Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘beach nesting bird’

Beachnester Buzz: Drum roll please, the 2016 breeding results for beachnesters are…

Monday, August 15th, 2016
NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

There are many ways to gauge success for our beachnesting bird project. We look at how well our management tools work, the effectiveness of our partnerships, and how well our educational efforts work, to name a few qualitative measures we use. At some point, however, it comes down to cold hard numbers, how well did the birds do in a particular season and over the long-term. We are at that point in the season, and for the most part, I am happy to report it has been an excellent breeding year. I will caution that these are still preliminary figures, some quality checking of the data needs to be done before they are final, but the trends are clear.

One of a "bumper crop" of piping plover fledglings produced in New Jersey in 2016. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knutsen.

One of a “bumper crop” of piping plover fledglings produced in New Jersey in 2016. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knutsen.

First up are piping plovers. We will come in at ~115 pairs statewide, up modestly from the 108 pairs in 2015, and the second consecutive year of an increase after hitting our historic low of just 92 pairs in 2014. So, we have climbed back closer to our long-term average, but there is still room to improve. The really good news is our productivity this year – close to a statewide record at 1.37 chicks fledged per pairs – puts us in the position to continue our population increase. If trends hold, because piping plovers demonstrate high site (or region) fidelity, when we produce a lot of fledglings, our breeding population rises in the next year or two. With three straight years of well above average fledgling rates for New Jersey now in the books, our prospects look good in the short term for our breeding population levels.

Least terns and black skimmers, which nest in colonies, sometimes numbering hundreds (or even thousands), are more challenging to count and assess, but we had at least modest success this year for both species. As is typical, our least tern colonies were variable, with some completely failing and others being highly productive. The Monmouth County region, one of our strongholds for least terns in New Jersey, didn’t have one colony that was a standout but most of them had at least some success. In South Jersey, our two largest colonies at Holgate (EB Forsythe NWR) and Seaview Harbor were very successful and helped make up for losses and failures at other colonies. The majority of our state’s black skimmers are concentrated in one large colony at Seaview Harbor, and although skimmers are our latest nesters (so the season isn’t quite over for them), they appear to have been very successful there, which means a good season overall for the state.

We also track American oystercatchers, although only for the portion that nest on the barrier beaches and spits. Because the biggest percentage of oystercatchers in the state nest on back bay and marsh islands, we cannot determine true statewide population or productivity levels, but the population on the beach habitat appears to be rising in recent years. Typically breeding success is lower for oystercatchers on the beach habitat due to high levels of human disturbance and predators, but productivity has been relative high the past two years. Of particular note this year was Stone Harbor Point, where a record number of 27 pairs nested and produced over 30 fledglings.

The reality is our beachnester staff works just as hard in years when the birds do poorly, as when they do well like this year, but it is SO much more rewarding when we have a good season. So as we wrap up the season, we are all feeling in a bit of a celebratory mode now!


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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.