Hempstead Town officials joined students and nature conservationists Thursday in launching an awareness campaign to protect an endangered species of shorebird on Long Island.
Piping plovers use Long Island’s coast for nesting sites during breeding season in the summer months, and human activity during that season can discourage birds from visiting mating grounds. Plovers are classified as endangered in New York, and have been protected under the federal Endangered Species Act since 1986.
“We are here today with a group of young nature-loving artists to proclaim ‘Hempstead Town is for the birds,’ ” Town Supervisor Anthony Santino said during a news conference. “Today, we will place kid-crafted billboards along our shoreline to alert beachgoers to stay out of the nesting areas inhabited by these shorebirds.”
Fourth-grade students from the Brandeis School in Lawrence competed in a poster contest to produce the signs, sponsored by the Town of Hempstead and Audubon New York, a bird conservation group that has been active in the effort to preserve the habitats of the piping plover and other shorebirds.
“On Long Island, they’ve got really high disturbances. Piping plovers can sometimes abandon their nests if there are too many people around,” said Amanda Pachomski, Long Island bird conservation manager for Audubon New York. “Most of the birds here face the same threats.”
Scientists have raised concerns about the incoming population of piping plovers on Long Island after Hurricane Matthew tore through the birds’ winter habitat in the Bahamas on Oct. 6.
Plover numbers had been steadily increasing in years before the hurricane. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recorded 762 plovers last year, with the majority of them found on Long Island. In 2013, 578 were recorded.
The DEC is currently conducting this year’s survey of plover populations, but the impact of the storm in the Bahamas won’t be clear until after the study is completed on Friday.
“We monitor six [plover] sites across Long Island, and our numbers are the same as last year,” Pachomski said. “Our particular sites seem to be OK but . . . it’s too early to tell.”