With one more week down and one left to go I’ve been pondering the effectiveness of our efforts. As we sit day after day on the beach I can only hope that I’m buying these birds and this ecosystem that much more time to repair itself. I’m not nieve enough to think that my individual effort is of mass significance. Our species as a whole will never fully embrace the idea of conservation until all of our immediate needs are met. With people starving and dying of illness my tiny birds seem to be a misallocation of resources. But is it really? After 11 weeks, I have become quite connected to their cause and I believe that for humanity to function at it’s greatest potential we must maintain the diversity of the natural world around us. If we can not find value in creatures that exist for purposes we do not fully understand then there is little hope for people to find value in each other. We believe that there is purpose in life. I am helping preserve the lives that maintain their elusive purpose. It is important.
I’ve tried to come up with something of intrest to write about this week and I’m not sure if I have anything but I’ll give it a shot. Starting on Wednesday there was a healthy increase in beach goers and it’s become mandatory that we sit on the beaches daily to maintain the closure of the intertidal zone. On Thursday, however there wasn’t enough people on staff to do this so we serviced the trucks and attempted to do a tiger beetle survey. I say attempted because they don’t actually make a full appearance until August and all we really did was walk around the tip of the hook until Jed, our laborer, had to use the restroom. As for the events that go along with the daily sitting, they are minimal. I can honestly say that unless you are stationed at South Critical Zone the people are very pleasant and willing to cooperate with the closures. South Critical people however, will yell, curse and completely disregard every sign and warning. It is so distressing to argue for 20 minutes with someone about something they should be able to clearly read. It’s really a case of “I’m sorry you don’t agree with the park policies sir, but I’m really not the person that you should complain to.” 70 times. The repeat offenders number in the hundreds and all you can do is stand there and tell them again to move. The law enforcement guys are busy with real problems and traffic and Jeanne also works traffic so it’s basically us against the world and it’s a losing battle, if only in that tiny area. The visitors at the other beaches have been nothing short of delightful. I have been pleasantly surprised at how many people are actually interested when I talk about the birds and their nesting habits. I’ve even had visitors help me keep the area closed by telling other visitors not to go in when I’m too far away. For the second day in a row I’ve been offered water and beverages by beach goers sitting near me. I’m impressed to see so many people in good spirits despite the hot weather and other shore problems. There was a plague of flies on the beach due to the land breeze and I was being swarmed when the woman with the group next to me offered a towel to cover up my bleeding legs. (yeah biting flies draw blood) Also, there has been an influx of blood jellyfish that are very unpleasant to deal with. Amidst that and the sand being blown by harsh winds people are still happy to be at the beach. The Plovers are safe for now and with only one nest left to hatch, this years fledge rate is looking good. The tan has reached it’s peak and it’s almost time to go so I’m feeling good about life right now.
Life After Hatching~
Well I think this concludes the day by day format because frankly life after hatching is boring. All but 2 of our nests are hatched or dead. The nests that are hatched we monitor daily and count the chicks. We’ve extended the nesting area at
Wednesday June 25th-Babysitting
Today was a lazy day. The staff party was last night so everyone came in today tired and a bit nauseous “from the mayo” as my boss said after she came in 2 hours late. We were promised a trip out to the island on the government boat but when Jeanne didn’t come in we figured the boat trip was off. Kim and I were stationed at the North and South ends of Critical Zone to keep the unusually large beach going crowd out of the intertidal zone. Later, Jeanne came and took the Bio Techs and some volunteers out on the boat but Kim and I weren’t invitedL. Actually it was probably for the best because the volunteers were not very into birds and continued to make comments that made me want to inflict pain on them. I did not. But I wanted to. They put up symbolic fencing around one OC nest on
Thursday June 26th- Life is fun
Today was looking to another truck riding day because of the threat of rain. There was hardly anyone in the park and according to the weather it’s going to be this way for the next few days including the weekend. Yes! But I digress. Instead of a day long Least Tern count Jeanne let me and Jed (the kid she hired as a laborer) join Kim and Bri on a canoe trip with the interp people. It was under the guise that I had to go out to the island and stake the failed OC nest and check on the OC chicks. I really think it was because she felt bad that I didn’t make the boat trip. We paddled to the old bunkers on the bay side with really weird Spanish looking graffiti and then around to the island where I was able to verify the continued survival of the very cute OC chicks. Then, we went back and Jeanne had caught a Hognose Snake. After putting it in the take back in the office we broke for lunch. There had been a dolphin sighting while I was eating so we had to go sit on the bay side in the truck and keep an eye out for the pod of 12 that has reportedly been feeding in the area. I didn’t see a one but we got some paperwork done. We checked the chicks (Least Tern, OC, and Plover) at
Friday, Saturday and Sunday were dedicated to Osprey banding. (see pics) Basically, we recruited strong manly me to carry our ladder to the stands set up around the park for the Osprey to nest on. Then they erect and lean the ladder against the nest and Jeanne goes up and brings down an Osprey chick. The ones we banded were between 1 and 4 weeks old and there is a vast difference in size. The one week chick couldn’t be banded because it was too small and downy. They were all so cute.
Wednesday, June 18- One step forward three steps back
The circle of life is a vicious, mind-numbing, battle for survival in the unforgiving bedlam of existence. There is nothing more defeating then watching nature and human nature battle against the continued survival of the Piping Plover. Today we found one nest with three eggs in an area of beach that has been highly predadated by fox. There is nothing we can do. The crafty predator has dug into every exclosure on that beach and it is likely that anything we use to defend the nest will attract the fox. We lost 1 nest to fox today as well as 2 nests that were abandoned for unknown causes. This leaves us with 46 nesting attempts, 17 active nests, including 3 hatched nests with 11 chicks. They have one more week to nest before there breeding season ends and the pairs that don’t have nests leave to feed. The next pair set to hatch abandoned, so it’ll be a week before we can completely comprehend the effects that the fox and the weather have had on the Plovers. All we can do know is set traps and hope that there is a sharp decline in the nesting failures. Even though it’s natural causes killing these nest I can’t help but take it personally. I have done all I can and I still feel that I’m helpless against the overwhelming odds against us. It’s hard to go from 26 active nests to 17 in the course of a week. Pray for full traps in the morning.
And then there was JOY!
Finally after our overwhelming streak of devastation there has been a joyous reprieve. We received an anonymous tip form a local birder that there was an Oyster Catcher pair that had chicks on the bayside where we had yet to look for any nests. When we went over to the island where Jeanne suspected the nest might be. We saw the OC nesting plover pair. In addition to the excitement on the island, we found a box turtle on the road and got to tag and file it. It peed all over the truck. We also were fortunate enough to catch the fox that has been pillaging the nests at North. It was not the cute and cuddly as the fox pups that we were catching down at Fee. It looked mangy and smelled like it had recently been sprayed by a skunk and it proceeded to defecate all over the bed of the truck and the smell still continues to linger. It did in fact have mange and it had to be shot by law enforcement. It was really hard to watch the pain and suffering that the fox was going through because of the infection. Death was really a blessing for the poor thing. All of our plover chicks are happy and healthy. The Coast Guard clutch has been testing there wings and soon will be fledging. Eddies chicks are doing well and are happily running in and out of the nesting area because, like their parents, they love to live on the edge. On North beach and
This is one of the most emotionally trying experiences I’ve ever had. My mind is dominated by thoughts of Plovers, Oyster Catchers and Terns. My attitude is directly related to the survival rate that day. It is soo rewarding to see all the chicks and to feel like I’ve made a difference in the life of these small birds and that future generations will have a chance to enjoy the cuteness of the Plovers. It really is worth it.
June 7th and 8th – Bring The Heat!
