by Jamie Bogart, Lloyd Center Research Associate
Recent Lloyd Center plover seasons have featured lower numbers of birds, with only West Island carrying any notable abundance of pairs over the last five seasons. These plover seasons occurring on local municipal or private beaches have been less about numbers, and more about the challenges faced with any particular pair. In fact, knowing the requirements for plover protection and efforts in place, two birds can define a season as much as large sites with a high abundance of plover pairs.
At Bakers Beach, after a weather pattern which slowed nesting, the parking lot pair finally reclaimed its corner, this time in a better location further from the main access road. The pair accepted our predator exclosure and has attended to the nest constantly, with hatching expected late this month. The brood emerging near the 4th of July weekend will be both exciting and challenging for all, as parking spaces are opened and closed, and the hatchlings are guarded on their trips between the lot and the waterfront.
The pair nesting in a nearby dune bowl nested before the lot pair, and has finally produced young, the hatchlings having successfully climbed and crossed the dunes to the waterfront intertidal zone. While the nest finally evaded predators, sadly only one chick remains, the other three lost presumably to predation. Although multiple predators including coyote, fox, or crow, the common culprits, are potentially responsible, the brood emerged within a dense ghost crab population. predation of chicks by the ghost crabs does occur and can’t be ruled out. The one hatchling is going strong and has passed that threshold beyond which many chicks survive to fledge so we’re happy this pair will likely finally produce a fledge. A Box Turtle, a state-listed species with past records in the dune system, was also discovered in the driveway and rescued by a beach staffer, which shows yet another example of the great conservation efforts in place at this beach.
This year the Lloyd Center has contributed to protection efforts for a pair at New Bedford’s East Beach, and on June 19 the hatching of the 2-egg clutch for the unexclosed nest was confirmed. This is miraculous considering the challenges of urban beaches and the predator stress occurring at many other sites. We can say with certainty it was a renest due to only two eggs in the clutch. We are hopeful the hatchlings survive to fledge and urge folks to give these and all plover chicks their space on the beach in the weeks ahead.
At West Island, where the town beach had four pairs to start, rampant predation is unfortunately again the lead story. Multiple nests lost in dune areas by some combination of coyote and fox depict an ongoing predator-prey cycle where plover eggs are now a targeted food source likely by the same animal(s). A recent sighting of a coyote during daylight at Winsegansett Heights close to cottages, and other reports by beach goers of coyotes on the island during daylight, depict how abundant this species alone has become. One nest was exclosed in desperate attempt to preserve a clutch but abandoned on a busy weekend when the exclosure may have made the pair even more nervous. But like last year, we again hope for a late hatch. Fortunately, the island’s shifting sands and high avian diversity provide other research opportunities to keep our attention along with any plover activity during the rest of the season.
Away from the beach and on the salt marsh, osprey hatchlings are present at platforms we monitor. At the platforms across the Slocum River near Demarest Lloyd, the tallest one has one chick and an unhatched egg, the oldest short
“rickety” platform two chicks and an unhatched egg. Both broods hatched relatively recently. The chicks in the old platform are particularly exciting after last season when geese prevented timely establishment of a nest. And the mere fact the platform still stands is astounding. The platform at the Lloyd Center waterfront has three older chicks going strong, this platform continuing to produce now each year and at this stage being the most productive of our platforms. While predators such as Great Horned Owl have surprisingly spared this pair, no such luck on Little River where no eggs hatched, and a deceased adult was found on this marsh near the platform. But osprey activity continues near the platform as adult birds continue feeding and pressing on with their duties.
Stay tuned for the final results of the season later in the summer!