Local Life Magazine September 2021

Page 100

outdoors

Being good hosts to our shorebirds RESPECT AND LEARN THE PLIGHT OF THESE IMPERILLED BIRDS BY MICHELE ROLDÁN-SHAW HOW YOU CAN HELP • Don’t disturb, scare or run through flocks of shorebirds • Keep dogs on leashes • Carry out all your litter, especially fishing line • Stay in wet sand below the tide line, and don’t go in the dunes even if they aren’t roped off • Pay attention to your surroundings: if you see an agitated bird, that is a good sign you are getting too close to her chicks • Don’t feed wild birds BEST PLACE LOCALLY TO SEE SHOREBIRDS • Fish Haul Beach, Hilton Head Island

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American oystercatcher

Piping plover

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LocalLifeSC.com + SEPTEMBER 2021

Delicate little birds scurry along the beach, darting in and out of the waves on their tiny stick-legs. They poke over the mud flats at low tide, jabbing sword-like bills down to snatch a snack. It’s a sight taken for granted here in the Lowcountry, like palmetto trees and shrimp boats. But while other local species become iconic — dolphins, egrets and sea turtles for example — who’s praising the shorebirds? “You see a painted bunting, and you’re like oh my gosh!” said local bird enthusiast Bob Speare. “But you see a little brown bird running along the beach, and you might not even notice. I think a big part of shorebird conservation is shining the light on them.”

SHOREBIRDS TO LOOK FOR • American oystercatcher • Black skimmer • Marbled goodwill • Piping plover • Semipalmated plover • Red knot • Willet • Ruddy turnstone

Speare, a naturalist who spent his career with the Massachusetts Audubon Society and has led birding tours all over the world, feels that the 25 regularly occurring shorebird species we see locally are a little underappreciated. Take the American oystercatcher. Instantly recognizable by its stunning “tuxedo” plumage and bright orange bill, it can pry open clams and oysters that no other bird can crack— though occasionally the mollusk bites back and traps the oystercatcher. Godwits sleep standing on one leg with their beaks tucked under their wings. Piping plover chicks snuggle under their parents’ bellies so that they look like a single bird with a dozen legs. Sanderlings,


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