Around The Parks: Shorebird Nesting, Culling Deer At Rock Creek, Gettysburg Tours

Let's take a quick look around the National Park System at some of the issues and activities different units are involved with.

Gettysburg National Military Park

This summer rangers at Gettysburg will be offering a number of programs that open a window, so to speak, on the Battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath, the Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln, and the Soldiers' National Cemetery, among other topics.

From June 8 through August 18 the programs will take place at the Museum and Visitor Center, on the battlefield, and in the Soldiers' National Cemetery, and last between 20 minutes and three hours, depending on the program.

The park also offers special programs and activities for Gettysburg's younger visitors, and "A Visit to the Past" living history programs, which allow you to step back in time.

To determine when these programs will be offered, check the park's website along with its Facebook page. During your visit to Gettysburg, pick up a copy of the park summer newspaper that lists all of your choices for programs, tours and other events of interest.

* 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg: From June 29 through July 7, Gettysburg National Military Park, the Gettysburg Foundation, and other partners are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. An expansive list of special battle anniversary ranger programs and special events is available on the park website.

Gulf Islands National Seashore

The shorebird nesting season is under way in the Florida District of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Each year, beginning in mid-March and ending in late summer, the park plays host to several species of ground nesting shorebirds such as least terns, snowy and Wilson's plovers, and black skimmers. The least terns come from as far as Central and South America.

To offer the birds protection and a little solitude during nesting, areas where they 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. If you find yourself besieged by birds, it means that you are near an unmarked nesting area or young chicks. Please leave the area by back-tracking your steps - these eggs are very small and may be hard to see.

Adult birds and their tiny chicks are sometimes struck by vehicles as they wander onto or fly across roadways. To decrease the number of road strikes, posted speed limits will be temporarily reduced to 20 mph in those areas where birds are nesting in close proximity to the roadway. Again this year a series of speed humps will be deployed beginning this week to gain motorist attention and compliance in abiding with the speed reduction zones.

By observing posted speed limits and watching carefully for birds flying across or feeding along the roadway, drivers can help to protect the nesting colonies. By August, nesting will have been completed and normal speed limits will resume.

Bicyclists, walkers, and joggers are also encouraged 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. Eggs left exposed to the hot sun for as little as five minutes are less likely to hatch. Alarmed birds often fly low across the road and into the paths of oncoming vehicles.

Rock Creek Park

Deer-culling operations were held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., late last week in an effort to dampen the white-tailed deer population in the park.

The park's deer management plan calls for reducing the density of deer to support long-term protection, preservation and restoration of native vegetation and to allow for forest regeneration.

"Implementing the White-tailed Deer Management Plan is a critical step toward ensuring the forest is able to support native plants and animals found in Rock Creek Park in a sustainable manner for this and future generations," said Superintendent Tara Morrison.

The culling was performed by sharpshooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, working under the direction of National Park Service resource management specialists and in coordination with the U.S. Park Police and local law enforcement.

The park's management plan calls for using active herd reduction efforts during the next three years to reduce the deer density from over 70 per square mile today to 15-20 per square mile. Once the herd size is at a healthy level, management efforts will work to maintain a sustainable deer population.

During the past two decades, the burgeoning white-tailed deer population has negatively impacted Rock Creek Park. Their numbers have grown so large that they are eating nearly all the tree seedlings and preventing Rock Creek Park's forest from growing, according to park officials. Reducing the size of the population will reduce pressure from deer browsing, allowing for a healthy diverse forest that supports native vegetation and other wildlife.