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Browsing posts tagged with: endangered species

MEDIA RELEASE: Endangered Piping Plovers Return to Southern Maine

Thursday, April 24th, 2014
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Photo: Amanda Reed

NEWS RELEASE 

For Immediate Release

April 24, 2014

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
msmith@maineaudubon.org
(207) 781-6180 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

Endangered Piping Plovers Return to Southern Maine
Maine Audubon reminds beach-goers and landowners to be aware of nesting areas

FALMOUTH – Maine Audubon reported today that several Piping Plover nesting pairs have returned to southern Maine beaches. All beach goers and beachfront landowners along the coast should be aware of nesting plovers, from Ogunquit Beach up the coast to Reid State Park in Georgetown. As of April 1, no dogs are allowed on Ogunquit Beach and in state parks, including Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth, Ferry Beach in Saco, Scarborough Beach, Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg and Reid State Park in Georgetown. Dog ordinances vary by town on local town beaches. Please check with your local town office.

Piping Plovers are listed as an endangered species in Maine and are threatened under federal law. The Piping Plover Recovery Project, a collaboration between Maine Audubon, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and local municipalities, works to educate the public about plover nesting areas to ensure their protection and increase their population.

Historically, Maine has had more than 30 miles of suitable nesting beaches that may have supported more than 200 pairs of Piping Plovers. Today, because of encroaching development, the available shoreline habitat for nesting plovers has been reduced by 75 percent. Last year, there were only 44 nesting pairs in the state, from Ogunquit to Georgetown. Plovers nest in front of sand dunes on the upper beach and are vulnerable to natural predators, roaming pets, storms and human disturbance. Maine Audubon encourages beach goers and landowners to reduce human-caused mortality of plovers by leaving your pets at home when you go to the beach, staying away from roped off plover areas and to watch where you are walking on the beach to avoid stepping on nests.

If you find a plover nest, or would like to volunteer for the Piping Plover Recovery Project, please contact Laura Minich Zitske at lzitske@maineaudubon.org or (207) 233-6811 or the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) at (207) 657-2345.

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About Maine Audubon

Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
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A Day in the Life of a Plover Chick

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
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By Katie Burns and Mary Badger (Piping Plover project interns)

A day in the life of a plover chick can be an amazing and terrifying thing for our biologists to behold. Resembling a fluffy cotton-ball, a Piping Plover chick is possibly one of the cutest babies in the animal kingdom. However, their twenty-five day journey from marshmallow to a fledged adult is a perilous one. Once hatched, it takes only an hour before the plover chicks can run around and feed themselves. It is not uncommon to see the day-old birds weaving around towels, umbrellas, and sleeping sun-bathers as they forage along the wrack-line. Currently, there are 47 chicks running around Maine’s beaches; foraging, brooding, and, in some cases, fledging. Our hope is that a majority of these birds will survive their teenage adventures and, at the end of the summer, join their parents as they migrate south for the winter.

Once chicks have hatched, Piping Plover management becomes a much more nerve-wracking process. We experienced this yet again last Monday, June 18th when we received a call about chicks on the border of Old Orchard Beach and Ocean Park Beach. The chicks in question had hatched only 4 days earlier in front on the KebeK 3 Motel, just south of the ‘Palace Playland,’ and had already traveled, with their parents, about a mile down the beach. Despite the huge number of people at Old Orchard, these parents seemed to be on a mission and their chicks were determined to follow. We did not have time, however, to marvel at the distance these tiny birds had traveled because, as soon as they had made it over the boundary between the two beaches, the parents were immediately drawn in to a fight with another pair of plovers that had already established territory. The migrant parents alternated between defending themselves and guiding their chicks as they were slowly pushed down the beach. We looked on in amazement as dogs, gulls, and even our team seemed to become nonexistent to the plovers. All we could do was try to keep potential predators away and advise beachgoers to keep their distance. In the end, the little family was able to move far enough along the sand and their rivals calmed down. Though the situation was stressful, the plovers’ determination to move their chicks to a new home exemplifies the resilience of the species. Plover parents will always lead their offspring to wherever they feel is safest, despite the obstacles that may lie in their path.

Though many of the hardships faced by the plovers can be avoided by careful management, some obstacles are beyond our control. This past week, six chicks on Goose Rocks were lost, likely due to the high tides. Losing nests to tides, unfortunately, is not uncommon and has occurred this year on Popham and Scarborough beaches. However, on the bright side, the remaining Goose Rocks chicks have continued to grow bigger and some have even begun to fledge! Our team watched with delight as two adolescent birds made their first clumsy attempts to fly on Thursday, June 19th. Hopefully, all eleven chicks found their wings by the 4th of July.

Our team would like to remind all beachgoers that, as well as having lots of fun, please remember that we share the beach with many other creatures, including Piping Plovers. Trash can attract predators, so be sure to put all of your waste into the proper containers and please continue to respect marked off nesting areas. Also, if you have remaining fireworks you would like to enjoy, please remember these are often very stressful for nesting birds and if you are going to end your day with a bang, please avoid the beaches and find another open space to set them off.

 

Piping Plovers: Endangered, Small, and Tough.

