The Plover Blog

Monday August 24, 2020
I'm writing with a final plover update for the 2020 season. This year we had 34 or perhaps 34.5 pairs of piping plovers. (I think one male lost his mate early on and re-nested with a different female, hence the half-pair.) This is well below last year's record high of 50 pairs, but preliminary reports indicate that the plover population increased statewide this year. And although we had fewer pairs of plovers on the Refuge this year, productivity (chicks fledged per pair) was above average, with a total of 44 fledglings.
Please let me know if you have questions; I'd be happy to answer them. I've enjoyed hearing from you all throughout the summer and look forward to the day you're all back on the Refuge. Until that time, please let me know if there are ways I can help you maintain your connection to the Refuge. You're valued members of our team, and you've contributed greatly to the success of both the Refuge and the plovers over the years.
Friday August 14, 2020
Piping plovers and other shorebirds continue to head south, although the shorebird migration seems a bit delayed this year. This is potentially a sign that shorebirds nested successfully in Arctic regions. (Usually an early shorebird migration indicates that adults left soon after a failed breeding season.)
As the breeding season winds down here on the refuge, 39 piping plover chicks have already fledged. There are two remaining broods of unfledged chicks (three chicks per brood). There are also a few tern chicks remaining. In case you haven't already heard, we've been able to open Lots 1 (at partial capacity due to COVID restrictions), 2, 6, and 7, as breeding plovers and terns have vacated those areas.
Friday August 7, 2020
A couple more chicks fledged since my last update, bringing our total to 32 fledglings from 16 pairs of piping plovers. There are still 5 broods on the beach with a total of 12 chicks. They seem to be growing a bit more slowly than most of the chicks that already fledged, as some have reached 28 days but can't quite fly yet. This isn't too concerning, though; they'll probably all fledge by the time they reach 35 days, which is still considered normal. There are still a few least tern chicks hanging on as well.
Friday July 31, 2020
Flocks of migratory shorebirds--particularly sanderlings and semipalmated plovers--are steadily increasing on the refuge beach, while piping plovers are steadily leaving for the winter. It's strange to think about impending winter when it's almost 90 degrees outside! We had a few more fledges this week, bringing our total to 30 plover fledglings from 15 broods and 13 least tern fledglings. There are still at least 14 plover chicks from 6 broods, and there are about a dozen late-nesting least terns. The area south of Lot 6 is now devoid of nests and chicks, so thanks to Bob, Matt Pf, and John for helping shift the Area Closed signs and open the boardwalks at Lots 6 and 7.
Friday July 24, 2020

Lots of plovers fledged this week! We now have 25 fledges from 13 broods. If you recall the highly evolved plovers that nested inside a lobster trap, they fledged a chick as well! There are at least 18 chicks from 9 broods still on the beach, some of which are close to flying, while others just hatched this week. Least terns started fledging as well (I've seen about 10 fledglings), although their numbers are dwindling. A few still have nests. While terns continue to nest, the fall shorebird migration is also beginning. Southward-bound piping plovers and sanderlings are trickling onto the beach, and least sandpipers, yellowlegs, and others are moving into the marsh.

Friday July 17, 2020
32 Chicks
I'm happy to report that plover chicks have started fledging (flying)! (We consider them fledged when they can fly at least fifteen meters, not when they can barely get off the ground.) In total, eight chicks from three broods have fledged, and more are close behind. We have at least 32 additional chicks from eighteen broods. We only have one pair left incubating eggs, and I expect the nest to hatch over the weekend. Least terns are also incubating eggs and raising chicks, and they might start fledging as soon as next week. Least terns (a state-listed species) often have poor fledge rates, so it's exciting to see some success this year, even with super narrow beach conditions!
Friday July 10, 2020
25 Pairs
37 Chicks
We currently have 25 pairs of plovers on the refuge. One pair is scraping, but it's getting pretty late for another nest attempt. Three pairs are still incubating nests, two pairs are hanging around even though their chicks disappeared (although I'm still hopeful that one will reappear), and 19 other pairs have a combined 37 chicks. The oldest plover chicks should fledge in the next week or so, but they're at least a week ahead of all the other chicks. Least terns are at all stages of the nesting cycle as well--scraping, incubating, and feeding chicks. Some of the least tern nest overwashed; the beach is rather narrow this year.
Thursday July 2, 2020
26 Pairs
7 Active plover nests
The birds fared better than anticipated during the recent rains. We currently have 26 pairs of plovers, of which 16 have chicks and 7 have nests. In total, we have at least 41 plover chicks. Although some of the least tern nests overwashed, the other subcolonies are doing well, and we have lots of sizable tern chicks.
Friday, June 26, 2020
15 Broods
11 active plover nests
Lots of chicks on the refuge right now! We currently have 15 broods, 11 active nests, and possibly still a couple other pairs hanging around. Tern chicks are hatching as well.
Friday, June 19, 2020
28 pairs
22 active plover nests

