Friday, October 2, 2009

"What I did this Summer" or Beachnester Final Summary 2009 via DE's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program

Beachnester Final Summary 2009

October 2, 2009

Piping Plover

The piping plover 2009 nesting season was generally successful, although there is plenty of good habitat at Cape Henlopen State Park that could support more pairs of nesting plovers as the years progress. There are also other sites that have suitable habitat for plover nesting.  These sites will continue to be monitored. Also, in 2009, productivity for the plovers was fairly good, although an increase in numbers of chicks fledged is a reasonably attainable goal for future seasons.


There were ten pairs of piping plovers nesting at Cape Henlopen this season, which matches our record high from 2008.  From these pairs, 13 chicks fledged, a vast improvement over our fledge numbers in 2008 (3 chicks fledged) but just short of the record high number of chicks fledged (14 chicks in 2003).  As has been the case in recent years, Cape Henlopen is the only place in Delaware where piping plovers nested in 2009.


Least Terns

Least terns had another tough year breeding in Delaware.  It has been over five years since least terns have been observed to have fledged chicks in Delaware.  This season, four small colonies of least terns established in Delaware.  Two were at Cape Henlopen, one was at South Bowers Beach and one was at Fowlers Beach.  All told, there were just under 20 pairs of least terns nesting in Delaware this year.  A combination of frequent floods associated with tidal surges and predation caused the failures of the least tern colonies.


American Oystercatcher

American oystercatchers nested on shores of the Delaware and Inland Bays and at Cape Henlopen on the Atlantic Coast.  Due to the remote nature of the nesting sites on the Delaware and Inland Bays, attaining solid data on nest success was not possible with the level of staffing currently available, although oystercatcher chicks were observed on Middle Island which is just west of the Indian River Inlet.


The two oystercatcher pairs nesting at Cape Henlopen were closely monitored while staff was in the process of monitoring piping plovers.  One of these pairs lost their nest to overwash at Gordons Pond.  The second pair hatched their two chicks out on the tip of the Point.  The chicks were observed for about ten days and then disappeared.  Their fate is unknown, but it is not thought they reached fledge age.


Seabeach Amaranth

The federally listed seabeach amaranth grows in the same kinds of habitat in which plovers nest (i.e. sparsely vegetated dune slopes and overwashes).  This year about 40 amaranth plants were found at Cape Henlopen.  Unfortunately, frequent tidal surges (including powerful waves sent our way courtesy of Hurricane Bill) washed out all but two of the plants.  On the encouraging side, some of the plants that were washed out were able to set seed before being lost.

Despite thorough searches at all of the coastal state parks and at possible sites on the Delaware Bay, no amaranth was found outside of the boundaries of Cape Henlopen State Park this year.  Typically, the stretch of beach between Tower Road and Key Box Road at Delaware Seashore State Park hosts amaranth.  Although no amaranth were found there this season, seeds can persist in the sand for many years and it is likely that amaranth will be found there again in future years.


If anyone has any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.



Matthew Bailey

Wildlife Biologist

Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program

Phone: (302) 382-4151




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