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Westport's Cockenoe Island Preparing For Flocks Of Summer Visitors

The piping plover is among the summer visitors at Westport's Cockenoe Island.
The piping plover is among the summer visitors at Westport's Cockenoe Island. Photo Credit: Audubon Society
Cockenoe Island is off the coast of Westport.
Cockenoe Island is off the coast of Westport. Photo Credit: University of Connecticut

WESTPORT, Conn. -- As spring finally overtakes winter along the coast of Connecticut, Westport's Cockenoe Island is preparing for summer visitors -- birds and humans alike.

“Before you know it, shorebirds such as terns will be arriving, and other shorebirds like Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher will be sitting on nests” says Rick Potvin, refuge manager of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. One of the refuge’s partners in shorebird population conservation is the town of Westport through its Conservation Department.

Cockenoe Island not only provides a place for the residents of Westport to recreate, it also provides excellent habitat for shorebirds and long-legged waders, including herons and egrets.

The trick is to try to provide visitor access and recreational opportunities while providing for the needs of wildlife, Potvin said.

This task falls to Alicia Mozian, head of the town Conservation Department, and to her staff. The town has established areas open to public use for recreation, including overnight camping, and other areas that are set aside for the needs of wildlife.

This spring the Town Conservation Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and volunteers of the Audubon Alliance will be visiting Cockenoe Island to begin preparing the Island for both its human and bird visitors.

These preparations include the establishment of a closed area on the western spit of the Island for tern nesting. The Audubon Alliance will post sigs and string barriers around the nesting site.

“This is a great partnership project which will not only allow the citizens of Westport a safe place to recreate, but an opportunity to view shore birds," Mozian says. "This connection with the recreational and wildlife resources of Long Island Sound is what makes our shoreline community so special.”

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