A Bright Path Forward

President's Column

It is hard to believe we are more than halfway through 2017. It was nearly a year ago that Seaside Seabird Sanctuary assumed all operations from the previous sanctuary. Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is your stand alone, completely independent, Seabird Sanctuary on the Gulf Coast.  It has not been an easy year in transition as we want to make sure there is no confusion about who we are as Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, a 100% public-funded, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, that needs you and your financial support to keep the legacy of rehabilitation and rescues alive for years to come. That aside, throughout our first year we have made considerable headway into forming a solid team, putting in place new management, ensuring all permits are current, and most importantly, nurturing a fresh approach to wildlife and the environment.

We continue our mission as environmental stewards caring for sick and injured land and seabirds that we rescue and receive from good samaritans within our community. As we develop and shape our future at Seaside, we understand that education through onsite programs and outreach is critical to making a difference. Our mission at Seaside has evolved to not only being one of wildlife care, but also to include promoting a sustainable approach to the environment to minimize bird injuries and illness in the first place.

Our grand opening this Spring was a wonderful gathering. Bayou Catering put on a nice spread, and city council members and leaders attended from up and down the Gulf Coast, as well as many of our loyal supporters from the local communities and beyond. We featured a young and accomplished author, Charlie Parker, whose children’s book, Charlie’s Shore PALS, was inspired by his many visits to the Seabird Sanctuary. The event culminated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony introducing Seaside Seabird Sanctuary as your sanctuary on the Gulf Coast.  We hope you enjoyed the get-together and have visited in the meantime or plan to soon! 

As with any new non-profit, we rely on your support! Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, accepts donations, both in-kind and material, but we always need your financial support. We feed over 110 permanently injured resident birds daily. Our small, yet dedicated, staff has offered critical care to over 1,300 sick, injured, or orphaned birds representing over 128 different species in 2017 to date. In total, the monthly cost to sustain rescue and rehabilitation operations is nearly $30,000. Please consider Seaside Seabird Sanctuary for your general giving, annual non-profit contributions, or in your estate or will planning.  

For further information on how to give to Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, and to hear about what the birds may need at any time, please call our business manager, Brian Tharp, at (727) 392-4291. Also, we are always looking for motivated, passionate volunteers. Call (727) 391-6211 for the details.

Please visit our website,, to stay abreast of the latest news and developments at Seaside.  Also, we encourage you to join our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. We look forward to seeing each of you this summer at Seaside Seabird Sanctuary!

Remember we each make a difference and together we will go far. Please support the birds, and always stay in touch.  

Andrew von Gontard, President & Executive Director

In this Issue

  • Supporting the Sanctuary
  • Grand Opening Celebration
  • Meet our Captain
  • Educational Partnership with Pinellas County 
  • Seaside's Commitment to the Environment
  • Rufous - Our Newest Avian Ambassador
  • Manatees Visit the Sanctuary's Beach
  • Volunteer Spotlight
Supporting the Sanctuary
As we transition and move forward with our work with the birds, we need your support more than ever.

Seaside Seabird Sanctuary relies entirely on your support to fulfill our mission.  Seaside Seabird Sanctuary receives no local, state, or federal funding of any kind and relies 100% on private donations for our operations.

  • Visit our online Donation Page.
  • Donate funds by mail, payable to Seaside Seabird Sanctuary.
  • Donate supplies from our Amazon wish list or visit and bring us supplies.
  • Ask your employer or pension about Matching Donations.
  • Update or include Seaside Seabird Sanctuary in your will or trust.
  • Sponsor capital improvements such as a new hospital roof or improved enclosures.

Other Ways to Help: 
  • Review us on TripAdvisor or
  • Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Tell your friends about the great work we do here!

Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and operates solely on private donations. Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is not a government agency, and receives no government grants or financial assistance of any kind. Any and all donations made to Seaside Seabird Sanctuary are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Federal Tax ID #: 81-3774704
In addition to monetary donations, Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is in need of daily supplies. We are in most critical need of the following items: 

Liquid Laundry Detergent - Bleach - "Simple Green-D Pro5" Disinfectant - White Vinegar - Lawn Trash Bags - Grapes, Apples & Blueberries - Mealworms & Crickets - Peanuts (Whole) - Dove & Quail Seed - Wild Songbird Seed - Adam's Flea & Tick Spray - Gas Cards (for rescue van) - Printer Ink
A complete version of our Wish List is available on our website.   
A Successful Grand Opening Celebration
We would like to thank everyone who came out in support of Seaside at our Grand Opening on March 30th.

