ROTARY CLUB PAID FOR THREE SOLAR-POWERED ELECTRIC FENCES
IPSWICH — Those little birds you see running around the beach don’t have it easy.
Although they have wings, they won’t fly to trees to build their nests. Instead, they scoop holes, or “scrapes,” in the sand and lay their eggs there.
And that’s an invitation for all kinds of trouble: predators, rogue waves, dogs, or clumsy or malicious humans.
Combined with widespread loss of habitat, piping plovers are now on the federal government’s threatened species list. One estimate says there are just 8,400 left worldwide.
But along with lease terns, which are protected in Massachusetts, the plovers are well taken care of on Crane Beach.
In fact, they were so well taken care of in 2019 that a record number of chicks fledged and are now ready for the next perilous phase of their lives — a migration to the Bahamas.
This year, 49 pairs of plovers raised 96 chicks, said Jeff Denoncour, coastal ecologist with The Trustees of Reservations.
The last year that good for the birds was in 1999, when 44 pairs produced 89 fledglings, he added.
To show how precarious the species’ existence can be, Denoncour said the year 2000 was disastrous. Just 12 fledglings survived despite the efforts of 49 pairs. “That was due to a major storm,” he explained.
Jeff Denoncour and Courtney Richardson last year at Jeff’s program on coastal ecology held at the Cape Ann Museum