Charles Island closed for the birds

Charles Island, off of Silver Sands State Park in Milford, is closed to humans until Sept. 9.

The reason? Nesting shorebirds including endangered piping plovers and least terns.

And by the way, there is no swimming at Silver Sands today because of poor water quality. It’s the same case at part of Sherwood Island in Westport. Farther east, Rocky Neck in Niantic is also closed.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, says once disturbed, these birds may abandon nesting areas, leaving eggs and hatchlings to die from exposure or predation.

A couple walks back from Charles Island in Milford last summer. The island is closed until Sept. 9 because of nesting shorebirds. Photo by Brian A. Pounds/Connecticut Post

Piping plover.

In addition beachcombers, sunbathers, and boaters can inadvertently trample piping plover and least tern eggs and young if they are not vigilant.

To avoid this, the DEEP has erected fencing and yellow warning signs along beaches where these birds build their shallow sand nests.

DEEP has cordoned off various off-shore islands where herons and egrets congregate in nesting areas called rookeries.

Least tern.

In addition to Charles Island, Duck Island in Westport is also closed.

“Shorebirds and wading birds need special protection throughout their April to September nesting season,” Susan Frechette, Deputy Commissioner of the DEEP, said in a press release.  “We urge beachgoers to keep fireworks and kites, especially kites that make noise, away from beach areas. We are also asking people to keep their pets leashed and to stay away from fenced areas.”

Charles Island off of Milford. Photo by Morgan Kaolian/AEROPIX

The DEEP offers the following advice to help protect nesting shorebirds and wading birds:

  • Refrain from walking dogs or allowing cats to roam freely on beaches during the nesting season.  Dogs and cats are frequent predators of piping plovers and least terns.
  • Don’t let pets off boats onto posted islands or beaches.
  • If you live near a beach, do not let your pets roam during the nesting season. Dogs should always be restrained by a leash.
  • Do not bury or leave trash, picnic leftovers, and fish scraps on a beach.  They attract predators of chicks and eggs, such as skunks, raccoons, foxes, and black-backed gulls.
  • Do not attempt to “rescue” young birds that appear to be lost or too young to fly.
  • Do not attempt to remove young birds from the beach or coastal areas to care for them at home.

It is illegal to hold wildlife for rehabilitation without state or federal permits.  In addition, shorebirds have a unique diet that people would find hard to duplicate, probably resulting in starvation of the young bird.  Please report any violations affecting wildlife to the DEEP’s 24-hour, toll-free hot line:      1-800-842-HELP.

Jim Shay