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  • Duxbury Beach Reservation

Growing up Plover: Post 4

Welcome back to week 4 of our Duxbury Beach “Growing up Plover” blog series! It has been an eventful week for many of our plover families and we’re excited to share what’s been happening as well as some fresh photos courtesy of wildlife photographer Stewart Ting Chong.

The Early Birds

We have lift off! At 30 days old both chicks from this little family of four were seen flying >50 ft. According to the state and federal fish and wildlife departments, this is the magic distance at which we consider the plover chicks fledged (able to fly). So far, the Early Bird fledglings have been sticking around Duxbury Beach with their parents but soon we expect them to move off to other beaches. They may leave as a family or as individuals, but they’ll all be looking for good places to forage and energize for their long flight south.

These two chicks were our earliest fledglings this season though certainly not the only ones! Several other broods from around Duxbury Beach have also fledged. Now that the chicks from these families are flying, we no longer monitor them constantly or keep up the same level of fencing in those areas. There are still many other plover families on the beach with eggs, young chicks, and some getting ready for take-off!

The fledglings definitely look more like adults then the tiny cotton balls on sticks that they resembled a few short weeks ago!

(Formerly) of the Replicated Habitats

Despite some heavy predator activity in the area, these parents have kept their nest nice and safe! Since this is a renest after losing chicks, it is going to be one of the latest plover nests to hatch this season. This can be challenging for plover parents and chicks. The weather is usually hotter, there are more people and more trash attracting predators to the beach, and plover parents are starting to think about migration rather than nesting. Sometimes one of the plover parents will even depart early, leaving only one adult to look after the chicks. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with this family!

Pinky & Family

Pinky and his mate have their chicks – finally! They hatched right after our last update so they’re now about a week old and running around like crazy. They are down to three chicks but look to be doing well. So far they’ve stay on the oceanside Pedestrian Beach, though they may move elsewhere. Some of the reasons the family might move is if they’re looking for better foraging opportunities, predators disturb the chicks, the tide comes up too high in that area, or for some other reason we can’t figure out!

One of Pinky's chicks enjoying the buffet offered by the wrackline.

Pinky and his mate are sticking close to the chicks - sometimes their peeping sounds just like a frustrated parent trying to wrangle the kids!

From a distance these young chicks look just like a rock on the beach. When avian predators pass over head you will see the chicks crouch down and stay still to hopefully keep hidden.

The Newbies

They grow up so fast. The chicks of brood 18 are now 3 weeks old! We’ll be on the lookout for test flights soon but in the meantime, monitors have a couple other families they can keep an eye on.

They're not quite ready yet, but these chicks are already practicing their flying moves...

Least Tern chicks are on the beach! Like our plover chicks they are tiny, fluffy, adorable, and running around the beach soon after hatching. But lucky for the tern chicks, they have mom and dad to bring them food. Tern chicks tend to spend a lot of their time hanging out in the shade of plants, driftwood, or fencing to keep cool and out of sight. They also blend in very well with the sand and cobble on the beach.

Least Terns, which are protected under the MA Endangered Species Act, nest in several different colonies on Duxbury Beach. Unlike the plovers who tend to fight with the neighbors, the terns prefer to nest in groups or colonies. This can be very helpful in driving away potential threats – but make sure you aren’t one of them! These small but tenacious seabirds start to look like fighter jets when people come too close. They will call loudly and dive bomb, even defecating (with amazing precision), on the perceived threat.

This least tern chick is on the move! It doesn't have to find food like the plover chicks but it does have to stay safe and be ready for mom and dad to return with a tasty treat.

This tern chick is not shy about telling its parent that it wants the fish!

Plover Management

Every time we think we have it figured out the plovers manage to surprise us! With all the management that takes place for piping plovers and beaches in general, sometimes it is hard to remember that these are wild animals. They are unpredictable. They don’t take note of human signs, fencing, or beach plans.

This is of course frustrating and even more so when changes with the bird activity happen unexpectedly and closures pop up last minute – as happened earlier this week. DBR has been working tirelessly prior to and throughout this season to find solutions to balance conservation efforts and recreational access. We’ve had countless discussions with the state and federal regulators, spent hours writing permits, amendments, and new protocols, and worked ceaselessly with the Town staff managing the Endangered Species Program to make sure we have the most accurate information and up to date management. At the end of the day, as landowners, DBR is legally responsible for protecting the birds and following the laws currently in place.

When you see new closures or wonder why certain areas are kept open please remember that this is a complex program and is highly regulated. Keep in mind there are different rules for protecting plover chicks in areas with off road driving vs. pedestrian access only. Thank you for taking the time to learn about these birds and some of the “why” behind their behaviors and the conservation efforts on Duxbury Beach!

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