BPW: Piping Plovers

by John Briggs on July 27, 2009

in Bird Photographs, Bird Photography Weekly, Blog

One of my favorite beaches to watch and photograph shorebirds is Goose Rocks Beach near Kennebunkport, Maine. During fall migration, (which has begun here in Maine)shorebirds by the thousands visit this beach where the Baston River empties into Goosefare Bay. The sand flats at low tide offer great views of these beautiful birds.

Shorebird and waders such as Piping Plovers, Semipalmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstones, Sandpipers galore, Willets, Great and Lesser Yellowlegs, Short and Longbilled Dowitchers, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Egrets and more make the stop here to feed on the rich marine organisms that are an important part of these birds diet.

Piping Plover and Least Tern nest on this beach every year, which in turn closes the beach until the birds depart. Fencing is put up to defend the nest against predators such as Fox, Skunk and Raccoons. During the 2008 nesting season the beach hosted 7 pairs of Piping Plover. Ten nesting attempts resulted in 15 fledglings. One fledgling was found dead in a sand sculpture in the month of July 2008. Dogs and cats are always present on the beach, which is a NO DOG beach during nesting season.

Don’t get me wrong as I love dogs. But I have little patience with those who ignore the signage that  declares no dogs are allowed on the beach. I have witnessed people out there with their dogs running loose chasing shorebirds and doing nothing to control their pets. Most of these people are from out of state, but that is no excuse. With the number of signs and the obvious activity of the shorebirds it’s a matter of common sense to not take pets on the beach. When I see this happening, the pet owners get a stern scolding. By the way, this is the same beach where I was attacked by a dog last year whose owners from New York did nothing to control it. I was admonished for having a large camera thereby scaring the dog. HELLO! Keep your damned dog off of the closed beach!!

Piping plovers are facing a terrible fight for survival on Maine’s beaches. As if the natural challenges of predators and ocean storms weren’t enough, they also have to cope with thousands of people and beachside development in their habitat. The survival of these beautiful birds depend on each and every one of us!

The following photos were taken from a distance with a 400mm lens. I was not close enough to stress these birds nor did I tramp around their nesting area. As always, clicking a thumbnail will open a shadowbox for a larger view.

Happy birding!



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