Thursday, July 2, 2015

off to see the chicks

Thursday June 25

Piping plover chicks are the cutest beings on the planet. Period. They define cuteness. I had the opportunity to ride out onto the beach with refuge biological staff this afternoon (Thursday 6/25) to see chicks and nests. This was supposed to have happened last week, but got rescheduled because of weather.  This turned out to be a fortuitous rescheduling because I got to see some newly hatched chicks still in the "fluff ball on sticks" stage.
Nice Shady Nest In The Beach Grass
I gave up on taking photos fairly quickly as I just wanted to watch the chicks all the time.  Even the tiniest chicks do the "run real fast then stop abruptly" thing. At this stage their legs seem outlandishly long in proportion to their bodies, so watching them run is entertaining.

Some of the chicks I saw were close to 3 weeks old and I could see very clearly how much more defined their markings are starting to look. I'm not nearly experienced enough to tell the age of a chick by its feathers, but I was happy to be able to observe the differences.

Camouflage-- See If You Can Find the Adult Piping Plover in this Photo
I saw two nests, one in the shade of the beach grass on the slope of the dune and one in the open on the flat part of the beach.  Biological staff over the past couple of years had begun to notice plover pairs nesting higher up, some even over the crest of the dune.  The one in the beach grass wasn't quite that high up, but it was higher than some. The one on the flat part of the beach was lined with bits of shell. Plover nests are often just plain scrapes in the sand with nothing added at all but it is not totally uncommon for the adults to line the scrape with either shell bits or tiny pebbles or both.

Nest Lined With Bits of Shell
The adult plovers were being very vigilant, watching the chicks and keeping a lookout for possible predators.
Distraction Display
I also found out what happened to the least tern nests I'd been watching: predation by coyote. The least terns have moved farther south along the beach to renest. Said coyote got some of the plover nests too. They will likely renest, as it is definitely early enough. This means a slightly longer nesting season - into August.

I enjoyed this experience tremendously. I can't believe how lucky I am to get to spend time with the cutest beings on the planet.

There Are Two Adults And Three Chicks In This Picture

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