FAUNA – Paying attention to the ground you walk on, at the beach, could save whole broods of birds. Several species, including the Kentish Plover in particular, reproduce in sandy environments, therefore especially on the beaches, from April until the end of July, in particular on the Atlantic coast, the English Channel and the North Sea.
“They don’t really make a nest, but form a small bowl with eggs that blend into the sand, described in HuffPost Jérémy Dupuy, project manager “Avifaunistic surveys and atlases” at the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO). They play on egg mimicry so as not to be spotted by predators.”
Except that they are so well hidden that locals or tourists don’t see them either. “Often, either the walkers will crush the eggs, or the dogs will flush them out and eat them or even eat the chicks, warns the specialist. They are so small that pet owners may not even notice it.”
“Be careful, we are walking on eggshells”
The “Attention, we are walking on eggshells” operation, launched for the third consecutive year by the Conservatoire du littoral, the French Office for Biodiversity, the National Office of Forests, the LPO, and Rivages de France, consists of sensitize all the actors of these territories: the municipalities, the public authorities, but also the citizens to pay attention to these species at this time of the year.
“We recommend keeping your dog on a leash, stopping the systematic collection of what is called the ‘sea leash’ – which the tide will bring to the beach twice a day -, indicates Jérémy Dupuy. This is precisely what allows plovers to feed and nest.”
It is also advisable to stay on the marked trails, to avoid frequenting the upper beaches, sand dunes or vegetation in the back-coast and to pick up rubbish. If you see a bird on the ground that looks injured, it may be a good idea to turn back.
“The ring-necked plover and the great plover are birds which, during the breeding season, will do everything to keep predators away from their young, specifies the LPO on its site. The parents pretend to have a broken wing to attract the predator to them and then move away so that the predator cannot find the young.
Common tern and tawny pipit
To protect the nests, ornithologists try to locate them upstream and create fairly wide enclosures, with awareness panels so that people avoid trampling them.
Among the birds concerned, we can also find terns or “sea swallows”, which reproduce on the beaches or sandy islets. “For once, the colonies of terns are rather well known and protected, underlines Jérémy Dupuy. We are not going to find a couple of terns one morning that will settle like that on a beach.”
Beware of “replacement spawns”
The tawny pipit, a small migratory sparrow, likes to frequent the upper beaches and the back-dune and can suffer from trampling. If it is almost the end of spring, you must continue to be careful until the end of July. Overseas, sea turtles and many species of seabirds also nest on the beaches.
“Many birds will fail to reproduce, because of disturbances or predation, but also because of the high tides in mid-May or mid-June, he explains. And some will try a ‘replacement clutch’, a second brood, which can give eggs and chicks until the end of July, beginning of August.”
According to the head of the LPO, it is a whole ecosystem that we must try to preserve from human activity. “It’s all the biodiversity of the dunes and the beach that is at stake, he recalls. There are a lot of plant species that are linked to these habitats. Paying attention to it also helps to avoid the erosion of the dunes by trampling…”
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