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In part, it means that at our properties on mainland Massachusetts, as well as on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, our coastal ecologists, permanent beach and seasonal staff, and countless volunteers are keeping a very close eye on the very special habitats that we protect for shorebirds like piping plovers, oystercatchers, terns, and black skimmers.
Shorebirds can be affected by weather, predators, and also people. This year, it was a difficult year for breeding shorebirds statewide. To kick off the season, a storm in early June wiped out many nests and also took its toll on young chicks. In addition to the severe weather, predators like crows, coyote, and skunk, continued to impact the reproductive success of our nesting birds. But, there is a silver lining to the shorebird season!
Coskata-Coatue was spared from the big June storm (and the predators seemed to find other things to eat!), so we had a banner breeding season for piping plovers and American oystercatchers. Norton Point Beach successfully supported nearly 1,000 breeding pairs of terns. Four pairs of nesting black skimmers also helped put Norton Point Beach in the limelight this year: these were the only four pairs of skimmers that nested in all of Massachusetts this year, and it was the first year they successfully raised their young at Norton Point. Read more about the black skimmers at Norton Point.
As the summer wanes, the breeding shorebird season is winding down. While all of our piping plovers are fattening up, flexing their wings, and preparing for their migration south, newly hatched tern and American oystercatcher chicks can still be found on our beaches. Migrating shorebirds that breed further north are now heading south and making pit stops at our beaches to feed and rest.
Crane Beach is a particularly important staging area for migratory shorebirds, and we now have volunteers stationed there during the weekend high tides to both educate our visitors about migratory shorebirds and make sure the birds have places to rest on the beach where they will not be disturbed. On a single day, one of our volunteers counted more than 2,500 birds roosting on the beach at high tide!
Published August 2012.