Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘beach nesting bird project’

Beachnester Buzz: A Day in the Life of a Beachnester

Monday, August 8th, 2016

NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

 

For this week’s installment, I thought it would be fun to have you tag along with me on a day in the field, so you can get a sampling of what goes into our beach nesting bird program. Let’s call it, “A Day in the Life of a Beachnester.”

 

skimmer

Black skimmer and chicks at our Belmar colony where we recently banded the young before they could fly. Photo courtesy of Jersey Shore Photography.

Today it is an early 4 am rise to beat the beach crowds and heat, as we are banding black skimmers at our Belmar colony. This is the first time our program has banded skimmers –  it is a collaborative effort with other organizations/agencies in both New York and New Jersey – we hope to find out more about their survival, longevity, and movement, both local and long distance. Everything goes well, we are able to corral and band about 35 chicks in less than an hour. This part of the day represents the science portion of the beach nesting bird project, science for the sake of study and a better understanding of our birds, but more importantly to gather information to help us manage and recover endangered species.

 

With no time to spare, it is now off to Leonardo along Sandy Hook Bay where CWF is hosting a summer wildlife experience for kids. No surprise, I am the guest today to teach the kids about beach nesting birds. I explain why piping plovers and American oystercatchers are at risk, and then give them a chance to use a high powered birding scope to try to read bands I have placed on decoy birds. We definitely have some budding biologists in the mix. Education is key to our project, unlike other endangered species that mostly live out of sight or reach, beachnesters spend the breeding season on the same beaches visited by millions of tourists and residents. If they are going to learn to “share the shore” with our endangered birds, outreach is essential.

 

beachnester buzz plant

Sea beach amaranth, a rare plant, that shares the beach with our nesting shorebirds and also is protected.

Next up is a stop at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, one of our important nesting areas in Monmouth County. For most of the season we are erecting and adjusting fence to protect nesting areas, but today we are working with the park to reduce the fence, as many of our birds have successfully nested and started to leave the area. First we count and locate any remaining least terns – these surveys are the base of our project – we need this data to track population trends and seasonal productivity as metrics of progress towards recovery. Before we remove any fence at this site, we also conduct surveys of sea beach amaranth, an endangered plant that shares the beach with our nesting birds. We locate a few plants and that dictates how we readjust the fence, the plants need protection from trampling by beachgoers or vehicles used by the park to maintain their beach.

 

 

Coordination with municipalities or other land owners that host beach nesting birds is a critical part of our project, as their activities can impact nesting success as much as beachgoer’s recreational use of the beach. So there is one more stop today to assess whether a maintenance request can be granted in a way that won’t put birds at risk. That done, it is time to start the two hour drive back to our office in Cape May County. I am ready for a nap, but no luck, as the truck becomes a mobile office to take care of other unattended business (while someone else drives of course). There are calls with several other towns, check-ins with our seasonal staff members that are spread out all along the coast, and finally dealing with a broken down vehicle (not ours fortunately) and a person who refused to take their dog off a nesting site.

 

Back at the office, it is one last check of email, entering a little bit of the data we collected today, and finally time to head home. Every day is a little different, but this day has been a good cross-section of the range of things we do on the project. It is tempting to think we just pop up fence and signs and hope the birds do well, but protection and recovery of our endangered beach nesting birds requires a comprehensive strategy addressing all the factors that impact nesting success.

 

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NJTV News: CWF’s Pover Discusses Piping Plover Conservation

Monday, August 8th, 2016

by Emily Hofmann, Assistant Communications Manager

 

todd on njtv news

 

Todd Pover, CWF’s Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager, recently sat down with NJTV’s Mary Alice Williams to discuss piping plover conservation on the anniversary of 30 years of federal listing. Listen in to what he had to say.

 

 

 

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Beachnester Buzz: Post-nesting Season Migration Begins

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016
NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Up until now the focus of our weekly reports has been on breeding activities – for good reason as that is the main purpose of our beachnesting bird management and recovery program here in New Jersey. However, the past two weeks have been a good reminder that piping plover migration is already well under way.

The idea of “fall” migration is a bit of a misnomer for piping plovers and other shorebirds since they begin moving south for the “winter” as soon as nesting is complete. For piping plovers that can be in early July. In fact, last week we had our first report of piping plovers already back on their wintering grounds in the Bahamas. And yesterday we received word of 164 piping plovers in Ocracoke, North Carolina, many of them individuals that had bred in states further north. We know that from the bands and flags placed on the birds as part of various research projects.

Piping Plover E4, spotted by CWF staff in the Bahamas and Canada, and last week it made a stop in New Jersey during migration. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Egger.

Piping Plover E4, spotted by CWF staff in the Bahamas and Canada, and last week it made a stop in New Jersey during migration. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Egger.

