I stopped by Parker Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport Mass on Saturday, hoping to photograph the Endangered Least Tern and Piping Plover juveniles.While there were plenty of juveniles around, I was somewhat surprised at the number of scrapes still containing eggs. It is pretty late in the season, although a biologist I spoke with said the same scenario occurred last year.
I don't want to think of the number of eggs or hatched chicks that are killed by unsuspecting beach goers. These birds are on the Endangered Species list, so the refuge ropes off a large area of known nesting sites, but the birds don't know that, and typically lay their eggs in a scrape in the sand most anywhere.
|Least Tern Nest Scrape outside the ropes|
This is a photo of a Least Tern scrape with a newly hatched chick, and an unhatched egg, outside of the roped off nesting area. If you were walking along the beach not paying attention, it would be very easy to step right on them without even noticing. Hopefully, if the parents are near by, you will know you are near a nest by the reaction of the parents who will dive at you, or spread their wings and "look menacing".
While there are certain disadvantages to "blending into your surroundings" ie getting stepped on, there also distinct advantages. The chicks and eggs are prone to predation from hawks, eagles, dogs, herons and egrets to name a few, so looking like your surroundings makes it more difficult for predators to find you.
|Great Egret with a Plover Chick|
This is a photo of a Great Egret who has plundered a Plover nest killing one of the chicks.(photo taken at Fort Desoto in Florida)
|Least Tern Chick being fed by parent|
Once a chick has hatched, the Least Tern parents spend most of their time feeding their young.
Least Tern Chick being fed by Parent
|Least Tern chick with a fish|
Mom protecting chick
|Mom protecting chick|