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2016 AAfCW Totals

Posted on Dec 28, 2016

I thought it would be a terrific time to update everyone on our Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher numbers for 2016 as we near the end of our year. RTPI is proud to be a partner with Audubon Connecticut for the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds‘ (AAfCW) sixth season in 2017, an active conservation, education and outreach project that provides stewardship and survey efforts by volunteers and staff working to help the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) in an innovative joint initiative on Connecticut’s beaches, islands, and other coastal areas to monitor birds like the federally threatened Piping Plover, Red Knot and endangered Roseate Tern, Connecticut state-listed species like the American Oystercatcher, Common and Least Tern and many more.

Piping Plovers can be found feeding near the tidal line and nesting right above it, a sometimes precarious position for eggs and young

Our incredibly successful 2014 season included an all-time record high number of fledged Piping Plovers for Connecticut with 116 birds aided by our volunteers, partners and staff. Results from the phenomenal 2015 season indicated we had the second highest number of fledged chicks ever at 112, right behind our own 2014 record. We also set the all-time record number of breeding pairs of Piping Plovers for the state in 2015 at 62, but this was broken in 2016 with 63 pairs! These birds produced 87 fledged chicks for a productivity rate of 1.38 chicks per pair, well above the federal recovery goal of 1.2 chicks per pair. High tide events, storms, predators and unfortunate human incidents all led to a decline in fledged chicks from the previous two seasons, but it was nevertheless the fourth highest total ever for our state.

A resting migrant Piping Plover

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is still finalizing the official numbers for Least Terns nesting in 2016. However, we have completed our report for the American Oystercatcher, and it is yet more great news as a record high number of 63 pairs nested in Connecticut in 2016. These birds produced 53 fledglings for a productivity rate of .84 chicks per pair, the second highest total of chicks fledged and the second highest productivity rate ever recorded in the state. Our daily work to protect breeding areas, from the beaches to remote offshore islands, is undoubtedly behind this increase in nesting attempts and success.

American Oystercatcher nesting pair by RTPI President Twan Leenders

We would like to thank our hundreds of volunteers for putting in approximately 4,000 volunteer hours as tallied through only the first three quarters of 2016! None of this work could be done without these dedicated citizen scientists. Remember that our efforts extend through the end of the year as we survey for birds such as the Black-bellied Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Killdeer, Ruddy Turnstone, lingering egrets, herons and more that spend the winter with us.

Audubon Connecticut and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History are looking forward to what will be a very busy and extremely important 2017 field season – starting in less than three months – after Hurricane Matthew tore through the Bahamas and the wintering grounds of many Piping Plovers. Hundreds or more may have perished, and we may have fewer pairs returning to us, making our stewardship and outreach efforts all the more important for those that have survived and will depend on Connecticut to recover from these losses. As always, if you have questions about the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds or wish to volunteer, please email us at ctwaterbirds ‘AT’ gmail.com or contact me directly via skruitbosch ‘AT’ rtpi.org.

Scott Kruitbosch
RTPI Conservation & Outreach Coordinator
AAfCW Volunteer Coordinator