This was the first weekend that the temperatures broke into the 90’s. I have learned the in the park service you pray for a beautiful week and a rainy miserable weekend. This is, of course, because people flock to the coast to try and escape the heat and that means a lot of effort has to be exerted to maintain order. In addition to that, the bridge construction has all cars leaving merging from 3 lanes to one so there is and incredible back up at closing and some cars don’t get out till after dark. There was some excitement Saturday when we trapped 4 fox (a plover predator). They were soo cute and sweet looking and it broke my heart when Kerri said they would probably be killed. I wanted to go in the middle of the night and release them somewhere but that would have been unnecessary. Bruce said we could call a relocater and have them sent somewhere. I’m really relived because I would have put them in my room and kept them as pets. Outside of that I spent my weekend on the beach maintaining law and order. I think people were too hot to misbehave because there was not a lot of rule breaking. The bridge malfunctioned today and was stuck open for a while but I just got word that it’s all cleared up. It is hot. No Work till Wednesday!
Wednesday, June 11- Outreach
Today was a time to reflect on my blessings. Thank you Lord for not calling me to teach. I say this in reflection on our first task of the day. There was a bus full of fourth graders, one teacher and 3 parent chaperons all eager to run amuck in an effort to be educated on the wonders of costal habitat. Jeanne, Amanda, Kerri, Kim and I all had stations where the youngens would come to “learn” (or in my case make a brilliant mess). Kim had Seashore Bingo, Kerrie, Amanda, and Jeanne helped the chillins into waders and let them use a net to catch sea life (in the bay) and I played with plastic fish and paint. There was laughing, there was crying, it was a beautiful mess of chaos and I feel that there is a reason I will never be a teacher. After a brief beach clean-up we left the students to there authority figures and went to lunch. Of course there is no good news for the afternoon. We lost 3 nests to fox and spent the rest of the day putting out fox traps baited with cat food. Why do the cute fluffy things eat the cute fluffy things?!?!?
Thursday, June 12th- Loss
We caught 2 more foxes and lost 2 more nests to foxes. There was a lot of trapping involved but we believe the culprit is still at large. The traps are really heavy and we bait them with cat food. Fox are invasive to
Friday June 13th – Ride in the truck.
The first half of the day was spent collecting the traps that we had set yesterday because we couldn’t risk leaving them out over the weekend and not getting back to them. Then we rode around in the truck for the rest of the day until 3:30. Jeanne offered us a tour of the
Saturday June 14th and Sunday June 15th – sitting
This weekend was not nearly as crowded as last weekend due to predictions of thunder storms. On Saturday I sat at south north
Week Three and Four (because I only worked 4 days in week 3)
Friday May 23rd- Sun Shine!
Today was a good day. In the morning we exclosed 2 nests. When you exclose a nest you have approximately 6 minutes to dig 5 holes for a circular fence with a netting cover to be put in, pound in 4 stakes and a lightening rod and run electric wiring around the outside of the wire fencing. This is, of course, if all runs smoothly. Our first exclosure, erected last Tuesday, Eddie, was not that convenient and on the last hole there was a rock where the hole needed to be and all the holes had to be redug. On our second exclosure the charger for the electric wiring was dead and we had to wait for someone to bring another one from the truck. Today, however, went smoothly and the exclosures went up in plenty of time. This was amazing because it normally takes 4 or more people to do it efficiently but today we only had 3. The exclosures keep out predators while allowing the plovers to run freely through the gaps in the wire fencing and under the electrified wire. We also found 3 plover nests and 2 Oyster Catcher nests. Oyster Catchers are also endangered shore birds but they are too large to exclose so we just monitor their nests. Tomorrow we get a first taste of summer crowds and beach patrol as well as possibly exclosing our new nests. For once it was sunny. Still cold but it’s progress.
Saturday May 24- I found a nest
This was not the day we were anticipating. This was supposed to be the first day we would sit out on the beach and enforce the nesting area regulations. In the morning we went out to the beach to check on our Plover nests and OC nests. Unfortunately, one of our Plover nests had been destroyed by a predator. We think it was a crow because of the tracks nearby. None of the other nests had 2 eggs so no exclosures needed to be erected. There weren’t many people on the beach so instead of sitting on the beach for the day we went nest searching on Coast Guard beach. We were out there for maybe 15 minutes when Amanda found a nest with 2 eggs. We exclosed with the equipment we had in the truck from the morning. Ten minutes later Kim found a nest with 2 eggs that had to be exclosed. Finally we were walking back to the truck when I noticed a whole bunch of plover tracks leading back into the dunes. I went to investigate and found a nest with 3 eggs and a very disturbed Plover. This was the second nest I found but the first one that wasn’t in a marked scrape with 2 other people looking in the same area. It was bitter sweet because as awesome as it was to follow the tracks and find a nest we had run out of exclosures and we had to drive back to the shed to get another. Now we have a little running competition going: Whoever doesn’t find a nest buys the pizza.