The event was attended by nearly 200 members of the community. Some of the local officials attending included: Indian Shores Vice Mayor, Diantha Schear and Indian Shores Councilor, Mike Hackerson; Pinellas County Commissioner, Pat Gerard; Seminole Council Member, Thom Barnhorn; and Redington Shores Commissioner, Pat Drumm. Other groups represented at the opening included the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, You Too Can Recycle mascot Toucan Anne, and the Blue Turtle - Green Bird Society.

The event was also an opportunity to thank and encourage our next generation of wildlife and environmental advocates.  Charlie Parker, 10-year-old author wrote and illustrated a book, Charlie’s Shore PALS, inspired by his visits to the Sanctuary; his book is available for purchase in our gift shop.  Also, 9-year-old Kyle Swenfurth, who raised $300 for our sanctuary at his lemonade stand, was recognized for his efforts.

Attendees were addressed by Seaside’s President & Executive Director, Andrew von Gontard, his mother, Beatrice von Gontard, and Sanctuary Operations Manager, Edward Gayton III.  Following their remarks, refreshments were served while donors, visitors, staff members and volunteers toured the Sanctuary grounds. Our avian ambassadors were also on hand to greet the attendees.  After a ribbon-cutting ceremony with staff and volunteers gathering together, a fundraising raffle and silent auction ended the celebration and everyone left with gift bags including donation envelopes to help support the Sanctuary. 
  Meet our Captain - Eddie Gayton
Every ship has its Captain, and Edward J. Gayton III is the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary’s.  Eddie Gayton respects and appreciates wildlife, and has a long history of helping to conserve the environment. As the Operations Manager, Eddie is responsible for all facets of the organization. Eddie is the permittee for Seaside’s rehabilitation permit and makes sure the Sanctuary meets the requirements of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Before arriving at the Sanctuary, Eddie worked in the Tampa Bay area as a ship’s Captain. He earned his 100 ton Near Coastal Master’s License 25 years ago, which he still maintains today. As a ship’s captain, Eddie began building a relationship with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission by taking part in the 1980 Blackthorn oil spill cleanup effort. As part of the effort, he volunteered his personal boat and maritime skills by piloting a group of Florida college students to the cleanup site, rescuing seabirds during a four-day period.

He then moved to Ecuador where he owned and operated a marine aquaculture farm for six years. After moving back to the U.S., Eddie’s passion for animals brought him to volunteer at the Sanctuary in 2010 in the Sanctuary’s hospital under then Hospital Supervisor, Barbara Suto. Eventually, Eddie would work closely with Isis, the Sanctuary’s permanently disabled Red-Tailed Hawk. His hard work and determination led to him being hired as the Sanctuary’s Operations Manager in September, 2015. Previously he also volunteered with the Center for Marine Conservation’s “Florida Coastal Cleanup effort”; served as Vice President of the Parent Teacher Student Association; served as President of the Neighborhood Civics Association; and supported his father’s elections campaigns for Commissioner of the City of Treasure Island. 
Educational Partnership with Pinellas County Schools
Pinellas County Schools and Seaside Seabird Sanctuary have recently partnered in an educational program on wild birds, avian medicine & rehabilitation

As part of the program, the local school system purchased 110 plush pelican toys which were distributed to teachers with a lesson on unwrapping mono-filament line from the birds. Seaside also purchased some of the toys to be sold in our gift shop, where any purchase goes towards the birds’ care.  During follow-up field trips to the Sanctuary in June and July, 19 different kindergarten classes from the Summer Bridge Program toured our Sanctuary. 

The kindergartners made drawings of birds, giggled at the sleeping skimmers, admired the baby birds nesting in the trees, gathered trash from off the beach and finished with a picnic. When time allowed, an avian ambassador, such as Rufous, our Eastern Screech Owl, was brought out to help them learn more about caring for wild birds and nature conservation. 
Seaside Seabird Sanctuary will also be featured in an upcoming episode of Science Rocks Pinellas where they will highlight the partnership. Science Rocks Pinellas is a new concept science television program designed to showcase Pinellas County School’s STEM programs and the students, teachers and educational trends in the science community. Science Rocks Pinellas airs in the Tampa Bay area and past episodes are available on YouTube.

Seaside's Commitment to the Environment
At Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, our mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release birds that have become sick, injured or orphaned. Some common causes of illness and injuries to the birds we admit include fishhook and line entanglement, collisions involving automobiles, boats and buildings, domestic and wild animal attacks, and environmental pollution.

