Piping Plovers – Closing Thoughts for 2013

On August 6, Lloyd Center plover staff attended the shorebird cooperators end-of-season meeting at Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable, MA. The meeting involved networking with other shorebird stewards and learning about plover events and news beyond our region, and how the birds are doing both far and wide.
Here’s a snapshot.:

piping-plover-sept-2013Given that biologists have long established a sustained (5 years) annual productivity of chicks fledged/pair level of 1.25 as required for the Atlantic Coast plover population to be stable, it’s clear that piping plover endangerment status won’t change anytime soon. Although this year’s preliminary abundance estimate of 669 pairs in our state alone remains over the 625 pairs deemed necessary for the New England Recovery Unit to sustain itself, the 71-1.00 predicted productivity value for Massachusetts, although better than 2012, remains low.

Extremely low productivity occurred again on the cape (Upper Cape: .51-.93, Lower Cape: .32-.61) but this year’s predation and to some extent overwash were to blame, not the catastrophic flooding of nests following one major storm that almost exclusively dictated last season’s outcome. This season, the North Shore with 80 pairs and productivity ranging 1.24-1.41, looks to be the winning region.  

Considering all sites in Bristol County and including issues of double-counting, 50 pairs is a record. The productivity estimate of .88-1.03 is “moderate to good”, and changed little from 2012. Perhaps most notable is the status of our beloved Demarest Lloyd State Park, which has fledged 2 more chicks since the last writing for 16 total fledges and 2.3 productivity from the 7 pairs that nested. This may be the most successful site in the state, at least for beaches of comparable size. 

State and federal biologists again reminded us how far-reaching our efforts are and as usual, provided updates on large-scale projects where plover data is critical. Sand nourishment and sand fencing in the wake of recent storms are a hot topic, and locations of plover nesting areas will determine what work agencies can permit. The sand fencing issue reminds us of Horseneck Beach where its use, and how the main beach operation in general, must be in constant compliance. 

piping-ploverDespite low productivity (and a valiant but losing effort by brood 2 of the concession area of Horseneck), long hours of work by the Lloyd Center will perhaps be more instrumental in streamlining future DCR operations of the park than any recent season. Based upon the extensive nesting activity near infrastructure, prompt sand fencing removal and beach preparation that maximizes the chance for early plover nesting in optimal locations is sure to be a high priority in 2013. Plans are in place to establish recreation spots or otherwise “cover” the undesirable areas near buildings where plovers nested this year. For those that have appreciated the extension of life of the architecturally significant old concession building, and long for more volleyball space, they can thank the plovers and our efforts to protect them! 

Similarly, while at West Island the excessive nest abandonment proved costly to productivity in the end, a new connection now exists with the Town of Fairhaven on this increasingly important plover site. One byproduct are new large, metal signs urging controlled dog use and avoidance of plover nesting areas, these signs resulting directly from this season’s events, and sure to help efforts for years to come. 

We once again extend thanks to interns Sandra Araujo, who took the reins at West Island, and Katherine Ferrari, who did the same at Horseneck Beach, in 2013.