Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘beach nesting birds’

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.

Beachnester Buzz: Least Tern Love

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Least tern photo by Northside Jim.

Least tern photo by Northside Jim.

Piping plovers tend to garner most of our attention on the beach nesting bird project because they are so critically endangered. American oystercatchers and black skimmers are visually striking and very charismatic, so they are popular with the public, as well. That sometimes leaves the least tern as the “forgotten stepchild” of our beachnesters.

 

Their protective behavior of dive-bombing and even pooping on beachgoers who get too close to their nests or young doesn’t help their reputation. Yet, they are a fascinating species to watch and their chicks rank high on the cute scale.

 

Because they are a colonial species, and the colonies often take up large areas of the beach, they are a special challenge to manage and protect. But they do need protection – they are listed as endangered in New Jersey. Over the past decade, their population has remained low but stable. On one hand that is good, it means they aren’t declining further, but it also means they aren’t recovering either.

 

This week, we completed the latest of our bi-monthly surveys with a total of about 1200 individuals counted. This is below our peak a little earlier in the month, but in line with our typical statewide population. To date, we have recorded 24 active colonies along the coast from Sandy Hook to Cape May this year. That is within our average annual range of 20-25, although several of those colonies have already failed due to intense predator pressure.

 

It is too early to say whether this will be a good or bad year for least terns. We are in the peak period for chicks, so the next two weeks or so will determine if we successfully produce enough young to the fledgling stage. In the meantime, now is the time to get out to see these cuties, but remember to view them from a safe distance and share the shore with all our beach nesting birds.

 

Learn More:

 

Todd Pover is the Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Beachnester Buzz: Piping Plover Fledglings

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Amazing transformation of a piping plover from tiny chick to fledgling in just 25 days. Both photos by Northside Jim.

 

The highlight of this past week was our first piping plover fledglings of the season. This means the first group of chicks has reached the stage where they can fly, which is our metric for success. Hatching the chicks is always great, but our goal is population recovery and the primary way we can increase our low population in New Jersey is to produce more fledglings to come back in future years to breed here.

 

The doubly exciting news is ALL four of the chicks that hatched at Barnegat Light reached the flying stage. This is notable because typically, on average, we only fledge about one chick per pair in New Jersey. This is not enough to grow or sustain our long-term population. Population modeling tells us we need to fledge about 1.5 chicks per pair range-wide to grow the population and about 1.25 chicks per pair to sustain it.

 

Of course, not all our piping plover pairs will fledge four chicks, in fact, some may not fledge any. So the Barnegat Light news was a good way to kick off our fledgling season and hopefully it is a sign of above average productivity this year.

 

Learn More:

 

Todd Pover is the Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Beachnester Buzz: Least Terns Chicks Starting to Hatch

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Least tern photo by Northside Jim.

Least tern photo by Northside Jim.

The beach nesting bird field staff is firing on all cylinders now, frantically trying to keep up with nesting activity. In some regions of the New Jersey coast, piping plovers and American oystercatchers are still laying eggs, while at other sites there are chicks on the beach, even one site (Barnegat Light) where the chicks are already approaching their “fledgling” stage when they will be able to fly.

CWF Field Technician Jesse Amesbury busy conducting annual piping plover census at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR.

CWF Field Technician Jesse Amesbury busy conducting annual piping plover census at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR.

Most of the least tern and black skimmer colonies are now established, with least terns starting to hatch chicks and black skimmers just laying eggs. Counting the colonies is one of the most challenging parts of the job, imagine trying to count 1,000-1,500 birds at a time in some instances!

After helping with the winter segment of the International Piping Plover Census in the Bahamas, CWF switched gears this week to help conduct the breeding portion in New Jersey.

After helping with the winter segment of the International Piping Plover Census in the Bahamas, CWF switched gears this week to help conduct the breeding portion in New Jersey.

All the normal beachnester tasks are keeping us busy, but the main focus this past week was the annual piping plover “window” census, where field biologists all along the Atlantic coast count the number of birds present between June 1-9, so we can get a range-wide breeding population estimate. As for New Jersey, it looks like our population will go up, at least slightly, for the second year in a row. Although this is still a very preliminary estimate, it looks like we have weathered the statewide low in breeding pairs we recorded in 2014, thanks to good productivity the past two years.

Of special note is a spike in Monmouth County (outside Sandy Hook), where we have gone from 2 pairs the past several years to 12 pairs this year. Although a smaller bump, we also went from 1 pair to 4 pairs within Barnegat Inlet, an area we have long hoped for more pairs. It takes a tremendous effort to realize even small gains in our piping plover recovery effort, so we are especially excited about this news!

Our work is never done...CWF Wildlife Biologist Emily Heiser posting a new nesting area for endangered least terns.

Our work is never done…CWF Wildlife Biologist Emily Heiser posting a new nesting area for endangered least terns.

Learn More:

 

Todd Pover is the Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

Beachnester Buzz: First American Oystercatcher Chicks of the Season Hatch

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
New, weekly updates from New Jersey’s beach nesting bird project team

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

American Oystercatcher Chick

American oystercatcher Chick

It has been a busy week on the beach nesting bird project! We had our first least tern nests of the season, as the brief spell of warmer weather (finally) made for a burst of breeding activity. The first American oystercatcher nests hatched, so we have chicks on the beach now, as well.

Least Tern Nest

Least Tern Nest

And there was a big spike in new piping plover nests all along the coast, so we were busy erecting “predator exclosures” to protect the eggs from predators, such as crows, cats, gulls, and foxes. While they are not effective or viable to use on every nest, these wire cage structures are one of our best management techniques to increase hatch success by deterring predators.

Piping Plover Exclosure

Piping Plover Exclosure

 

This week we will be even busier, as we make a mad scramble to protect the nests and colonies before the crowds of beachgoers arrive for the Memorial Day weekend!

 

Learn More:

 

Todd Pover is the Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.