As we are about to enter the 2013 field season it is important that we remember Hurricane Sandy and what it did to the shoreline of Connecticut. Apart from tragic human losses and horrific property damage Sandy inflicted a great deal of destruction on our coastal waterbird environment. In this regard it was not strictly beneficial or detrimental - it was a mix of both. Some of our beaches have enhanced habitat with larger areas of sand flattened out for breeding far above the high tide lines as the dunes were pushed back from the water. Other beaches have had erosion that now limits habitat where the dune could not or did not go further inland or steep and inhospitable grades along the shore. Some of the offshore islands have had their land and available habitat greatly reduced as well.
While these natural processes would be all part of the dynamic system nature has in place a few centuries ago they are now fraught with complexities as humans have changed the equation. When the beach is pushed back or a dune is further from the water it is more likely to be where people walk or congregate meaning the birds and the public may be even closer to one another in some cases. At certain locations - like Stratford's Long Beach, a thin barrier beach - there is not much room to begin with and it is going to be even more crowded for all this summer. However things turn out in 2013 it is definitely going to be much different than it was even in 2012.
This is all part of why we need even more volunteer monitors in the field to report back to us each week on changes they see at their chosen site or sites. You may find a new tern colony where none existed recently! There may be some spots where Piping Plovers have a hard time nesting between the tides and other disturbances. There may even be new sites we have to monitor that we were not in previous years.
This New Haven Register article helps explain more of what AAfCW did last fall in rapidly assessing some of the most critical coastal habitats in the state for the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences. This WXedge.com article by Patrick Comins explains more of what happened during and after Sandy and features a bunch of great photos. There are so many unknowns that it will be impossible to say what will happen this season, but what we do know is that the more volunteers we have on board the more successful our work will be in 2013.
Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.