Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tough Going For Birds Sharing The Beach At Cupsogue County Park

On Saturday, I spent most of my day birding the Cupsogue flats in Westhampton LI New York. I started my day with Seawatching, which was a bust and I bailed after fielding a few questions from locals on what I was looking at.

I got onto the flats on a falling tide sometime after 8:00 a.m. and subsequently spent 8 hours birding. There were not many birds but I did enjoy my time studying those that were present. Of note, was my first banded Roseate Tern that I was able to read the coded ring. I submitted the band code to the bird banding laboratory and now I am awaiting the details.

Banded Roseate Tern.
Birding the flats at Cupsogue is not easy, as there are so many disturbances that the birds deal with. It is especially so on a holiday weekend and on the eve of 4th of July, the level of disturbances held true to form. Sharing these few open spaces with humans, is tough on the birds when they have to deal with disturbances like: Clamers
Clamers in action.
DIY planes,
Do it yourself Aircraft. I wished then the Terns would attack and bring this monstrosity down.
off-leashed dogs and low-flying commercial aircraft. I counted the number of times birds flushed as a result of each of the variables listed and I tallied 15 instances of disturbances. This is a high number; especially for migrating birds whose goal is to stuff themselves in an effort to gain enough weight for the next leg of their journey to their wintering grounds. When I observe these events, I am saddened that we have so little protection in place for these birds - but the truth is, we are to blame. The average birder is more interested in a tick for their life, state, county or patch list and spare little thought about the welfare of the birds overall. And it should be noted that some organizations who are supposed to be looking out for the welfare of birds are just as guilty.

You would think that with the marsh at Cupsogue being such a great spot for breeding Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows, something in the form of signage would be in place, alerting dog owners about the dangers these birds face from Fido running off-leashed. That is not the case and Saturday, I had to intervene when a gentleman allowed his dog to run rampant through the marsh scaring up breeding Eastern Willets, Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows. Luckily, my reasoning resulted in him seeing the error of his ways and he left shortly after with his dog in tow. But what happens when no one is around? Do you see what I am getting at? At the very least, signage, I would like to think would give pause to the would be offender (s).

Ask any birder, when was the last time they wrote a letter or engaged in some sort of activism to protect birds and you will probably get the usual excuses. Those of us who engage in such activities are often very discouraged and many times it puts us at odds with folks who would rather keep us silent. But we keep on, like an annoying drip. Plugging away and if we save one bird with our madness then I am content to continue the madness. Birds need all the help they could get from us.

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1 comment:

Patch Davis said...

Hi Andrew!
I feel your frustration! We are helping Audubon monitor Snowy Plover nests at Siesta Beach (#1 Beach in the USA) for the
third year and have encountered all these difficulties! There is a strict "no dogs" policy, law in fact, with $500 fine. One
guy told us, "I'm not worried, I can afford it." Last year, the little guys had many failed nests and fledged only two young.
We have one very dedicated steward who constantly moves the marked-off buffers to accommodate the foraging chicks,
and he has signage and volunteers who cover the weekend crowds and try to educate the clueless. Many times, the buffer
stakes are torn down by vandals, who leave their beer cans behind. One heroic chick hatched her eggs after three times
having the buffer torn down, footprints within inches of the eggs, and the July 4 fireworks! Keep up the good fight!