This past weekend I completed the human disturbance study that I was conducting for Environment for the Americas and California Coastal National Monument (CCNM), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) California. The purpose of the study was to quantify the human disturbance that occurs in the Black Oystercatcher (BLOY) nesting areas located in Point Pinos Pacific Grove, CA. Specifically, the study took place where the territory of the BLOY pair known as MP4 meets the territory of the BLOY pair known as MP5. Both of these BLOY pairs nest in a set of islets that overlap in both territories.
For about a month I recorded the amount of human entries that occur in areas around the islets that can potentially negatively affect the nesting success of the BLOY pairs. These areas were chosen taking into consideration the tourist necessities of the city and the distance in which BLOYs become alarmed by human presence.
This study was conducted in two phases: a “Before Ropes and Signs,” and an “After Ropes and Signs,” each with seven 2-hr monitoring sessions. Each component consisted of two morning and two afternoon sessions during the week and two afternoons and one morning session in the weekend. The study was also conducted during low tide so the 2 hr blocks started at the start of low tide for that particular day. In order to create the most similar conditions between the “before” and “after” components days that had similar low tide times were chosen.
This human disturbance study is meant to complement the BLOY nesting success study that is spearheaded by CCNM and Audubon and is occurring in Monterey Peninsula, Pebble Beach, and Point Lobos State Reserve. For the past few years the nesting success of the BLOY pairs in the area has not been great at all and it is suspected that human disturbance is a significant cause of the low success rate. Black Oystercatchers are a poorly understood species that is also key for determining the health of an area’s rocky intertidal. Hopefully, this study will bring into light the importance of protective measures in the California Coast sensitive wildlife areas.