Sunday May 25-
For the second day in a row I’ve packed a lunch and prepared to have a long sit on the beach protecting the plovers. Once again my hopes were dashed by long drives in the truck and exclosures as well as long walks on the beach. The crowds weren’t enough to justify guard placement so we looked for nests and drove the beaches to monitor the known nests. We didn’t find any new nests.
Memorial Day- Law Enforcement
We finally got to guard the nesting area! And the people are stupid. Today’s adventure will remain in my memory for many years to come. I guarded Eddie. If you have forgotten, Eddie and Edwina are a special pair of Plovers that nested on a pathway to a very popular beach. This was rather simple because Eddie’s exclosure is a 250x250 area as opposed to other nesting areas that are ¼ to ½ miles long. But back to the adventures. After asking a mad to take his dog to the other beach and clean up the mess it made while I was telling him this. I was sitting and enjoying the pleasant weather when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a shoe flying through the air. I looked over and there was a woman throwing shoes to her very young daughter directly toward my nesting area! By the time I got over there she had already launched one of the shoes just inside the flags and another a good ways in. The woman could clearly see the ropes because her daughter was avoiding going into the area. I retrieved the shoe that I could reach but the other shoe was far in. I told them that there was no reason to be throwing shoes and that they couldn’t go into the nesting area to retrieve the shoe because it should have never made it in there. The woman’s husband became very angry and threatened to call the police. I oblige him and called Jeanne who sent over some rangers who proceeded to run his license and write him a ticket for disturbing a nesting area and issue him a warning for driving on a suspended license. After about 20 minutes he came over and apologized for giving me such a hard time and I got the sandal because I didn’t want him hanging out there the rest of the day. Everyone is still marveling about the stupid people who through shoes at Eddie.
Friday May 30-
After 3 days off working on my tan, I worked alone with Jeanne. It was a busy day. Jeanne walked the beaches and I drove along side. At
Saturday May 31- More Holes
We are having the worst luck when it comes to Plovers nesting in inconvenient areas. First, we had to extend the nesting area at Fee and South Fee because the Plovers were scraping in front on the rope line and in the walkway from the parking lot to the beach. This would have taken a really long time if it wasn’t for the help of 3 law enforcement people who were more interested in our job then theirs at the moment. AJ, Dustin and Tina were a really big help and we were done just in time for lunch. After lunch it rained so we finally took our 2008 IT training. The rain stopped so it was back to extending nesting areas. The nest I found at CZ yesterday was right next to the rope line so we had to extend it out 100 feet so walkers wouldn’t disturb the Plovers. With continued assistance form Dustin we very efficiently extended this area as well. This is just another example of why we think the Plovers are going extinct.
Sunday May 1- Beach Sitting
Protect the nesting areas! I sat at CZ today and defended the cute little birds from the evils if kites, balls and stupid people. It was not incredibly bad today and most of the defending I had to do was from people playing with balls. There was how ever one really inconvenient offence really far into the nesting area. I had to sprint in the sand after a family who decided that the rope line and posted signs didn’t apply to them. By the time I got there they were on the dunes. I yelled until they noticed me and told them they weren’t allowed to be in the nesting area. When they had finally walked back out of the nesting area I explained to them the seriousness of the situation and that if there is a $500 fine for entering a nesting area. The response was priceless. The woman looked at me and asked “is that on the sign?”. It is very clearly on the signs that they obviously didn’t read before. Just one more example of a complete disregard for posted areas. We need more people to protect these areas or else no one will take the time to avoid nesting areas.
