During the western snowy plover breeding season, park docents help monitor and protect nesting sites and help create awareness and educate visitors about this threatened species and its life cycle. Visitors have expressed interest in the plovers and are pleased to have staff and docents in the field answering all types of naturalist questions. Through the summer, park staff create updates to let staff, volunteers, and visitors know the latest on what is happening out at the nesting sites. Click on one of the links below to find out how the Snowy Plovers at Point Reyes were doing at the time. To learn more about becoming a Snowy Plover Docent, please visit our Volunteer page.
In 2019, park staff conducted 176 total surveys on park beaches to determine abundance and distribution of breeding snowy plovers. A minimum estimate of 23 plovers bred at Point Reyes, a 39% decrease in population size compared to 2018. Fifteen of 33 chicks survived for at least 28 days after hatching, for a 45.5% fledging rate. This season, with a total of 35 nests, had the lowest number of nests in the last six years, which is reflective of the population decline.
We are nearing the end of the season with five plover hatchlings still roaming the beach: four on Kehoe Beach and one on Limantour Beach. Two of these chicks on Kehoe Beach are due to fledge during the Labor Day weekend, increasing our total number of fledged chicks to fifteen, surpassing the total during the 2018 breeding season! The last of these chicks will fledge on September 11, marking the end of the breeding season.
We have about two and a half weeks left of the breeding season in Point Reyes. We currently still have several chicks on the beach, all projected to fledge in the next two weeks. One brood on Limantour will not fledge until September 11, which is unusually late in the season. Adult and juvenile birds are now in "winter mode", and coalescing into flocks throughout the park, mostly on Limantour and Kehoe Beach.
We are seeing an increase in reproductive success during these last few weeks of the breeding season; plovers have fledged six chicks in the past week and a half, bringing our total up to at least eleven fledglings for the season. Even more excitingly, we still have nine chicks on the beach with three more to potentially hatch! We were also surprised to find a new nest on Kehoe Beach this past week. This is our thirty-fifth nest of the season.
We had our second to last nest hatch this week on Kehoe Beach. Additionally, we added two more fledglings to the board! These two chicks hatched on Kehoe Beach about a month ago. This stretch of beach has seen a productive uptick in breeding activity during the last month of the breeding season. And biologists have observed an unusual event on this site: the adoption of two chicks by a male already tending to his own two chicks.
In this past week, we've had one chick fledge from Limantour Beach and a nest hatch on North Beach. We still have somewhere between six and eight chicks, potentially raising our fledge count to thirteen. Even more exciting: we still have three active nests that will likely hatch nine more chicks in the next few weeks, potentially raising our fledge count even higher! The latest projected hatch for a nest this year is August 13, which is one of our latest nests on record.
Three nests hatched this past week and a half: two on north Kehoe Beach and one on North Beach. Both Kehoe broods have been accounted for in the past week, but the brood on North Beach has not been observed since nest hatch last Friday, July 19. We still have four active nests, one of which is not projected to hatch until mid-August, meaning we will have a brood on the beach going into September, which is atypical. Most nests will usually have hatched by the end of July.
We are entering the last leg of the breeding season: four active nests remain and "winter" flocks are congregating on a few stretches of beach sites. We are still expecting a couple of pairs to begin a new nest in the next week, but most of the plovers are likely done for the season. In these "winter" flocks, we have been observing both juveniles and adult plovers from breeding sites outside of Point Reyes.
We currently have a few broods spread out along the entire stretch of the Great Beach, as far north as Kehoe Beach, south to South Beach parking lot. We are hitting the last stretch of nests in the next couple of weeks and we need to protect them long enough for them to hatch, so we can improve the number of fledglings we have so far this year. If all the currently living chicks survive to fledge, we’ll add on an additional eight fledglings, giving us a total of thirteen.
We have experienced quite a successful week, despite the low reproductive success this season and the slight drop in breeding population size. Three more chicks have fledged, increasing our season tally to five fledged chicks so far; these three chicks hatched south of North Beach parking lot. We also had two nests hatch: one on Limantour Spit and another adjacent to North Beach parking lot. We attempted to, but were unable to capture, the hatchlings on South Beach.
We had a very exciting week! The first two chicks of the season have fledged from the North Beach site! We still have five chicks running around on the beach and the next three chicks will fledge early next week. It is currently peak breeding season and there are currently six active nests, with one projected to hatch this weekend. More excitingly, we were surprised with an observation of a male with unknown chicks that hatched from an unknown nest on South Beach.
This has been a relatively slow year: fewer nests, fewer birds, and lower reproductive success. We are likely looking at a dip in the population trend line, which may prove to be a cyclical pattern due to the past year's El Niño and winter storms. Past monitoring efforts have marked a decline in the breeding population in Point Reyes following an El Niño. We have lost a total of nineteen nests so far this season (70%), out of twenty-seven nests in the park.
In the past week, we’ve had two nests fail: the single nest between the parking lots at Limantour Beach and another nest north of North Beach parking lot. The latter was depredated by a common raven and the former likely by a skunk. But we had our third nest south of North Beach parking lot hatch this past weekend, bringing our total number of chicks up to seven roaming around on the beach.
We have had an exciting couple of weeks, with the first hatches of the season and uptick in breeding activity on most of our beach sites. We are establishing a dog restriction zone between North Beach and South Beach parking lots, to protect plover nests and broods that are now mobile in the area. This zone starts about 0.5 miles south of North Beach parking lot and goes south to about 0.75 miles from South Beach parking lot. Pets will not be allowed in this area.
We had a very busy, but successful holiday weekend with the start of the docent program. Docents were stationed at North Beach parking lot to make contacts with visitors and watch over the beach closure going north to Abbotts Lagoon. Plovers were present in the fenced area north of the parking lot all three days. Furthermore, we had our first nest hatch of the breeding season!
Snowy plovers in Point Reyes are facing a tough year: there's an atypical uptick in nest predation pressure from common ravens and the late winter storms have hammered beach habitats, subsequently decreasing the amount of available nesting area and wiping out a couple of nests. Despite some of the bad news, we have reasons to be hopeful about the next few months!
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