Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer at the Shore - A Time for Reflection...

Summer at the Shore is a fabulous thing; seemingly endless hours of delightful sunshine, wonderful ice-cream, a spectacular sunset over the concrete ship, then a beer and a slap-up meal in town. And so many things to do during the day - but is it time to reflect on the hows, whens, wheres and whys of what we do at the beach?

Over these past few days I have spent a fair amount of time out and about around Cape May and its glorious beaches and it seems to me that Cape May - being recognized as the outstandingly important location for wildlife that it is - has always done a pretty good job overall in balancing the wants of people with the needs of wildlife. In particular, we have learned to share the space with those other species that share the planet with us. But there's a glitch; we are increasing in number at a remarkable rate, while other species are on the decline. So I am beginning to wonder when do we reach the tipping point? When do we get to the point when we say "You know, it really is time that one or two people started noticing those signs". You know the signs I mean - the ones that ask you, ever so politely, not to enter this or that area; the ones that advise you - for good reason - that this beach is not for dogs, the other beach is the one designated for surfing, and do you think we could maybe not fly quite so low over that tired flock of resting migrant birds...

Cape May is busy, very busy right now - both with fun-loving tourists (and us locals!) and with transitory migrant birds and parties of post-breeding birds with young still to feed. It would be nice to think that we could all get along, all find time to care about each other. And yet I find it a sobering thought that, of the 49 miles of open, sandy beachfront in Cape May County, just 1.7miles is strictly off limits to people - and half of that simply because it is the coastguard unit. I don't know about you, but I always thought that sharing meant doing things fairly.

This wonderful set of pictures was sent to me by photographer Beth Polvino a while ago and I didn't get time to get them posted until now. Looking at them reminded how wonderful the beach can be for both people and birds if we just get the balance right. Of three pairs of American Oystercatchers that attempted to nest on South Cape May Beach this year, just one chick survived to fledging.

The nesting requirements of Least Terns are simple - an open, unvegetated beach; the sort of beach that is produced by a good winter storm. Such beaches turn up in different locations each year due to the vagaries of the weather and Least Terns therefore need to nest at different locations according to habitat changes. And yet our taming of the coastline and desire for pleasure beaches has stopped the process. This is not a problem, provided we replicate habitat for terns mechanically each year - and provided they can be left in peace to get on with the rather important task of surviving [photo by Beth Polvino]

Time for a reprieve for our wildlife? Kite surfers at Two Mile Beach just south of Wildwood Crest recently. People are surely entitled to have their fun, but should we turn every single piece of beach over to our leisure activities, or should some beaches be left in peace? [Photo by Mike Crewe].

Powered hang glider approaching Cape May Point State Park. The South Cape May Beach is designated a wildlife beach for endangered migratory bird species - should we not ensure that everyone knows that and respects that? A single hang glider may not be too big an issue, but disturbance in all its various forms can seem almost relentless some days [photo by Mike Crewe].

New Jersey Audubon's Be A Good Egg campaign which was launched earlier this year is a huge step in the right direction, and the vast majority of people certainly care about our wildlife and our environment; but there's still much work to be done and support and help for those creatures we share time and space with is always needed. If you are not a CMBO or NJA member, or simply haven't discovered what we do yet - do come and join one of our walks, maybe become a member - or maybe even become a volunteer! Check out the pages on our website and see what you can do to help wonderful Cape May...