EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 20, 2012

Battle over the birds

Fence going up to ensure their safety


“We’re going to expand the (plover) habitat,” von Oettingen said.

Further requirements include fencing behind the sand to create a human barrier between private beach front residences and the plover habitat. The fencing will cut off access to what von Oettingen considers the “illegal” private walkways over the dunes. But the fencing will leave open the town’s beach access boardwalks,which she said are adequate for beachgoers.

Plover nests

Seabrook’s town-owned beach is the most plover-productive stretch of sand along New Hampshire’s 17-miles of coastline. Plovers like grassy sand dunes to nest in, and currently, they’ve found that environment on only Seabrook and Hampton beaches. Seabrook Beach is one of the most stable in the region, with healthy dunes that do not suffer from the type of erosion that plagues other communities in the region.

According to figures kept by N.H. Fish and Game, from 1996 to 2011, 179 plover chicks hatched in New Hampshire, although not all make it to maturity.

However, in that 15 year periods, 89 piping plovers survived their vulnerable early days of life, and of those, 75 percent came from the roped-off nests in the dunes along the northern section of Seabrook’s town beach.

Plovers are listed as a threatened species nationally, but are on the endangered species list in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. As a result, the birds breeding cycles are protected by the both state and federal endangered species acts.

In New Hampshire, Fish and Game keeps and eye out for where ever the birds nest. Those areas are then cordoned off with what is called “symbolic fencing,” which amounts to nothing more than stakes and roping. The roped-off area is meant to alert humans to stay away, but it doesn’t keep the parents or chicks in, because they must forage for food. In addition, animals like fisher cats, skunks, raccoon and even feral cats can prey on the nests. Seabrook has had as many as four pairs of nesting plovers during those years, with each pair laying a maximum of four eggs.

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