Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Beach Nesting Birds’ Category

New Jersey’s Beach Nesting Birds Struggle in 2023

Monday, December 11th, 2023

by Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

This year was an especially challenging one for beach nesting birds in New Jersey. Most of the species fared poorly on a statewide basis, and even though they can withstand periodic down years, several trends are worrisome to biologists and wildlife managers.

The state’s piping plover breeding population remained the same as last year with 118 pairs, which is also about the same as the long-term average since federal listing. However, productivity was just 0.53 chicks fledged per pair, the second lowest since federal listing and well below the levels believed necessary to grow the population. Of particular concern, productivity has been low for three consecutive years after a number of years of above average success. Productivity is one of the main drivers of population (up or down) and small populations are especially sensitive to even small changes, so it is expected that the population is likely to drop over the next few years, further stagnating plover recovery in the state.

Meanwhile, there was a record number (53) of breeding pairs of piping plovers at Holgate, a unit of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, that is monitored by CWF through a cooperative agreement with the Refuge. This positive trend, almost a four-fold increase has occurred since Superstorm Sandy enhanced the habitat for plovers at the site, has been an ongoing highlight for the state in recent years. Nonetheless, it has not been accompanied by similar increases elsewhere in the state, so it has not led to any statewide recovery. Productivity for the large concentration of piping plovers at Holgate was above the statewide average in 2023 but the lowest level over the past decade, so it was also a down year for this site, where expectations typically run high that it will help boost statewide productivity.

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A Return to Horseshoe Island

Thursday, November 16th, 2023

by Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

This marked the second year that CWF worked in close partnership with New Jersey Fish and Wildlife and Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (EBF) to monitor and manage birds on Horseshoe Island. The island, located just offshore on the southern edge of the Little Egg Inlet, has quickly become one of the most important sites for beach nesting birds in the state, as well as a critical resting and feeding site for migratory shorebirds.

Horseshoe Island hosted the state’s largest black skimmer (state endangered) colony this year with just over 1400 total adults or about 700 pairs. Although flooding and some avian predators impacted the overall nesting success at the island, at least 225 skimmer chicks “fledged” from the site. Horseshoe’s skimmer fledglings, along with those from nearby Holgate, a unit of EBF, and especially from Stone Harbor Point in Cape May County, made 2023 a moderately good productivity year for black skimmers in New Jersey.

A small portion of the black skimmer and royal tern colony on Horseshoe Island.
Photo credit: Teri Bowers
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Candid Camera: The Role of Game Cameras in American Oystercatcher Monitoring

Thursday, August 3rd, 2023

by Emmy Casper, Wildlife Biologist

This year, CWF embarked on a new, ambitious project to monitor and characterize the previously understudied population of American oystercatchers nesting along the Delaware Bayshore. Since so little is known about this breeding population, we had a lot of ground to cover this first field season, both physically and metaphorically. One of the goals of the project is to characterize threats to oystercatcher nest success on the bayshore, whether it be predators, flooding, or something else entirely. It sounds straightforward, but when you consider the span of the project (35 sites across approximately 45 miles of bayshore), monitoring nesting pairs gets a bit more challenging. That’s where game cameras come in.

.CWF biological technician Caroline Abramowitz deploying a trail camera to monitor an oystercatcher nest.

Game cameras are an extremely useful tool for wildlife monitoring. Cameras deployed at nest sites can provide valuable information about oystercatcher behavior, predator presence, and nest fate (whether the nest hatched or was lost prior to hatching). This is especially important for our Delaware Bay sites, many of which are remote and cannot be monitored as frequently as other locations. Game cameras enhance our in-the-field monitoring and can pinpoint the true cause of nest loss that would otherwise be difficult to determine in the field. Accurate knowledge of nest fate and predator presence is crucial for understanding which factors significantly impact oystercatcher success along the bayshore.

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Beach Nesting Birds- an Insider’s Look from CWF’s Seasonal Monitors

Friday, June 30th, 2023

By Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

With about 50 pairs of both piping plovers and American oystercatchers nesting this year at Holgate, a unit of the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, CWF’s seasonal staff that monitors breeding activity for the Refuge has been working at a non-stop pace. We asked them to take a short break from their field tasks to reflect on their season, for some this is their first experience with beach nesting birds. Specifically, they were asked about their favorite and most surprising things about the birds, so far. Read their responses below, including a little twist of the “least favorite” thing in one case.

CWF’s 2023 beach nesting bird monitoring crew for Edwin B. Forsythe NWR and Horseshoe Island.
Morgan Phillips, Gianna Canale, Audrey Randazzo, Amy Kopec, Dakota Bell (l to r).
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How to Advocate for Beach-nesting Birds During the Holiday Weekends

Friday, May 26th, 2023

By Sherry Tirgrath, Wildlife Biologist

As we approach the official, and unofficial, beginning of summer, many warm-weather loving citizens of New Jersey are pulling out their swimwear, purchasing their SPF and preparing to flock to the Jersey Shore and contribute to some of the worst traffic seen around the country. It’s important, however, to take a step back and remind oneself to be certain that their beach activities will not affect the livelihood of other creatures that are just trying to survive in the only habitat that can support them. Both Memorial Day Weekend and July 4th holidays occur during the season that beach-nesting birds are incubating eggs and raising chicks. This makes for some conflict between beachgoers and coastal wildlife, so it’s necessary to bring more awareness to the presence of the birds and the importance of giving them space.

Beach-nesting birds are called just that because they depend on undisturbed, sparsely vegetated, and stabile coastline to breed, lay eggs, and raise their young. They nest directly in the sand and their eggs are sand-colored and camouflaged against predators. This also makes them difficult for people to see, and without proper monitoring and protection measures, they can wind up being run over or stepped on. Small chicks, like those of the piping plover, are tiny and very mobile shortly after hatching. While the parents do their best at corralling their chicks and keeping them away from people, sometimes the chicks wind up under a beachgoer’s umbrella seeking shade or wandering too close to potential danger. Anyone with small children would understand the difficulty in keeping their kids from running off somewhere they’re not supposed to go, especially when they can have up to four of them at once. The chicks must forage to feed themselves, so being very mobile increases the likelihood of them finding small invertebrates to eat.

Piping plover chicks are small but very mobile, allowing them to begin foraging shortly after hatching.
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