National Estuarine Research Reserve









ACE Basin NERR - Stewardship

Shorebird Protection Efforts in the ACE Basin

In cooperation with SCDNR and local communities, select sites in the ACE Basin were closed for nest protection efforts of locally nesting shorebird species: least terns, Wilson’s Plovers and American Oystercatchers. Sites were designated on preferred nesting habitat at Botany Bay Plantation, Otter Island, Harbor Island, Hunting Island State Park and Fripp Island. Successful nesting efforts were documented at BBP, Otter Island and Harbor Island.

Least tern

These species have specific requirements for nesting sites: sand/ shell substrate, sparse vegetation to avoid predation, minimal human disturbance and elevation adequate to minimize overwash. This type of site is becoming increasingly difficult to protect as development continues along our coast and visitor use increases.

royal tern on nest

Protection of these nesting sites is important early in the year (closures run April- July) as least terns are colonial nesters and will select nest sites in March/ April based on preferred site factors as well as minimal disturbance by humans, pets.  Nesting efforts are generally more successful early in season as chicks will fledge before onset of potential storms/ over wash in fall. Continued disturbance by humans and pets will cause the group to abandon the site.

Least tern chick in nest

 In attempt to protect the nest sites, areas were cordoned off with signs and flagging to prevent disruption  of nesting efforts. When birds are disturbed and forced to leave nest the eggs/chicks are susceptible to predation and overheating; adult birds expend valuable energy  when protecting nest site (dive bombing you!).

shorebird nesting area sign

Cooperation and support from POA and volunteer groups at Harbor Island, Fripp Island, Hunting Island State Park and Botany Bay Plantation were vital in the success of the effort. In addition to actual nest sites established, educational efforts both locally and through the Coastal Exploration Series will hopefully enhance protection of these valuable sites.
When you go to the beach and encounter shorebird nesting areas:

  1. Please respect closed areas. Do not approach close enough to cause birds to fly or leave their nest.
  2. Keep pets on leash and out of closed areas. Dogs are not allowed on the beach at Botany Bay Plantation WMA or Otter Island.
  3. Don't leave trash on beach that will attract predators.

Special thanks to Harbor Island, Fripp Island and Hunting Island State Park. In addition to their site protection efforts, they offer a tremendous educational opportunity to both locals and visitors  on the importance of protecting habitat essential for the survival of the wildlife species we all enjoy. Also thanks to Sue Zoltewicz and Melissa Bimbie for use of their photographs.

oyster catcher pair

 

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