Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Shorebird’

Beachnester Buzz: A Day in the Life of a Beachnester

Monday, August 8th, 2016


by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager


For this week’s installment, I thought it would be fun to have you tag along with me on a day in the field, so you can get a sampling of what goes into our beach nesting bird program. Let’s call it, “A Day in the Life of a Beachnester.”



Black skimmer and chicks at our Belmar colony where we recently banded the young before they could fly. Photo courtesy of Jersey Shore Photography.

Today it is an early 4 am rise to beat the beach crowds and heat, as we are banding black skimmers at our Belmar colony. This is the first time our program has banded skimmers –  it is a collaborative effort with other organizations/agencies in both New York and New Jersey – we hope to find out more about their survival, longevity, and movement, both local and long distance. Everything goes well, we are able to corral and band about 35 chicks in less than an hour. This part of the day represents the science portion of the beach nesting bird project, science for the sake of study and a better understanding of our birds, but more importantly to gather information to help us manage and recover endangered species.


With no time to spare, it is now off to Leonardo along Sandy Hook Bay where CWF is hosting a summer wildlife experience for kids. No surprise, I am the guest today to teach the kids about beach nesting birds. I explain why piping plovers and American oystercatchers are at risk, and then give them a chance to use a high powered birding scope to try to read bands I have placed on decoy birds. We definitely have some budding biologists in the mix. Education is key to our project, unlike other endangered species that mostly live out of sight or reach, beachnesters spend the breeding season on the same beaches visited by millions of tourists and residents. If they are going to learn to “share the shore” with our endangered birds, outreach is essential.


beachnester buzz plant

Sea beach amaranth, a rare plant, that shares the beach with our nesting shorebirds and also is protected.

Next up is a stop at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, one of our important nesting areas in Monmouth County. For most of the season we are erecting and adjusting fence to protect nesting areas, but today we are working with the park to reduce the fence, as many of our birds have successfully nested and started to leave the area. First we count and locate any remaining least terns – these surveys are the base of our project – we need this data to track population trends and seasonal productivity as metrics of progress towards recovery. Before we remove any fence at this site, we also conduct surveys of sea beach amaranth, an endangered plant that shares the beach with our nesting birds. We locate a few plants and that dictates how we readjust the fence, the plants need protection from trampling by beachgoers or vehicles used by the park to maintain their beach.



Coordination with municipalities or other land owners that host beach nesting birds is a critical part of our project, as their activities can impact nesting success as much as beachgoer’s recreational use of the beach. So there is one more stop today to assess whether a maintenance request can be granted in a way that won’t put birds at risk. That done, it is time to start the two hour drive back to our office in Cape May County. I am ready for a nap, but no luck, as the truck becomes a mobile office to take care of other unattended business (while someone else drives of course). There are calls with several other towns, check-ins with our seasonal staff members that are spread out all along the coast, and finally dealing with a broken down vehicle (not ours fortunately) and a person who refused to take their dog off a nesting site.


Back at the office, it is one last check of email, entering a little bit of the data we collected today, and finally time to head home. Every day is a little different, but this day has been a good cross-section of the range of things we do on the project. It is tempting to think we just pop up fence and signs and hope the birds do well, but protection and recovery of our endangered beach nesting birds requires a comprehensive strategy addressing all the factors that impact nesting success.




NJTV News: CWF’s Pover Discusses Piping Plover Conservation

Monday, August 8th, 2016

by Emily Hofmann, Assistant Communications Manager


todd on njtv news


Todd Pover, CWF’s Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager, recently sat down with NJTV’s Mary Alice Williams to discuss piping plover conservation on the anniversary of 30 years of federal listing. Listen in to what he had to say.






Beachnester Buzz: Post-nesting Season Migration Begins

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

Up until now the focus of our weekly reports has been on breeding activities – for good reason as that is the main purpose of our beachnesting bird management and recovery program here in New Jersey. However, the past two weeks have been a good reminder that piping plover migration is already well under way.

The idea of “fall” migration is a bit of a misnomer for piping plovers and other shorebirds since they begin moving south for the “winter” as soon as nesting is complete. For piping plovers that can be in early July. In fact, last week we had our first report of piping plovers already back on their wintering grounds in the Bahamas. And yesterday we received word of 164 piping plovers in Ocracoke, North Carolina, many of them individuals that had bred in states further north. We know that from the bands and flags placed on the birds as part of various research projects.

Piping Plover E4, spotted by CWF staff in the Bahamas and Canada, and last week it made a stop in New Jersey during migration. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Egger.

Piping Plover E4, spotted by CWF staff in the Bahamas and Canada, and last week it made a stop in New Jersey during migration. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Egger.

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey we resighted our first Canadian piping plover on July 12. Then last week we had another very exciting visitor from Canada – a flagged bird with the alpha/numeric code of E4. CWF’s very own Todd Pover had spotted this bird on its wintering ground in January 2014 in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, the Bahamas. In the spring of 2014 Todd traveled up to this bird’s breeding location at White Point Resort in Nova Scotia, Canada, where he was able to spy the bird with its mate as they started to set up their nest. Having it now show up during migration in New Jersey completed the circle.

Although Todd didn’t see it himself in New Jersey this time, there is some pretty amazing “dots being connected” with this individual bird. One of the important issues brought up by the resightings of E4 is just how connected the sites are all along the flyway. It is important that we focus on breeding success here in New Jersey, but we also play an important role in protecting shorebirds during different phases of their lives as well. Long term survival and recovery of piping plovers depends on full life cycle conservation, not just during the breeding season. And with many shorebirds moving thousands of miles annually, that is an effort that needs to reach across partners and even countries.


New Jersey’s Hidden Coast – Strengthening Bayshore Beaches

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016


By Emily Hofmann, Assistant Communications Manager


Like all ecosystems, Delaware Bay is amazingly complex, and there’s no one way to fix it. Between climate change, sea level rise, and the growing risk of major storms, there’s a lot to consider.


We’ve learned that restoring healthy marsh habitat is a key component in rebuilding Delaware Bay beaches; however, we’re also trying to further strengthen bayshore beaches by building reefs – living underwater infrastructure. By creating some reef structures we can keep the sand where we’re putting it.


Learn more about strengthening New Jersey’s Hidden Coast – the Delaware Bayshore in our fifth episode to our series.


A new episode of our video series “New Jersey’s Hidden Coast” will air every two weeks throughout the summer! Catch a glimpse of the bay, the horseshoe crab at the center of the bay’s system, and the incredible relationship between horseshoe crabs and migratory birds, like the red knot. We will reveal the real value of horseshoe crabs, the challenges to the ecosystem, and the potential for a thriving regional economy along the Bayshore. We will show Hurricane Sandy as a catalyst for decisive action and the work being done to rebuild the area for both people and wildlife.


Over the next several weeks, we will explore the use of “living shorelines” instead of bulkheads and the central importance of marshes to the marine ecosystem. We will discover the on-the-ground, grassroots efforts of the community to build oyster reefs alongside veterans. And we will examine the future of the Bay and the work that needs to be done to preserve our conservation successes thus far.


Discover Delaware Bay:


Beachnester Buzz: Least Tern Love

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

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.