By Diana Poulos-Lutz
Nickerson Beach Park is a small gem on the south shore of Nassau County. It’s not only a gem of a shoreline for humans, though. This small south shore beach is a haven for a variety of shorebirds during the warmer season here on Long Island. Shorebirds such as Oystercatchers, Black Skimmers, Sanderlings, Piping Plovers, and Terns populate the Nickerson shoreline each year. Once Memorial Day arrives, the cabanas will open and Nickerson will become a summertime favorite for loyal Nickerson beachgoers. Yet, Nickerson is a nice example of the ability of humans and wildlife to cohabitate a beautiful shoreline. Areas of the shoreline closer to the dunes are roped-off, enabling nesting grounds for Piping Plovers, Terns, Skimmers, and Oystercatchers to remain protected. Besides protecting the nesting grounds from human interference, environmentalists are aware of the large presence of these shorebirds and their favorite nesting spots at Nickerson, and have worked to protect them in other ways, too. This week, a protective netting cage was placed over the location of the piping plover eggs, in order to protect these endangered eggs from predators. The plovers can enter and exit the area, because of their small size. Yet, a large predatory bird, or other animals, will be unable to swoop in and attack an egg, or hatchling.
As the spring inches closer to summer, more shorebirds will make Nickerson their home for the warm season. Even in the busier summer months, when the sandy shoreline is strewn with colorful beach towels, sunbathers, and swimmers, the shorebirds remain at Nickerson, and make their presence known. Roped-off areas are often adjusted as the shorebirds move or enlarge their resting place.
The abundant wildlife at the small Nickerson shoreline gives the beach a special feel. There is a sense of the hopeful potential for humans and wildlife to harmoniously cohabitate. The presence of the wildlife, and the careful attention paid to them with the roped-off areas and constant monitoring of their space, provide a wonderful example to younger generations. These efforts to protect the wildlife is a reminder of the importance of being mindful and respectful of the entire ecosystem around us. The sand and surf are not just a space for beach picnics and summer fun; it is also a home to a variety of wildlife. Nickerson in summer would feel vastly different without the simultaneous chorus of people having fun, and the terns, oystercatchers, and other shorebirds making their unique and loud calls.
For now, and until Memorial Day weekend, the cabanas are vacant, and the shoreline is mostly absent of people. The shorebirds are settling into their familiar Nickerson spots and many are nesting. This week, days old Oystercatchers can be seen, other Oystercatchers are laying on eggs, Terns are lining the shore, Piping Plovers are laying eggs, Sanderlings are plentiful in their summer plumage, and Black Skimmers are beginning to arrive. In a couple of weeks, once the cabanas are unlocked, Nickerson will continue to be an exemplar for a balancing act between the preservation of environmental concerns, wildlife, and human usage. As with most other things in life, no sought-after balance is always constant and perfect. Yet, the aspiration for balance and harmony is one of life’s most worthwhile challenges.