May 21, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 17 November 2011 13:24
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reports generally good news about two of our endangered shorebirds.
DEEP — what used to be DEP — said last week that 52 pairs of Piping Plovers nested along the Connecticut coastline during the 2011 breeding season — nine more than last year. However, the number of young that fledged — reached flying stage — was 71, 11 fewer than the 82 plovers that fledged in 2010.The DEEP Wildlife Division also said about 359 pairs of Least Terns nested in the state this season, a large increase from the 119 pairs in 2010. The number of young that fledged was 124, which also is much higher than the 36 Least Terns that fledged in 2010.
The Piping Plover and Least Tern are classified as threatened in Connecticut; the Piping Plover also has been listed federally as threatened since 1986. Both shorebirds prefer to nest on sandy beaches, but only a limited number of sites are available due to current shoreline development and recreational use, DEEP said.
“2011 was a very good year for Piping Plovers, with an increase in nesting pairs,” said Rick Jacobson, director of the DEEP Wildlife Division. “The consistent number of Piping Plover chicks fledged every nesting season since 1986 is encouraging and reflects the cooperation of coastal users.”
“Using specific and carefully researched procedures, Wildlife Division biologists protect nesting plovers and terns by fencing off breeding grounds on selected beaches with string to discourage people and dogs from disturbing birds in the area,” Mr. Jacobson said.
Educational signs are posted around the breeding grounds that are fenced off with string. When individual plover nests are located, a wire “exclosure,” with a top net, is erected around each nest. The exclosure is designed to keep dogs, house cats, skunks, raccoons, weasels, foxes, and avian predators from reaching the eggs.
Least Terns are small shorebirds that are colonial nesters and are usually found near or among Piping Plover nests. Their protection is more difficult, DEEP spokesman Dwayne Gardner said, because their flight patterns inhibit the use of individual fencing. Consequently, walkers, anglers, and dogs often disturb these birds.
Piping Plovers, named for their high-pitched note, return to Connecticut from their wintering grounds in March and begin nesting in April. Recreational use of shoreline areas usually increases at the start of the nesting season and human disturbance often prevents nesting plovers from tending their eggs and young.
Also, DEEP said, “human litter attracts mammalian and avian predators to beach areas, further hampering nesting success.”
Least Terns return to Connecticut by May and begin nesting in late May/early June, a time when beach areas receive heavy recreational use.
Mr. Gardner said the DEEP Wildlife Division is encouraged by the increase in the number of Least Tern nesting pairs. “However, the number of pairs has been well below the average for the past few years in Connecticut, and it was hoped that the repeated poor success that this species was experiencing wouldn’t cause the adults to abandon Connecticut beaches as a nesting site in the future,” he said.
What affected the fledging success of Piping Plovers and Least Terns this year? “Two storm events during high tides, one in May and one in June, and the high winds associated with each, were the most damaging for both bird species in 2011 as their nests were inundated with water and the eggs were destroyed,” Mr. Gardner said.
He said that, thanks to the public education efforts of volunteers from The Nature Conservancy and Connecticut Audubon Society, beach visitors and dog owners at several sites were very cooperative. “The Division encourages volunteer assistance and hopes to continue public education next season,” he said.
Lynnette Clemens of Old Greenwich reports sighting a flock of American Black Ducks and a flock of Brants at Tod’s Point in Greenwich Oct. 30.
Barbara McMahon of South Salem recently sent us a picture of an unusually yellow-bellied Yellow-bellied Sapsucker seen in a lilac bush in her yard. The typical bird of this species has so little yellow noticeable on its belly that people often wonder how it got its name. The one that Barbara photographed was quite yellow, more than we’ve ever seen. Also, she said, “we had a Black-throated Blue Warbler about two weeks ago, also in our lilac bush. It is a very striking bird to see. The one we saw was skittish and did not hang around for long.”
Quaker Ridge Wrap-up and Report, how the hawk watch/count went this year, with Luke Tiller, Sunday, Nov. 20, 7 p.m., free, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, RSVP 203-869-5272 x228 greenwich.audubon.org.
Family Bird Watching Class & “Christmas Bird Count” Practice, Saturday, Dec. 17, 1 to 2:30, $5, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, RSVP 203-869-5272 x230 greenwich.audubon.org.
Eagle Viewing Trips, on Connecticut River, Feb. 11 through March 18, 9, 11:30 and 2 on weekends, and 10 and 1 on Thursdays, $40, Connecticut Audubon, 1-800-996-8747.
Copyright 2011 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] gmail.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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