The first two broods of plover chicks hatched this week. In addition to the two broods, we have 22 active nests. Our pair count also went up a bit to 28 pairs. Some pairs may have flown under the radar for a while, but we may be getting a few new arrivals from other beaches as well. We also have approximately 92 pairs of least terns, substantially more than in recent years. They're getting increasingly feisty, which means hatch is approaching!

Friday, June 12, 2020
21 pairs
19 active plover nests
Several nests overwashed during the spring tides last weekend, and some pairs have since disappeared from the site. However, a few are already re-nesting, and I expect more re-nests next week. I'm also anticipating our first chicks next week. Current totals are 21 pairs, 19 nests, and 0 broods. We also have ~30 pairs of terns nesting thus far, and more are still scraping.
Sunday, June 7, 2020
26 pairs
22 active plover nests
We currently have 26 pairs on the refuge beach, 22 of which have active nests. Some are already re-nesting after the first round of predation. I've exclosed some of the nests to improve hatch success, but some are in tricky spots that are unnecessary or impossible to exclose. (The lobster trap nest is going strong!) An off-refuge update: Sandy Point has more habitat and more plovers than ever before (16 pairs). The banded plover that nested on the refuge for the past two years is now nesting at Sandy Point as well.
Thanks also for your feedback about the northern boundary. I'll shift signage/symbolic fencing either this afternoon or early tomorrow morning.
Kiah
Friday, June 5, 2020
26 pairs
22 active plover nests
We currently have 26 pairs on the refuge beach, 22 of which have active nests. Some are already re-nesting after the first round of predation. I've exclosed some of the nests to improve hatch success, but some are in tricky spots that are unnecessary or impossible to exclose. (The lobster trap nest is going strong!) An off-refuge update: Sandy Point has more habitat and more plovers than ever before (16 pairs). The banded plover that nested on the refuge for the past two years is now nesting at Sandy Point as well.
As some of you have requested, I've attached a photo this week. Find the plover and it's nest!
Kiah
Friday, May 29, 2020
18 pairs
14 active plover nests
A lot of nests were predated early in the week/last weekend, and I haven't seen some of the pairs since they lost their nests. In total, I only saw 18 pairs this week. However, some may turn up again, and we still have 14 active plover nests on the refuge. I'm happy to report that a few least terns started nesting as well. Although there are only a few nests thus far, most of the activity is near the northern boundary and at Lot 2. The northern boundary, Lot 2, BB1, and Sea Haven have also had a lot of trespass this week. Please let me know if you have any questions.
-Kiah
Friday, May 22, 2020
24 pairs
-My name is Kiah, and I'm a new Biological Science Technician at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. I previously worked at the Refuge in 2018, so I've already met a lot of you, and I look forward to meeting and working with the rest of you in the future. -
I'm writing with a plover update: we finally have plover nests! I've found thirteen nests in total. Most of the nests are in the dunes, so they aren't susceptible to overwash, and predators are less likely to find them as well. One pair even decided to self-exclose by nesting inside an old lobster trap. In total, I think we have at least 24 pairs of plovers and a handful of single adults. Least terns are also starting to hang around, mostly on the northern end of the beach.
Friday, May 15, 2020
17 pairs
12 singles
Total 46
Surprisingly, we still don't have any plover nests on the refuge! DCR reported their first nests at Sandy Point a couple days ago, so hopefully our plovers aren't far behind. They continue to trickle in. Most are scraping vigorously.
-Plover report from Kiah
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
16 pairs
It was nice doing plover survey again-- it was nice to have sun again.  Tuesday was very windy and lots of kestrels hunting on the beach (I counted at least 10-- at times, it seemed that there were more kestrels than plovers on the beach); and the plovers were hunkered down.  I didn't get a good count on Tuesday, so redid the survey on Friday.
Tuesday: 6 pairs & 11 adults.  Most plovers were hunkered down and not moving.
Friday: 16 pairs & 6 adults.  This was more like Lauren't survey from 2 weeks ago.  Birds are still moving around, but most seemed to have established territory.  1 pairs was acting very defensive, and very close to nesting..   About 11 pairs seems to have established territories, and some even had scrapes.
There was 1 plover hanging out at the northern closed boundary.
I've merged the last 4 surveys into this report to better pick out the established territories.
Shorebirds, ducks (teal, gadwalls) showing up on the Refuge.
Kiah will be starting work on Monday, and will be the next plover survey!
-Report by Refuge biologist Nancy Pau
*All plover updates until further notice are provided to us by Lauren Healey, a Biological Technician with Parker River Wildlife Refuge.
Wednesday, April 28, 2020
14 pairs
8 singles
total: 36 adults
This is one less adult than last week. I am hoping to do a survey during high tide next week (if the weather cooperates) when the plovers are easier to see. One pair was acting territorial which is a good sign. I saw a few flocks of sanderlings as well. The beach got pummeled this week. There was a huge amount of seaweed washed up. One section was 0.2 miles of seaweed!
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
16 pairs
5 singles
total: 37 individuals
Notes: I am happy I bundled up in my face mask and wind proof pants, it was a cold drive over to the beach. Luckily for me I turned the corner onto the beach and the wind died down. The plovers seemed plenty happy. The numbers are growing! Here's the totals:
It's good to see the plovers pairing up. Soon they should start to define their territories and make nest scrapings. Hopefully the 5 single plovers learn to put deodorant on and attract a mate.
I also saw a small flock of sanderlings and to my excitement a black-bellied plover, a bird I've never seen before.
Wednesday, April 14, 2020
12 pairs
5 single pipl's
Total: 29 birds
Notes: I saw hardly any other shorebirds during the survey (well other than gulls)! Most of the pipl's were  found in the wrackline, one reason the wrackline is so important. This total is smaller than usual and could be due to a number of reasons: our beach seems narrower than usual this year, it's been quite rainy, the plovers may be arriving a little later.

