Category Archives: Piping Plover

PIPING PLOVERS ON THE AGENDA AT TONIGHT’S AAC MEETING

ANIMAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE

OCTOBER MEETING TODAY AT 6:30

CITY HALL, 3RD FLOOR

1. Approval of meeting minutes from 9/12/2018
2. Education/Outreach Plans
3. Piping plover awareness and education
4. Off leash beach days
5. Rodenticides
6. Dogs in Cemetery
7. Materials
8. Shirts/Sweatshirts/Hats
9. Brochures
10. Public comment
11. New Business

A BANNER YEAR FOR MAINE’S PIPING PLOVERS

Piping Plover Fledgling

With 128 fledglings this year, Maine is still meeting its conservation targets for gradually restoring the species of tiny beachcombers.

PORTLAND PRESS HERALD

BY GILLIAN GRAHAM

September 4, 2018

A record number of the endangered shorebirds nested on beaches from Ogunquit to Georgetown and produced a record number of fledglings, according to Maine Audubon. Maine beaches hosted 68 nesting pairs that fledged 128 birds, continuing a decade of steady growth in their population.

“That’s the most we’ve had in Maine since we began monitoring in 1981,” said Laura Minich Zitske, who leads the Maine Coastal Birds project for Maine Audubon.

After winter and spring storms left beaches in southern Maine in rough shape, there was some concern about how it would impact the tiny beachcombers that arrive in Maine in late April to early May to nest in the sand near dunes.

“We lost a lot of prime nesting habitat. Beaches like Ogunquit did look pretty rough at points, but thankfully the birds were adaptable and able to find spots to raise their young,” Zitske said.

Ogunquit Beach ended up seeing the most fledglings, with 24 produced by 11 nesting pairs. There were 15 fledglings each at Wells Beach and at Scarborough‘s Western Beach.

Zitske said the success of the plovers this year is due in large part to partnerships between Maine Audubon, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the landowners, volunteers and municipalities that create safe nesting conditions and educate the public about the endangered birds.

In 2005, just 27 chicks fledged on Maine beaches after nests and birds were wiped out by a combination of stormy weather and increased predation. While the numbers fluctuate year to year, the trend in Maine has shown consistent growth since then. Last year, 64 nesting piping plovers yielded 101 chicks.

The 100-plus fledglings – the stage at which chicks can evade predators or other dangers on their own – means Maine is still meeting its conservation targets for gradually restoring a diminutive species of shorebird that nests on Maine’s relatively few sandy beaches at the height of the summer tourism season.

Roughly 2,000 piping plover pairs nest on beaches from North Carolina to Newfoundland. The tiny birds can be spotted skittering at the ocean’s edge or on mudflats searching for worms, bugs and other invertebrates. When they aren’t foraging, plovers can be found nesting in the transition area between dunes and the sandy beach. Plover chicks are so small they are often described as cotton balls walking on toothpick legs.

Maine Audubon works closely with the state wildlife department and towns from Ogunquit to Georgetown to monitor the beaches for breeding pairs beginning in the spring and then advising the public about the birds’ presence. Nests with eggs are often protected by mesh fencing that allows the birds to skitter in and out of the area while keeping out predators. Volunteers and some paid beach monitors advise beachgoers and dog owners on how to avoid disturbing the sensitive birds.

READ MORE HERE

Piping Plover adult in the foreground, fledgling in the background. Note the lack of headband and should epaulettes on the fledgling, compared with the adult PIPL.

REMINDER – ANIMAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING TONIGHT AT 6:30PM: PIPING PLOVERS ON THE AGENDA

PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF MEETING PLACE. THE MEETING WILL BE HELD AT THE FRIEND ROOM AT THE SAWYER FREE LIBRARY.


Learning to Fly!

Three days after hatching the Rosetti’s Least Tern parents moved the chicks further down the beach and deep into the roped off sanctuary. Tiny gray and white speckled fluff balls well-hidden amongst the rocky shoreline became increasingly difficult to see.

Well-camouflaged and nearly impossible to see one-week-old Least Tern chicks.

Every now and then though I would catch a glimpse and one of the best moments was watching both chicks test their wings in short little take offs. Stretching wide their wings and in little fits and bursts, the flights lasted about two- to three-feet in length, and equally as high. After witnessing the tremendous hardships the Least Tern colony at Winthrop had undergone this nesting season, I was over joyed to see at least one family hit this milestone.

One-week-old Least Tern chick feeding.

Two-week-old Least Tern chick.

Eighteen-day-old Least Tern chick taking shelter under beach vegetation on a scorchingly hot day in July.

Eagerly waiting to be fed.

Airborne!

Winthrop Shores Reservation Beaches

GLOUCESTER DPW ROCKIN THE NEW FENCING AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Check out the awesome new dune fencing recently installed at Good Harbor Beach by our DPW crew. The wire fencing runs along the length of the beach. The DPW did an outstanding job, very neat and unobtrusive.

Dune fencing plays an important role in reducing erosion. One of the main benefits of dune fencing is to help keep pets and people out of the dunes. Why is it detrimental to the dunes to allow uncontrolled dogs to run through the dunes and for people to use the dunes to access the parking lot, or worse, as their personal toilet? Repeated traffic through the dunes damages and kills the plants growing in the dunes. Plants help control erosion by stabilizing soil and sediments with their roots. Dune vegetation helps break the impact of of wave splash and rain, and also traps sand to help build up the dunes.

