Though it might seem the only stories about nesting shorebirds in the national parks revolve around Cape Hatteras National Seashore, there are nesting shorebirds at Gulf Islands National Seashore, too, and officials are implementing seasonal guidelines to protect them.
Gulf Islands Superindent Dan Brown says the 2011 shorebird nesting season is under way
in the Florida District of of the seashore. Among the species of nesting birds are least terns, snowy and Wilson's plovers, and black skimmers.
Areas where birds are nesting will be closed to the public and marked accordingly. These closed areas represent a very small percentage of the seashore and officials request that you divert activities to other areas of the park, Superintendent Brown says.
"If you find yourself besieged by birds, it means that you are near an unmarked nesting area or young chicks," a park release said. "Please leave the area by back-tracking your steps - these eggs are very small and may be hard to see."
Since birds and the chicks are often struck by vehicles as they wander onto or fly across roadways at the seashore, posted speed limits are being temporarily reduced to 20 mph in those areas where birds are nesting in close proximity to the roadway.
"By observing posted speed limits and watching carefully for birds flying across or feeding along the roadway, you can help to protect the nesting colonies," the seashore statement said. "By August, nesting will have been completed, and normal use of the road will resume."
Seashore officials also urged bicyclists, walkers, and joggers to temporarily avoid areas along the roadway posted as closed for nesting shorebirds. Any intrusion into the nesting area causes the birds to take flight, leaving their nests vulnerable, the seashore said, adding that the parent birds will often dive at the intruder in an effort to drive them away from the colony.
Alarmed birds may then fly low across the road and into the paths of oncoming vehicles
"We believe we can protect the nesting shorebirds and allow them to reproduce and flourish while minimizing the impacts to the visiting public," said Superintendent Brown.
For additional information on park programs and resources, you can contact the Naval
Live Oaks Visitor Center at 850-934-2600 or visit the seashore's website at www.nps.gov/guis