Bird lovers in New Jersey will be thrilled to learn about one of New Jersey’s newest natural phenomena. Off the southern edge of Little Egg Inlet, an island has formed just about one thousand feet off the coast of Little Beach Island.
A prospective shoal was first documented in 2018. Now known as Horseshoe Island for its shape, its growth over the years has been attributed to the current and longshore drift (aka sand buildup) from Long Beach Island.
Since the initial discovery of the shoal, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) has been monitoring the island's development. The new formation has provided to be an “incredibly valuable habitat for nesting and migratory birds, including many at-risk species,” explains CWF.
Field biologists from CWF have kept a close eye on the bird populations on the surrounding islands. As the sandbar grew, so have the conditions deemed suitable for some of New Jersey’s most coveted bird populations. Scientists realized a wider variety of bird species gravitated toward the dynamic new island as it grew.
CWF says the most impressive aspect of the island is its large size. “Estimated at [about] 100 acres at high tide – which wasn’t apparent from views from the mainland.”
In May of 2021, a noreaster storm flooded the island and many of the surrounding areas of the coastline. Researchers were worried the bird populations that had been establishing themselves would have been wiped out by the storm, only to discover the storm brought a new wave of life to Horseshoe Island. “Not only had the island survived, but that new colonies of terns and black skimmers had arrived,” CWF announced.
Fortunately, this island has formed within the protection zone of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Sections of the new island have been blocked to humans to ensure that the animals now living there can thrive.
Since the buzz around the newly formed island is feeding into a natural human curiosity, the efforts to protect Horseshoe Island have proven to be a challenge. People need to understand how this island may be the last hope for the bird species who have been fortunate enough to find it.
Since some of the birds now on the island were near extinct before the island formed, protecting them is vital in giving these species the best possible chance at making a comeback.