Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Piping Plovers’

Cautious Optimism for New Jersey’s Endangered Piping Plovers in 2019 Report

Monday, November 18th, 2019

by: Alison Levine, Communications Coordinator

A piping plover chick tests out its wings.
Photo courtesy of Bill Dalton.

A new report from Conserve Wildlife Foundation and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife shows that the state’s piping plover population increased in 2019, leading to cautious optimism for the birds’ long term prospects. The piping plover is listed as threatened federally and endangered in New Jersey.

One hundred fourteen pairs of piping plovers nested in New Jersey in 2019, a 19% increase over 2018’s 96 pairs. The 2019 population is slightly below the long-term average of 117 pairs and well below the peak of 144 pairs in 2003.

Piping plover productivity, measured by the number of chicks who survive until their first flight (or fledging), dropped from 1.51 in 2018 to 1.24 in 2019, and was the lowest seen in the last six years, but remains above the long-term average of 1.3.


James Fiorentino returns to NYC with wildlife art exhibition at Salmagundi Club on April 4

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

His sports art long celebrated at Baseball Hall of Fame and other venues, Fiorentino’s wildlife watercolor exhibition arrives in NYC with free reception

Nationally celebrated artist James Fiorentino has been celebrated for his iconic paintings of New York sports icons like Derek Jeter, Yogi Berra, and Odell Beckham, Jr. Now Mr. Fiorentino returns to New York City with a new muse for his prodigious talents – the vulnerable, oft-overlooked wildlife of the metropolitan area.

“Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition” will make its New York City debut at the historic Salmagundi Club during the week of April 2-8, 2017. A free reception will be held on Tuesday, April 4 from 6-8 PM at the Salmagundi Art Club Patrons’ Gallery, located at 47 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10003.

Offered by the nonprofit Conserve Wildlife Foundation, the exhibit is part of a three-year traveling exhibition around the northeastern United States that kicked off this past fall.


Piping Plover Population Rebounds from Historic Low in New Jersey

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey releases 2015 report

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Photo by Northside Jim

Photo by Northside Jim

Conserve Wildlife Foundation today released the 2015 Piping Plover Breeding Report, highlighting the number of nesting pairs, pair productivity, and coast-wide distribution for this endangered shorebird, from data collected by New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW) biologists, CWF biologists, and other partners.


“The rebound in New Jersey’s piping plover breeding population and a second consecutive year of robust chick productivity was a much needed outcome,” said Conserve Wildlife Foundation Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager Todd Pover. “We need to continue our intensive management for a number of years to sustain any recovery, but we were very pleased to have finally broken the recent cycle of low nesting success and the record low number of nesting pairs in 2014.”


The piping plover – a small sand-colored shorebird that nests in New Jersey as part of its Atlantic Coast range from North Carolina up to Eastern Canada – face a number of threats, including intensive human recreational activity on beaches where they nest, high density of predators, and a shortage of highly suitable habitat due to development and extreme habitat alteration.


Federally listed as a threatened species in 1986, piping plovers have since recovered in some areas of the breeding range. Yet piping plovers continue to struggle in New Jersey, where they are listed by the state as endangered.


“As a species dependent on natural beach habitat, piping plovers face a particularly daunting challenge along New Jersey’s heavily developed and dynamic coast,” said Conserve Wildlife Foundation Executive Director David Wheeler. “Our dedicated scientists, partners, and volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure piping plovers remain a beloved and healthy presence along the Jersey Shore and beyond.”


CWF, in close coordination with NJDFW’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program, oversees piping plover conservation throughout New Jersey. Staff and volunteers help erect fence and signage to protect nesting sites, monitor breeding pairs frequently throughout the entire nesting season from March to August, and work with public and municipalities to educate them on ways to minimize impacts. Although conservation efforts on the breeding ground remain the primary focus, in recent years, CWF has also begun to work with partners all along the flyway, in particular on the winter grounds in the Bahamas, to better protect the at-risk species during its entire life-cycle.


2015 Report Highlights:


  • The population of breeding piping plovers increased 17% to 108 pairs in 2015, as compared to 2014. Despite the increase, the population still remains below the long-term average (118 pairs) since federal listing in 1986 and well below the peak.
  • The statewide fledgling rate, which includes data collected by partners at 19 active nesting sites throughout the state, was 1.29 fledglings per pair, down slightly from 2014 (1.36 fledglings/pair), but still one of the highest statewide levels since federal listing. Furthermore, both years were above the 1.25 fledgling rate believed necessary to maintain the range-wide Atlantic Coast population of piping plovers.
  • Statewide pair-nest success, the percentage of pairs that successfully hatch at least one nest, was high at 79%, well above the average since federal listing. Although population and productivity are ultimately the most important measures of recovery success, hatch success is an important metric to demonstrate the effectiveness of on-the-ground management.
  • Northern Monmouth County, as a region, continued to account for the largest percentage of pairs in the state (55 pairs or 51%), with Gateway National Recreation Area – Sandy Hook Unit accounting for most of those pairs.
  • The region comprised of North Brigantine Natural Area and the Holgate and Little Beach Units of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge accounted for the other significant concentration of breeding pairs in the state (43 pairs or 40% of the statewide total).
  • Holgate had the largest jump in abundance for any individual site, doubling its breeding pairs to 24 in 2015 (up from 12 in 2014). This increase was the result of highly suitable overwash habitat created at the site by Hurricane Sandy and the high breeding success that helped spur.
  • Cape May County, the southernmost region of the state, consisting of Ocean City to Cape May Point, continued its long-term downward trend, accounting for just 8 pairs in 2015, compared to 11 pairs in 2014 and 43 pairs in 2004 at its peak.


