Shorebirds soar after Huntington Beach State Park’s protection efforts

Updated: May. 29, 2020 at 5:34 PM EDT
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MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WMBF) - Keeping dogs off the northside of the beach at Huntington Beach State Park has been a strong rule for a while and it’s paying off.

Shorebirds are making a comeback at the park, and it’s celebrating 61 nests of the least terns, a threatened shorebird species you’re likely to see on Huntington Beach.

Huntington Beach State Park ranger and marine biologist Mike Walker told WMBF News the park is the single best bird-watching spot in South Carolina and a top ten spot on the east coast. He attributes it to the park’s huge amount of diverse habitats.

The park contains freshwater, brackish water and saltwater in its 2,500 acres. Walker said for many birds, Huntington Beach State Park is the most southernmost spot for its species. He said in addition to the water, the park’s man-made jetty offers a rocky coastline for more northern species to nest.

Walker said people need to stay away from shorebirds while they’re nesting and resting. He explained shorebirds migrate more than most, and rest is critical. That’s why the park works to keep people off certain areas of the park and urges you to follow instructions on park signs.

“But one of the things that is critically important for these birds to have during these incredibly long migrations, they must have a safe, secure beach to feed and rest undisturbed. I mean, some of these birds would’ve literally flown thousands of miles the week before. And if they don’t have that place to rest up and feed up, rebuild their reserves, they’re not gonna make it," Walker said.

To encourage shorebird species to nest at Huntington Beach and aid in the many threatened and endangered species under the shorebird family, Huntington Beach State Park has acted to add protections from people and animals.

One of those protections is keeping dogs off the northside of the beach, where most of the bird species are.

Other protections include adding electric fencing to keep out canines, like coyotes and red foxes, signs and also the help of volunteers and park rangers to keep boaters from beaching their boats where the shorebirds nest.

Walker said the park has worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when it’s time for a dredging project near the park.

Walker explained this is about once every decade, and the park takes the dredged muck that’s not needed elsewhere. He said it’s perfect to add to shorebird habitats.

To learn more or visit Huntington Beach State park, click here.

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