Connecticut Audbon Society

 

Working to protect the shorebirds on the Milford Point sandbar — with your help.

Baird’s Sandpiper sporting the plumage you’d see in summer in Connecticut. Photo by Frank Mantlik.

In the Sanctuaries …

We’ve decided that Connecticut Audubon will not hold group shorebird walks on the Milford Point sandbar for the rest of August.

If possible, try to visit the sandbar during a seven-hour window before and after low tide.

August 16, 2021 — For the good of the shorebirds feeding and resting now at Milford Point, Connecticut Audubon has decided to schedule no group walks to the Milford Point sandbar for the rest of August.

We are also asking for your help in giving the shorebirds plenty of room to feed and rest when you visit on your own.

On a morning two weeks ago, four photographers carried their equipment out to the sandbar.

To make sure they were close enough to get the photos they wanted, they settled onto the sand within 50 feet of two American Oystercatchers and their baby.

The baby oystercatcher was too young to fly and the parents were too attached to leave it on its own. Connecticut Audubon’s coastal ranger asked the photographers to please move farther away. 

But they stayed. And stayed. The birds were on high alert and distracted from doing the things they’d usually do, like resting and feeding and keeping cool in the midday heat.

Coastal Ranger Katerina Gillis retrieved the dead baby oystercatcher and handed it off to be necropsied.

By 1:30, shortly after the photographers’ four-hour stakeout, the baby American Oystercatcher was dead. A necropsy showed that it starved to death. Oystercatchers at Milford Point laid 20 eggs during the 2021 season. Only one baby has survived.

Connecticut Audubon is working with law enforcement representatives on this. Photographs have been turned over to law enforcement officials.

It was just the latest example this summer of seemingly well-meaning visitors ignoring the warning signs, string fencing, and requests of Connecticut Audubon staff to give nesting and migrating birds at Milford Point the room they need to survive.

Protecting birds on outlying sandbars and beaches is almost completely reliant on the cooperation of the public.

Connecticut Audubon has no law enforcement authority, and physically removing people from a public shoreline like the sandbar at the Coastal Center is beyond our abilities.

 The sandbar is a public domain area and can’t be closed to the public. The Coastal Center parking lot is a state coastal access location and can’t be closed without state permission. And access to the sandbar is available via beaches in Milford.

Connecticut Audubon is working through the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds to make the public more aware of how vulnerable shorebirds are, and of what visitors to the beach can do to help protect them.

Walking, birding, and taking photos on the Milford Point sandbar can unnecessarily disturb the shorebirds there. But there are things you can do to help minimize the stress on the birds.

We request that you try to visit the sandbar only during the period four hours before and three hours after low tide. On most days that leaves a span of seven hours when it’s safe for the birds.

During those hours, there’s room to walk carefully, view the birds through binoculars and scopes, and photograph them without getting close enough to force them to move.

Even during these hours, please walk carefully. Don’t linger for too long. If you notice birds flying away as you approach, that’s a signal you’ve gotten too close.

If a Coastal Ranger or other Connecticut Audubon staff or volunteer asks you to move a bit farther from the birds, please heed the request.

The gates of the Milford Point Coastal Center are open from dawn to dusk. You can visit other parts of the Coastal Center at any time without disturbing the birds.

All of these actions will help protect the one remaining baby American Oystercatcher and the Piping Plovers until they’re old enough to fly.

Visitors to the Milford Point sandbar observe the warning sign and string fencing to keep nesting terns and plovers safe. Photo by Bob MacDonnell.

Other shorebirds are arriving now from their nesting areas to the north to use the sandbar as a rest area as well. In recent days Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Black Bellied Plovers, and other species have started to gather on the sandbar in large numbers.

If birders, photographers, and others get too close, it forces them to fly away. That uses energy they need for the rest of their migration south to Central and South America.

Please try to visit only during the safe hours shown on this chart.

Please heed the signs and the fencing.

Please follow the instructions when Connecticut Audubon’s staff and volunteers ask you to move away. Thank you!

Please try to visit during the safe hours shown on this chart. The hours are approximate and based on tide charts for the Milford Point area.

Day
Date
Low tide
Safe hours for viewing
Monday
August 16
12:22 PM
From 8:22 am until 3:22 pm
Tuesday
August 17
1:25 PM
From 9:25 am until 4:25 pm
Wednesday
August 18
2:29 PM
From 10:29 am until 5:29 pm
Thursday
August 19
3:31 PM
From 11:31 am until 6:31 pm
Friday
August 20
4:29 PM
From 12:30 pm until the Coastal Center closes at dusk
Saturday
August 21
5:09 AM
From opening at dawn until 8:09 am
Saturday
August 21
5:23 PM
From 1:23 pm until closing at dusk
Sunday
August 22
5:58 AM
From opening at dawn until about 9 am
Sunday
August 22
6:13 PM
From 2:13 pm until closing at dusk
Monday
August 23
6:42 AM
From opening at dawn until 9:42 am
Monday
August 23
7:00 PM
From 3 pm until closing at dusk
Tuesday
August 24
7:25 AM
From opening at dawn until 10:25 am
Tuesday
August 24
7:47 PM
From 3:47 pm until closing at dusk
Wednesday
August 25
8:06 AM
From opening at dawk until 11:06 am
Wednesday
August 25
8:32 PM
From 4:32 pm until closing at dusk
Thursday
August 26
8:47 AM
From opening at dawn until 11:47 am
Thursday
August 26
9:18 PM
From 5:18 pm until closing at dusk
Friday
August 27
9:28 AM
From opening at dawn until 12:28 pm
Friday
August 27
10:05 PM
From 6:05 pm until closing at dusk
Saturday
August 28
10:12 AM
From opening at dawn until 1:12 pm
Sunday
August 29
11:00 AM
From 7 am until 2 pm
Monday
August 30
11:53 AM
From 7:53 am until 2:53 pm
Tuesday
August 31
12:44 PM
From 8:44 am until 3:44 pm
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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