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Week 10 Report

We found a good number of successful nest hatches on this week’s survey, a total of 6 this week, plus 4 last week. This group of hatched nests pretty much represents our first wave of snowy plover nesting.  The second wave is underway with more pairs scraping and males fighting. We were very excited to be able to resight 8 snowy plover dads with chicks in tow, for a total of 16 chicks.  Re-sighting chicks after hatching is hard to do, but so important to gauge breeding success.  Even more exciting is that some chicks have made it past the critical 2-week milestone.  This is important because after 2 weeks of age chicks have a much higher chance of survival.  

The most damaging predator we have at Ormond Beach are ravens/crows. Thus far these predators have not been targeting nests or chicks. Hoping this continues as long as possible so we can hold off having to use predator exclosures. However in past years we usually get hit pretty hard after the first wave of nests hatch, which is where we are at right now.  We are monitoring nest cameras very closely for any signs of predators approaching nests.

Human Problems:

ATV’s in nesting areas: On this week’s survey we discovered that at some point last weekend someone cut through the north habitat fence and entered the nesting area on a 3-wheel ATV.  They drove all the way across the inside of the restricted area and exited on the other end by ducking under symbolic fencing.  In the process they drove close to 4 active snowy plover nests.  The edge of one nest was actually run over, but luckily they missed the eggs.  The nest was still being aggressively guarded by a frantic female when I checked the nest.  After exiting the habitat on to the beach they turned back into the dunes between fences, rode further down the beach and into another fenced area.

Why the fences?  We caught a sequence on trail cameras this week that explains this.  A fisherman who evidently ducked the fences walked right past a hatching nest.  10 minutes later we captured video of the dad plover brooding 2 chicks, so at least those 2 chicks survived the encounter.  When the fisherman walked by the dad had run away and the chicks were hiding. It’s hard to know for sure what happened to the 3rd chick, we never found it or saw it on video.  There is a chance it was stepped on, but we’ll never know for sure unless we respot all 3 chicks next week.  Chicks are small and don’t move when threatened to avoid being seen, so a human walking by could easily step on and kill a chick.  This is why the area is fenced and closed to beach goers.

If you'd like to support our program, we welcome your donation. Specify “Shorebird Recovery Program” if you would like to directly support our California Least Tern and Western Snowy Plover efforts on Ventura County Beaches.

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