When you head to the beach for the July 4 holiday, the American Bird Conservancy asks that you "fish, swim and play 50 yards away" from beach-nesting birds. Many are still tending to their young, and some still are sitting on eggs. Beach-nesters have a later breeding cycle than robins and other small birds of spring that we're familiar with in Western Pennsylvania.
Many people don't even notice shore birds, said ornithologist Mike Parr, vice president of program development for the American Bird Conservancy. Their feathers blend in with the sand, and so do their eggs and chicks.
Their nests aren't made of twigs or straw, he said. Their nests are "just a little scrape in the sand. Beaches are the most valuable real estate in the world ,and the birds that nest on the beach have the most stressed habitat," he said. Many beach birds are threatened or endangered.
On the Atlantic Coast, the birds we're looking out for are the piping plover, black skimmer, least tern, American oystercatcher and Wilson's plover. The piping plover is found from North Carolina to Maine, and it is especially concentrated along the northeastern coast, including the Cape May area of New Jersey, Mr. Parr said.
They won't nest close to the surf. They won't nest on sand that gets wet when the tide comes in. Some nesting areas are fenced with signs asking people to stay away. For unposted nesting areas, here's a tip from Mr. Parr: If birds are flying over you, "calling wildly," they may be trying to move you away from their nesting area.
"Keep walking away until they are less agitated."
If you vacation with your dog or cat, keep them away from nests. "Cats are a major problem. Chicks have no defense against cats," Mr. Parr said.
Even if dogs aren't trying to catch or kill birds, if they exuberantly run through a nesting area, they can stress adult birds and they might abandon the nest, he said.
The beach birds we notice in large numbers are sea gulls. They're not threatened or endangered, they don't lay eggs on the beach and they don't nest there.
"Gulls nest in colonies. You would notice them," Mr. Parr said. They nest away from the beach, including on islands, if there are any nearby.
Here's a sad fact: Gulls kill and eat the chicks of other birds, according to Mr. Parr. He suggests that we should not feed gulls because "they can find food on their own."
Dog block party
The first Lucky's South Side Dog Festival will be Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The block-long party on 24th Street is free and open to the public and their pups.
Double Wide Grill owners Steve Zumoff and Scott Kramer recently got Health Department approval to allow dogs to join owners for meals in an outside patio area. They've teamed up with dog-loving businesses -- including Big Dog Coffee, Urban Dog and Grandma's Dog Daycare -- to create the festival.
Activities include carnival games, a bouncing house and contests. The Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center is bringing dogs that need homes. Other sponsors include the Hello Bully rescue group, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, Stage AE, Camp Bow Wow, Morning Glory Inn, Iron City Beer and Sweet Tea Firefly Vodka.
True Companion Animal Rescue, a new nonprofit dog and cat rescue in East McKeesport, is having its first fundraiser Sunday, 2 p.m. until dark, in White Oak Park, Redwood 1. There will be games, an auction, food and drinks. Dogs are welcome if they're friendly and leashed.
Admission is $15. Bring a donation of pet food, toys or treats to be entered for a prize drawing. Look at the True Companion Animal Rescue Facebook page for further information.
Low-cost shots, chips
Animal Friends has added four more canine and feline vaccine and microchip clinics. All are 1-3 p.m. at the shelter, 562 Camp Horne Road, Ohio Township. The dates are July 22, Aug. 22, Sept. 5 and Sept. 19. Slots fill up quickly, so reservations must be made by calling 412-847-7029.
Shots are $10 each for rabies, distemper, bordetella and FVRCP. Microchips are $20. Flea treatments are $5. There will be discounts for multiple shots. Dogs must be on leashes and cats in carriers.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.