Learn More:


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



CWF and PSEG Honor New Jersey High School Students in S.T.E.M. Education Multimedia Contest

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
Students created videos, websites and social media channels to promote New Jersey’s wildlife

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

First Place Winner David Tattoni’s video “Plover Biologist”


On Thursday, October 1, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and sponsor PSEG celebrated and recognized the winners of the 2015 Species on the Edge 2.0 Multimedia Contest, a statewide educational contest with a S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) focus for New Jersey high school students.


“Too often, we worry that technology has made the youngest generation lose touch with the world around them. Yet these four promising individuals are instead connecting all of us with nature through their expertise with modern technology,” said David Wheeler, Executive Director, Conserve Wildlife Foundation. “Their innate skills, boundless creativity, and inspiring enthusiasm help make the wonders of New Jersey’s wildlife come to life online – and help so many others understand why it’s so vital to protect that wildlife.”


The Species on the Edge 2.0 Multimedia Contest invited students to submit an original video, digital graphic design, webpage, or other multimedia project showing why wildlife protection is important in New Jersey. The contest showcased high school students’ interest in new media technologies, as well as their talent, creativity, and love of nature.


  • David Tattoni, a senior at Peddie School from Princeton won first place in the contest and was awarded a $1,000 scholarship for his YouTube channel featuring rare wildlife, like piping plovers, a state endangered beach nesting bird, and wild places in New Jersey.
  • Victoria Momyer and Priyanshi Jain, both seniors at Biotechnology High School in Freehold shared second place and the $500 scholarship prize for the development of the website “New Jersey Wilds” and their accompanying Facebook page.
  • Kayleigh Young, a junior at Cresskill High School in Cresskill was awarded a $250 scholarship for her Vimeo video “Endangered in New Jersey.”


The Species on the Edge 2.0 Multimedia Contest scholarships were made possible by sponsor PSEG.


“PSEG is proud to support our next generation of leaders in using modern technology to better connect with the environment around us,” said Lisa Gleason, program officer, PSEG Foundation. “Through projects like Species on the Edge 2.0, PSEG’s corporate sustainability leadership continues to benefit innovative educational and environmental programs across New Jersey.”


“My career goal is to be a wildlife biologist. I love birding, herping [studying reptiles and amphibians], and looking for rare plants. I like to photograph and film wildlife. I also really enjoy doing conservation work,” explained first place winner David Tattoni. “As you could tell from my video I spent a lot of time this summer working with piping plovers and I would love to do similar work protecting endangered birds for the rest of my life.”


Since 2003, over 10,000 children from across New Jersey have entered Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Species on the Edge educational contests. The contests are a great way to engage and excite students into learning about New Jersey’s over 80 endangered and threatened wildlife species.


Learn more:


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

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Thursday, August 27th, 2015
Wrapping up the 2015 Piping Plover Chick Mortality Study

by Emily Heiser, Biological Assistant

Look closely - a piping plover egg showing signs of hatching.

Look closely – a piping plover egg showing signs of hatching.

The tail end of the breeding season always brings a mix of unsettled emotions. There is a German word that perfectly describes this feeling, zugunhrue. It’s a compound word: ‘Zug’, describes movement or migration and ‘Unhrue’, describes anxiety or restlessness. You can almost see this feeling dripping off of the birds as they move around, fighting over the best foraging spots to bulk up and snuggling up to one another in the perfect roosting spot. They rely on weather cues and dwindling daylight to determine the best time to depart. To some extent, we find ourselves doing the same. It is a significant changing of the seasons as summer fades into fall for the beach nesting bird staff. We pack up the equipment, take down fencing, polish data and shift mindsets from breeding to migration.

Michelle Stantial of SUNY-ESF and Emily Heiser of CWF after their last successful chick capture of the 2015 field season (Photo courtesy of Northside Jim)

Michelle Stantial of SUNY-ESF and Emily Heiser of CWF after their last successful chick capture of the 2015 field season (Photo courtesy of Northside Jim)

Michelle Stantial, of the State University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry departed on her own migration last week, wrapping up the 2015 piping plover chick mortality study. Michelle and I had a whirlwind summer of traversing the coast, trapping birds, collecting data and finding time to sleep somewhere in between. Ironically, New Jersey bolstered one of its better productivity seasons in years during the chick mortality study! Overall, the study was a resounding success. We worked with wonderful partners to achieve optimal results and hope to move ahead with future seasons. In total, we collected information from 29 breeding pairs of piping plovers and 62 of their chicks, deployed nine nest cameras and hiked many miles of beach looking for predator signs.

CWF beach nesting bird crew at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge release piping plover chicks after being weighed and measured.

CWF beach nesting bird crew at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge release piping plover chicks after being weighed and measured.

This season had all sorts of surprises waiting for us. While we took our losses hard, we celebrated our victories even harder. The information from the nest cameras was vital in our efforts to identify predators and in sourcing the issues that piping plovers face here in New Jersey. We watched fox, crow, gull and mink eat nests and it broke our hearts along the way. On the other hand, we watched how determined these birds were in sitting on their nests through downpours, lightning storms, high winds and tides. We had not one, but TWO double clutches this season. A double clutch is a rare event in a piping plover’s life cycle and has been documented sparingly over the years along the entire Atlantic Coast. The two pairs that double clutched laid their first nests, successfully reared their chicks to fledge and then laid another nest, ultimately fledging those chicks as well! It was a true delight to watch all four of these broods succeed this season.


As the weeks pass, the number of migrating piping plovers slowly dwindles and our seasonal staff departs for new adventures. It is always a bit sad to watch them leave, but it is reassuring to know we have made life long friendships and that the birds will undoubtedly be back next season! We only have to get through the doldrums of winter. Enjoy the fall and good luck on migration, our fine-feathered friends!


Learn more:


Emily Heiser is a Biological Assistant for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.