Gracie Bell, Seasonal Shorebird Technician
This year, Nantucket, Tuckernuck, and the Muskeget Islands collectively shared a total of 76 breeding Piping Plover pairs, an increase of 1 pair from last year! On the Foundation’s property we had a total of 34 breeding pairs and 32 fledglings. Due to the early June storm, we sadly lost a multitude of broods, but our breeding adults were quick to renest. Piping Plovers are known to be inconspicuous nesters – the birds and their nests are often well hidden in vegetation patches or camouflaged against sand, which makes them incredibly difficult to see with an untrained eye.
All the parents were so thankful for the fencing and space they were given this year to protect their nests. This was also incredibly beneficial for the chicks to feed, grow up, and learn the many things they need to know before facing the world as fledglings – all in just 35 days! Providing a fenced beach with no stress from vehicles, people, and dogs allows the adults to give full attention to their babies’ survival and fuel up for their migratory road trip down the East Coast.
This year we had 121 Common Tern nests at Eel Point, compared to only 33 in 2022! But unfortunately, our Common Tern colony had zero success. Tern colonies are extremely sensitive to disturbance and will up and leave if even slightly bothered. We believe this year’s colony failure was due to avian predation, resulting in the colony leaving Eel Point. On Coatue, we had a small colony of about 10 Least Terns. They were disturbed in late June but decided to renest again, resulting in a hatch! But due to unknown circumstances, these chicks did not survive.
On Foundation beaches, we had a total of 21 American Oystercatcher pairs. Our Oystercatcher chicks faced many hardships this year, but thanks to the fencing efforts and low human disturbance, we had 34 very happy and healthy fledglings.
We also had a record-breaking year of American Oystercatcher banding – we banded a total of 34 chicks across the islands! Placing field-readable color bands on their legs before they are ready to fly helps us and other organizations understand where our oystercatchers are resting along migration routes and choosing to winter. Many of the younger chicks will go as far south as Nicaragua and El Salvador, but our older banded birds love to spend their winters in Cedar Key, Florida. They are true Nantucket seasonals! So, if you’re out and about and see a banded Oystercatcher, you can help us keep track of them by reporting their band code to www.amoywg.com. It’s also very exciting when we have our banded birds return to Nantucket after their bachelor years are up. On Eel Point, CE6 nested right next to their parent from 3 years ago, the infamous “64”! 64 and CE6 are the series of numbers and/or letters on the yellow bands found on a banded Oystercatcher’s legs.
In early August, we participated in the International Shorebird Survey (ISS) Blitz. This was a fun way to collect data for ISS as well as better understand how and what migratory shorebirds species use our island during their migration. All these different species stop on Nantucket to refuel before continuing their migration, so we like to keep some fencing up, limit vehicle use, and keep dogs leashed during the birds’ stay.
From NCF and all the shorebirds on Nantucket, thank you for being so cooperative and caring about our nesting shorebirds! Your efforts to respect the fencing and signage did not go unnoticed by us or the birds. We are already looking forward to seeing our nesting shorebirds return next spring as well as continuing our efforts in helping them be successful parents and fledglings!
About the Nantucket Conservation Foundation: Founded in 1963, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation owns, protects, and stewards over 9,000 acres of land and coastal shoreline, conserves Nantucket’s rare and significant natural resources, and engages in impactful ecological research to inform resource management and further our knowledge of Nantucket’s unique ecosystems and species. We share our environmental expertise with the wider community and provide educational and recreational opportunities to encourage respectful enjoyment and appreciation of our properties. For more information visit www.nantucketconservation.org.