In order to protect threatened overwintering western snowy plovers, the East Bay Regional Park District has added fencing and signage to a section of Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda. The Park District requests that the public be aware and respectful of the fencing and this important plover protection along the popular beach.
The western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) is a sparrow-sized, light-colored shorebird with dark patches on either side of the neck, behind the eye, and on the forehead. The Pacific Coast population of the snowy plover is a threatened species.
The small birds overwinter at the beach, usually arriving in mid-October and staying until March. During this time they store up energy for the nesting season, by feasting on a protein-rich diet of kelp flies, beach hoppers, and other small invertebrates washed up on the beach, and occasionally in the back dunes.
When not foraging, snowy plovers nestle in the sand, low enough to be warmed by radiant heat and still have a view out to sea.
“Their primary defense against predators is sitting still and blending in with their surroundings,” said Park District Certified Wildlife Biologist David Riensche. “But with so many people now using the beach, this main method of defense is not enough to keep them from being disturbed.”
The birds’ preferred overwintering area at Crown Beach has been mapped and monitored. Working with colleagues on the US Fish and Wildlife Service Snowy Plover Recovery Team, the Park District obtained the fencing materials and signage to post at the beach.
Symbolic fencing, also known as seasonal fencing, consists of a set of removable, narrow poles with a line running through a hole at the top. Installed before the birds arrive in early fall, and removed after they leave in late spring, the visual barrier makes it easy for people to walk around roosting snowy plovers – which are otherwise difficult to see.
Additionally, newly installed signage asks park visitors to avoid the area, and reminds them that dogs are not allowed on the beach at any time.
“With protection on their winter roost, these birds have a better chance to be in peak condition when it’s time to move on to their nesting sites in the spring,” said Golden Gate Audubon Society Executive Director Cindy Margulis. “While technically referred to as a symbolic fence, it is far more than a symbolic gesture in its importance to these threatened birds. It is a vital tool for helping snowy plovers survive – and hopefully prosper.”
Park District staff, interns and volunteers from both the Park District and the Golden Gate Audubon Society will be monitoring the overwintering site closely this fall and through the winter.
For a number of years, Park District volunteers led by Riensche have created and maintained a successful protected nesting site for California least terns and western snowy plovers at the Hayward Regional Shoreline, a few miles south of Crown Beach. Last winter up to 14 snowy plovers were seen at Crown Beach.
Crown Beach is operated by the East Bay Regional Park District under a cooperative agreement with the State of California and the City of Alameda. In 2013, a $5.7 million project restored 82,600 cubic yards of sand to restore the beach and dune system to its 1987 footprint.
To help with the Park District’s wildlife programs, contact Dave Riensche at www.ebparks.org/docquack or call 1 888 327-2757, option 2 to sign up for volunteer activities.
In the News
Park District Protects Threatened Shorebirds at Crown Beach in Alameda, Alameda Patch, 10/7/14
Alameda: Effort launched to protect endangered shorebirds, Alameda Journal, 10/8/14
Alameda plovers win protective fencing, Golden Gate Birder, Golden Gate Audubon, 10/8/14
EBRPD wildlife volunteers ready to install fencing and signs at Crown Beach, 9/27/2104. Photo: Dave Riensche
Adult male western snowy plover photographed at Hayward Regional Shoreline by Jerry Ting.
Sign indicating snowy plover resource protection area, Crown Beach. Photo: Cindy Margulis (Golden Gate Audubon).