A pair of tiny snowy plovers have nested at Pescadero State Beach for the first time since 1980. Over the weekend, their even tinier chicks fledged.
Snowy plovers are delightful to watch--darting across the sand on their toothpick-sized legs. They make their nests right in the sand, and that's one reason they ended up on the threatened species list. They're vulnerable to non-native predators, such as the red fox. They're also being crowded out by encroaching development.
After the discovery of the nest on June 17, California State Park Plover Watch volunteers tracked the progress of the chicks. "Volunteers assisted State Park staff to install a cable fence, closing off an area where the plovers could seek refuge from disturbance," according to Nelle Lyons, California Department of Parks and Recreation Park Ranger. "Plover Watch volunteers saw all three chicks for the first ten days; but now there are only two."
The Pacific Coast population of the Western Snowy Plover was granted protections as a threatened species under the Federal Endangered Species Act in 1993. It's believed that conservation measures played a role in the snowy plover's resurgence. According to Lyons, "About ten years ago the rules and regulations were reevaluated at the California State Parks along the San Mateo Coast in order to make the beaches where snowy plovers historically nested more hospitable for birds. One major change was that dogs were restricted from four beaches, including Pescadero."
If you're planning to visit Pescadero or one of the other state beaches, Lyons recommends the following for protecting wildlife:
- Follow posted rules at parks and remain outside of protected habitat areas to leave a refuge for birds and wildlife.
- Dispose of food and trash properly to prevent attracting predators such as ravens.
- Participate in Citizen Science programs by watching birds and wildlife and submitting your observations.
- Become a State Park volunteer and take an active role in your California State Parks.
- Support the San Mateo Coast Natural History Association that directly funds activities in the local State Parks.
Coastsiders are huge dog lovers. Were you aware that dogs had been banned at some beaches to protect wildlife? Tell us in the comments.