Annual beach closure to protect first piping plover nests

Cape Henlopen State Park announces annual beach closure

to protect first piping plover nests of the season

Training for beachnesting bird monitors to be held May 17 at Cape Henlopen State Park

LEWES (May 14, 2014) – Delaware beachnesting bird monitors discovered the first piping plover nests of the season at Cape Henlopen State Park last week, with one at Gordons Pond and two on the Point. All three pairs are now incubating their nests. Since it is early in the season, more nests are expected in both locations.

To minimize disturbances to the tiny shorebirds, a half-mile stretch of beach at Gordons Pond between the Observation Towers and the Herring Point crossover will be closed to the public this week with signs, twine and PVC posts cordoning off the area. As with previous seasons, a portion of the beach at the Point was closed in March.

“Closing off plover nesting areas is an established protocol every year at Cape Henlopen, and this closing is in the typical area that beachgoers are accustomed to. This area will remain closed until the last of our plover chicks are fledged, usually in late August,” said Wildlife Biologist Matthew Bailey, who coordinates the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Piping Plover Protection Program.

In other beachnesting bird news, American oystercatcher pairs have been observed at both Gordons Pond and the Point, but no nests have been seen yet.


Training for volunteer piping plover, beachnesting bird monitors to be held May 17

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Volunteers who want to learn more about Delaware’s piping plovers and other beachnesting birds and find out how they can join DNREC’s monitoring team are invited to a free training session from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 17, at the Biden Center at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Delaware.

The session will begin with refreshments and a slideshow, followed by a discussion on the monitoring program and how volunteers can help to ensure that beachnesting shorebirds are not disturbed so they can successfully rear their chicks.

Weather permitting, the group will finish the session by venturing out to the Point at Cape Henlopen to look for piping plovers and other shorebirds likely to be feeding on the tidal flats. Birding scopes and binoculars will be available for use, but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own optics.

Bailey hopes the session will draw both new and seasoned volunteers – and plenty of them – to help DNREC staff in their efforts to protect beach-nesters and educate the public.

“Volunteers are critical to our protection efforts. When positioned at the boundaries of the nesting areas, they can help explain facts about nesting birds and the importance of keeping closed areas free of human disturbance. Without having volunteers to supplement the coverage our staff provides, many people might never have the chance to better understand how humans can make a difference in the nesting success of beach-nesting birds,” Bailey said.

Preregistration is encouraged, but attendees also will be accepted at the door. Park entrance fees will be waived for volunteers attending the training by notifying the fee booth attendant. For more information on the training, beachnesting birds or monitoring efforts, please contact Wildlife Biologist Matt Bailey at 302-382-4151 or

About the piping plover

The piping plover was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1986, and the Division of Fish and Wildlife is responsible for its protection in Delaware, where Cape Henlopen is its only current nesting area. Under a binding agreement and subsequent species management plan that DNREC made in 1990 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the federal agency with oversight of this ESA-protected species, piping plover nesting areas at Cape Henlopen State Park are closed annually to the public to protect the shorebirds from disturbance during their March to September nesting season, including the Point and smaller areas around Gordon’s Pond. The closure has been successful, increasing the number of piping plover nesting pairs from a low of two pairs to a high of nine pairs, and must include feeding habitat as well as nesting areas. Piping plovers feed on small invertebrates that inhabit the intertidal zone near their nesting territories. Chicks are not fed by their parents, but rather are led to the shoreline to forage while the adults keep watch for potential threats. Allowing pedestrian traffic in the intertidal zone adjoining nesting areas would disturb the vital link between nesting and foraging habitat and risk adverse stress or mortality to the chicks.


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