Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Help protect Connecticut's shorebirds this July 4th weekend

Beachgoers asked to “Fish, Swim, and Play from 50 Yards Away” of bird nesting areas on July 4th
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is reminding reminds beachgoers that Charles Island in Milford and Duck Island in Westbrook are closed to the public through Sept. 9, according to a release
The agency also "is asking the public to help protect birds that nest in coastal areas, especially during the very busy summer beach season," release said. "People visiting the beaches are often unaware of the shorebirds that nest in the sands near where they are swimming, fishing, and recreating. As a result, nests can accidentally get trampled, destroyed, or abandoned. Beachgoers can help by staying at least 50 yards away from areas where large concentrations of birds are gathered, and to always respect areas that are roped off or marked with signs designating an area that is used by nesting birds."
"Whether they are on nests or in feeding areas, nesting shorebirds and wading birds (particularly piping plovers, least terns, American oystercatchers, herons, and egrets) are especially vulnerable to disturbance from kites, fireworks, and unattended cats and dogs," the release said.
"Once disturbed, these birds may abandon nesting areas, leaving eggs and hatchlings to die from exposure or predation. In addition, beachcombers, sunbathers, and boaters can inadvertently trample piping plover and least tern eggs and young if they are not vigilant," the release said.
"To avoid this, the DEEP has erected fencing and yellow warning signs along beaches where these birds build their shallow nests in the sand. Similarly, the DEEP has cordoned off various off-shore islands where herons and egrets congregate in nesting areas called rookeries."
“Shorebirds and wading birds need special protection throughout their April to September nesting season,” DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen said, also in the release. “We urge beachgoers to keep fireworks and kites, especially kites that make noise, away from beach areas. We are also asking people to keep their pets leashed and to stay away from fenced areas.”
"Beach visitors need to be aware that while cordoned off areas delineate critical nesting sites, once plover and tern chicks hatch, they can be anywhere on the beach, not just in the fenced areas. Therefore, it is extremely important to be aware of your surroundings when visiting a beach where plovers and terns are known to nest," the release said.
\More in the DEEP statement:
      DEEP offers the following advice to protect nesting shorebirds and wading birds:
  • Do not build camp fires on beaches where plovers and terns nest, even below the mean high tide line.
  • Check local ordinances before bringing dogs or other pets to beaches – some beaches prohibit dogs during the summer season. Refrain from allowing cats to roam freely on beaches during the nesting season. Dogs and cats are frequent predators of piping plovers and least terns.
  • Do not let pets off boats onto posted islands or posted beaches.
  • If you live near a beach, do not let your pets roam during the nesting season. Dogs should always be leashed.
  • Do not bury or leave trash, picnic leftovers, and fish scraps on a beach. They attract predators of chicks and eggs, such as skunks, raccoons, foxes, and black-backed gulls.
  • Do not attempt to “rescue” young birds that appear to be lost or too young to fly.
  • Do not attempt to remove young birds from the beach or coastal areas to care for them at home.
"It is illegal to hold wildlife for rehabilitation without state or federal permits. In addition, shorebirds have a unique diet that people would find hard to duplicate, probably resulting in starvation of the young bird."
Report any violations affecting wildlife to the DEEP’s 24-hour, toll-free hot line: 1-800-842-HELP (for those with CT area codes of 860 and 203) or 860-424-3333 (for those with area codes other than CT).
In contributed photo: Piping plover chick

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