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Growing up Plover: Post 5

Thanks for joining us for post 5 of our Duxbury Beach “Growing up Plover” blog series! The plover season is winding down and we’re excited to share some news about two of our fledged families of plover chicks plus updates on some of the young chicks!

The Early Birds & The Newbies

They have flown the coop! Or maybe they’re just blending in with the onslaught of Piping Plover adults and chicks arriving at Duxbury Beach…But don’t worry! These new arrivals are not here to nest. They’re stopping through to take advantage of the prime foraging areas on oceanside and bayside as they make their way south.

This is an added challenge for the monitors out on Duxbury Beach as they try to keep track of who’s who. As the season winds down, the adult plovers begin to lose their breeding plumage aka their trademark uni-brow and collar. Once this happens, they start to look a little like the fledglings and adding to the confusion!

So, what are some tips and tricks to keep track of which plover family is which out on the beach? Time and space are the major clues. Monitors keep very close track of how old the chicks are and know how old the neighbors’ chicks are. They also take daily notes on where the families tend to travel on the beach. This is very helpful in telling families apart since plovers are territorial and don’t often like the neighbors to move into their yards.

After the chicks from a family have been seen flying >50 ft, they do not have a monitor assigned to watch over them each day. Monitors will take note of them if they are seen while checking in on other families or Least Tern colonies, but at this point The Early Birds and The Newbies are ready to make their own way in the world!

One of The Newbies fledglings resting up.

Looking so grown up!

(Formerly) of the Replicated Habitats

This family has our youngest chicks on Duxbury Beach! They are five days old and still in what I like to call the “cotton ball” phase.

It’s always exciting when a new nest starts hatching. However, sometimes it means sitting around for quite a while. It may be surprising to hear, but the eggs don’t usually hatch all at once. This means mom or dad is sitting on the remaining eggs AND trying to corral some newly hatched chicks.

The parents at nest 5B had two full days of double duty. Here’s the timeline: Thursday morning – 1 chick hatched, 3 to go; Thursday afternoon – 2 chicks hatched, 2 to go; Friday morning – 3 chicks hatch, 1 to go; Saturday morning – 3 chicks and the adults were no longer sitting on the 4th egg. Unfortunately, this time around patience did not pay off and the fourth and final egg did not hatch. Fortunately, the three chicks that did hatch are running around on the southern part of the beach with mom and dad in tow!

Pinky & Family

While it looks like mom has left Duxbury Beach, dad, aka Pinky, and his three almost-fledglings are still hanging out. At almost 4 weeks old monitors are on the lookout for test flights from this family. Unfortunately, only “fluttering” has been seen so far!

We don’t know why some families of chicks take longer to fly then others, but it is possibly food supply. Some parts of the beach have more food for plover chicks – or might have different food supplies at different times during the season. Or perhaps the chicks faced more disturbance (people, predators, etc.) and so they haven’t been able to spend as much time looking for food. Regardless of the reason, we’ll be keeping a careful eye out for flight!

Family photo time!

Dad watching over nap time in the intertidal.

Not quite ready for flight in this photo (taken 2 weeks ago). Pinky's chicks are looking better every day!

Why Did the Plover Cross the Road?

Food? Disturbance? Tide? Nasty neighbors? The view? Whatever the reason here are some photos showing just how big a journey crossing the back road is for a young Piping Plover chick!

Oftentimes mom or dad lands in the road peeping before the chicks begin to cross.

Even at 2 weeks old these chicks are tiny and tough to see on the gravel road. Plus they like to spread out and go at their own pace!

While crossing the road the chicks will stop and start and change directions often. The monitors (and the traffic) are always happy to see a chick bee-lining for the other side!

Whew! Almost there!

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