In 2017 so far, our avian hospital has already received over 1,300 birds.  Some of the birds we most frequently take into our care are Brown Pelicans, Double-Crested Cormorants and Eastern Screech Owls. Many cormorants, for example were brought to the Sanctuary with red tide poisoning. Red tide is an algal bloom which produces toxins that impact the health of fish, seabirds, marine mammals and humans.  Although these harmful algal blooms may occur naturally, coastal water pollution, fertilizer runoff, and a systematic increase in sea water temperature have been implicated as contributing factors to red tides. Red tide poisoning in seabirds is manifested in symptoms such as dehydration, stumbling while walking, and struggling to stand.

We will continue to be ready and available to rescue and admit sick and injured birds and to educate the public on environmental issues that impact wildlife and potentially humans, as well. We would not be able to do this without your compassionate, generous support. Thank you for helping us to continue to conserve our precious wildlife and the resources they and all of us depend on.

Rufous - Our Newest Avian Ambassador

Meet Rufous, our newest avian ambassador, an Eastern Screech Owl with an uncommon story and demeanor. Although small in stature, he has a decidedly charming personality. 

Named for his unusual red color, Rufous has been a big hit with children and adults who visit the Sanctuary.  Rufous arrived from the Clearwater area as an adult with vision issues on his right side, possibly due to a stroke or collision with a vehicle. 

After two weeks recuperating in the hospital, the Sanctuary decided to begin training him as an avian ambassador. His training included wearing leather falconry anklets and increasingly longer sessions on the glove and perch.  After a few months, he is now one of the stars of tours to Seaside and is frequently featured as an ambassador during educational presentations to the community. Seaside Seabird Sanctuary has already rehabilitated and released 23 Eastern Screech Owls in 2017. 

Manatees Visit the Sanctuary's Beach 
On July 7, visitors excitedly informed the staff that several manatees had beached themselves in the surf in front of our beach entrance.  Concerned, we contacted the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, (whose summer camp participants have been visiting the Sanctuary recently), who explained there was no cause for alarm, as this is a common occurrence during mating season. 

A female manatee, or cow, may be in-heat for up to 3 weeks. During this period, the male bulls gather and follow her, waiting for the time when the cow is willing to mate. Exhausted from the relentless pursuit, a female may come into shallower waters in order to rest in the surf and regain her energy. The bulls continue to vie for her attention while she is beached on the sand. Biologists call these groups a "mating ball" or a "mating herd".  

As the crowd gathered to watch up to 7 manatees loll in the surf, a rescue worker from the aquarium and members of the Sanctuary's staff kept the public from disturbing the group, and ensured the manatees' access to deeper water. The manatees were in no danger and could return to deeper water at any time.  

As one rescuer said, "This is a great example of how education and conservation work come together. The aquarium received multiple calls within a matter of minutes, which is a wonderful response from the public and shows a great understanding of the need to protect wildlife." Similarly at Seaside, when an injured Pelican is seen on the beach, we often receive multiple calls on our rescue hotline. Even though there was no reason for dismay, the manatee sighting was a very positive example of the work of conservation efforts and educational outreach coming together.  It was also a reminder of the uniqueness of the Sanctuary's Gulf Coast location. 

To learn more about manatees, their mating habits, and how you can help, visit the website Save the Manatees. According to the group,  loss of habitat is the most serious threat facing manatees in the United States today. There was a minimum population count of 6,620 manatees as of February 2017, according to the most recent survey. 
 Volunteer Spotlight
Our organization relies heavily on the support of our volunteers. We want to recognize father and son team Van and Jason Varney as a pair of volunteers dedicating part of their summer to the Sanctuary.

Twice a week this summer, you’ll find this pair with wading boots, buckets, and cleaning equipment here at the Sanctuary to help tend enclosures.  

Both native Floridians, it was son Jason's idea to volunteer at the sanctuary, although his father had been coming here for years. The 14 year old has been fascinated by birds from a very young age, after visiting a local park with a neighbor. The high school freshman doesn't have just one favorite bird – he enjoys whatever bird he is near at the moment, from blue jays to vultures. Working in the osprey mews, our raptor barn, is one of the highlights of his volunteer days.

His father, Van Varney, sees the volunteering as a way to foster a sense of teamwork with his son and instill personal and civic responsibility. Mr. Varney stated, "Overall, this has been a great experience to work as a team. Jason is learning a lot about hard work and commitment, while enjoying time close to the birds."

The Sanctuary is always in need of volunteers and welcomes all the amazing talents and energy our community brings to our mission. Our volunteers take on many roles here by devoting their time and efforts to the Sanctuary.  

Volunteers Needed: 

  • Docents   
  • Greeters 
  • Fundraisers 
  • Gardeners
  • Maintenance Workers
  • Any and All Skills are Welcome!

Stop by our Gift Shop to volunteer with us or call us at (727) 391-6211 for more information.