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Beach birds and volunteer monitoring

Posted on Apr 13, 2014

Yesterday I was a part of beach training for the new volunteer monitors of the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds (AAfCW). This session, to help those entering the AAfCW program with how to safely monitor and survey Piping Plovers and Least Terns, was conducted by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection with staff from Audubon Connecticut and myself from RTPI on hand. AAfCW and our collective staff act as a bridge to aid the State of Connecticut and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, regulatory agencies for these state and, in the case of the Piping Plover, federally listed species. Volunteer monitors are citizen scientists with eyes on the ground every day across Connecticut and we could not do this work without their vital assistance!

It was a sensational day to be on Sandy and Morse Points in West Haven, a beautiful barrier beach system that is an Important Bird Area and one of the most significant sites in the state. There were many new introductions and great stories to be told in between CT DEEP staff explaining what we do while on the beach, how to approach and survey these birds, methods of interacting with the public and other beachgoers, and why this work is so critical. There were also a terrific variety of early spring birds including three pairs of Piping Plovers with three additional adults.

Piping Plover by the waves

Sandy Point training watching PIPL

Piping Plover pair

Piping Plover scratching

Piping Plover staring

Piping Plover watching

Piping Plovers sleepy

There were also four pairs of American Oystercatchers and one additional adult making the total for both important species at nine each!

American Oystercatcher grass

American Oystercatcher water

American Oystercatchers beach

The spring season is far more advanced in coastal Connecticut than it is in Western New York. However, it has nevertheless also been cooler than usual and the birds are still pairing off and establishing territories. Nesting will commence soon and we will be in the middle of the busy breeding season. Once again I would like to thank all of our volunteer monitors and citizen scientists – well over 100 people from across Connecticut – for helping us to ensure the success of our waterbirds. This active education, conservation and public awareness with cooperation across multiple organizations is something Roger Tory Peterson would assuredly be enthralled to see happening on a daily basis in some of his favored Connecticut locations that he helped to promote, protect and teach about throughout his life.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch