I was shocked by what I felt to be misleading information in your recent podcast, “Piping Plovers Are No Picnic When It Comes To Beach Driving In Southampton.”
For starters, describing the piping plover, a federally threatened and state-endangered species, as “having been a problem forever” creates an antagonistic feeling toward innocent wildlife that really needs our help.
Both Connecticut and New York Audubon work diligently to make people aware of the piping plover’s need for protection. Both states have an Audubon “Share the Shore” program, an effort that unites scientists, beachgoers, volunteers, and local and state agencies and partners to protect vulnerable beach-nesting bird species.
Plovers have had a very challenging nesting season this year. High tides and storms in late May caused washouts, forcing the birds to nest again. Predators are an issue on many beaches.
When the plovers successfully complete their nesting and fledging process, the symbolic fencing (strings on posts) utilized on our beaches can be removed within several weeks. This allows the areas in which they nest to be opened to all who want to use those parts of the beaches. If opened too soon, when the fledglings are running around gaining independence, and are killed by vehicles, the parents must start all over again. That doubles the time areas must be cordoned off. (The reporter acknowledged that consequence.)
I am grateful the reporter gave credit to Southampton Town for monitoring and watching the birds closely. There has been considerable progress in protecting piping plovers, particularly in Massachusetts. The numbers there are up, so they are reducing restrictions in some areas. The “no end in sight” statement was inaccurate.
Off-road driving, enjoyed by some, needs to have designated areas for that activity. This must be separate from where the plovers nest and away from the fronts of houses in which people live. There really is enough beach for everyone. Compromise is necessary.
The ousting of campers is truly regrettable. Although permits indicate leaving is a risk, if birds are nesting on those grounds, I believe some compromise is required. People ought not lose their vacations. The parks department should alert folks that some change might be necessary. If canceling does occur, parks need to issue replacement permits.
The joy from seeing birds was greatly magnified during the pandemic. Many people experienced the very presence of birds as helping save them from the depressing constraints of their isolation. There was something normal being provided by nature — birds carrying on with their lives.
Protecting endangered species, like the piping plover, is a task we can all share. Sharing the shore is the high road for all caring people.
Ms. Stowe is a member of the board of Audubon New York — Ed.
One fine body…