[CT Birds] Milford Point sandbars

Nick Bonomo nbonomo at gmail.com
Wed Aug 7 18:56:51 EDT 2013

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.

Nick Bonomo

Nick Bonomo
Wallingford, CT

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