[CT Birds] Fwd: Milford Point

peeplo at aol.com peeplo at aol.com
Thu Aug 8 11:13:15 EDT 2013

Hi Folks,

The issue of access to Milford Point's Sandbars is a complicated one, and there have been several salient points made in the most recent discussion. I wanted to touch on a few of these. There are only a few sites in Connecticut to view shorebirds during migration, as Nick noted in his e-mail, Sandy Point, and Milford Point being the two best locally. These sites are also heavily-traffic multi-use areas, so pressures are high on nesting and roosting birds in general. It is not just human disturbance, directly, but people's pets, such as dogs and cats, and wildlife, such as fox, racoons, skunks and a myriad of predatory birds which visit the bars on a daily basis. Sandy Beaches in CT are a tough place to raise a family. 

As it stands, in an effort to reduce impact on nesting species, specifically Threatened species, the Audubon Alliance, which includes Federal, State and both Audubons, monitors these populations, and tries to minimize disturbance to them, often by making recommendations to the public. There are always many opinions on which is the best way to proceed, but the underlying premise, is protection of the birds. 

Nick asked about studies, and several people have given their insights from direct observation as to what constitutes/contributes to disturbance. Min may be able to comment on studies done locally; I seem to recall studies done years ago from NJ that indicated migrating shorebirds could be disturbed by the public enough to cause starvation (Nick, I'd check with Cape May folks.)  Regardless of empirical data, we can all probably agree that our beaches are few and far between and heavily used. 

The idea of high and low impact disturbance was raised, with the idea that birders are generally on the lower disturbance end, and ultimately should be allowed on the beaches. Birders are but one component of potential disturbance, and I suspect (can't prove) that their is a cumulative affect. The question also, is how does one police the actions of so many visitors? The answer is, we can't. The idea is to minimize, as much as possible, the total disturbance. If we can't stop the people who don't care, perhaps those who do care can be persuaded to limit their role. Thank you to all who have made personal sacrifices not to visit or disturb the birds during the breeding season. Every little bit helps, I hope. 

Moving forward, better signage would help. Improved signage has been requested, annually, to inform the general public to avoid the nesting areas, but state and federal budget cuts limit expenditure for such things. Let's hope next year will be different.  Word of mouth is also very imporant for spreading the word. 

What caused a drop in numbers of the tern colony is not totally understood. July 4 may have played a role; the state has to hire a police officer and assign a cadre of volunteers to keep people off the bars July 3 and 4, if that gives you any idea of the potential disturbance, on just one or two days. But repeated visits by the masses surely had some effect. 

Anything we can do as a group to alleviate pressure on these species can only be for the good. That said, it seems reasonable to allow access later in the season (mid august, say?(we can discuss timing) when most nests are done), with birders cognicent of the fact that it is always best to stay well below the high tide line. Time visits at mid tide rather than high tide; nests can be outside the string fencing and impossible to detect. I worked for 5 years on a tern colony and I am well trained, and in the past have stepped on a nest I've missed; camoflage is how these species survive on an open beach with many predators. 

Ultimately, we all wish to preserve these birds and to enjoy them. How best to accomplish this is under discussion. Please note, that as always, the intent is to protect these rare species, which has in the past required personal  sacrifice, and shall do so in future. Again, thank you to all who have made the effort...

If anyone would like to talk with me off line, please contact me directly. 

Frank Gallo, Director

Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center
fgallo at ctaudubon.org

Please Note: Public access via Francis Street is a contested issue with our neighbors. Please access from our property, and to not go directly down Francis Street itself, and try to avoid going east of Francis Street (especially with an organized group), as this is a private beach. Yes, below the high tide is public, but it causes friction that is better avoided. It is much appreciated.  



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