June 17, 2019
Peak nesting season for seabirds, shorebirds and sea turtles is in full swing at Rookery Bay Research Reserve. As different wildlife species settle in to nest on area beaches, they often end up practically side by side!
A visit within the reserve to Keewaydin Island offers a prime example of this type of coexisting beach nesting behavior with caged sea turtle nests and roped off areas for nesting Wilson’s Plovers and Least Terns only a few short feet from one another. Currently, five pairs of plovers are nesting on Keewaydin and 233 sea turtle nests have been discovered.
It is important for beachgoers to steer clear of “Please Keep Out” sections of the beach set aside for bird nesting as well as be mindful of turtle cages. The turtle cages protect the nests from predators such as racoons. The cages also mark the spot where baby turtles will begin their trek to the water.
Disruptions to the sand or debris could make that a less successful endeavor for little sea turtles. In addition, roped off bird nesting sections of the beach deter foot traffic and help the birds with nesting. Just hatched baby birds are ping pong ball-sized and well camouflaged. Without signage and the roped alerts of nesting, these vulnerable chicks could easily be missed on bare beaches.