DEEP: CT DEP to Close Charles Island and Duck Island to the Public During the Heron and Egret Nesting Season

May 18, 2007

Connecticut DEP to Close Charles Island and Duck Island to the Public During the Heron and Egret Nesting Season

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced that Charles Island in Milford and Duck Island in Westbrook will be closed to the public from May 20 through September 10, 2007 to prevent disturbances to birds nesting on these islands.

Both islands have been designated by DEP as Natural Area Preserves, primarily because of their importance as nesting habitats for several state-listed nesting birds, including snowy egrets and great egrets (state threatened species), glossy ibis, and little blue herons (state special concern). The two islands have also been designated as Important Bird Areas by Audubon Connecticut.

DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy said, "It is important to protect nesting areas on Charles and Duck Islands because disturbances can result in abandonment of the nests and possibly of the entire colony. This would have a tremendous negative effect on these sensitive bird populations. We are asking for the public’s help in obeying the closures and reporting to the DEP any observed violations."

Over the last several years, the DEP has worked cooperatively with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the nesting colonies (also known as rookeries). Educational signs have been erected at access points used by the public to inform them about these rare birds and why they should not be disturbed. The rookeries are fenced and signs are mounted on the fence that read "Do Not Enter – Bird Nesting Area."

"Disturbance to colonial-nesting birds, such as herons and egrets, can have rapid negative impacts," said Jenny Dickson, a DEP Wildlife Division biologist. "When young birds become agitated by the disturbance, they often fall from the nest. The adults will not care for these grounded young birds, which ultimately die of starvation or predation. If the disturbance is repeated numerous times, the adults may completely abandon the nesting area."

Examples of disturbances to these rookeries include illegal camp-outs and bonfires, unleashed dogs roaming the island (which are perceived as predators by the birds), and human visitors entering the fenced nesting areas.

Signs stating the closure of Charles and Duck Islands will be posted and DEP Environmental Conservation Police Officers will be patrolling the islands, particularly on weekends and after dark. Anyone caught trespassing on the islands will be arrested. Landing of watercraft on the beaches is prohibited. The public can help in this effort to protect the nesting birds by following the closure and reporting any observed violations at 1-800-842-4357.