Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Piping Plovers’

In Search of Stumpy – A Wintering Piping Plover Adventure

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

By Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Earlier this summer, it was announced that the annual range-wide American oystercatcher meeting would be held in December on the Gulf Coast of Florida near Naples. Thrilled to finally be attending in-person after several pandemic years of virtual meetings, my mind immediately pivoted to what other nearby nature sites I could also visit. Or more specifically and not too surprising for those that know me…where could I go to view wintering piping plovers.

In late September, Hurricane Ian made a direct landing in this region of Florida. The meeting had to be scuttled, relocated to the Georgia coast. And just like that, my “add-on” plans – I had arranged a short trip to Outback Key about two hours north of the meeting – fell off the itinerary.

Or maybe not. Georgia borders Florida, right? Six hours of driving for a chance to see 50-60 piping plovers in one spot is reasonable, right? Did I mention at least one New Jersey breeder winters at the site?

So as soon as the oystercatcher meeting wrapped at mid-day, I found myself in a car, along with fellow CWF Biologist Emmy Casper, hurtling toward St. Petersburg, Florida. We arrived at nightfall, woke in what felt like a flash, so we could wait in a line of cars, still in the dark, for Fort DeSoto County Park to open at 7 am. We had a very narrow window for our visit with the morning low tide being optimal shorebird viewing at Outback Key and because we had mid-day flights home.

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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.

Beach Nesting Bird Monitoring is Underway at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

by Todd Pover

CWFNJ’s 2022 Edwin B. Forsythe NWR Beach Nesting Bird Field Crew. L to R: Jacob Miranda, Lexie Lawson, Amy Kopec, Erin Foley, (missing Dakota Bell).

For the past eight years, CWF has been contracted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through a cooperative agreement to provide monitoring and management of beach nesting birds at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge nesting sites – both the Holgate and Little Beach Island Units – provide some of the only habitat in the state closed to the public and free of human disturbance and detrimental beach management practices. The habitat at the sites is especially suitable for the state endangered piping plover as a result of optimal nesting conditions created by Superstorm Sandy and largely sustained since then through winter storms. As of the 2021 season, the Refuge sites had the highest concentration of piping plovers in the state, with Holgate having by far the most pairs (46). Furthermore, on average in recent years, Holgate has produced a higher fledgling rate than many sites in the state.

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New Nest Alert!

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

by Meaghan Lyon, Wildlife Biologist

Our infamous Piping Plover pair, Joey and Hamlet, officially have a nest!

Joey (the male), and Hamlet (the female) were seen exhibiting breeding behavior for weeks since arriving back to their nesting grounds. The pair had been favoring a spot recently improved with habitat enhancements that included removing dense American beach grass and adding shell cover.

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