Plovers Rebound! Dogs Exonerated!
OK, folks, the 2014 piping plover results are in. I know you’ve been waiting on the edges of your seats! Turns out it was a decent year overall for piping plovers all along the Maine coast. In fact, as I’m sure the Audubon headline will tout, the most chicks fledged since 2001! Huzzah.
It’s only when you look at the detail of plover activity and productivity on local beaches that some very startling results appear. Audubon, USFWS and MDIFW hope you don’t bother to look that closely at the numbers. But, smart consumer of plover information that you are, you will now look at what the bird extremists don’t want you to know…
Here are a few of the observations about the local experience that jump out at us:
• Scarborough State Park Beach – a State-owned facility with a total NO DOGS policy – appears to have had the absolute worst results of any beach in the State… five plover pairs making six nest attempts and not producing a single fledged chick! This has to be a record for bad performance. That’s right, no dogs and horrible plover performance.
• Old Orchard Beach – which is often held out as the bad boy of bird protection because of its welcoming policy toward canines and their owners – was slightly above the overall State-wide productivity result with 2.0 fledged chicks per adult pair compared to the State average of 1.94. (Interestingly, a footnote on the Audubon report states that some of the chicks hatched at Pine Point were “largely reared on OOB.” Apparently the plover parents weren’t all that concerned about the OOB dogs.) OOB summary — dog friendly, good plover results.
• As predicted by yours truly (no humility here!), there was no nesting activity on Ferry/Western Beach. Most of Ferry/Western is, of course, dog-free… even well after the plover season ends. Whether the lack of plover activity was a result of Phase 1 of the “beach renourishment” project, or just because it’s crappy plover habitat to begin with, only the plovers know. And we all know how reticent they are. On the plus side, we’ve heard about some excellent rounds being played this summer at the Prouts Neck Country Club…
Armed with the above observations, a budding eco-biologist might conclude that piping plover success is inversely proportional to the degree of restrictions on dogs. That is, the fewer restrictions on dog activity on the beach, the better the piping plover population does. Ahh, Science! Maybe I’ll write this up for the Audubon Monthly.
We hope you will take a few minutes to review the data yourself. Click here for the Audubon spreadsheet — unless they decide to pull it because it’s not telling the right story. When you look at the data, it’s very clear that dog restrictions have nothing to do with piping plover success.
Bottom line: Needless, perhaps even counterproductive, dog restrictions. Lots of unhappy people. Piping plover results that are unrelated to dog restrictions.
Remember the Year of the Dog?
Yes, of course you do! Maine Audubon proclaimed 2013 as “the Year of the Dog” to gin up anti-dog sentiment after the (still!) alleged take of a piping plover by a dog at Pine Point in July, 2013. Despite all the data that clearly demonstrate that dogs barely register on the list of plover predators, Audubon made dogs public enemy number one of “the little guys.” It was not one of Audubon’s finest hours.
So, what about 2014? We only heard about two incidents involving the demise of little guys this season. One at the hands (beak?) of a seagull. And one being pulverized by an OOB beach patrol ATV. (The report on this incident is probably locked in the same drawer down in USFWS’s Hadley, MA office as the report on the alleged 2013 Pine Point “take.”) In any event, we will be waiting patiently for Audubon’s spin on 2014. My guess is that “Year of the Killer Gull” and “Lethal Weapon IV – ATV of Death“ will not be the headlines.
Piping Plover Monitor Program
We hear that one of the Higgins Beach plover monitors is a shoo-in for this year’s “Monitor of the Year Award.” Her grace and finesse in dealing with the public was legendary. The final results won’t be announced until the annual Association meeting to be held in mid-September at a Harmons Island estate. We’ll let you know when it’s official.