Monday, June 12, 2017

Sandy Point in Summer

By Beth Sullivan

Kids are almost out of school. Finally, the weather has given us a hint of the summer to come. For the wildlife at Sandy Point-the birds and Horseshoe Crabs (and USFWS) the summer season began a while ago. More than a month ago the shorebirds arrived, and already the American Oystercatchers have established nests and some have already hatched young. On a recent trip out, we saw a number of Piping Plovers, Oystercatchers, some Least Terns, and a really cool Black Skimmer cruising the shoreline.

Horseshoe Crabs return

The full moon in May also signaled the real beginning of the Horseshoe Crab migration to the island for nesting; a trek that has gone on for thousands if not millions, of years. Avalonia stewards were thwarted by weather conditions and other circumstances, so our first trip out was in June. On our kayak excursions out to the island, we count and tag the returning crabs. Later we will paddle out to look for the nests, hatching young, and juvenile crabs that take refuge in the calm waters on the north side of the island.
Sandy Point, a truly spectacular gem to be protected and appreciated.

Enjoy the island but please remember that we need to share the beach.

Dogs are not allowed on the island at all. Please leave them home.

As we have reported over the last years, Avalonia Land Conservancy has entered into a very supportive relationship with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the island. It had become impossible to juggle the needs of the wildlife that needs the special habitat to survive, and the wishes of the island-loving public that has enjoyed the island’s sandy shores and inviting waters for generations.
The Service provides wildlife biologists as experienced stewards who will study the protected species, will note where they nest, and provide protection for them. They will also be available to educate the public, answer questions and explain the rules. An informed visitor is far more likely to be compliant and actually help with the effort to preserve and protect the place we all love. The Service will also have the ability to see that the rules are followed.
A major concern is dogs on the island. As much as we all love our beach buddies, dogs are seen as predators, and dogs are forbidden from the entire island, at all times, even on leash. Please observe this regulation.

Sandy Point summer beach passes

All of this effort comes at a cost and, as in the past, there will be a fee for usage of Sandy Point, which will help offset this expense. The USFWS has developed a fee scale that is very fair and is actually less expensive than in past years. Also, they have decided to continue the relationship with the Stonington COMO to assist with the management of the process and procedures to obtain passes and their distribution. You can go directly to the COMO if you choose, or very easily go to the COMO website and link to Summer Beach Passes. A direct link to purchase passes is here
The Horseshoe Crabs have returned to nest.

US Fish and Wildlife Service will educate the public and protect the wildlife.

When you are done for the day, please pick up your litter. It can be deadly for birds and other wildlife.

It will be important to keep the pass with you and a personal ID while visiting the island, as stewards will check for them. They will be required from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
It truly is a small price to pay to be able to enjoy the beautiful island beaches and waters, but also know that your purchase actually goes to support the stewardship of the island to protect and preserve it for all who visit or call it home.
We will keep you posted on the seasonal changes out there. In the meantime, get your passes and enjoy the early summer pleasures of Avalonia’s gem: Sandy Point Island.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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