The Plover Blog

*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.


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.'