Beach Closures for the Threatened Snowy Plover at Point Reyes National Seashore from Memorial Day to Labor Day 2016

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Date: May 25, 2016
Contact: John A. Dell'Osso, 415-464-5135

Male snowy plover and two hatchlings. © Callie Bowdish.

To assure success occurs this nesting season, a closure each Saturday, Sunday, and holiday from May 28 through Labor Day, September 5, of a small stretch of the Point Reyes Beach will be enforced. The closure will be established between the North Beach parking lot and just south of the mouth of Abbotts Lagoon. Closing a portion of the Point Reyes Beach to public access is important to minimize disturbance to nests, chicks and breeding adults during this critical time. The closures over the busy summer weekends will help chicks stay warm, have enough food and stay hidden from predators.

The federally-threatened western snowy plover nesting season is already well underway. Nesting inconspicuously between the tidal zone and upper reaches of coastal beaches, snowy plovers on the West Coast are faced with habitat loss, disturbance and predation, all of which have taken a toll on this species. Point Reyes National Seashore, one of the few remaining nesting grounds for this rare bird, typically supports 15–30 adult breeding plovers. In partnership with the Point Reyes National Seashore Association and Point Blue Conservation Science, the snowy plover population has been monitored annually since 1995.

"So far this season, we have found fewer nests compared to this time last year and the year before. Two nests have hatched, but those chicks didn’t survive more than a few days. Fortunately, we still have a few more months to go in our season and the plovers certainly aren't giving up," stated park ecologist David Press. "We appreciate everyone’s support for these weekend closures to ensure a successful 2016 nesting season."

In addition to the weekend and holiday closures, the portion of Point Reyes Beach from the intersection of Kehoe Beach trail and Kehoe Beach to the North Beach parking lot (as signed) is closed annually to dogs from March 1 through September 30. As alternatives for park visitors with dogs, other popular beaches such as east Limantour Beach (to the left as you approach the beach) and Kehoe Beach remain open. All dogs in the park are required to be on a leash no longer than six feet. Check-in at any visitor center for current information.

Further efforts to protect the plovers include seasonally roping off breeding habitat on upper sections of beaches and the construction of "exclosures" around their nests immediately after an egg is laid. Exclosures are erected at the nest site and made of wire fencing. Plovers have easy access in and out of the wire mesh but the eggs are protected from disturbance and predators.

Ongoing habitat restoration efforts between the North Beach parking lot and Abbotts Lagoon will continue in 2016 to bolster plover habitat by removing invasive European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) and iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis).

While plover use was initially limited, activity in the restored dune habitats has increased dramatically within the last two years, with over a third of the nests found in the entire park being located in the restored dunes. Here plovers have nested far back in the dunes, over a third of a mile from the water, and some nests have been laid within clumps of the federally-endangered Tidestrom’s lupine, another rare species benefiting from the restoration efforts. Based on these and other promising monitoring results that suggest progress towards recovery of federally listed species, the park is hoping to expand its dune restoration efforts in the future.

So far in the 2016 nesting season, 20 nests have been located on Point Reyes beaches, three of which are in the dune restoration area. A plover pair has laid one nest on Limantour Spit, and the other nests are on North Beach and Kehoe Beach.

For more information on snowy plovers, please visit our website at https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/nature/birds_snowyplover.htm

-NPS-

See attached map. (564 KB PDF)



Last updated: May 26, 2016

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