July 12, 2006

Call For More Plover Patience

"We just hope cooler heads prevail and people understand that sharing is the way to go," East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill McGintee said on Friday. He revealed that residents near the latest area affected by nesting plovers were up in arms over temporary changes to beach driving restrictions implemented to protect the endangered little puffballs.

According to East Hampton's unofficial plover babysitter, Latisha Coy of the Town's Natural Resources Department, it may take as long as three more weeks before the all-clear can be sounded. Until then, beach drivers will be crammed onto a small stretch between Atlantic Avenue and Napeague Lane in Amagansett. Previously, beach driving was prohibited in that locale, and vehicles accessed the beach from Marine Boulevard.

Enter the endangered avian. Nests near the beach access have resulted in its closure. Town Director of Natural Resources Larry Penny reported that measures over the last year to protect the seabirds have been successful. This summer he's seen 10 new nests, and 93 babies — "almost as many as city people," he joked. Coy affirmed the number of fledges counted each summer has increased in the last few years. In 2004, there were 37. Last year saw 44, and Coy's hoping for a bumper crop of well over 40 this year.

Because they are an endangered species, by law, officials have to jump through no small number of hoops to protect them, fencing off a perimeter around their little habitat, and making sure neither man nor beast can hurt them. Penny noted that nests on Hick's Island were "wiped out" by foxes.

He also reported that residents near the reconfigured beach driving access area are "distraught." The town trustees have jurisdiction over the beach access and ordered the change to ensure trucks can get on the beach. Trouble is, neighbors complain trucks and their occupants are crowding the shore. On Monday, trustee secretary Lori Bennett said she'd fielded "a lot" of complaints, and anticipated a number of visitors to last night's regular meeting of the body.

Earlier this summer village officials and a certain party host who shall remain nameless worried whether babies in nests near Main Beach would be "of age" in time to allow the annual Fourth of July fireworks show to go on. Unlike last year, they were.

As Coy spoke of the success of the overall bird protection program, she was asked whether, as their nanny, she couldn't encourage her feathered charges to nest a little further away from popular places. The so-called Birdwoman of Shirley laughed and replied, "They choose where they want to go."

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