Piping Plover Monitoring at Refurbished Hammonasset Beach
March 8, 2018 – The Connecticut Audubon Society, working under a contract with the Connecticut Port Authority, is beginning a program to monitor the population of Piping Plovers at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison.
The program is part of the follow up work required as a condition of federal approval for a dredging project that took material from the Housatonic River to re-build part of the beach at Hammonasset. The project was funded and completed by the Connecticut Port Authority at the end of 2017.
Monitoring of the restored section of beach, supervised by Connecticut Audubon, will begin March 15 and continue at least until mid-July. If plovers begin to populate the rejuvenated beach area, appropriate fencing and signs will be put in place to discourage beach-goers from disturbing the bird’s nesting areas.
Up to $100,000, covering the next five years, was set aside in the project budget to pay for this environmental protection initiative.
“The Port Authority’s mission is to enhance the maritime industry in Connecticut and dredging projects like the Housatonic project are part of that plan, but it is also important to do so in ways that protect the environment,” said Scott Bates, chairman of the board of Port Authority. “In this case, we’ve been able to use dredged material to help re-build the beach at an iconic state park and at the same time provide potential new habitat for a fragile native bird species. We are delighted we’ve been able to access the expertise of the Connecticut Audubon Society for this project.”
Listed as threatened under the federal and state Endangered Species Acts, Piping Plovers nest only on beaches, where they are vulnerable to high tides, predators, pets, and human disturbances. Sixty-six pairs nested in Connecticut in 2017, the most since records started being kept in the mid-1990s. Those 66 nests produced 100 fledglings.
The bird’s recent success is largely attributable to the work of the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, which monitors and protects plovers statewide using the methods Connecticut Audubon will use at Hammonasset. The Audubon Alliance consists of the Connecticut Audubon Society, The Roger Tory Peterson Institute, and Audubon Connecticut, working under the supervision of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“We commend the Port Authority for taking the welfare of Piping Plovers seriously,” said Patrick Comins, Connecticut Audubon’s executive director. “Their decision is the right one. We’ve demonstrated that monitoring beaches and protecting Piping Plovers results in an increase in the number of birds. We hope that the beach project at Hammonasset creates room for the birds to expand their range. If so, we’ll do our best to help them succeed.
“If other states were doing as well as Connecticut is doing, Piping Plovers probably would likely be headed for removal from the endangered species list.”
The Connecticut Port Authority expressed its appreciation for the Army Corps of Engineers, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for guidance on this project which has benefited the state in several ways.