[CT Birds] Milford Point sandbars

Nick Bonomo nbonomo at gmail.com
Thu Aug 8 08:33:59 EDT 2013


All,

It is not surprising that my initial message about birding MP during the non-breeding season has morphed into an argument over birders' affect on Least Tern colonies, hah. I do not have the answers myself regarding exactly what good or bad is done by birders, monitors, or others. This summer I decided to respect the space of the terns and only bird the base of the spit.

What I do know is that it is pretty easy with some simple observational skills to bird the sandspit outside the breeding season for migrants and wintering birds without harming them. The sandspit is pretty large, and wide at the base, so with careful steps one can spot flocks from a distance and then either:
1) take a route to avoid flushing them, or
2) notice that the flock is in such a place where flushing seems likely, so it is time to turn around.

Nick


Nick Bonomo
Wallingford, CT
www.shorebirder.com

Sent from my iPhone

On Aug 7, 2013, at 10:35 PM, Nick Bonomo <nbonomo at gmail.com> wrote:

> All,
> 
> A follow-up to my previous email, as this point has obviously been missed by some:
> 
> **I have not walked out past the base of the sandspit since the terns arrived to breed this year. I am not proposing that we do. But I will resume doing so once the terns have passed the point of nesting (now or very soon). I will continue to bird the area as I have over the past 15 years, with respect for all birds, breeding or not.**
> 
> It sounded from some responses that folks thought I was recommending walking all the way out to get good looks at some prep or something to that effect. I encourage those to actually read my email.
> 
> Also...I chose NOT to publicly challenge the assertion as *fact* that human traffic caused abandonment. Though I understand why some are doing that. As someone formally trained in the sciences, I would want some data too. A word of advice...It is important that this questioning is met with respect from conservation authorities, or else those who can recognize good science versus bad science will begin to lose respect for those very conservation voices with whom they should be working. Good science IS to question. It is not selfish. Conversation is healthy.
> 
> Interestingly, my public request for such studies/data earlier this spring out of my own curiosity was met with more speculation and logic but no data.
> 
> Nick
> 
> Sent from my iPhone
> 
> On Aug 7, 2013, at 6:56 PM, Nick Bonomo <nbonomo at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
>> As someone who has responsibly birded Milford Point for half of my life, and someone who knows how to approach shorebirds and terns to study them without flushing them (via scope), I take issue with the orders to stay off the Milford Point sandbars at all times, regardless of whether Least Terns are present or not.
>> 
>> While disappointed to be unable to study the shorebirds at Milford Point this summer (reasonable study of peep is not possible from the main beach or observation platforms), I respected the presence of the terns and avoided their colony. But once the Leasties are no longer susceptible to human traffic below the fence line (if not already, this will be very soon), I will resume birding the sandbar.
>> 
>> With common sense and care, that long spit of sand can be birded with minimal disturbance to the birds that use it to roost. One must be aware of the tides, how birds respond to them, and how birds respond to human movement, etc. Some experience is required.
>> 
>> I do appreciate that some people are very conservation-minded, as am I. But sometimes over-zealous observers cannot see the forest for the trees. As an example, and I have seen and heard of many variations on this over the years...last fall I was out near the tip of the sandbar sorting through the shorebirds as two birders were walking out well behind me. While I was out there, a Merlin ripped through and put up all the birds, some of which dispersed straight for the marsh and other recently-exposed sandbars as the tide was falling. At this point I started my walk back. I passed those other two birders, who made a comment like "thanks for scaring all the birds" in a nasty tone. They had completely missed the Merlin attack the shorebirds and just *assumed* it was me. Again, I have experienced and heard stories like this MANY times over the years. Birders are not given the benefit of the doubt by other birders.
>> 
>> Lastly, birders may want to know that the base of the sandbar, the part close to Francis Street, is easily birdable without any disturbance to even breeding Least Terns. Most of the terns this summer are breeding further out the spit. But there are few pairs near the base, and the base is wide enough that at any tide except the highest of the highs, one can bird here without putting any Leasties at risk. (This is not me going rogue...this was told to me by CAS personnel.) This happens to be a productive area for migrant shorebirds, especially the peep. That was not mentioned all summer, among the "stay off the sandbar" requests.
>> 
>> I do not mean to sound defiant. That is not my purpose. I understand the urge to just tell everyone to stay off at all times. But I am a responsible adult and ask to be treated like one. I am not going to let a bad apple ruin my opportunity to bird the best parts of Milford Point, where I first learned to bird, as I have been doing for 15 years.
>> 
>> Respectfully,
>> Nick Bonomo
>> 
>> Nick Bonomo
>> Wallingford, CT
>> www.shorebirder.com



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