Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘piping plover’

Beachcombing for Plovers

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

By Amy Kopec
CWF Beach Nesting Bird Field Technician

People usually go to the beach looking for something; whether it’s shells, sea glass, or just some relaxation and better tan lines. I too am searching for something when I walk Holgate, a three and a half mile stretch of National Wildlife Refuge beach on the south end of New Jersey’s Long Beach Island. And while I do end up with a tan and some old glass bottles, that’s not really what I’m there for. What I’m actually looking for can be quite a bit harder to find.

The author spent most of the summer playing “hide and seek” trying to find these piping plover chicks.
Photo courtesy of Bill Dalton.

Although estimates are hard to come by, a recent NPR segment claimed there are only about 8,000 Piping Plovers left in the world. As a designated endangered species, these beach nesting birds are given certain legal protections, and the states they are found in receive funding for research and conservation. These studies are where I come in. Over the last three summers, I have worked in two different states (Massachusetts and New Jersey) monitoring and studying Piping Plovers as they nest. These little birds are up against a lot of challenges during their breeding season–from habitat loss to flooding to predation. There is no easy solution for the recovery of this species. The variable nature of beaches from one season to the next means these birds have to be carefully monitored. And each year I seem to encounter something new while I’m searching the beach.

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A Rough Year for Piping Plovers at National Guard Training Center

Thursday, July 28th, 2022

By Sherry Tirgrath

Ground-nesting birds in New Jersey face many difficulties and threats that most other birds typically do not struggle with. Joey and Hamlet, the piping plover pair at National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt, were not exempt from those hardships this nesting season. We know our readers have been waiting for an update on the pair, and as a warning, their story did not end well this year. Joey lost his mate, Hamlet, to a predator attack just days before their chicks would hatch. Her body was found not far from their nesting site- evidence pointing to a bird of prey taking her out. Piping plovers and other beach-nesting birds can be easy targets for owls and falcons. They incubate their nests out in the open without the cover of dense vegetation. Man-made structures along the NJ coast often serve as roosts for raptors to monitor an area and pick out vulnerable prey. Hamlet was, unfortunately, a victim of nature taking its course, and Joey was left to rear the chicks on his own.

Joey and two of his chicks
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Holgate – Record Breaking Site for Piping Plovers

Friday, July 8th, 2022

by Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Piping Plover courtesy of Northside Jim

Holgate, a unit of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, is having another record year for piping plovers. A total of 49 pairs have nested at the site this year, up from 46 pairs in 2021, which was also a record, by far, from the previous high for the site. Since Superstorm Sandy devastated much of the New Jersey coast in October 2012, the number of piping plovers nesting at Holgate has increased fourfold. 

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Piping Plover Chicks Hatch at National Guard Training Center

Monday, June 13th, 2022

by Sherry Tirgrath

Piping Plover Joey and his chick. Photo by Sherry Tirgrath

It’s officially chick season for the beach-nesting birds of New Jersey, and some of the first, fuzzy babies of the year were hatched at National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt. Piping plovers, Joey and Hamlet, laid their third nest together after first nesting at NGTC in 2019. The pair both had different partners that year, but got together in 2020 and fledged three chicks together for two years in a row. This year, the pair had the first confirmed nest in the state and diligently incubated their eggs during the entire month of May. The nest was anticipated to hatch over Memorial Day Weekend.

Just a couple days before the chicks made their appearance, tragedy struck. Hamlet was not seen for a couple days, and fear started growing that something had happened to her or she abandoned the nest, which would be very unlikely for such a devoted and successful veteran mother. When the chicks finally hatched from their eggs on May 29th and only Joey was seen tending to them, some investigating was done into Hamlet’s disappearance. Her body was found at the edge of NGTC property, likely predated by an owl or other bird of prey, as evidenced by the condition of her body. As tragic and sad as her death was, it’s a wonder that her body was found at all. In many cases, there’s no closure for piping plover disappearances. Joey was left to raise his chicks as a single father, receiving praise and encouragement from everyone following his story. 

The chicks have reached the 10-day mark as of June 8th, and appear healthy and strong. Only two have made it this far, but Joey is doing an excellent job on his own protecting them from threats and keeping them in line. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that both chicks make it to fledging, and Joey can keep up his excellent fatherhood record. It’s unknown if Joey will seek a new mate next year or retire from parenthood, but for now, we are saddened by the end of the era of Joey and Hamlet. 

Monitoring of beach-nesting birds takes time and commitment from our team of biologists and seasonal technicians. The largest piping plover breeding population in New Jersey resides at our Holgate site, where pairs, nests and hatched chicks are observed and tracked nearly every day during the nesting season. Nests north of that site are sparser and face many threats from human disturbance and high predator presence. While the coastal piping plover population is still struggling, CWF continues to fight to protect our state’s rare species and educate the public about the importance of respecting wildlife.

Joey & Hamlet’s History

Monday, April 25th, 2022

by Meaghan Lyon, Wildlife Biologist

The well-known Piping Plover pair, Joey and Hamlet, has been monitored by Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) at the Sea Girt National Guard Training Center (NGTC)  for three nesting seasons (check out our last blog on Joey and Hamlet’s arrival here!

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