Peggy Lauber (from left), president of the North Fork Audubon Society,...

Peggy Lauber (from left), president of the North Fork Audubon Society, board member Theresa Dilworth and shorebird monitor manager Jennifer Murray at Breakwater Beach in Mattituck, one of the 22 locations in Southold Town known to have endangered or threatened bird populations. Credit: Randee Daddona

Despite slight gains in Southold Town among piping plovers and other threatened and endangered bird populations, public outreach and other recommended steps remain necessary to protect those vulnerable species, according to a report from a North Fork environmental group.

During nesting season between March and August, the North Fork Audubon Society — a Greenport-based nonprofit environmental organization and a chapter of The National Audubon Society — monitored 22 locations in Southold known to have vulnerable shorebird populations. Among them are piping plovers; least and common terns; American oystercatchers; great black-back gulls; and herring gulls.

The group presented an annual report on shorebird nesting of several endangered bird species to the Southold Town Board at its Nov. 29 work session.

Peggy Lauber, president of the North Fork Audubon Society, said that overall the fledge rates, or the number of successfully raised young birds able to survive on their own, showed slight increases among nesting sites the group monitors.   

“Our fledge rates definitely went up this year compared to last year, but just a little, nothing dramatic,” Lauber said. “It’s not a healthy number, they’re not flourishing. But with an endangered species, any improvement is good.”

She said manmade disturbances such as people who let their dogs walk near nests, beach walkers, boating traffic and fishermen still threaten local endangered bird populations.

“What people don’t realize is that not only are those fragile habitats…birds like the plover chicks run along the water, and you can literally step on them or the nest and you wouldn’t even know,” Lauber said. “It’s surprising how fragile these little birds are.”

 Adult piping plovers weigh between 1.5 and 2.25 ounces and are 5.5 to 7 inches long. 

Jennifer Murray, a shorebird steward whom the nonprofit hired to work on the report and oversee volunteers, told Newsday the group wants to focus next season on increasing community awareness and participation to protect such species.

“The entire community has to be aware that we need everyone’s help in it…the people who pick up their litter, who leash their dogs, who don’t harass the birds,” Murray said. “It’s very community-driven, especially in these areas where there’s a high human use of these habitats.”

The group has recommended several steps for protecting vulnerable bird populations at Southold sites:

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell told Newsday the town will use the bird nesting information when applying for dredging permits to ensure those habitats are not disturbed. He said the town would have to follow up with the nonprofit to further discuss its public outreach efforts.

“The community on the whole has been receptive in doing what they can to protect the environment, but I agree with them [the nonprofit] in getting more public cooperation,” Russell said.

Despite slight gains in Southold Town among piping plovers and other threatened and endangered bird populations, public outreach and other recommended steps remain necessary to protect those vulnerable species, according to a report from a North Fork environmental group.

During nesting season between March and August, the North Fork Audubon Society — a Greenport-based nonprofit environmental organization and a chapter of The National Audubon Society — monitored 22 locations in Southold known to have vulnerable shorebird populations. Among them are piping plovers; least and common terns; American oystercatchers; great black-back gulls; and herring gulls.

The group presented an annual report on shorebird nesting of several endangered bird species to the Southold Town Board at its Nov. 29 work session.

Peggy Lauber, president of the North Fork Audubon Society, said that overall the fledge rates, or the number of successfully raised young birds able to survive on their own, showed slight increases among nesting sites the group monitors.   

“Our fledge rates definitely went up this year compared to last year, but just a little, nothing dramatic,” Lauber said. “It’s not a healthy number, they’re not flourishing. But with an endangered species, any improvement is good.”

She said manmade disturbances such as people who let their dogs walk near nests, beach walkers, boating traffic and fishermen still threaten local endangered bird populations.

“What people don’t realize is that not only are those fragile habitats…birds like the plover chicks run along the water, and you can literally step on them or the nest and you wouldn’t even know,” Lauber said. “It’s surprising how fragile these little birds are.”

 Adult piping plovers weigh between 1.5 and 2.25 ounces and are 5.5 to 7 inches long. 

Jennifer Murray, a shorebird steward whom the nonprofit hired to work on the report and oversee volunteers, told Newsday the group wants to focus next season on increasing community awareness and participation to protect such species.

“The entire community has to be aware that we need everyone’s help in it…the people who pick up their litter, who leash their dogs, who don’t harass the birds,” Murray said. “It’s very community-driven, especially in these areas where there’s a high human use of these habitats.”

The group has recommended several steps for protecting vulnerable bird populations at Southold sites:

  • Working with the town on public outreach
  • Having town police monitor active beach violations
  • Partnering with property owners and other groups on shorebird conservation and protection, and;
  • Working with the town’s environmental division to strategically plan dredging projects

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell told Newsday the town will use the bird nesting information when applying for dredging permits to ensure those habitats are not disturbed. He said the town would have to follow up with the nonprofit to further discuss its public outreach efforts.

“The community on the whole has been receptive in doing what they can to protect the environment, but I agree with them [the nonprofit] in getting more public cooperation,” Russell said.

NOT JUST FOR THE BIRDS

  • The shorebird nesting study conducted by the nonprofit North Fork Audubon Society monitored 22 locations in Southold known to have endangered or threatened bird populations, including Breakwater Beach in Mattituck, Meadow Beach in Cutchogue and Goldsmith Inlet in Peconic, among others.
  • Volunteers and nonprofit officials said the number of fledgling birds among several vulnerable populations has gone up slightly. A previous study counted 18 pairs of fledgling piping plovers in 2020, 14 in 2021 and 16 in 2022, according to Peggy Lauber, president of the North Fork Audubon Society