Connecticut Audbon Society

Summer’s here and the time is right for helping the shorebirds at Milford Point

This week-old Piping Plover at Milford Point sandbar blends in beautifully with the surrounding sandbar. That camouflage helps protect it from predators but also makes it vulnerable to being stepped on by visitors. Photo by Patrick Comins.

In the Sanctuaries

May 26, 2022 — The shorebirds on the Milford Point sandbar need your help again.

It’s early in the season but there are already 11 pairs Piping Plovers, including two with hatchlings, and four American Oystercatcher nests on the sandbar. Dozens of migratory shorebirds are feeding and resting there now too.

We’re trying to balance the birds’ needs with the understandable wish on the part of birders and others to visit and view the birds.

So please be careful to avoid roped off nesting areas and nests protected by wire enclosures.

We also ask that you try to time your visit to the sandbar to avoid the two hours before high tide and the hour after.

That’s because when the tide is high, it covers much of  the sandbar, making it hard for visitors to stay far enough away from nests and baby birds, and from migratory birds as they feed and rest.

Last summer was a difficult one for the birds out there, because of intense storms and an unusual number of visitors. We’re working hard to protect them this year, but visitors’ help is essential.

New Coastal Rangers on Duty
Three new coastal rangers will be on duty throughout the summer — Imani Rodriguez, Jennie Leonard, and Anna Sorgie. Make sure you say hello when you see them.

We’re putting up new educational signs. Over Memorial Day weekend, and on 15 other days throughout the summer, you’ll be able to stop at an information table at the Coastal Center to ask questions and learn more.

Similar efforts are underway at Long Beach in Stratford.

Much of the work is funded by the Long Island Sound Futures Fund. We’re collaborating with the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds and in particular with Audubon Connecticut. The work is part of a summer-long study to see which techniques work best to protect the shorebirds.

An adult American Oystercatcher shephers its two recent hatchlings at Milford Point. Photo by Patrick Comins.

Dozens Of Species Are There Now
Memorial Day weekend is a great time to visit the Coastal Center. Even if you avoid the sandbar at high tide, there are dozens of species to see and hear. Spend some time on the observation platform overlooking the marsh. The Purple Martins are in residence in their gourds. Dozens of Brant are still feeding in the marsh. Listen for Clapper Rails calling from the marsh grasses.

Walk the path through the dunes toward the beach. Look for Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows. Common Terns and Least Terns will be calling from the air as they search for fish. From the beach, scan the mudflats for Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Sanderling, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin and maybe Whimbrel.

Look for Black Skimmers dipping their mandibles into the water for fish.

Those shorebirds are on their way north to nest. They stop at Milford Point to feed and gather strength for the rest of the journey and to help carry them through breeding season.

While it’s always fine to visit the base of the sandbar — the part that abuts the beach — we’re asking for visitors to help by avoiding the other areas of the sandbar around high tide.

We can’t prevent anyone from walking on the sandbar around high tide. So please consider it  a request for the sake of the birds.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, high tide on Saturday is at 10:44 a.m. Early morning visitors will have time to go birding until around 8:45 a.m., and then again after about 11:45 a.m.

Sunday and Monday are even better for morning birding.

High tide Sunday is 11:27 a.m., so you can be on the sandbar til 9:30 a.m. and then back again around 12:30 p.m.

On Memorial Day, high tide is 12:07 p.m., so morning birders have until shortly after 11 a.m. and they can return shortly after 1 p.m.

Semipalmated Sandpipers stop at Milford Point during migration to feed and rest. Photo by Patrick Comins.

Things To Keep in Mind When Visiting Milford Point

  • Visit the sandbar when the tides are low. The times to avoid are from two hours before until one hour after high tide.

  • Use your scope and binoculars to watch the birds from a distance.
  • No matter when you’re there, please walk carefully. Don’t linger for too long. If you notice birds flying away as you approach, 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.

  • Please heed the signs and the fencing.






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