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Attention: Watch Out for Nesting Birds When Visiting the University Beach!

May 26, 2017

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Shorebird nesting season is upon us and birds have begun to lay their eggs on University Beach, which is located across Ocean Drive and the Performing Arts Center along Corpus Christi Bay. The Conrad Blucher Institute (CBI) at A&M-Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program asks the campus community and beachgoers to proceed with caution when in the area!

A group of volunteers led by David Newstead, an Islander alumnus and Director of the Coastal Bird Program at the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP) recently put up fencing around the area to protect the nesting birds, which will be nesting until the end of August. According to the CBBEP, the less the birds are disturbed, the more successful they will be in raising their young.

The CBI and CBBEP ask beachgoers to think twice before approaching the area as the birds will react negatively to human disturbances. For example, human and animal activity can frighten the birds and cause them to abandon their nests and young. Even one or two people disturbing the nesting area can lead to hundreds of birds abandoning the area. Not all of the nests are located within the boundaries of the roped off area and the eggs are highly camouflaged. This means that visitors to the beach should be extra cautious on where they step and should always keep their dogs on a leash.

“A lot of these nesting birds are already very vulnerable without us compounding that by potentially disturbing their nests,” said Newstead. “Most of these shorebirds are under a heightened conservation concern so, while they’re not endangered, they still need our help.”

Deidre Williams, Coastal Research Scientist from the CBI, has been working closely with Newstead and his volunteers to ensure the safety of the birds and their eggs on the beach. The CBI monitors and provides an annual performance assessment of University Beach for the Texas General Land Office, which sponsored the construction of the beach through a Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act grant in 2001. The functional design of the beach was Williams’ thesis project and since construction, she has supported University Beach research, recreation activities and conservation efforts.

“We were initially surprised when we found the birds nesting during a routine beach visit just days before the 2011 4th of July celebration. Our immediate concern was to protect the birds during the upcoming holiday,” said Williams. “Volunteers, led by David Newstead, responded to our call within hours to fence the nests. Their rapid response served to successfully protect the nesting birds during that Independence Day holiday when community members typically use the beach as a viewing area for the fireworks display over Corpus Christi Bay.”

 Since the first call in 2011, Newstead says he has been incredibly pleased that his alma mater has been so supportive in protecting these shorebirds during such a sensitive time.

“I remember the beach being created when I was a student, and thinking what a great place it could be for these birds if it were managed right,” he said. “After all these years it’s great to be able to come back and help the university and CBI raise future generations of feathered Islanders.”

According to the CBBEP website, there are several ways visitors can avoid disturbing the shorebirds:

  • Never enter areas posted with shorebird/seabird signs;
  • Keep dogs on a leash and away from areas where birds may be nesting;
  • Properly dispose of trash to keep scavengers away;
  • Never abandon fishing line or other gear, and remove it if you find it;
  • Do not fly kites near areas where birds may be nesting;
  • When birds are aggravated, you are too close.

The University Beach, which has served as a Smithsonian research site in the past for tracking migratory shorebirds, has been observed to draw in Least Terns and several species of plovers. CBI researchers have noted birds nesting on the University Beach annually for the last five years.

“These birds have actually somewhat adapted to a very urban setting with humans, cars and disturbances of all sorts nearby,” said Williams. “For those interested in bird watching during nesting season, the bluff along Ocean Drive offers a great elevated view of the birds and a less invasive option than walking on the beach.”

To learn more about the CBI and the University Beach, visit https://cbiweb.tamucc.edu/.

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