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Contact: John A. Dell’Osso, 415-464-5135
To assure success occurs this nesting season, a closure each Saturday, Sunday, and holiday from May 27 through Labor Day, September 4, 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, human disturbance and predation, all of which have taken a toll on this species. Point Reyes National Seashore, one of the few remaining nesting grounds in Northern California for this rare bird, typically supports 15–40 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.
"Nesting has been delayed this year, likely due to the unsettled weather in the early spring," stated park wildlife ecologist David Press. "Three nests have hatched so far this season and we are closely following the five chicks that have survived. More nesting is certainly on the way, and we are hopeful that by the end of summer we can surpass our 2016 count of 20 new plover fledglings at Point Reyes. We appreciate everyone's support for these weekend closures and other beach restrictions to ensure a successful 2017 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 soon 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 predators.
Ongoing habitat restoration efforts between the North Beach parking lot and Abbotts Lagoon will continue in 2017 to bolster plover habitat by removing invasive European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) and iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis). Snowy plovers have taken to newly restored dune habitat at Point Reyes, nesting far back in the dunes, over a third of a mile from the water, with some nests placed 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 2017 nesting season, 18 nests have been located on Point Reyes beaches, two of which, for the first time, are located near the main parking lots at Limantour Beach. This portion of Limantour Beach receives extremely high weekend visitation and is open to dogs on leash. The National Park Service will have staff and docents on site at Limantour Beach in the coming weeks to educate the public about the nesting plovers, to ensure that visitors are complying with closures and dog restrictions, and to monitor the chicks’ survival after the nests hatch.
For more information on snowy plovers, please visit our website at https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/nature/birds_snowyplover.htm.