END OF 2019 PLOVER SEASON

*All plover updates are provided to us by Alexandra Pesano, a Biological Technician at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
Friday, August 9, 2019

The breeding season is almost to a close! Today is my last day working for Parker River, so this will be the last weekly update you receive from me this season. Even though I am moving on, we still have birds on the beach to monitor; my coworkers will be taking over from here on out!

As of today, there are three chicks left on the beach- all from different broods. However, I did see an additional three chicks on Monday, so it is possible I did not see them today. They are almost ready to fledge and are travelling all over the place. With each of these broods comes three pairs of adult piping plovers. So far this season, we have produced 64 fledglings!

The tern colonies are still pretty active. There seems to be fewer nests and more chicks. 10 fledglings were also observed today at sub-colony A!

Migration is definitely in full swing. Hundreds of semipalmated plovers, tree swallows, and sandpipers are crowding the beach. I even saw two harriers hunting the dunes!

One final thought...Whether you provided updates about the birds and the beach from the visitor center, educated beachgoers as a plover warden, or emailed me after weekly updates to express your enthusiasm, everyone's support and time means a lot to me, the refuge staff members, and the birds. For actions like these, I'd like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for such a wonderful season! I will miss the birds, the refuge, and you all dearly.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Overall, we have 8 pairs still tending to 11 chicks. One nest is still "active" but is not expected to hatch. Our fledgling total as of today is 58.

Migration is coming into full swing. Only 16 fledglings and 19 adult piping plovers were seen on the beach today. Large numbers of swallows, gulls, and semi-palmated plovers were resting on the beach today as well.

However, our three least tern colonies are still holding their own. Our two new sub-colonies (B&C) have yet to produce any chicks, but adults have been busy incubating. The original colony (A) mostly contains loafing birds, along with a few incubating adults.

