News & Notes


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.

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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!