By: Bradford Bower, Monitor Supervisor, Duxbury Harbormaster Department
It is hard to believe that summer is coming to a close already. Thinking back to May, it seemed so hectic. We bounced between finalizing training presentations and prepping the inventory for the season. Who knew that this was just the calm before the storm!
After training all the monitors, the beach seemed to explode with avian activity! This season was unprecedented, with 12 piping plover nests hatching within a week of each other. This is not a normal occurrence. At its peak, there more chicks on the ground at one time than during the whole 2017 breeding season. Because of this, monitors and beachgoers alike had to deal with multiple broods (families) crossing the back road – often sim
ultaneously. The monitors hit the ground running immediately after training, and they took the chaos in stride. Some days were long, hot, and stressful, especially during difficult crossings, but many monitors left the beach with emotional attachments to their broods
Not wanting to be outdone by the piping plovers, the least terns nested in larger colonies this year. Terns are not everyone’s favorite bird. These colonial nesting birds are highly protective of their nests and chicks, and are not afraid to fly straight at you and leave you with a warning shot of poop: stay away from my babies! There’s nothing like a glob of warm, fishy, poop running down the back of your neck first thing in the morning to remind you not to get too close to the colony. Though the monitors were hesitant at first to switch their focus from plovers to terns, they eventually warmed up to the terns. It is hard not to enjoy the silly antics of the chicks chasing after their parents, begging for food.
In the end 24 piping plover chicks were fledged on the beach this year – more than double the number from the 2017 field season! The least terns are the real winners this year with over 60 chicks fledged! This more than doubled the productivity from 2016, which previously held the greatest tern productivity record for the past eight years. The field season is different every year. Challenges come up daily but this season has been extremely rewarding. Seeing the success of the nesting birds and getting to know the beachgoers has made it a great first season on Duxbury Beach!