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Posts Tagged ‘least tern’

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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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.

 

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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.

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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!

 

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

Researching Beach Nesting Birds at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
Conserve Wildlife Foundation Partners with National Wildlife Refuge to Collect Data on Beach Nesting Birds

Posted by: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

 

Piping Plover Nest

Piping Plover Nest

Did you know barrier island beach makes up approximately 2% of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge? This area is the most productive for beach nesting birds. The federally threatened piping plover and other species such as least tern, black skimmer, and a species of special concern, the American oystercatcher, nest on Holgate Beach. The refuge closes the Holgate unit from April 1st to September 1st every year to provide undisturbed nesting habitat for these important species.

 

Not only is it important to protect nesting habitat for the birds, but it is also important to provide education opportunities to the public. Each summer, the refuge relies on volunteers during the summer months to talk to the public about the beach closure and bird management, and answer any general questions about Forsythe Refuge.

 

This year, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey partnered with the refuge to assist in the collection of nesting data. “In the past, refuge staff has done all the beach nesting bird monitoring,” said Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig. “This year we are very excited to be working with our partners to monitor the population status of these birds. The work they are doing, combined with the data they collect, will improve our understanding of beach nesting birds on Forsythe Refuge.”

 

CWF Field Technician Jesse Amesbury tracking piping plovers at Holgate with his scope.

CWF Field Technician Jesse Amesbury tracking piping plovers at Holgate with his scope.

“Holgate provides highly suitable undisturbed natural habitat for at-risk beach nesting birds, especially piping plover – a rarity along the otherwise highly developed and recreated New Jersey Coast,” said Todd Pover, CWF Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager. “Maximizing productivity at this site is a high priority for regional and range-wide recovery efforts.”

 

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 47,000 acres of sensitive wetlands, marshes, and coastal habitats along the New Jersey shore. It is one of the most important habitats for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds east of the Mississippi River.

Learn more:

Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Beach Nesting Bird Project
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

 

 

 

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.