The Foundation has been actively managing piping plover (Charadrius melodus), least and common tern (Sterna antillarum and S. hirundo), and American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliates) nesting areas on its beach properties since 1990. The goal of this work is to prevent disturbance to these rare species and determine if our protection efforts are effective.

Since these protection efforts began, population numbers have increased significantly due to these efforts. Increased use of the Foundation’s properties by these shorebirds emphasizes their ecological importance and conservation value.

Foundation beach properties that provide important habitat for these shorebirds to nest and raise their young include Coatue, Eel Point, The Haulover, Hummock Pond, Long Pond, Capaum Pond, Squam Pond, Pocomo Meadows and Medouie Creek. Science and Stewardship Department staff conducts regular surveys of these sites to document habitat use by staging, migrating, and breeding birds. Prior to April 15th, temporary fencing and signs are placed around the periphery of all historically utilized nesting areas. Additional fencing and signage are placed as needed throughout the season, as soon as shorebird courtship or nesting activities are detected.

These management techniques are conducted in accordance with state and federal guidelines, which stipulate that off-road vehicles use must be prohibited within 100 yards of piping plover and tern nesting sites. Productivity data is gathered and submitted to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program of the Massachusetts Division Fisheries and Wildlife on standardized forms at the end of the breeding season. Surveys of additional bird species of conservation interest that utilize these sites are also conducted in an effort to more effectively document habitat use and develop management strategies for a variety of species occurring on the Foundation’s properties.

Since 2005, the Foundation (NCF) has been a partner in the American Oystercatcher Working Group, a collaboration of over 40 organizations, agencies and research institutions banding and re-sighting oystercatchers to learn about their movement and dispersal. Color band and/or re-sight projects are underway in most Atlantic and Gulf Coast States from Massachusetts to Texas. Color bands contain a unique field-readable code with a color combination specific to the state where banded. Individual birds can be identified and tracked in the field with binoculars or a spotting scope. Many interesting connections between Nantucket and wintering sites of this species have been documented as a result of this collaborative work.

Piping plover <em>(Charadrius melodus)</em>
Piping plover (Charadrius melodus)
American oystercatcher <em>(Haematopus palliatus)</em>
American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)
Colorbanding an oystercatcher chick
Colorbanding an oystercatcher chick