As noted in my last article about birding on the beach, shorebirds abound daily. As summer wanes and fall begins, more and more shorebirds will be visiting our beaches and the mudflats of Willapa Bay. This area is critical for feeding and resting. These tiny birds travel many hundreds of miles from their northern breeding grounds to their wintering grounds. We are lucky because they stop here on their way south to feed and rest. Many tasty morsels are consumed as they replace their energy for the continuation of their journey. So, like us they need uninterrupted rest and the opportunity to feed.
Too often I have seen folks with dogs let them run into the flocks of shorebirds. This causes the birds great distress, especially when it is repeated many times over. Their energy is wasted when they need to conserve it and their ability to gain food is constantly interrupted. Cars often drive too close to or through flocks of shorebirds that are busy picking and probing the beach sand for invertebrates. Humans engage in similar behavior and end up disturbing the birds from the important task at hand. Little do they know that when birds are disturbed on the beach, it can threaten their lives (Audubon Society). The above actions on the part of people are but a few examples of behavior that threatens our shorebird populations at a very basic level.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: “Willapa Bay and Long Beach Peninsula qualifies as a Site of International Importance for Short-billed Dowitcher, Red Knot, and Dunlin. In addition to holding 10% or more of these populations, it is believed that at least 200,000-300,000 shorebirds migrate through the bay during spring migration. At least 43 species of shorebirds have been recorded at Willapa Bay or on the Long Beach Peninsula including Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderling, Western and Least Sandpipers, Marbled Godwit, Greater Yellowlegs, and Whimbrel. Western Snowy Plovers and Killdeer are two shorebird species that nest in this region.” (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, fws.org).
I can’t think of a better way to come to care for our shorebirds and their environment than to let them feed and rest undisturbed, and to encourage others to do the same. Watching thousands of shorebirds wheel their way over the ocean waves and through the air as they search for a spot on our beaches where they can feed and rest undisturbed is awe inspiring. It brings joy and empathy to our hearts as we do our part to provide for wild things. I hope you agree.
”Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from the Chinook Observer, Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.