One of Belmar's most treasured environmental gems is a nesting refuge for endangered coastal birds such as the black skimmer. The refuge is nestled in a remote protected area of the Shark River Inlet between the Belmar Fishing Club and the neighboring town of Avon by the Sea.
According to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, "Piping plovers, least terns, and black skimmers, referred to collectively as beach nesting birds, are among New Jersey’s rarest and most threatened wildlife species." The American oystercatcher has been named a "species of special concern," and the piping plover has been designated as threatened by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service since 1986 (source).
Populations of New Jersey's beach nesting birds are sadly declining due to several factors. Predatory birds and animals are taking a toll on bird eggs and hatchlings in particular. Changes to the birds' natural habitats caused by overdevelopment, rising sea levels and coastal flooding are also negatively impacting nesting sites along the Jersey Shore coastline.
In its 2018 Beach Nesting Bird Project Report, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey shared that "the distribution of beach nesting birds across the state continues to shift from historic norms....The issues that plague these species (human disturbance, flooding, predators, man-initiated stabilization of habitat) are only likely to increase in coming years such that managers must work harder to ensure that these species will not only persist but recover."
Should you come across the protected nesting bird habitat while walking on the Belmar beach, please respect the posted signs and do not disturb the birds' breeding ground. Belmar allows licensed, leashed dogs on the beach from October 1 through April 30. If you're walking your dog near the birds' habitat during this time, please keep your pet out of the roped-off area.
In addition, while we ALWAYS strongly discourage daily beach visitors from leaving their trash on the beach (seriously, who does that?!), cleaning up after yourself is especially important near the birds' breeding area to avoid attracting predators such as gulls, raccoons, foxes and even cats that might harm the vulnerable eggs and chicks.
The Conserve Wildlife Foundation's beach nesting bird project team, its volunteer breeding bird surveyors, and partner agencies will continue their dedicated efforts to protect these species and their natural habitats. As the conservationists say: "Share the shore" and enjoy the natural beauty of these endangered birds from afar.
Conserve Wildlife beach nesting bird project
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection beach nesting bird management program
Black skimmer fact sheet from New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife
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