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Piping Plover Hatchlings & WildLife Guards

Posted on Jun 25, 2015

A Piping Plover pair at Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Pleasure Beach became new parents to four tiny hatchlings either very late on the night of Thursday, June 18 or early in the morning of Friday, June 19. Our work in the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds makes them our responsibility. These birds are the City’s one pair for the 2015 season, and with Pleasure Beach being open to the public for a second year after being off limits for nearly 20 years and overrun with predators. I visited them with Audubon Connecticut’s Important Bird Area Program Coordinator Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe and our WildLife Guards Crew Leaders Alivia Sheffield and Emily Allen this past Monday. In the first photo you can see one hatchling that is approximately 80 hours old. They remained in the fenced-off and signed area of high dune, and we remained outside of this fencing at a safe distance.

Pleasure Beach Bridgeport June 22 2015 Piping Plover hatchling-0643

This is an especially sensitive area, being a remote barrier beach, and busy with beachgoers visiting the site now via water taxi. Bridgeport has been great in working with us, helping to educate people and to protect the birds. Our WildLife Guards program, which trains, mentors, and employs ten local high schools students and two crew leaders to monitor nesting birds and engage visitors, families, and friends about Pleasure Beach and its wildlife, will start on July 1. Until then Alivia and Emily are preparing programs and studying the Beach and its life.

Pleasure Beach Bridgeport June 22 2015 Piping Plover hatchling-0649

The above shot shows a hatchling seeking refuge from hot, humid and hazy conditions in the middle of the day. The temperature was about 90 degrees, and the intense June sun on the exposed beach can be too much for these little ones.

Pleasure Beach Bridgeport June 22 2015 Piping Plover hatchling-0655

Their parents keep a very close eye on them, and are able to withstand the temperatures far better with all of those feathers keeping the heat out. Another advantage of staying in the shade is keeping yourself out of view of any predators such as Fish Crows, Herring Gulls or Black-crowned Night-Herons.

Pleasure Beach Bridgeport June 22 2015 Piping Plover hatchling-0664

Mom and dad stayed in view the entire time, not minding if our presumed attention or that of any beachgoers (most folks do not even know they are back there blending in to the sand in a fenced-off area!) went to them.

Pleasure Beach Bridgeport June 22 2015 Piping Plover hatchling-0674

All four of the hatchlings were very active and healthy, moving well and foraging in the sand with their parents. It can be hard to get a sense of size in photos on a beach, but take a look at all of the shells and rocks here compared to this bird…they are minuscule!

Pleasure Beach Bridgeport June 22 2015 Piping Plover hatchling-0685

There are actually two little ones staying in the shade in the final shot, demonstrating the value of having a completely natural beach with vegetation for shelter, marine debris and tidal wash for foraging, and washed up shells and rocky sands to blend in all the more. On the right you can see one of the stakes that holds up signage and string fencing just to show you how far I was from them, outside and well back from the perimeter. Our WildLife Guards Crew Leaders will work with the Guards to ensure the continued success of this family while teaching thousands about the flora and fauna of this scarce and vital habitat.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator