Conserve Wildlife Blog

Barnegat Light Habitat Maintenance – Prepping for Piping Plovers

February 23rd, 2023

By Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist 

When the Barnegat Light habitat restoration was completed to benefit piping plovers several winters ago, the partners anticipated it would need periodic maintenance to keep it in optimal condition. As it has turned out, the inlet beach site has needed more frequent attention, an annual winter “touch-up” to prep the site for the nesting season. With this in mind, earlier this month, Todd Pover, CWF Senior Wildlife Biologist was on-site for nearly a week to oversee the habitat work. 

The maintenance this winter primarily focused on the two foraging ponds, as those features have proved critical to the success of the plovers utilizing the site. Thick vegetation was mechanically removed from about three-quarters of the perimeter of the large pond. Excessive vegetation can obstruct piping plovers, especially their chicks, from using the pond’s edge to feed. The heavy vegetation can also provide cover for predators. Meanwhile, the smaller pond was filled in with sand due to late fall/early winter storms and tidal surge. Although the small pond has needed to be “refreshed” each winter, this was the first time it had to be entirely re-dug. Experience has shown that having two ponds present at the site – giving plovers alternative feeding options if one pond is not accessible or as productive during a portion of the season – has been a key element in boosting productivity, especially as more plovers chose the site to nest. In addition to the pond work, some vegetation thinning or removal was also completed to enhance the suitability of the nesting areas as plovers prefer sparsely vegetated areas to lay their eggs. 

Invasive vegetation being removed from the edge of the large piping plover foraging pond.
Small piping plover foraging pond being re-dug.

To date, the Barnegat Light habitat restoration has been a clear success for piping plovers. The number of breeding pairs using the site has significantly risen and productivity (the number of chicks fledged) has consistently been well above the statewide average and met the federal recovery goal.  Now that it is restored, the site is as one of the more important plover nesting sites in New Jersey. Our fingers are crossed that the work done this winter will help continue that success. 

Along with CWF, this project has been made possible through the collaborative efforts of a number of partners, including Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

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2 Responses to “Barnegat Light Habitat Maintenance – Prepping for Piping Plovers”

  1. Barb McKee says:

    This is such a worthwhile project! Great to see it is being maintained and that it truly does promote the successful nesting and breeding of these charismatic little shore birds! Let’s hope for even more chicks in the 2023 season! Kudos to all who are responsible for designing, building, and maintaining this site and for those who stand guard to protect the nesting plovers during critical months.

  2. Todd Pover says:

    Thanks Barb!! And we agree it is a great project, we are proud to be one of the lead partners.