A Day at the Beach
What could be more summer-like than a day at the beach? Who doesn’t love having fun in the water and on the sand? And the beach is a popular spot for wildlife as well. Terrapins cross busy streets to get from the marsh to
the sandy shores to lay their eggs, then return home across those same busy streets; horseshoe crabs lay their thousands of eggs along the shoreline, and eating the eggs gives long-distance flying shorebirds the energy they need to complete their migration; Osprey and terns ply the waters close to shore, diving for food; beach nesting birds lay their perfectly camouflaged eggs in the sand
and raise their equally camouflaged young there. On beaches, there’s a lot going on! And it might not be a surprise to know that birds that use our shores face some big challenges.
Next time you’re at the beach, take a careful look around. All beach nesting birds, like the oystercatchers below, lay eggs directly on a little shallow in the sand. For their protection from predators, these eggs all blend in perfectly with the sand, as do the teeny chicks who when hatched, are extremely difficult to see. Many areas where birds nest on the beach are roped off so they can enjoy a zone away from the rest of us enjoying the same real estate.
Want to help beach-nesting birds? Here are some things you can do:
If you see a nesting area that has been roped off, don’t enter it for any reason. The eggs or chicks, if they have hatched, could be anywhere. Plus, the adults have a difficult time herding their precocial chicks, and see everything that moves as a potential predator — including pets. Even if your dog is on a lead and outside the nesting area, his presence can distract the adults who may
feel they need to leave their chicks to defend against a passing dog. This might lead to an opening a gull or crow has been waiting for to grab an unattended chick. Plus some birds, like Piping Plovers, need to safely escort their chicks to the water’s edge multiple times each day to feed them. A busy beach is a challenging place for a beach nesting bird! If you are respectful, they will stand a much better chance of successfully raising their young.
The beach is a great place to spend hot summer days, and its also a terrific place to see wildlife. Enjoy the beach and be respectful of the wild birds and other animals with which we share it. This is the best way to ensure they will be there in the future for all of us to continue to enjoy.