With last piping plover chicks fledged, Gordons Pond beach reopens

by Dave on August 9, 2010

The last of the piping plover chicks at Cape Henlopen State Park have fledged and, as a result, the ocean beach at Gordons Pond was opened to vehicular and foot traffic this morning, Monday, Aug. 9.

DNREC Wildlife Biologist Matthew Bailey, who heads the piping plover monitoring program, paired today’s reopening announcement with good news about the tiny endangered shorebirds. “For the 2010 breeding season, 14 chicks fledged from nine breeding pairs of plovers, matching the record number of chicks fledged at the park, set in 2003,” Bailey said.

Nearly two-thirds of a mile of beach at Gordons Pond had been closed since June 2 to protect nesting piping plovers and other threatened and endangered beach nesting and migratory shorebirds. Although the ocean beach is now open, the dunes and overwash areas at Gordons Pond will remain closed to protect sensitive habitat areas.

On the Point, a three-quarter mile stretch of ocean beach and dunes plus a half mile along the bay shoreline have been closed since March 1. The ocean side will reopen on Wednesday, Sept. 1 while the bayside will remain closed until Friday, Oct. 1.

“The bay shoreline reopens later because in late summer and early fall it serves as a rest stop for thousands of shorebirds migrating south for the winter, with some traveling as far as the southern tip of South America,” Bailey said.

Surveys are continuing for seabeach amaranth, a plant listed as threatened on the federal endangered species list which grows on the dune slopes and in the overwashes at Cape Henlopen. Seabeach amaranth is also found regularly at Delaware Seashore State Park. This small, ground-hugging plant grows best on the open sand and is vulnerable to being destroyed by foot and vehicular traffic on the beach. Seabeach amaranth usually begins sprouting in mid-July and is present on the beach and dunes until October.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s divisions of Parks and Recreation, Fish and Wildlife, and Soil and Water Conservation have been working together since 1990, implementing a management plan to halt the decline of beachnester and migratory shorebird populations. The Point has been closed annually since 1993 to help protect and encourage beachnesting activity.

For more information on beachnesters, please contact Wildlife Biologist Matthew Bailey at 302-382-4151 or email matthew.bailey@state.de.us.

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