Piping plover nesting season concludes with 13 fledglings this year
CAPE HENLOPEN STATE PARK – DNREC’s Divisions of Parks & Recreation and Fish & Wildlife announced today that stretches of ocean beach between Gordons Pond and Herring Point and beachfront along the oceanside of The Point on Cape Henlopen have now reopened following the end of a piping plover nesting season that produced 13 plover fledglings in Delaware. The last Gordons Pond Piping Plover chick recently fledged, allowing fencing erected to prevent disturbances to any beach-nesting birds in the area to be taken down. The beach is now accessible for fall surf-fishing, and in time for the Labor Day holiday weekend.
The bay side of The Point will remain closed until Oct. 1 to give refuge to the many species of migratory birds that pass through Delaware on their way to overwintering grounds to the south, said Anthony Gonzon, Division of Fish & Wildlife biodiversity program manager.
Although the beach-nesting bird breeding season has ended, surveys for the rare plant seabeach amaranth are continuing. Seabeach amaranth is a federally-threatened plant species under the Endangered Species Act. Searches of likely amaranth habitat are conducted in Delaware three times a year: in late July, mid-August and late August/early September.
This year, all of the known amaranth plants are located at The Point, with more than 30 plants observed since surveys began in July. No plants have been found between Gordons Pond and Herring Point, usually the most reliable location for finding them, but many of the plants on The Point have appeared outside of the typical fenced section of the dunes and overwashes, well above the high tide line.
Due to the annual variability of distribution of seabeach amaranth plants, an additional temporary fenced section along the ocean side of The Point has been installed parallel to the ocean and will be removed once these annual plants disperse their seed – likely to occur within three to four weeks. This temporary closure will allow the amaranth plants to complete their life cycle and help to sustain the plant population within Cape Henlopen while still allowing access to The Point by permitted vehicles for surf fishing.
With seabeach amaranth in mind, DNREC has closed dunes and overwashes to any human activity to protect sensitive and rare habitats. DNREC advises that surf-fishing vehicles should avoid parking in the restricted area in front of the temporary fencing, but may drive through on the beach along the ocean side of the fence. In addition, surf-fishermen should be aware that higher tides may be experienced during the next week. The possibility exists that surf fishing vehicles could be stranded when this occurs.
For more information, please contact Paul Faircloth, Cape Henlopen State Park superintendent, at 302-645-8983, or Anthony Gonzon, Division of Fish & Wildlife, at 302-735-3600.
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 & Wildlife is responsible for its protection in Delaware. 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 nesting season which usually runs from March into September. This includes the Point and smaller areas around Gordons 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.
About the seabeach amaranth
The seabeach amaranth is an annual plant the formerly ranged from Massachusetts to South Carolina. Rediscovered in Delaware in 2000 after a 125-year absence, this plant has been found on Delaware’s ocean beaches throughout Cape Henlopen State Park and Delaware Seashore State Park. Federally listed as threatened in 1993 under the Endangered Species Act, seabeach amaranth typically grows in open sand along the base of the primary foredunes or along undisturbed wrack lines high on the beach where seed may become trapped. Each year, plants may reoccur in the same locations or appear in new locations as a result of shifting sands and seed dispersal from varying weather conditions over the fall and winter seasons. As an annual plant, amaranth completes an entire life cycle in a single year’s growing season, flowering in mid to late summer, dispersing seed in late August and early September.
Media Contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
Vol. 46, No. 323