by Jamie Bogart, Lloyd Center Research Associate
As the Lloyd Center wraps up its 36th annual Piping Plover season and the 5th consecutive season working a series of small contracts at local sites, we can report victories and defeats as with every nesting season, and new inroads.
A major story state-wide is the return of plovers to East Beach in New Bedford, where the Lloyd Center was proud to partner with the city of New Bedford, Mass Audubon, local residents and volunteers in order to protect the birds. From the first report of territorial plovers in May to confirming of the fledge status of the hatchling in July, this was indeed a collaborative effort that depicts the intensive work that goes into plover pairs at smaller beaches posing unique challenges, especially in urban environments. It was great to see the appreciation of the resource by the community not accustomed to seeing a fenced off beach and educating onlookers over the course of the season about the birds and the program. The two-egg nest was likely a renest from another site and was the first ever plover nest to go through the full cycle of protection in the city.
Our routine sites, Bakers Beach and West Island, show that the nesting outcome is largely under nature’s control, and not the only reason we’re on the beach. Educating about the birds and documenting other findings are integral aspects of the effort. This is fortunate, as neither site produced plover fledges this year, instead succumbing to either nest or hatchling predation. At Bakers, the parking lot pair successfully hatched using the exclosure and made it to the waterfront, where predators such as coyote, crow, or perhaps ghost crabs from a large colony, were waiting. A pair also returned to the neighboring bowl and hatched for the first time since we’ve covered the beach, sadly, the hatchlings met a similar fate. Seeing the adults guard these hatchlings at close range in the nest, and the Bakers pair take its brood across the lot and into these same dunes, was rewarding in itself. But the natural Westport dune and beach ecosystem is inherently challenging. Some time was spent looking for Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetles between Bakers Beach and the Westport River, where they have been extirpated for years but could appear any given season and remain on our radar.
At West Island, it was a near duplication of last season when no nests hatched on the entire island, due to the presence of likely the same canid (coyote or fox) predator that was a force last season. But we again celebrate successfully preventing harm to the birds from human uses on this popular and challenging recreational site with a myriad of recreational activities. With the plover nesting done, we are surveying the vast overall avian diversity on the various habitats of the island. The lagoon is especially vibrant now that the shorebird migration is underway and has hosted visits from a pair of Black Skimmers that nested for the first time on Ram Island which is managed by Mass Wildlife. The agency also manages tern colonies on the Ram, Bird and Penikese islands, and we’re counting tern fledges which roost on the islands each summer.
We also revisited the Osprey platforms at Demarest Lloyd this month on July 7th, in collaboration with Mass Audubon to band three chicks, which may be discovered in the future at some faraway place, or perhaps back in the region in the years ahead.
Tune in next year as the Lloyd Center continues its long legacy of shorebird protection!