Beach please: It's nesting time for some rare shorebirds so beach-goers are reminded to be careful
With the weather warming up, you might be considering a trip to one of our South Coast beaches on Earth Day, this weekend.
Ormond Beach in Oxnard is one of the locations where the Ventura Audubon Society’s Shorebird Recovery Program monitors nesting Western Snowy Plovers.
"The area that we look for nests is this whole two mile stretch of beach, it's about 150 acres," explained Cynthia Hartley, who leads the program to protect the rare, endangered little birds, which are decreasing in numbers.
"It's one of the smallest shorebirds and they are the color of sand. They're super cute and their chicks are amazing - they are little fluffy puffballs and so tiny," Hartley told KCLU.
"They used to nest on all of the beaches but because of human development and human recreation use on beaches, their nesting areas have vanished and that's why they're listed as threatened," explained Hartley.
She said that by protecting their habitat, they are protecting many other endangered species which are protected by extension.
A fenced area is protecting the nests of the small birds, who are masters of beach camouflage. That helps them to hide from predators…but it also makes them easy to trample.
"You can see all of these little dunes are growing and that's part of the problem - a lot of human foot traffic will destroy the habitat."
Kat Whitehouse, Shorebird Recovery program Biologist for Ventura Audubon, spots a Snowy Plover in an altercation with another.
"To see a four to 5 inch bird go at it with another...they can get very animated!" said Whitehouse.
Hartley explained that ravens are natural predators to the Snowy Plovers and can attracted by left-over food and trash at the beach.
"They are so smart and they are so good at finding nests. People can help with this by not leaving their trash on the beach," she said.
From help with repairing fences to keeping an eye out for the public getting too close to nests, the organization involves volunteers with their efforts to protect the Snowy Plovers in their natural habitat. Alecia Smith runs their Shorebird Recovery Program outreach.
They are aiming to "bridge the gap of awareness between the beach as a place we go and have fun and the eco-system itself," she explained.
And from snowy plovers to dune ecology, the society’s beach naturalist program is holding a volunteer training day at Oxnard College on Saturday, which also happens to be Earth Day.