Monday, June 24th, 2013
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This Piping Plover Chick is struggling with a crane fly. The crane fly got away but this shows just how small and vulnerable the young are in this species. Photo: Chuck Holmer

This Piping Plover Chick is struggling with a crane fly. The crane fly got away but this shows just how small and vulnerable the young are in this species. Photo: Chuck Homler

By: Katie Burns, Piping Plover project intern

Due to their endangered status and small stature, Piping Plovers are often given a bad rap by the general public. For years, they have been deemed “wimpy” or “pathetic,” but this is simply not the case. It’s time to set the record straight: Piping Plovers are tough cookies.

Though this hardy little bird makes its habitat in one of the harshest and most exposed environments, it is perfectly adapted to do so. Nesting on the edge of dunes, the sea provides them with plenty of food, and the sand offers many places for them to nest. Their coloration allows them to blend in with the sand, seaweed and rocks, making them very hard to spot and providing them with protection from predators who may seek them out. Plovers also lay eggs that are well-camouflaged, as they blend in with the rocks and sand. Though they are constantly at the mercy of the elements and the rising tides, the birds are resilient and will stick with their nests to ensure the safety of their eggs. In general, they had a pretty good thing going on until humans began flooding the beaches! Trash cans and other human food sources have attracted “smart predators,” such as foxes, raccoons, and crows, which are adept at detecting nests to feed on the eggs. Humans have also introduced domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats, which also prey on the birds. But “smart predators” aren’t the only threat – urban development, off-road vehicles and fireworks have contributed to a very difficult environment for these shorebirds survival.

True to the resolute nature of their species, the Piping Plovers that nest along the coast of Maine have remained tolerant in the face of adversity. Our team monitors nests from Ogunquit to Reid State Park and has witnessed the trials and triumphs of the species. After a rough start to the season, what with the stormy spring weather and astronomical high tides, the birds have re-nested and many now have tiny chicks. They continue to defend their offspring with an intimidating ferocity and selflessness, often putting themselves in danger to protect their brood. The other day, a particularly brave plover at Pine Point came within inches of a biologist as she tried to get a good look at his nest. The bird stood his ground, piping heartily and fluffing himself up, before chasing the well-meaning biologist away.

Currently there are about 43 pairs of Piping Plovers in the state of Maine. Our team, working with the Maine Audubon Piping Plover and Least Tern Recovery Project, monitors 34 of these pairs. We are out on the beaches almost every day checking on nests, counting chicks, setting up stake-and-twine barriers, and educating the public about what they can do to help the species. This year, our busiest beaches have been Popham and Goose Rocks, which are each home to about 6-7 pairs. As of June 10th, all the eggs at Goose Rocks had hatched, and there are presently 17 little chicks running around out on the sand. We hope a majority of chicks that hatch this season will survive the summer, though it requires cooperation and support of Maine’s beach goers. The best thing that people can do while on the beach is to give these birds their space. Keeping dogs leashed and respecting posted nest sites will help to keep the birds safe and healthy.

The plover’s robust nature has allowed them to prevail against all odds over the years. However, they can’t do it all on their own. We were the ones who changed the game, and now these tough little birds need us to help level the playing field.

 

Piping Plover Nesting Update

Thursday, June 13th, 2013
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With nice weather due to return for the weekend here in Maine, we would like to take a moment for a short update on our Piping Plover Monitoring Program.

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After the storms in late April, a group of plover/endangered species biologists from United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) and Maine Audubon met to tour some of Maine’s plover beaches. Maine Audubon staff biologist, Laura Minich Zitske, was on hand to share an update on the many issues plovers face. The group surveyed beach and dune damage from the winter and spring storms and examined proposed and existing seawalls to better understand how can balance the needs of people and birds.

On a southern Maine plover nesting beach ... surveying conditions.

Everyone is checking out the male plover know as “Bahama Papa” (pictured below) Joining Laura was Kate O’Brien- Refuge Biologist at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS), Kaiti Titherington- Plover and Tern Technician at RCNWR (USFWS), Mark McCullough- Endangered Species Specialist, Maine Field Office (USFWS), Laury Zicari- Field Supervisor, Maine Field Office (USFWS), Anne Hecht- Endangered Species Biologist (USFWS), Lindsay Tudor- Shorebird Biologist (MDIFW), Charlie Todd (Endangered & Threatened Species Coordinator (MDIFW)

Seawalls may help protect homes from storm damage, but they may ultimately destroy the very beach on which people built homes to enjoy. When waves hit the sea walls, it encourages increased speed of the water, picking up sand in the wave actions. Thus, we see much greater erosion around the walled sections of beach; the sea walls also prevents the natural rebuilding of beaches. This not only hurts people who enjoy the beach, but the nesting habitat for the endangered Piping Plover,  which have only 43 nesting pairs in Maine.

Nesting Conditions and Damage to Habitat Caused by Storms and Tides

When we get storms rolling in with full moon tides the landscape on our beaches can change fast. The storm damage to dunes has been so extensive on one particular beach that Laura  noted, “I barely know how to orient myself on this beach because there is so much dune washed away.” In the photo below, she demonstrates the approximate height of what was the leading edge of the dune before the most recent erosion after the storm/tide combination of late April.

