Monday, June 22, 2015

Sandy Point: Ready for Summer

By Beth Sullivan
As the calendar indicates it is now summer, it is the season that will find more activity out on Sandy Point. The action began more than a month ago when the Piping Plovers arrived and began scraping nests in the sand. American Oystercatchers have staked out territories and set up nesting sites as well.

Oystercatchers have had great success this year. Photo by Rick Newton

Piping Plovers require everyone's protection. Photo by Rick Newton.
The dredging project that took place last winter changed the topography of the island by building up the sandy areas which is perfect for these birds and the Least Terns we were hoping would return. And they have.
The dredging project improved the bird habitat on Sandy Point.

New agreement protects the island

This year brings other positive changes to the island. Over the winter, Avalonia worked hard to come up with the “best-of-all–worlds” type agreement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and our little island is now included as part of the Stuart B McKinney Wildlife Refuge System. While Avalonia maintains full ownership of the Preserve, USFWS will take responsibility for stewardship and monitoring to best protect the birds. Already the success of the nesting species is far better than other years, which might be a coincidence or partly a result of the dredging and improved nesting sites. The USFWS stewards have erected informational kiosks explaining the guidelines they will need to enforce to manage it well, while educating the public and encouraging active participation in protecting the fragile areas.
Shorebird eggs are vulnerable to all sorts of dangers.

Roped off areas designate not only nest sites but also feeding areas. The birds must move from nest to shoreline to feed, and their path must be free of people, dogs, obstructions and dangers. As always camping and camp fires are prohibited. Kite flying is seen as a significant threat by the birds: hard to distinguish a flying kite from a potential aerial predator. Dogs are not allowed at all, even on leash. The birds that nest here are not exposed to mammalian predators which gives them much greater security as ground nesters.

Horseshoe crabs return

The Horseshoe crabs have also returned to Sandy Point. The new and full moons in May through July draw them at the high tide, up to the beach for mating and egg laying. We have begun our tagging efforts and will give better reporting as the season goes on. The Horseshoe crabs rely on the Island to be a safe place to breed, a place where their nests will remain intact, their eggs can hatch, and the young can survive in the shallows. Migrating shorebirds rely on some of these eggs to fuel their journeys. It is a complex web of life to be experienced out there.
There are many treasures to be found on Sandy Point.

Sandy Point has always been a refuge for many species: human, bird, and others. At this point, we can all work together to share the refuge, enjoy the beauty it offers, and learn to understand and respect the interconnectedness of the birds and this habitat.
Sandy Point beckons.

Passes are again required to visit the island. Funding is needed to support stewardship efforts. Permits can be obtained through the Stonington COMO. Day passes are available, Season memberships are $70 for individual, $90 for family. Children under 18 are free with a paid adult. Stop in at 28 Cutler Street in Stonington, or visit their website . Visit Avalonia‘s website to read more about Sandy Point and why it remains such a special place. Enjoy.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

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