Birds vs. Beaches

It's hot out, so let's go to the beach. Unless, that is, the beach is home to an endangered species.

In new Jersey, conservation groups are angry about the way boaters and beachgoers behave on Champagne Island, home to the largest nesting colony of the state-endangered Black Skimmer. The Cape May Journal reports:

"During the July 7-8 weekend, over 80 boats were seen landed on the island at once, with over 420 people onshore. Boats, people and dogs agitated the birds and forced them from their nests, exposing eggs and nestlings to predation by gulls and to the weather. There were reports of people entering the colony, which had been roped off and posted by DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] personnel, and throwing eggs from Black Skimmers."

The groups are calling for state conservation officers to be hired and posted on the island "every weekend day during the summer months, and periodically during the week" to protect the nesting birds.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, beachgoers are agog over potential rules that would ban drivers from certain areas which the endangered piping plover calls home. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules seek to protect the seabird's winter habitat. The agency is taking comments on its proposed rules through the end of this month. Local groups fear the agency would force the National Park Service to close several beaches, but those fears may be unfounded, as the park service already closes sections of the beach when plovers or their nests are observed.

There is good news for the piping plover. Rhode Island is celebrating a surge in population, with a record 61 pairs currently nesting on the state's beaches. Of course, it took shutting down an entire beach to do it. But hey, too much sun is bad for you anyway.

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