Western snowy plover nesting season begins
Nothing says “Oregon” like heading out the door to the beach. It’s a year ‘round thing to do here. Our state parks are scattered up and down the 362-mile coastline in a breathtaking series of roadside viewpoints, open vistas, lighthouses, campgrounds and wide, sandy beaches. The entire shoreline is really one big state park, with its own imposing name—the Ocean Shore State Recreation Area.
It’s a big beach, and in mid-March, one tiny resident makes an appearance all along the west coast. We’re talking about the western snowy plover, a small native shorebird that lives a somewhat difficult life these days. It’s a protected species under the federal government’s Endangered Species Act.
State Parks partners with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and other land managers, like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service, to help protect the bird. Plovers nest in dry open sand, in tiny, shallow scrapes that are very well camouflaged. Not only are nests easy to miss (or step on), but the bird will abandon its eggs if repeatedly disturbed by activities it considers a threat—activities we may see as harmless, like walking a dog or flying a kite.
In some places—where plovers are actually known to be nesting, dogs are not allowed. In other places, dogs will be allowed, but must be on a leash. Overall, though, plover “management areas” make up only about 50 miles of that 362 mile shoreline we all love so much. Maps of all areas can be found here: bit.ly/wsplover.
No plovers currently nest on the north coast, but we’re extending a bit of a helping hand in three places this spring. Visitors will need to leash their dogs during the nesting season on part of the Clatsop Spit along the Columbia River South Jetty; the tip of Necanicum Spit, adjacent to the town of Gearhart in Clatsop County, and the southern part of Nehalem Spit in Tillamook County. Driving, which is already prohibited on the Nehalem and Necanicum Spits, will also be prohibited on a short stretch of Clatsop Spit east of the Columbia River South Jetty. Driving to the popular fishing spot known locally as “Fishermen’s Beach” on Clatsop Spit will go on unchanged.
Necanicum beachgoers will see a new trail to the beach, thanks to the hard work of Americorps volunteers, the City of Gearhart, and state park rangers.
Want to know more about western snowy plovers? Maybe help out in some way? Go to http://oprdstewardship.wordpress.com and subscribe! You’ll be the first to hear about volunteer opportunities as they come up.