The fencing material installed by the DPW is an excellent choice for nesting shorebirds. This year especially, with much of the beach vegetation washed away and with the beach greatly narrowed, the Piping Plover adults and chicks had learned to use the area behind the old wire fencing for shade and to hide from predators. The open fencing still allows for small wild creatures to go in and out of the holes to find shelter and safety at the base of the dune.

Pip snuggled under Mama PiPl

Thank you Gloucester DPW for a super job well done!

Adult Piping Plovers and chicks found shelter along the wire fencing (the Bachelor left, and Mama and Pip, right).

STUCK BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

After exploring the beach, the three-day-old Least Tern chick decided to take a short cut through the rocks to nestle under Mom. She was well-camouflaged while brooding and keeping warm and cozy her second chick.

He tried and tried to get to her, first hopping from one foot to the other,

while trying to squeeze with all his tiny might through the space between the rocks…

before tumbling backward, with legs splayed and wings all akimbo.

Quickly righting himself (with directives from Mom),

around he went the long way and had himself a good long snuggle under Mom.

While observing and thinking about tiny shorebird chicks, like Least Terns and Piping Plovers, I am continually struck by their resiliency, by their tenacity, and by their ability to prevail, despite the natural and manmade threats to their survival.

OUTSTANDING COASTAL WATERBIRD CONSERVATION COOPERATORS MEETING!

Piping Plover Chick Lift-off! – Not quite ready to fly yet, but testing his wings and airborne for a few seconds.

On Tuesday this past week my friend Deborah and I attended the Coastal Waterbird Conservation Cooperators meeting, which took place at Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable. The meeting is held annually to bring together people and organizations that are involved with population monitoring and conservation efforts on behalf of coastal waterbirds. Threatened and endangered species such as Least Terns, Piping Plovers, and American Oystercatchers are given the greatest attention, while the meeting also encompasses efforts on behalf of heron, cormorant, and egret species.

American Oystercatchers

Conservationists from all seven Massachusetts coastal regions participated, as well as conservationists from nearby states, including representatives from New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. To name just some of the organizations presenting at the meeting-Mass Wildlife, Trustees of Reservations, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and US Fish and Wildlife. Gloucester was well represented. In addition to Deborah and myself, two members of the Animal Advisory Committee also attended; chairperson Alicia Pensarosa and former animal control officer Diane Corliss. Many of you may remember our Mass Wildlife Piping Plover intern Jasmine. She was there to give a presentation on habitat vegetation utilized by nesting Piping Plovers. Her aunt, Gloucester’s Terry Weber, was there to support Jasmine. This was Jasmine’s first time speaking in public and she did an excellent job!

Each region gave the 2018 population census report for nesting birds as well as providing information about problems and solutions. We all share similar challenges with predation from crows and gulls, uncontrolled dogs, enforcement, and habitat loss and it was very interesting to learn about how neighboring communities are managing problems and issues.

Just one highlight of a day filled with helpful insights and useful information is that we can be very proud of our state—Massachusetts is at the leading edge of the Piping Plover recovery effort. The representative from New Jersey was there specifically to learn from Massachusetts conservationists on how they could possibly improve their recovery program as the New Jersey PiPl population is not growing, with fewer and fewer each year retuning to nest. As you can see from the graph provided at the meeting, the Canadian recovery is going very poorly as well.

Readers will be interested to know that our region’s Crane Beach continues to have one of their best year’s ever. Trustees of Reservations Jeff Denoncour shared information on the latest census data from 2018 and Crane’s has a whopping 76 fledglings, with 25 more chicks still yet to fledge. Because of the huge success at Cranes Beach, the northeast region, of which we are a part, has fledged a total 136 of chicks in 2018, compared to 108 in 2017, and as I said, with more fledglings still to come! The northeast region encompasses Salisbury Beach to the Boston Harbor Islands.

Jeff noted that this year they had less predation by Great Horned Owls. Because of owl predation, several years ago Crane Beach gave up on the wire exclosures and now use electric fencing extensively. The Great Horned Owls learned that the Piping Plover adults were going in an out of the exclosures and began perching on the edge of the wire, picking off the adults as they were entering and exiting the exclosure.

Crane has an excellent crew of Trustees staff monitoring the Least Terns and Piping Plovers, as well as excellent enforcement by highly trained police officers. No dogs are allowed on Crane Beach during nesting season and dogs are prevented from entering at the guarded gate. As we saw from one of the graphics presented about nesting Double-crested Cormorants, when a dog runs through a nesting area, the adults leave the nest, temporarily leaving the eggs and chicks vulnerable to predation by crows, gulls, raptors, and owls.

Crane Beach Least Tern fledgling.

Compare the Least Tern to the Common Tern in the above photo. It’s easy to see why the birds are called Least Terns; they are North America’s smallest member of the tern and gull family (Crane Beach).

Another interesting bit of information shared–if you listen to our podcasts, back in April, we talked about the potential dilemma of what would happen if Snowy Owls remained on the beaches as the Piping Plovers returned from their winter grounds. Knowing that Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus) and Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) are close cousins and that the Great Horned Owl eats Piping Plover chicks and adults, I was concerned that a Snowy might eat our PiPl. At one particular beach on Cape Cod, a Snowy stayed through mid-July. An adult Piping Plover skull was found in the owl’s pellet.

Snowy Owls remained in Massachusetts this year through July.

After attending the cooperators meeting, I am more hopeful than ever that our community can come together and solve the problems that are preventing our PiPl from successfully nesting and fledging chicks. What we have going in our favor is the sheer number of amazing super volunteers along with strong community-wide support.  

Piping Plover fully fledged and flying up and down the beach – we”ll have these next year, I am sure!