Hancock County to do battle over nesting areas - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hancock County to do battle over nesting areas

Residents attempt to scare away the birds with frightening sounds and inflatable scarecrows on the beach. (Photo source: WLOX) Residents attempt to scare away the birds with frightening sounds and inflatable scarecrows on the beach. (Photo source: WLOX)

Least terns are about to nest and bird advocates are hoping this year will be better than last year to protect the first recorded colony in Hancock County.

But, there may be another battle with homeowners over property rights when they meet with the Hancock County Board of Supervisors at 9 a.m. Monday.

Supporters of the birds want to see the same kind of cooperation in Hancock County as they have in Harrison County; where large sections of beach are dedicated to the federally protected species.

“We have the largest colony of nesting terns in the country,” said resident and supporter Elizabeth Calvit. “And I don't know if we have a good set up with the beaches and they just like it. From a tourism point of view or a from a birder’s point of view, it’s just really interesting.”

But, the birds have a not so warm welcome on North Beach Boulevard.

The repeated recording of predator birds scream from a neighbor’s yard while inflatable scarecrows and spinning wheels on the beach try to chase away the terns.

The quarter mile stretch of beach in Hancock County where the birds are about to nest is directly across from several homes. Some say that protective fencing for the birds will prevent residents direct access to the water's edge.

Regardless of the argument about who has the rights to put up the structures on the beach, least tern experts say the distraction isn’t going to work.

“Least terns aren’t going to be scared by this,” Calvit said. “Once they’re here, they’re here and we just have to agree to share be beach with them for 90 days.”

Sarah Pacyna with the Audubon Center in Moss Point says she has proven tools to relocate the terns that include specialized decoys, and audio playback systems, that attract rather than frighten.

“These tools probably won’t work to move a bird a couple of miles,” Pacyna said. “But a couple hundred feet, definitely.”

According to Pacyna, having the terns makes economic sense.

“There’s going to be a lot more resources coming in for birds over the next couple of years,” Pacyna said. "That’s why we’re seeking to establish this partnership now so that we can really put resources into Hancock County.”

Lacy Lawler is another resident and advocate for the birds.

“They are part of our environment. They are part of our ecosystem, whether we like it or not,” Lawler added. "They deserve to be protected, and they deserve to have somewhere that they can come every year during their migration, and nest.”

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