Masonboro committee talks species of concern, Fourth of July

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This spring kept North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve southern sites manager Hope Sutton and her team busy tracking the activity of species of concern on Masonboro Island.

During the Masonboro Local Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday, June 18, Sutton said there is a part-time technician monitoring the shorebird nesting on the island. Oystercatchers are the biggest priority for the organization and Sutton said so far 33 pairs of oystercatchers have been spotted that have produced 15 nests with seven of those nests successfully hatching and five still incubating. One pair of oystercatchers chicks have reached the 30-day-old mark and Sutton said they have been banded for tracking.

Over the course of two days in May the organization and the 62 volunteers that participated in the 2014 Terrapin Tally counted 144 diamondback terrapins, Sutton said. There has not been much in terms of research on the diamondback terrapin population around Masonboro Island and Sutton said the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and Division of Marine Fisheries would use the data gathered during the tally. Sutton added the wildlife resource commission would also like to expand the program for implementation across the state.

The sea turtle nesting season has been the slowest among the species of concern with only one nest and five false crawls along the island.

One of the spring education programs at Masonboro that was a success was the Island Explorers Program sponsored by the nonprofit Masonboro.org. Sutton said the program reached seven teachers and 141 fifth graders at Sunset Park Elementary and Gregory Elementary schools. Due to the program’s success, Sutton said the organization is already working with Masonboro.org to take fifth grade classes from two other area schools this fall.

As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, Sutton said her organization and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputies stationed on the island are planning to operate similarly to the way they did last year. With this year’s holiday falling on a Friday, Sutton said sheriff’s deputies would be stationed on the island throughout the weekend to focus on maintaining public safety and ensuring the lawful and responsible consumption of alcohol.

email cole@luminanews.com

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