Piping plovers, the delicate little shore birds that nest along the Cape’s beaches, will have their own bodyguard in West Dennis.
Following the death of two birds near the volleyball court at West Dennis Beach on June 10, Dennis officials contacted the Mass Audubon Society’s Coastal Waterbird Program to help with an impressive number of plovers, according to Lyra Brennan, program director.
Brennan said Mass Audubon is providing plover-monitoring support staff for Dennis, something the organization hasn’t done in many years.
“We come in and bring our expertise and experience and say, let’s try this, or, let’s try this approach and see how it goes,” she said of the organization’s support efforts. “It’s been a couple years since we’ve been monitoring at public sites in Dennis. We do monitor private sites though, so we spend time in Dennis, just not necessarily in town areas before this partnership.”
On June 12, the Dennis Beach Department said in a statement on Twitter the public parking lot of West Dennis Beach would be closed to all except essential vehicles due to a record number of hatched piping plovers.
“Massachusetts is an important place for piping plovers. The state itself is a stronghold for the species,” Brennan said. “Cape Cod has so many miles of beach and West Dennis Beach has shoreline on the north and south side. When you have that amount of habitat that’s unprotected, the shore birds are going to show up and use it.”
It’s up to the town and the birds when the public lot opens back up, Brennan said.
West Barnstable cyclist rides 180 miles of Cape Cod in a day, dedicated to mental health
The parking lot closing might be an inconvenience for some beachgoers, but in the eyes of Mass Audubon preserving Cape Cod’s coastal environment including protecting nesting shore birds such as the piping plover.
“We’re an organization that champions biodiversity,” Brennan explained. “There’s a belief that protecting ecosystems, and that includes endangered and rare species, is really important in the face of climate change and sea level rises. These habitats are always changing.”
While the piping plover is not considered endangered in Massachusetts, thanks to proactive partnerships between towns and groups like Mass Audubon, that doesn’t mean the small birds are out of the woods.
Your place in the sun:The best beaches on Cape Cod
According to Brennan, there are fewer piping plovers worldwide than there are polar bears.
“That’s a fun fact I always like to tell people,” she said. “We think about polar bears, you know, their populations dropping and there’s no ice and these images of them starving, but there are far less piping plovers remaining in the world.”
Looking out for the piping plover
Besides knowing the local rules and regulations of the beach you’re visiting, Brennan suggested cleaning trash off the beaches that could attract plover predators to help protect the shore bird. Contact the town or Audubon officials with questions.
“Whoever’s there at the site will have lots of great information to share, can point out some of the cute birds running around or stories about how the beach has changed,” she said. “I think that can be a fun beach experience, especially if you’re bringing kids to the beach or you’re there with your family. People connect to these birds really quickly, which is great to see.”
Home to piping plovers and least terns:Fourth-of-July fireworks in Barnstable postponed to September
In Brennan’s eyes, piping plovers are a protected species with a personality.
“Plovers are a really magical species to watch and learn about,” she said. “They’re incredibly charismatic, they’re amazing parents, they’re really dedicated to their eggs and chicks. Speaking from our staff across the state, they’re a really great bird to teach about and to help connect people to the coastal ecosystems.”