Thursday, July 25, 2019
We are seeing wonderful productivity success this week, as we have had another handful of broods fledge. As of today, our beach has produced 54 fledglings! At least 18 chicks are still roaming the beach, being tended by 11 different pairs.
Throughout the beach, 45 adults, 35 fledglings, and seven unknown plovers were counted today. This adult total does include the 11 pairs mentioned above.
Among the three established least tern colonies, about 102 adults were counted today. Two fledglings were definitely seen in addition to the adult count- resulting in a total of at least 104 least terns. Three chicks were spotted earlier this week as well, but were not seen today.
Friday, July 19, 2019

With migration kicking in, adults and fledglings are free roaming, as well as leaving the beach! So far 35 chicks have fledged this season, with at least 39 more chicks on their way to [hopefully] fledge. Overall, most pairs are no longer together for the breeding season. Some are still working together to rear chicks, but in most cases only one adult is taking care of older chicks. As of recently, only one pair (without a nest or chicks), is still actively scraping...numerous fresh scrapes were found on Friday 7/19. At this point in the season it seems futile for a pair to attempt a nest, but I'll continue to search the area just in case.

Electric fences were placed around our two new least tern colonies. They are not electrified yet, but will hopefully at least keep out the less adventurous predators. Thanks to all those who helped in this large effort!

Friday, July 12, 2019
Overall, we have 35 pairs, 11 singles, 4 active nests, 48 chicks, and 5 fledglings!

Last week, we had dense fog during one of our surveys, so I know some birds were not seen, but were still around.

It seems like birds are starting to move around as the breeding season wraps up. Some birds have moved on, while we are seeing new birds move through the area, using our beach as a stopover.
Our new least tern colony was surveyed last week, resulting in a high count of 67 adults.
Friday, July 5, 2019
As of this week have a total of 84 adults (41 pairs, 2 singles), 3 fledglings, 63 chicks, and 9 nests!
After today's survey I don't think all chicks were seen; I believe we could have closer to 70 chicks. Some pairs are also inconsistently being observed. I even think there are still a few nests to be found, but they are likely in thick vegetation and are difficult to search for.
Over the next week to week and a half, more chicks should be fledging!
Our first least tern chick was also spotted this week! It was able to walk around and even looked like it had some pin feathers. In addition to our main least tern colony (which contains at least 50 adults), more least tern adults were observed staging and foraging from mm 0.1 through at least mm 1.0, but I was not able to get a high count across this transect. I will keep an eye on these birds to see if they attempt to nest.
A BIG thank you to our amazing plover wardens, outdoor rec. and visitor services staff, and Gareth for working super hard over the course of this busy and hot holiday week to protect our beach and birds!
Saturday, June 29, 2019
As of last week, we currently have a total of 125 piping plovers on the refuge beach! This includes, 36 pairs, 6 single plovers, and 47 chicks. It's very likely we have more chicks on the beach, but full broods were not detected in some cases. I believe unsuccessful nesting pairs are beginning to leave their territories and move freely around the beach, or even to a different beach, since they haven't been seen for several surveys and groups of non-territorial foraging birds have been observed.
There are currently 13 active nests. I believe there is still a few pairs that are attempting to nest one, or have a nest to be found.
Furthermore, there was a high count of 50 least terns seen in the colony. No chicks observed yet.
Big thanks to intern Jesse and biologist Nancy for covering nest checks and surveying in the latter half of last week!
Saturday, June 22, 2019

In total, we have 45 pairs (90 adults), 22 nests, and 39 chicks! We have many more hatches to come and our first fledge date is slated for Thursday 6/27. At this point in the season, I believe some unsuccessful pairs are moving on, for I have not seen them, or signs of their presence, for at least several surveys.

Within the least tern colony, 12 nests have been found, meaning we have at least 24 adults. However, we believe there to be more adults! Unfortunately, clouds and occasional fog did not provide the best counting conditions.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

In total, 90 birds were observed (44 pairs and two single plovers). There were 26 active nests, and 10 chicks were spotted on the beach!

By the end of this week you'll get another update from me pertaining to this week's numbers. As long as everything goes as planned, the numbers should look really good!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

After two very thorough surveys, I have observed 44 pairs on the beach, along with two single plovers whom I'm not quite positive if they have a mate. These numbers put our population at 90 TOTAL PLOVERS. Wow, that's a lot...

Overall, we have 32 nests! This means almost all pairs currently have an active nest.

