Dredging benefits bird population in Lower Cape Fear

BIRD ISLAND, NC (WWAY) — Southeastern North Carolina is for the birds. Officials say about one third of our state’s nesting water bird population calls our area home and many of them have claimed a couple man-made islands as their favorite nesting place.

On a short boat ride down the Lower Cape Fear River, you’ll come across a series of dredge made islands.

“It was created by sandy material that was dredged out of the navigational channel of the Cape Fear River back in the 1970s and was placed here basically just a storage site,” NC Audubon Coastal Biologist Lindsay Addison said.

Each of the nine islands in our area house over 20 different bird species. The way they got there was actually an accident.

“At the time, nobody thought it would become such an important site for nesting birds,” Addison said.

A favorable environment is open bare sand which that’s why Addison says ideally, the islands need more sand every five to seven years.

“The navigational channel has to be maintained for the Port of Wilmington,” Addison said. “That is a huge part of our economy locally, and that project is going to happen regardless of impacts to wildlife, but as long as we are doing, as long as we are taking sand out of the river channel, why not put the sand where it’s going to do the most good.”

Over time, grass, shrubs, and trees can grow where once was just sand.

Addison hopes this winter more sand will be deposited to set back the clock on the natural vegetation cycle.

Since summertime is breeding season for the birds, it’s off limits to the public.

“Disturbance by people can destroy a whole colony,” Addison said. “We might not mean any harm, but when we come to an island but to a bird we are big and we are very scary and that causes the adult to fly away from their eggs and chicks.”

They say they did have a problem with people camping on the islands years ago, but now that these islands are more well known she says it’s not much of a problem anymore.

While Addison spends much of her week on the river, she will continue to monitor, preserve, and research just one of the many reasons that makes our coast so unique.

“You are always going to see something cool. I don’t know what it will be on any given day, but there’s always something neat and finding out what that thing will be is one of the really fun things about my job.”

NC Audubon looks after 20 dredge islands in our state.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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