By Cyndi Sellers
Rutherford Beach property owner Bobby Miller has reported that the shorebirds nesting in the roped off area two miles west of Rutherford Beach proper were intentionally disturbed this past weekend by vehicles driving through the fenced area. A number of nests were destroyed, and hundreds of birds were caused to abandon their nests.
The protected area is about .4 miles long, and located in a grass/sand area above the public beach, on private land, which is also posted. It is far from the usual beach-going area. It is clearly marked by many signs, both official and hand-made by children, and ropes. The vandalism was clearly intentional.
Rutherford Beach is home to the largest Least Tern nesting colony in Cameron Parish, so if they do poorly here it greatly impacts the regional population. Audubon Louisiana asks people to be respectful and share some of the beach with these little birds. They will be trying again to lay eggs and raise young on these beaches where they have been coming for hundreds of years. Some will have moved out of the marked area into places where they are less protected.
Beachgoers are asked to stay on the lower, hard sand beach for the next couple of months. If small, fast, white birds with black caps are flying overhead, calling loudly, they have a nest in the area. Move away. Eggs and chicks must be protected from the hot sun by a parent on the nest, or they will literally cook.
The Least Tern is protected by State and Federal laws. Wildlife agents will issue tickets for tampering with the eggs and chicks and for intentionally damaging nesting areas, especially those marked by signs.
“I am certain the vast majority of beachgoers respect the bird sanctuary areas and all the hard work that goes into establishing and maintaining the area. Unfortunately there is a bad apple in every bunch,” Miller said. Photos of the damage and the children’s signs are posted on the “Rockin’ Rutherford Fishing Club” Facebook page.