This week also saw the hatching of our first nest! Three chicks were seen running around just north of Boardwalk 7 on Friday. So far, so good for this brood. With the high foot traffic on Sandy Point, and our newfound piping plover family in this area, please be even more aware of trespassers entering the south boundary.

LETE tern nesting is also well on it's way. There are at least 45 pairs within the colony. Several one egg and two egg nests have also been found. Within the next week or two, an official census will be conducted.

Saturday, June 1, 2019
This week has been fairly productive- for the plovers and myself! There are 39 pairs, and one single plover- totaling 79 birds.
Overall, there are 25 active nests on the beach! Like most weeks, there were some losses, but with many new finds. At least this week more nests were found than lost.
I kept my eye out for chicks today, but alas we still only have eggs. My earliest predicted hatch date is June 6th, but I wouldn't be surprised if chicks start showing up sooner.
Although no least tern nests have been found yet, they are acting a lot more aggressive! Hopefully nests will appear starting next week. I better start bringing out a large sunhat!
Saturday, May 24, 2019
'This week has been a good one for our plovers! There are a total of 20 nests. More nests are found every time I go on the beach, and I have a feeling there are still a few I haven't found yet. In total, we have 79 piping plovers (39 pairs, 1 single).
Most birds have bounced back very quickly after their nest was depredated or flooded last week. By the first week of June there may even be some chicks running around!
Least terns have also begun to colonize and scrape!'

Saturday, May 11, 2019

'As of yesterday, we have 29 pairs and five single plovers- totaling 63 adults! Birds are certainly settling down now, but they are also still popping up in new locations.
There are also nine active nests on the beach! Five of the nine nests have four eggs, and are being fully incubated.
Soon enough, least terns should also be settling down on the refuge beach!'
Written by Allie, a Refuge staff member.

 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

'This week we had a total of 63 piping plovers (30 pairs, 3 singles). Our first nest was found on Wednesday with one egg! As of Friday 5/3, the nest has 2 eggs.

Overall, birds are settling and there is still a lot of scraping activity. On the other hand, we also have birds that are still passing through.'

Written by Allie, a Refuge staff member.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

'This week, 18 pairs and 4 single plovers were observed on the refuge beach, totaling 40 adults! Unlike previous surveys, no larger (likely migratory) groups were seen this week; plovers were only observed as pairs or single.
Once again, a lot of scraping activity was noted. I checked on scrapes found last week, but a number of them were washed out. Fortunately, the plovers have been busy creating new scrapes to try out! While no eggs were found, birds are still actively maintaining territories, courting, and are weary of intruders.
Most territories did have coyote tracks going through them. Thankfully, no trespassers or human prints were detected on the beach during this survey.'

Written by Allie, a Refuge staff member.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

'On the April 17th plover survey, 22 pairs were observed, along with a lot of nesting activity! 10 lone plovers were also observed this past week. In total, 54 adult Piping Plovers were counted.
Despite the falling tide and abundance of foraging area, a lot of birds were sticking close to the wrack line, or, if they were closer to the shoreline, would walk back towards the dune relatively quickly. Several males were also seen establishing territory lines. This behavior is indicative of the plovers becoming weary of intruders and more attached to their potential nesting territories.
For almost every pair, one (or several) scrapes were found. Several birds were seen testing out their scrapes. One pair was even seen courting and copulating! Needless to say, our plover tech is excited for next week's survey.'
Written by Allie, a Refuge staff member.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

'On Thursday, 45 adult Piping Plovers were detected on the refuge beach! Birds were observed at a lot of the same locations as last week. Additionally, where lone adults were seen last week, pairs were present this week. In total, there were nine distinctive pairs observed.

While there are more pairs being seen, in consistent locations, it's very likely birds are still migrating north. In addition to the nine observed pairs, larger flocks of piping plovers were observed in groups of four, five, six, and ten individuals! Only two individuals were solo (not among a pair or large group).

This survey was conducted at low tide; therefore, all birds observed
were taking advantage of the wide beach and foraging along the
shoreline. Furthermore, heavier sets of tracks were being detected
between the shoreline and the dunes. Because of this, next week I'll
start looking for scrapes and keying in on territorial behavior.

Aside from piping plovers, a large mixed flock of shorebirds was
foraging and cleaning themselves at the shoreline in front of Lot 7.
This flock consisted primarily of semipalmated sandpipers and
sanderlings, totaling over 200 individuals.'