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey we resighted our first Canadian piping plover on July 12. Then last week we had another very exciting visitor from Canada – a flagged bird with the alpha/numeric code of E4. CWF’s very own Todd Pover had spotted this bird on its wintering ground in January 2014 in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, the Bahamas. In the spring of 2014 Todd traveled up to this bird’s breeding location at White Point Resort in Nova Scotia, Canada, where he was able to spy the bird with its mate as they started to set up their nest. Having it now show up during migration in New Jersey completed the circle.

Although Todd didn’t see it himself in New Jersey this time, there is some pretty amazing “dots being connected” with this individual bird. One of the important issues brought up by the resightings of E4 is just how connected the sites are all along the flyway. It is important that we focus on breeding success here in New Jersey, but we also play an important role in protecting shorebirds during different phases of their lives as well. Long term survival and recovery of piping plovers depends on full life cycle conservation, not just during the breeding season. And with many shorebirds moving thousands of miles annually, that is an effort that needs to reach across partners and even countries.


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Beachnester Buzz: Meet Bob, Avalon’s “Famed” Piping Plover

Monday, July 18th, 2016
NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Meet Bob, Avalon's "famed" long-time breeding piping plover, easily identifiable by his color bands. Photo courtesy of Tom Reed.

Meet Bob, Avalon’s “famed” long-time breeding piping plover, easily identifiable by his color bands. Photo courtesy of Tom Reed.

Meet Bob. He is a piping plover who received this nickname while being banded by CWF Wildlife Biologist Emily Heiser in 2012 as part of a SUNY-ESF research project in New Jersey. This past weekend was a big day for Bob. Three of his chicks reached the fledgling state – this milestone of flight is the metric for a successful breeding season.

Things have not always gone so well for Bob. In 2012 his mate was killed by a predator and he couldn’t incubate their eggs alone, so the nest was abandoned and he didn’t find a new mate. In 2013 Bob and his new mate (Kelly) were down to their last remaining chick when a ghost crab snatched and dragged it down its burrow. We dug the chick out, but it died soon after in rehab. In 2014 Bob and Kelly’s chicks died quickly at the hands of an unknown predator. In 2015 a nest camera painfully showed Bob’s chicks being eaten by a fox just after they hatched and were still lying in the nest bowl.

Flash forward to this year and Bob was part of the last piping plover pair left nesting in Avalon, once a thriving breeding site with as many as eight pairs. His long-time mate Kelly left him for another male at Stone Harbor Point, but he found a new mate and finally they have met success. Given all that has happened to Bob, you can see why we are happy for him (and Emily) today!

Sadly, this five year “drama” is not an especially unusual story for piping plovers. Their existence, especially here in New Jersey, is seemingly “against all odds”. In addition to the predators, they face a multitude of threats, direct and indirect, such as human disturbance as a result of heavy recreational use of beaches, habitat loss and degradation, and flooding, to name a few. Each year CWF and a host of partners throughout coastal New Jersey mount an extensive effort to protect piping plovers and other endangered beach nesting birds such as least terns and black skimmers. Without this active protection and management these birds would probably disappear from most of our state’s beaches.


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Beachnester Buzz: July 4th & Beachnesting Birds

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016
NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Beach nesting bird chicks, such as this black skimmer - New Jersey's first skimmer chicks hatched this weekend - are especially vulnerable to the extra large crowds and fireworks on the beach during July 4th celebrations and other busy summer weekends. Photo courtesy of Jean Hall.

Beach nesting bird chicks, such as this black skimmer – New Jersey’s first skimmer chicks hatched this weekend – are especially vulnerable to the extra large crowds and fireworks on the beach during July 4th celebrations and other busy summer weekends. Photo courtesy of Jean Hall.

While the July 4th holiday weekend is the celebratory peak of the summer season for beachgoers, it is not a joyous time for beachnester staff or beach nesting birds. The holiday brings an extra crush of people out on the beaches at the most critical time for our endangered nesting shorebirds. Nearly all the species – piping plover, least tern, black skimmer, and American oystercatcher – are at the peak of their breeding seasons in late June/early July so the holiday is sometimes a “make it or break it” day or in the case this year a long weekend.

So our beachnester staff went into overdrive this weekend, working extra hours to guard and monitor nesting sites, both day AND night. Fireworks, the symbol and heart of any July 4 celebration, are especially problematic. The disturbance from the fireworks themselves can be an issue, but the extra large crowds (and typically extra boisterous behavior) on the beaches at night can be a deadly combination for the beach nesting birds. Personal fireworks in proximity to nesting colonies also have to be “policed” by our staff and volunteers.

With this year’s holiday now just passed, it looks like our efforts largely paid off. There were areas where protective fence was vandalized and had to be restored, and some minor bird losses were documented this weekend, but it was fortunately minimized this year. With that in mind, we are sending an extra special thanks out today to the dedicated beachnester staff members and volunteers, not just in New Jersey but across the entire breeding range, for their hard work this weekend and throughout the season.

The bird’s still have several weeks to go before we’ll know if the season was a success overall (stay tuned for that news), but “holding down the fort” on July 4 is one more challenge that is now in the books for this year.