Piping Plover Fencing Coming Soon In Southampton Town

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Some seasonal residents are taking a little longer this year to move in to their beach homes.

The endangered piping plovers have not made an official appearance on any ocean beaches on the South Fork so far this spring, according to Merriah Eberts, the Southampton Town steward who manages the town’s annual plover program.

Because of bad weather, as well as erosion caused by Hurricane Sandy and consecutive nor’easters, the small, sandy-colored shorebirds have taken their time making their annual move to the dunes to mate and nest.

As a result, Ms. Eberts said the fences and signs that are meant to protect their nests have not gone up yet. She said she did not want the fencing to be destroyed by additional storms, either.

Some observant Southampton residents have noticed the absence of these restrictions. After all, each summer many beaches are closed, pedestrians and vehicles are detoured, and activities that may disturb the birds are canceled or displaced–all to keep the birds safe.

Ms. Eberts said there’s no cause to worry, or celebrate—fencing will go up soon enough as it gets warmer and as she finds signs of the birds’ return. She said there are currently two official plover nests on the bay in Sag Harbor but no official nests on the ocean yet.

Typically around the first week of April each year, fences blocking off plover nesting areas are erected and signs go up, warning passersby that they’ll be punished if they disturb the nests. Some of the fencing is set up before the birds arrive in places that they typically settle, and later when they form their nests, but Ms. Eberts said she has been taking it slower this spring in case there was further damage to the shoreline caused by erosion from the many storms.

“As the weather gets warmer, I expect more bird activity to happen,” she said. “The dynamic of the beach is harder than last year. I didn’t want to put a bunch of fences up that would be taken out by the tide and become a danger to the public.”

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