BELMAR, NJ — A special kind of family has taken up residence on Belmar’s Ninth Avenue beach.
A pair of American oystercatchers — easily identifiable by their long red bills and stocky black, brown and white feathered bodies — and several young chicks can be seen scurrying around in a stretch of sand fenced in with string marked with safety-orange tape and PVC piping. Inside the area, there are wooden structures to provide shelter, as well as several small beach palm trees.
Although they are not an endangered or threatened species in New Jersey, these beach-nesting birds have been classified as a “species of special concern,” especially since their breeding season coincides with when Jersey Shore beaches are the most visited — the summer.
As a result, the N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife has erected the fencing and signage, alerting beachgoers to their presence and more importantly, “to prevent the nests and young from being disturbed, trampled or run over.”
Meanwhile, in Belmar’s natural beach area at First Avenue, there are piping plover nests, but no sign yet of the federally endangered shorebird, according to Belmar Council President Thomas Brennan, council representative to the borough’s Environmental Commission.
Piping plovers visit the Jersey Shore generally between March 15 and August 21 for their breeding season.
And while dune grass continues to grow along the beachfront near Belmar’s boardwalk — as well as two specially planted “dune gardens" on the Fourth and 12th Avenue beaches — the rare seabeach amaranth plant is barely visible along a fenced-in stretch of dune grass between Third and Fourth Avenues.
While these plants grow low, they usually start flowering this time of year and grow to about four inches in diameter by late summer, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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