Friday, May 31, 2013

Be A Good Egg

The past few evenings have seen me taking quiet walks along the beaches of Cape May and, when you do this, it's not long before you realize two things: 1. there's a lot of great beach bird breeding habitat here and 2. there's not a lot of it protected. Of course we Humans want our places to hang out, but we have to remember the smaller guys around us too, who might not be too keen on sharing too close a space with something big enough to eat them! Though very little of Cape May's total beach area is actually protected, it pains me to see that some folks can't even cope with that and, on most walks, it really isn't long before you see someone 'exercising their rights' as I am sure they would like to call it. This can often be a relatively innocuous 'I'll walk where ever I please' mind set, right up to 'I'm going to ride my motorcycle where ever I like'. It's a shame that some people want the full nine yards all the time and really don't want to compromise.

Even so, our beach birds do have their fans and I am sure they are grateful for it. The work of a multitude of conservation organizations comes together during the summer months and staff do what they can to protect the birds and educate us all on what is going on and how best we can learn to live along side our fellow sentient beings.

A great step forward was made this year in bringing the beach bird message to the general public and we do hope that you are all signing up to it - and encouraging others to do the same. It's free (yes, really, no catches!!) and it just asks you to take a pledge, which means that you have read the rules and understand what New Jersey and New York are trying to do in a joint venture to help their beach birds. Just one click will take you to the Be A Good Egg campaign page and you can do your bit for our beach birds. Here's a few photos to get you in the mood...

Least Terns go through a very noisy and elaborate courtship when they first arrive back on our beaches in May. This female is already sitting on eggs and her mate kept bringing in a fish but would not let her take it. In the end it seemed to me that the rather inept father had not worked out that the eggs haven't hatched yet!! [Photo by Mike Crewe]

Most beach nesting birds have evolved eggs that blend so well with their sandy surroundings. Look carefully and you might spot a single egg, just showing from within the nest depression beneath this bird. Beach nesters use little or no nest material as it would simply help to give away the location of the egg [photo by Mike Crewe].

American Oystercatchers are widespread breeders but nevertheless can suffer locally from disturbance. Unlike most shorebird chicks, young oystercatchers receive a lot of close care and attention from their parents when they are small [photo by Beth Polvino].

Black Skimmers usually seem rather oddball, ungainly birds, but they can look much more graceful when performing their protracted courtship rituals [photo by Mike Crewe].

Black Skimmers rarely nest south of the Cape May Canal but, with much nest-scraping and bowing going on, maybe we'll get a few pairs breeding with us this year [photo by Mike Crewe].

Go enjoy the beach, but please remember that it's just a place for us to play - but a life or death place for wildlife. Be a good egg and share the beach (have you done that pledge yet?!).