They look up at the birds in the canopy and into the habitat areas with their giant fish-eyed camera lens trying to get that “perfect” shot of a mother feeding her chicks or a breeding pair preening in the Florida sunshine. The images captured in the Sanctuary travel well and so does the concept of stewardship conveyed through the Sanctuary experience. The Sanctuary guest book looks like a sign-in sheet from the United Nations.  It documents that the message of stewardship fostered at the Sanctuary has wings, too.  It flies home in the minds and through the images of their global guest list.