Southern New England-NY Bight Coastal Program
Northeast Region

Landowners protect the beach and the birds of Sandy Point Island

Horseshoe crab on Sandy Beach Horseshoe crab on Sandy Point Island. Credit: John Ackley

Sandy Point Island provides an important habitat for wildlife, especially migratory birds. Credit: USFWS

Binti Ackley, like many of her fellow beachgoers and landowners, beams with pride when she talks about protecting the well-loved Sandy Point Island.

"Sandy Point Island is my backyard, just a short paddle offshore," Ackley says. "During the 36 years I have lived here, I have explored and observed the ever-changing island and its residents, including the threatened piping plover."

Locals consider this barrier island, nestled between Rhode Island and Connecticut in Little Narragansett Bay, to be a prime boating destination and picnic spot. But it's also a nesting hotspot that's favored by some of our fine feathered friends—shorebirds including American oystercatchers, threatened piping plovers, and endangered roseate and least terns.

These birds needed help protecting their nests and chicks, so in 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Avalonia Land Conservancy, and residents teamed up to find a balance between recreational use and wildlife conservation.

"Changing public consciousness is hard, but people already love this place," says Anne Roberts-Pierson, past president of Avalonia, which has owned the island since 1982. "We're just asking them to tweak their behavior…They see their beach usage has not been impinged, and we're getting good bird reproduction."

The solution mingled site protection, through roping off nesting grounds and adding nesting boxes, with public education and support, through signs, meetings and information distribution. The result has been three successful nesting seasons and an enjoyable summer for both the beachgoers and the birds.

Voices from Sandy Point Island

Binti Ackley, Stonington Boro resident
As a concerned observer and member of Avalonia Land Conservancy, I feel a great sense of affection and desire to protect Sandy Point Island's fragile birds, their nests and young.

Anne Nalwalk, former president of Avalonia Land Conservancy
From the beginning, Avalonia has recognized Sandy Point as a treasure, a property unlike any others it owned – a sandy island enough removed from the shore to provide isolation and uniqueness while still close to home.

Ryan Kleinert, biological science technician with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Sandy Point is a remarkable island that has provided critical habitat for the recovery of many vulnerable birds, including threatened piping plovers, American oystercatchers, least terns and endangered roseate terns. It has been my pleasure to dedicate enthusiasm, passion and knowledge of conservation towards the recovery of these species.

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Last updated: July 18, 2012

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