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Plymouth Harbor unveils $1.65 million bird rookery preservation project

Residents, staff and board members cut the ribbon on Earth Day for the revitalized bird rookery and peninsula at Plymouth Harbor.

A black-crowned night heron in the Plymouth Harbor rookery.
A black-crowned night heron in the Plymouth Harbor rookery.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer
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Plymouth Harbor residents and staff spent Earth Day 2024 celebrating the completion of a year-long revitalization for the community’s bird rookery and peninsula. 

The peninsula, about 3 acres in size, is home to a bird rookery where a variety of birds come to nest and create a small ecosystem in Plymouth Harbor. The project was a resident-led effort. 

Now, residents and staff can enjoy a stroll around the new peninsula, with benches, a cushioned walking path, viewing areas, signage, a songbird garden and new vegetation. 

Before cutting the ribbon, Plymouth Harbor board members, campaign chair Bill Johnston and Save Our Seabirds Executive Director Brian Walton had a chance to give a few remarks. 

Harry Hobson, former president and CEO, said the vision to revitalize the rookery began over 12 years ago, but couldn’t be fully realized at the time. Over the years, some modifications were made and in fall 2021 a committee was formed to further the project’s vision. 

Johnston chaired that committee and led the fundraising effort, which began in spring 2022. Later that year, the campaign surpassed the goal of raising $1.65 million and construction could begin. 

Johnston said the rookery was a special place to him and his family. His father, who also lived at Plymouth Harbor, enjoyed the scenery of the rookery, which often made him smile later in life. 

“The ability to see him smile, whether it was the waves, or birds or whatever, just made my mother as happy as anybody can be,” Johnston said.

Jane Kidd and her husband, Jack, donated to the rookery's songbird garden.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer

In total, there were about 88 donors according to Vice President of Philanthropy Beth Watson.  

Construction lasted up until last week when finishing touches of replanting took place. 

Walton spoke a little bit about the work that Save Our Seabirds does, and said that the few interactions he’s had with the rookery have made the place stand out to him. 

“It truly is a remarkable place, an important place where diversity can take place in terms of our bird species,” Walton said. “That is an important contribution to the biodiversity of our environment and our community here.”

After the remarks, the ribbon was cut and guests were able to walk the peninsula, take in the views and enjoy refreshments with music from Sarasota Steel Drum and violinists from Prometheus Duo. 

Donors, Plymouth Harbor residents and staff cut the ribbon for the 3-acre bird rookery.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer

One resident who was invested in the project from the start was Lou Newman. 

“Our goal was, number one, to restore our environmental jewel that all the residents could enjoy for years to come,” Newman said. “Our second goal was to preserve the rookery.”

Newman traveled the world — all seven continents — often with three cameras at the ready. A veterinarian turned wildlife photographer, Newman looks out at the rookery daily.

A great blue heron perched in the rookery.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer

His apartment provides him with a good view, and he can get some good photographs from his neighbor’s balcony, he said. 

But walking around the rookery is where he can point out all the nests he keeps an eye on, from a black-crowned night heron to a green heron protecting her chicks. 

For Newman and many of the residents — and staff — of Plymouth Harbor, the revitalization of the rookery and peninsula gives a fresh way to enjoy the environment within the community. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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