Laura Minich Zitske, staff biologist and piping plover project manager shows the previous approximate height of the dune before the storm.

Seasonal biologist Caroline Cappello took the photo below of an exclosure which originally cordoned off a full section of dune before the storm; after the storm, more than three feet of dune was lost.

exclosure-erosion

Pictured below is the nest which used to be under the above exclosure. Our staff were able to safely remove the exclosure and the parents returned to tend the brood.

Nesting piping plover.

Nice Weekend Coming – Please Be Alert!

If you like to enjoy walks on a beach and see the sign in the photo below, please keep your pets on a leash and maintain a good distance from the chicks who start life little larger than a typical cotton ball.

A typical nest exclosure. This helps keep predators out and allows the plovers to come and go.

A typical nest exclosure. This helps keep predators out and allows the plovers to come and go.

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Not only are the chicks small, but they also blend into the sands of the beach. This was taken from more than one hundred feet away with a 400mm lens.

Pictured below: seasonal biologist, Traczie Bellinger, and intern, Mary Badger, spotting the chicks pictured above, which were then only a few days old.
Seasonal biologist and spotting the then few days old chicks.

Some playfulness between male and female.

Some playfulness between male and female.

A plover on the outside of an exclosure.

A Plover on the outside of an xnclosure which demonstrates how the Plover can easily fit through the fencing while a cat or other predator could not.

Learn about “Bahama Papa” – named for his location when first banded

“Bahama Papa” was first banded in the Bahamas in 2010 and has been seen on the same stretch of beach in Maine every summer since. Each winter he has been observed on the same stretch of beach on Grand Bahama where he was originally banded. In his Maine summers, he has already fledged 8 chicks!

We saw Bahama Papa on April 29. As of today, we know he has a mate and they have been scraping nest spots there is no definitive word as to whether or not Bahama Papa will be a father for another year.

This is "Bahama Papa" who has been seen in southern Maine a few years now and was first banded in the Bahamas.

This is “Bahama Papa” who has been seen in southern Maine a few years now and was first banded in the Bahamas in 2010 and has fledged eight chicks!

 

 

Piping Plover Outreach

Monday, August 20th, 2012
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In addition to management and other activities in the field, outreach is a critical component of the Piping Plover and Least Tern Recovery Project. Our team regularly organizes outreach sessions to talk with beachgoers, beach residents/landowners, local beach associations, lifeguards, police, school kids and others. The goal of our outreach program is to educate people about Piping Plovers on their local beaches–we tell them about the biology of the birds, the challenges they face, and what we can all do to help protect them.

In July and August, our team talked with two groups of elementary and preschool children at the Goose Rocks Beach Association summer camp. About 70 curious kids attended and showed a lot of enthusiasm for learning about these birds. Their questions were very astute, like “why do plovers pretend to have a broken wing when approached by people?”  During the most recent session, kids enjoyed creating their own Piping Plover chicks made out of cotton balls and dry spaghetti (see photos). They also played a game to learn more about where plovers live, what they eat, and what likes to eat them. At the end of the sessions we handed out cool Piping Plover temporary tattoos. The first session was such a hit, that they requested another session the following month!

In addition to the above efforts, our team also regularly sets up a table near beaches where plovers nest to talk more informally with beachgoers about the birds.

So far this summer the Maine Audubon team has talked to over 3,700 people about Maine’s Piping Plovers. We are looking forward to continuing outreach activities next season and we encourage private associations and other groups whose activities are related to conservation or environmental education to contact us to organize educational talks and activities.

Written by Erik Ndayishimiye

 

Conserving Maine’s Wildlife On and Along Roads

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
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Wildlife Biologist and GIS Manager Barbara Charry appeared on MPBN’s Maine Watch with Jennifer Rooks .

Barbara discusses the proposal for an east – west highway across Maine between Calais and Coburn Gore. Of particular concern to Maine Audubon are the impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitat caused by a new highway and high levels of traffic.
The show aired on MPBN Television at 8:00 pm, Thursday April 5, 2012. The show rebroadcasts on Friday evenings at 9:00 pm and Sunday afternoons at 5:00 pm. An audio version of the program airs on MPBN Radio at 12:30 pm on Friday afternoons.

Watch: MPBN provides the ability to watch the show on it’s website here, and you may download the show as a podcast.

Barbara Charry is a Wildlife Biologist and GIS Manager at Maine Audubon. Over the last 12 years, the focus her work has been the impacts of sprawling development on Maine’s wildlife, particularly roads.

She became a state leader in this work in 2001 when Maine Audubon became a founding partner of Maine’s nationally acclaimed Beginning with Habitat program, an innovative public/private partnership that provides practical tools for Maine communities to incorporate wildlife and habitat conservation into local land use planning.

Under Barbara’s leadership, Maine Audubon convened the first-ever state-wide conference on road ecology in Maine.  She has written several guides for land use decision makers and community members on the impacts of development on wildlife including a community conservation guide, “Conserving Wildlife On and Around Maine Roads”.