Human disturbance is a major threat to nesting coastal waterbirds in Connecticut. Beach-nesting birds lay their eggs directly on the ground in camouflaged nests that are prone to trampling, disturbance, and/or predation, and heavy usage of the beach by the public during summer months coincides with peak nesting season for our target species, including Piping Plovers and Least Terns. Audubon’s WildLife Guards Program addresses the need to effectively manage shorebird nesting habitat at coastal locations such as Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport and Sandy Point in West Haven—heavily populated areas of Long Island Sound in Connecticut.
Through this project, Audubon Connecticut is partnering with the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History (RTPI), the City of Bridgeport, and the City of West Haven to develop a cadre of student WildLife Guards to work alongside Audubon and RTPI field biologists stewarding, monitoring, and raising public awareness about the beach-nesting birds that share our shores. The WildLife Guards Program is an innovative program that engages local high school students to serve as leaders to their peers and the larger community, provides summer employment and green job skills to underserved youth, and will ultimately help the community develop a deeper appreciation of the natural resources that provide economic, recreational, and environmental opportunities.
The WildLife Guards Program builds on the National Audubon Society’s successful, nationwide “Sharing Our Shores” coastal stewardship and social marketing campaign. It is also part of Audubon Connecticut’s ongoing efforts to promote community-based conservation through its Urban Oases program, which engages youth and adults in protecting, restoring, and enhancing public and private lands as migratory stepping stones along the Atlantic Flyway. The WildLife Guards Program also plays a key role in ongoing coastal bird stewardship and monitoring efforts conducted by the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, a program of Audubon Connecticut in partnership with RTPI, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection.