2 - Human Vandalism
We didn't have any new nests hatch, but we found many more new nests. So we are indeed experiencing a 2nd wave of nesting. We found 7 dads escorting chicks in the dunes. With 2 breeding adults per nest and 1 breeding bird per clutch, that gives us a total of 39 breeding snowy plovers. Although not the highest of all times (we had 41 in 2021), it equals our highest number last year. The other good news from this week is that we found our first fledgling snowy plover. It was with its dad, who has color bands on his legs so we know that he hatched from Coos Bay in Oregon. This will be the 3rd year he has successfully nested on Ormond Beach and produced offspring that survived to fledgling age.
One of the chicks we found this week, photo by Alecia Smith
The unfortunate part of the story from this week is that we knew our first fledgling could fly because a crow was chasing it and it's dad. Fortunately both got away and we saw the crow leave the area. Crows are often attracted to nesting areas because of human activity. Crows are attracted to the illegal encampments near where our young bird and his dad were roosting. The trash and activity of the encampments attracts crows, that then they move into the dunes to look for other things to eat.
We are crossing our fingers they don't learn to find nests, as we have many active nests on the beach right now. If they do, we are ready to go with predator exclosures, which will keep birds like crows from being able to get the eggs. The reason why we haven't started using them yet is because crows learn almost immediately to associate exclosures with nests. They can still catch chicks as they leave these devices after they hatch. It also brings attention to the nests from humans, and makes the adult plovers incubating eggs vulnerable to other predators who target adult birds. So it's a last resort tool.
Below is a video we captured a couple years ago of crows scavenging for nests in the dunes. The "cage" is a predator exclosure we put on an active nest because they had figured out nests at that point. In this case it saved the nest, which hatched soon after this video was captured.
We have a person who appears to be looking for sea glass inside the nesting habitat. We've captured him on a trail camera several times. The area he is in is fenced and has signs indicating the area is closed. The sequence below illustrates the problem with this. The first clip shows a whimbrel walking by the nest, which is circled in white. Whimbrels aren't a threat , and the adult plover sits on it's nest watching the bigger bird walk by. In the second cut, our fisherman walks so close to the nest he nearly steps on it while the adult is frantically doing a distraction display. It is hoping to lure the intruder away from its nest, but the intruder in this case is oblivious to the frantic bird. This is classified as "take", when a federally protected bird is flushed off its nest like this. In the final cut the bird has returned to its nest because the intruder is leaving the area and is far away from the nest.