Monday May 2nd- Water Testing
Water Testing! I will probably never be able to do this again because it’s done on Mondays and Mondays are my days off. The only reason I’m working this Monday is because my family is coming out to visit me on Wednesday and Thursday so Bri was kind enough to switch with me. What we do is basically collect water samples from different areas around the Hook on the ocean and bay side and a person from New York come and takes the samples back to there lab and tests it for contaminants. This would be reassuring if it wasn’t just all for show and even if there was high contamination levels in the water the beaches remain open with absolutely no notification of the public. God Bless
Tuesday May 3rd- More Death
We walked some beaches but no luck. We lost 2 nests and found one. This wasn’t a big surprise because the two we lost were on the same beach and both had nested below the high tide line. The parents may or may not re nest because it is so late in the season and Plovers need to incubate for a month and then it takes another month for the chicks to fledge the nest. They migrate in August so June 24th tends to be the cut off date for successful nests.
Eddie is doing well.
There are criminal investigators building a case on the walkway built through the nesting habitat. It is likely there will be a trial.
Day Seven- More Holes
Today started out all sunny and bright. We had to go out and extend the nesting area on one of the beaches. I’m not really good with the hole digger so I do what I can to help move the signs, string and flag. I know I’ll have to work with it more though. We spent the rest of the morning looking for eggs and checking the nests. We didn’t find any eggs but there were some good scrapes. Scrapes are little scratches in the sand where Plovers are considering having a nest. They are really well concealed so that predators can’t easily identify a nest but it also makes it hard for conservation workers to find a nest. There was a pair doing the broken wing defense but there was only a really good scrape, no eggs. There were a lot of dead sea gulls though. Eddie wasn’t on his nest but we’re hoping that he was nearby and just hasn’t started incubating yet. In the afternoon we continued looking for eggs but it started raining so Jeanne let us leave early. It’s still raining. My experience from today is that field work is a lot of walking and patience. We’re all hoping that the plovers regroup quickly and have lots of little nests for us tomorrow. I however, will be off tomorrow and Tuesday so Wednesday will be the next day I’m working. I’m off to
And the rest of the week:
Actually, my relatives weren't expecting me until Tuesday so I just did some housekeeping and actually went out and did more nest hunting in the afternoon. There was a whole ordeal with the supervisor here authorizing a path through the nesting area. There was a lot of yelling. People are threatening each others jobs and it's a whole big mess. Wednesday we found 3 nests. Today was cold and windy with scattered rain. Everyone is really on edge because of the path and the weather that keeps killing our nests. Tomorrow we're hoping to find more nests and exclose the ones with 2 eggs. Wish me luck!
- Current Location:Sandy Hook
- Current Mood: anxious
- Current Music:One Headlight
Hello and Welcome to my weekly blog about my internship at Sandy Hook National Recreational Area working with the endangered Piping Plover. I’m really excited to be here and I hope that you enjoy hearing about all of our adventures in our quest to save this very cute little bird.
Day 1-A Stormy Arrival
After a two day drive across
When you arrive somewhere for the first time typically there is an adjustment period. Normally during this time there is an orientation and introduction to general tasks that you will be expected to perform. Not today. Today I learned how to recover from a storm that completely undid all the work that had been done on the site.
Step one: Drive around and make note of all the devastation.
Of the 13 recorded and protected nests 4 survived the storm. The rest were flooded. The majority of the signs that designate the nesting areas were ripped from the ground and thrown across the beach as well as taken out to sea. The Plovers are running/flying around in frantic discontent.
Step two: Find the wayward signs.
After looking at all the nesting beaches, Kim, Amanda, Kerrie (the other Bio Tech), Jeanne (our site supervisor), and I jump out of our shanzy white pick-up and begin walking the beach in search of the thrown signs. Of course they are impossibly tangled in beach litter and string so it takes sharp objects to cut them free. It is quite cool on the ocean side and gusty. We collected up the signs in the truck and took them back to the work shed. Note: we also got to take note of all the dead things we found. The list stands at turtle, cat, oyster catcher, and seal.
Step three: Repair the signs
After lunch there was still much to be done. The signs are actually 12 x 9 ¾ pieces of plywood mounted on 2x2 stakes. Then you take a staple hammer (coolest tool ever) and attach a sign that informs visitors of the park that they are not allowed in the nesting areas. Also, our 3rd SCA, Bri, arrived.
