Hurricane Sandy’s Impact and Osprey Update by Lloyd Center Research Associate Jamie Bogart

Hurricane Sandy will long be remembered as the storm that caused heartbreaking, catastrophic damage to the Jersey shore and other areas of the mid-Atlantic region. It forever changed that coastline and left some uncertainty as to the long-term impacts. Here in New England, we are fortunate to have an intact shoreline after the storm that mostly spared us. Here one can walk the beach and see how the storm may actually benefit our local shorebird population. On the state beaches, operated by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation and overseen by the Lloyd Center, vast expanses of the familiar natural mixture of sand and cobble appeared in new areas, some areas with already good habitat were replenished; this could attract additional breeding pairs.research-plover-kiosk

In Fairhaven, West Island gained sand with some flattop “blowouts” now present in the low interdune areas. At Demarest Lloyd State Park in Dartmouth, the sand spit that seems to increase with each storm grew yet again. More newsworthy are the vast patches of sand in front of the public parking areas, over which the water flowed at high tide during the storm. The plover kiosk present for years, presumably placed where past nesting locations historically existed, was nearly buried (see photo). Sandy left the tattered sign, as if reminding us who may nest there in 2013. Over at Horseneck Beach in Westport, a long expanse of sandy habitat now exists in front of the campground where tides reached the pavement and left new sand behind. Not to be forgotten is Gooseberry Neck in Westport, which always receives a nice “spoonful” of sand in its interdune area after a storm. All that new sand may potentially attract more birds during any given season.

So Sandy, amidst all her destruction, possibly (depending upon conditions this spring when many more storms might pass through) increased habitat on our local shorelines. Whether this is viewed as climate change slowly eroding the planet and causing more conflict on a shrinking landscape, or seen as more opportunity to see our feathered friends at close range, this storm may ultimately provide some beneficial education.

For some coastal wildlife that depends on (or may adapt to) these natural shoreline processes, not all of Sandy’s impacts were friendly. One of the Lloyd Center’s more recently installed Osprey platforms, on the small island near the causeway, succumbed to Sandy’s wrath. This platform supported a nesting pair whose eggs were predated by a suspected resident Great Horned Owl. Miraculously, the Center’s other platforms, including the premier nest on the marsh across the Slocum River, survived the hurricane. If the stressed pair relocates out to the marsh and nests successfully, one can thank Sandy for the tough love!

New and exciting on the Osprey front is the completion of the Center’s newest platform. It will be installed on the salt marsh of Little River, at the edge of the new “Lloyd Woods” property, which will feature a trail spur for prime viewing. Look for this platform and an Osprey pair in the 2013 nesting season, when some eager birds will surely take interest, and nest for years to come.