Step four: String and Flag
During our lunch break, other volunteers had replanted some of the signs so for the rest of the day we tied string between the signs with bright orange marking flags. Gosh these little birds are a lot of work and we haven’t even finished all the beaches. It wasn’t really all that hard and I really enjoy working with the crew so here’s to the little birds! We’ll save you!
Day 3: The reason why Plovers are endangered and the nude beach
Today we learned about hole digging. Those signs do not just magically appear in a nice neat line along the beach. First someone must dig a hole and that must be done with a tool called a hole digger. I am not at one with the hole digger. This was the least pleasant of our tasks thus far. After resigning one beach, we were driving to our next beach to resign when the truck stopped suddenly. Jeanne said “Plover!” as the small bird scampered across our path. Upon further inspection there was not on but 2 Plovers and they were behaving in a way that indicated a nest. This was not good because they were on a walk way, outside the nesting area, behind a wall of rocks. Plovers prefer low traffic areas to nest so this was a highly unusual location for this bird to be acting this way. Jeanne got out of the truck to assess the situation and sure enough this pair of Plovers laid an egg right in the middle of the walk way. This is a problem. After careful consideration and criticism of the Plover pair Jeanne decided to put up a 100’x100’ enclosure around the egg. Yeah that meant more holes. 40 more holes to be exact and wire fencing and more informational signs and stringing. All because this pair of Plovers had to be unique. 3 hours later they were safely within their own personal nesting area. I dubbed the bird on the nest Eddie. I thought it was appropriate because of the TV cartoon Ed Edd and Eddie, where Eddie is the kid with all the crafty ideas that go horribly wrong. The best part about this is that sometimes Plovers will lay one egg and abandon the nest if they get spooked so they could just get up and walk away and leave the egg and all of our hard work. Yay Plovers! Lol
So let’s talk about the second half of the day. Not nearly as eventful but very um... eye opening? The nude beach,
¤ Went to Home Depot for wood.
¤ Built signs
¤ Restrung nesting areas
¤ Went back to the nude beach (not as crowded as yesterday)
¤ Checked on Eddie (still there!)
It was a beautiful day and the nesting areas are coming together nicely. Tomorrow we may finally get to see the training videos. This has been more like a trial by fire so I think we’re fairing well enough. I think that I’m more attached to the project now because I’ve been a part of the recovery. I respect all the work that was done for us that we had to redo. This may have been a cushy beach job for previous SCA’s but I think the work will make the experience more rewarding.
Day Five-Rainy Day
Well it rained all day. There wasn't a whole bunch to do in the rain so we drove into town and got an oil change for the truck. We did some nest searching from the truck but all and all it was a very chill day. Since there isn't much to say about our work day let me tell you more about my none-work situation. Today we got certified on the government computers...the 2007 version. Yeah that was a problem. Now we have to take the 2008 version as well as 2 other authorizing programs before we are "officially" allowed on the government computers. This wouldn't be so bad if my flash drive wasn't incompatible with the computer and the government doesn't allow me to access live journal. If you are reading this I have made my way to the public library and I'm thanking God for the internet.
In addition to technical difficulties, today we were informed that we will not be receiving washers and dryers so to do laundry we can go to another building or into town. We also have yet to receive a table and chairs or any respectable furniture for the common area. The picnic table that was there was removed and placed 10 feet from our front door. We currently dine standing around or sitting on the countertop. I am happy to report, however, that the ant infestation has seemingly disappeared. I know this sounds like a lot of complaining but I truly do love being here. The people are great and I love my job. This is just a small piece of venting. Life is good. Now if it would only stop raining.
Day Six- More Devastation
Today was a sad day again. There were 2 nests flooded, bringing the count down to 3. Thankfully Eddie is still happily nesting and we put an extra enclosure around him to day. We spent the rest of the day nest hunting but the birds just looked very lethargic. I saw a Plover mating ritual and it really looks like they are trying out for the Rocketts. The library is closing so I have to go but never fear I will be back next week to post all of my new adventures! Take Care!
- Current Location:Sandy Hook
- Current Mood: energetic
- Current Music:Ocean Ave. Yellowcard